Operation Vengeance: The Astonishing Aerial Ambush That Changed World War II

Morrow. Aug. 2020. 448p. ISBN 9780062938091. $28.99. HIST
The Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942–43 was a pivotal event in the Pacific of World War II, as it denied a strategic base to Japanese forces and was the keystone of the first major land offensive by the Allies. Much of this latest book by retired lieutenant colonel Hampton (The Flight; The Hunter Killers) offers a simplified history of the battle. The author begins by describing how in April 1943, naval intelligence intercepted and decoded a message containing a detailed itinerary for Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, who led the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Shortly after, a squadron of U.S. Air Force pilots were tasked with ambushing the admiral’s transport. Sixteen P-38s embarked on a risky trip to the admiral’s stop on an island near Bougainville; timing was critical, as there would be only a few minutes when he could be intercepted. There remains some debate over who fired the fatal shots—Hampton maintains that Lt. Rex Barker was the only pilot able to fire directly into the admiral’s plane. Detailed maps and archival photographs are included.
VERDICT Although this history is well documented in World War II literature, the accessible storytelling by Hampton will likely be of interest for aficionados of the period.

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