Pacific Thunder - The US Navy’s Central Pacific Campaign, August 1943 - October 1944

Published: January 14th, 2019     
Product Image
Front Cover
Author: Thomas McKelvey Cleaver
Reviewed by: 
Michael Reeves, IPMS# 51129
Company: Osprey Publishing
ISBN #: 978-1-4728-2188-1
E-Book ISBN #: 9781472821850
Other Publication Information: 296 pages, Paperback
Price: $18.00
Product / Stock #: GNM


This book is a fascinating account of the Central Pacific campaign and one of the most stunning comebacks in naval history when in 14 months the US Navy went from the jaws of defeat at Pearl Harbor to the brink of victory in the Pacific. The book's emphasis is on carrier operations and on the air groups of the various fighters and dive and torpedo bombers that were instrumental in sending the Japanese fleet to its watery grave and ensure an end to the Pacific Theater of Operations. The chapters include:

  • List of Maps
  • Forward
  • Preface
  • Chapter One: Torpedo Junction- The chapter opens with the events surrounding the sinking of the USS Wasp in September of 1942 and then later the USS Hornet at the Battle of Santa Cruz in October.
  • Chapter Two: Forging the Sword- Opens with pre-war carrier exercises and then shifts to the development of carrier tactics, aircraft, and crew during the war.
  • Chapter Three: Leadership- Provides a breakdown of important leaders from each navy- focusing mainly on Halsey, Spruance, and their subordinates.
  • Chapter Four: First Contact- major focus of this chapter are the raids on Rabaul and Bougainville
  • Chapter Five: Butch is Down!- Mainly concerning Butch O'Hare from his initial training as Jimmy Thach's wingman through events leading to his death from supposed "friendly fire".
  • Chapter Six: The Spruance Haircut- involves Operation Flintlock- the major USN campaign against the Marshall Islands, including the invasions of Kwajalein, Eniwetok, and Majuro atolls.
  • Chapter Seven: Gibraltar of the Pacific-- describes the operations around Truk Atoll, including pre-war history and Operation Hailstone- the attack itself.
  • Chapter Eight: The Captain From Hell- centers on Miles Browning, a leader instrumental in devising much of the successful strategies in the war and yet disliked by many.
  • Chapter Nine: Lifeguards- describes activities of flying boats and submarines instrumental to saving many downed aviators
  • Chapter Ten: Operation Forager- describes the Marianas and Palau Island campaigns
  • Chapter Eleven: The Marianas Turkey Shoot-- describes the activities surrounding the famous routing of Japanese air power
  • Chapter Twelve: The Mission Beyond Darkness- the famous last carrier battle for the SBD bombers and the "turn on the lights" mission
  • Chapter Thirteen: The Iwo Jima Development Corporation- attacks on Eniwetok and Iwo Jima, including some descriptions of Japanese pilot Saburo Sakai's last actions
  • Chapter Fourteen: Halsey's Rampage- goes into depth describing the decision to support MacArthur's plan to retake the Philippines instead of the Navy's plan to take Formosa- and the political infrastructures that led to that decision
  • Chapter Fifteen: The Battle of the Formosa Sea- short chapter on this engagement
  • Chapter Sixteen: The Battles of Leyte Gulf- broken down into five actions- the submarine attack on Admiral Kurita's Center Force known as the Battle of Palawan Passage, Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, Battle of Surigao Strait, Battle off Cape Engano, and Battle off Samar.
  • Chapter Seventeen: No Rest for the Weary- introduces the actions of kamikazes against Task Force 38
  • Bibliography
  • Index

The author manages to take an extensive history of these various carrier operations and weave an incredible story you can't put down. Interspersed with all the technical information are pilot accounts and fascinating stories of not only the aviators, but also the various Airdales and other crew and leaders aboard the carriers. As the book progresses, you come to grasp how the evolution of the early war Wildcat fighters, Dauntless dive bombers, and Devastator torpedo bombers paved the way through grueling engagements to weakening the might of the Japanese forces. Their eventual surrender to Hellcats, Corsairs, Helldivers, and Avengers further sealed the fate of Japanese ambitions for mastery of the Pacific. One rather interesting point was how the capability of the Hellcats and Corsairs to carry heavier armaments like bombs and powerful rockets actually equaled the loads carried by the Helldivers and Avengers while still being able to hold their own against Zeros, Tonys, and Oscars.

I highly recommend the book to anyone interested in WWII and especially the operations in the PTO. While it doesn't offer much in the way of technical references to the modeler, it certainly inspires the mind to go build some of these planes or ships, and the B&W images in the center of the book offer some rarely seen photos in addition to ones you might be familiar with. I highly recommend the book for inspiration during those times you are feeling in a slump or while you are waiting for that glue or paint to cure.

My sincere thanks to Osprey and IPMS USA for the review copy.

  • Sample page
    Sample page
  • Sample page
    Sample page
  • Back cover
    Back cover
  • Sample map
    Sample map
  • Sample map
    Sample map

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