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Pacific Carrier War: Carrier Combat From Pearl Harbor to Okinawa

21 Apr 23


(Osprey Publishing – £30.00)

ISBN 978 1 4728 2633 6

304 pages

The subject of this book immediately appealed to this reviewer, and having read other books by Mark E. Stille, expectations were high. Pacific Carrier War: Carrier Combat from Pearl Harbor to Okinawa examines the role of carrier airpower in the Pacific during the Second World War, in particular, focusing on the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the 1942 Battles of the Coral Sea, Midway, the Eastern Solomons, and Santa Cruz (the latter two occurring within the context of the wider Solomons campaign), and the 1944 Battle of the Philippine Sea. These five battles illustrate the peak of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Kido Butai, or ‘Striking Force’, its demise, and the transition of the US Navy’s carrier force “from three single-carrier groups making weak raids on the fringes of the Japanese empire into a strategic weapon”.

Stille is a retired Commander in the US Navy, having served as an intelligence officer, been part of the faculty of the Naval War College, and perhaps most relevant to this book, serving on two aircraft carriers. He is also a prolific author, focusing especially on the Pacific War. Across nine chapters, Stille examines the development and performance of the Japanese and US carrier forces from the outset of the war in the Pacific through to the Japanese surrender. The first chapter provides an analysis of the ‘Ships, Aircraft, and Men’, that is, a detailed, but accessible examination of the aircraft carriers, their aircraft, the organisation, tactics, doctrine, and leadership of the respective navies’ carrier forces. The subsequent chapters are dedicated to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and first six months of the war with Japan (including the Doolittle Raid, and the Japanese raid into the Indian Ocean), the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Battle of Midway, the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, the Battle of Santa Cruz, and the Battle of the Philippine Sea. The final chapter, ‘Conclusion and Analysis’, covers the Battle of Leyte Gulf and the final months of the War, together with an analysis of the carrier battles covered in the book.

Stille ably balances throughout the book, a clear and accessible narrative of the carrier battles, with analysis of the tactics employed, the wider operational and strategic factors involved, and the leadership on both sides. The author’s engagement with the subject is clear from the depth of his analysis, but the book remains accessible to the lay reader. It is a well-written book, with excellent accompanying photographs, tables and maps, which add to the analysis. There are only a few minor typos in the text. Pacific Carrier War will appeal to the enthusiast lay reader, but will also be of much value to those with an academic or professional interest in naval history and maritime strategy. Stille’s analysis of the tactical, operational and strategic aspects of the development of carrier airpower in the Pacific War is clear, concise, and valuable; this book would be useful, for example, to those either at or preparing for staff college. Pacific Carrier War provided a thought-provoking, engaging read, and is recommended.