Academic journal article Military Review

RACING THE SUNRISE: Reinforcing America's Pacific Outposts, 1941-1942

Academic journal article Military Review

RACING THE SUNRISE: Reinforcing America's Pacific Outposts, 1941-1942

Article excerpt

RACING THE SUNRISE: Reinforcing America's Pacific Outposts, 1941-1942, Glen M. Williford, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 2010, 345 pages, $37.95.

Thank heaven for author and benefactor Edward S. Miller and the Naval Institute Press. Here they have underwritten an extremely worthwhile effort by independent scholar Glen M. Williford who has written in the past about harbor and coastal defenses of the United States in the Pacific. Williford's book grew out of his studies on the extremely contentious issue of the USS Pensacola convoy. The transit of this convoy on 7 December 1941, "Just as the bombs and torpedoes were launched by Japanese warplanes at Pearl Harbor," is one of the little known stories of World War II in the Pacifi c. The convoy was completely missed by the Japanese since it had left port several days prior to the attack, but it represented an ongoing full-court press by the Roosevelt administration to beef up our defenses in the Far East, especially in the Philippines. Later, the convoy, which included over 4,500 troops and tons of equipment, became a source of friction between the beleaguered General Douglas MacArthur and the War Department when it was rerouted to Australia to avoid the dangers posed by Japan's unexpected and rapid successes in the Philippines and elsewhere. The Pensacola convoy served as the occasion for Williford to examine the broader question of U.S. efforts to improve its readiness in the increasingly dark days of late 1941 and early 1942. The book successfully argues that reinforcements like those with the Pensacola served as the "nucleus of the fi rst successful offensives against Japan." In other words, at dawn we were not sleeping, rather, we were desperately trying to prepare for a war that could occur at any moment.

This is a complicated story. In making the primary argument above, Williford conclusively demolishes the idea that the Pensacola reinforcements could have prevented the fall of the Philippines and that the rerouting of the convoy by decision-makers in Washington and Hawaii was ultimately the wrong decision. However, the book is so much more than just this one story. It is a logistical history of how the equipment prior to, and for a year after the war, was pushed through dangerous waters and skies to everywhere from China, to the Philippines, to Australia, and a host of islands whose names even the serious naval historian may not recall (e. …

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