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  • Neptune's Inferno

  • The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal
  • Written by: James D. Hornfischer
  • Narrated by: Robertson Dean
  • Length: 18 hrs and 38 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (44 ratings)

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Neptune's Inferno

Written by: James D. Hornfischer
Narrated by: Robertson Dean
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Publisher's Summary

With The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors and Ship of Ghosts, James D. Hornfischer created essential and enduring narratives about America’s World War II Navy, works of unique immediacy distinguished by rich portraits of ordinary men in extremis and exclusive new information. Now he does the same for the deadliest, most pivotal naval campaign of the Pacific war: Guadalcanal.

Neptune’s Inferno is at once the most epic and the most intimate account ever written of the contest for control of the seaways of the Solomon Islands, America’s first concerted offensive against the Imperial Japanese juggernaut and the true turning point of the Pacific conflict. This grim, protracted campaign has long been heralded as a Marine victory. Now, with his powerful portrait of the Navy’s sacrifice - three sailors died at sea for every man lost ashore - Hornfischer tells for the first time the full story of the men who fought in destroyers, cruisers, and battleships in the narrow, deadly waters of “Ironbottom Sound”. Here, in brilliant cinematic detail, are the seven major naval actions that began in August of 1942, a time when the war seemed unwinnable and America fought on a shoestring, with the outcome always in doubt. But at Guadalcanal the US proved it had the implacable will to match the Imperial war machine blow for violent blow.

Working from new interviews with survivors, unpublished eyewitness accounts, and newly available documents, Hornfischer paints a vivid picture of the officers and enlisted men who took on the Japanese in America’s hour of need: Vice Admiral William “Bull” Halsey, who took command of the faltering South Pacific Area from his aloof, overwhelmed predecessor and became a national hero; the brilliant Rear Admiral Norman Scott, who died even as he showed his command how to fight and win; Rear Admiral Daniel Callaghan, the folksy and genteel “Uncle Dan”, lost in the strobe-lit chaos of his burning flagship; Rear Admiral Willis Lee, who took vengeance two nights later in a legendary showdown with the Japanese battleship Kirishima; the five Sullivan brothers, all killed in the shocking destruction of the Juneau; and many others, all vividly brought to life.

The first major work on this essential subject in almost two decades, Neptune’s Inferno does what all great battle narratives do: It cuts through the smoke and fog to tell the gripping human stories behind the momentous events and critical decisions that altered the course of history and shaped so many lives. This is a thrilling achievement from a master historian at the very top of his game.

©2011 James D. Hornfischer (P)2011 Random House Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What the critics say

"Outstanding. The author offers balanced assessments of the leaders on both sides, but the real heroes are the American bluejackets, who too often paid with suffering and death for those leaders' slowness to learn. And as in his first two books, the author's narrative gifts and excellent choice of detail give an almost Homeric quality to the men who met on the sea in steel titans." (Booklist, starred review)

"This work's major strengths are its careful organization, readable prose, and...well-reasoned conclusions. Depictions of battles and ships are enlivened with...apt comments from participants and relevant character sketches of the key figures." (Proceedings Magazine)

"Neptune's Inferno is an exceptional piece of military history. Hornfischer has broadened and deepened our understanding of the U.S. Navy's role in the Solomons campaign in this eminently readable account of the bloody naval battles of attrition in the fall of 1942 that doomed the Imperial Japanese Navy to defeat and irrevocably shifted the strategic initiative in the Pacific War." (Dr. Peter R. Mansoor, colonel, US Army (ret.), Gen. Raymond E. Mason Jr. Chair in Military History, The Ohio State University)

What listeners say about Neptune's Inferno

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Loved it!

I could hardly stop listening. The narration was great and the content was fantastic. I will recommend this book to everyone I know that is interested in the pacific war.

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Great but not perfect

This is a classic title of its genre, but the narrator does not entirely do it justice. His voice is pleasant, but he consistently mispronounces words in a way that becomes annoying. I won't nitpick over Japanese words, but he consistently mispronounces British and Australian names and places that are easily researched.

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Must read

A must read (listen) book for anyone interested in the Pacific War, more specifically Guadalcanal.

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Lee
  • 2022-12-08

Very worth reading

It is fascinating to have the bookends: this work with "The Fleet At Flood Tide". Excellent both.

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