Monday, June 11, 2012

Rising Sun, Falling Skies

It is my pleasure to be able to announce that a long-time dream of mine is coming true.

Japanese naval flag. From Wikipedia/David Newton.
In Summer 2013, my first book Rising Sun, Falling Skies: The Disastrous Java Sea Campaign of World War II will be published by Osprey Publishing, Ltd. of England. The book will cover the heroic efforts of US naval forces trapped and isolated in the Far East after Pearl Harbor, who joined with British, Dutch and Australians in a desperate effort to halt the overwhelming Japanese onslaught. The campaign started badly with the Japanese destroying US aircraft on the ground in the Philippines and sinking the British battleship Prince of Wales and battlecruiser Repulse and ended even worse with the disastrous Allied defeat in the Battle of the Java Sea that led to the Japanese conquest of the oil-rich Netherlands East Indies, what is today Indonesia, and the achievement of the Japanese objectives in going to war.

In the middle, American, British, Dutch and Australian fighting men were done in by factors almost too numerous to list: ambivalent leaders, incompetent generals, indefensible positions, old, worn-out ships; almost no air support, badly outnumbered fighting men, outclassed and outnumbered aircraft, no hope for reinforcement, no hope even for replacements, no chance to rest, no chance to maintain their equipment, constantly low on supplies, especially oil and munitions; poor communications and bickering governments. In the face of these crushing odds, the only hope the Allied forces had was to delay the Japanese, buy time for the new warships and aircraft under construction in US shipyards and factories to enter the war. Every day counted. This was a modern-day Thermopylae, with a stand every bit as heroic, every bit as desperate, every bit as memorable as Leonidas and his 300 Spartans.

Rising Sun, Falling Skies will take more American perspective on the naval campaign, including the efforts of the cruisers Houston and Marblehead, our submarines and ancient-but-game "four piper" destroyers, both crippled by criminally defective torpedoes; the desperation that doomed the USS Langley and the hunted Patrol Wing Ten, who performed reconnaissance work that was borderline suicide. But our faithful and equally heroic allies will receive their due as well: the last stands of the British cruiser Exeter and the Australian cruiser Perth, the little-known British repulse of a Japanese invasion force an hour before Pearl Harbor, and the mountains of unfair abuse heaped on the gallant, humane Dutch commander Karel Doorman, who went down with his ship in the Battle of the Java Sea.

The Japanese, too, will come in for examination. Their navy was a bizarre contradiction of very modern, very powerful ships with capable officers that achieved victory using a doctrine rejected by their own superiors and tactics that did not work. They would succeed in a conquest so vast, so complete that it would rival the German blitzkrieg, but would also sow the seeds for their own defeat in the war.

Rising Sun, Falling Skies has literally been 30 years in the making. All the books, reports and other materials I've acquired and reviewed over the years have been to this end. I first came across Osprey Publishing working on my article on the Battle of Adrianople, when I reviewed quite a few of their works in piecing the battle together. I am ecstatic not only that my dream of writing a book on the Battle of the Java Sea is coming true, but that in doing so I am working with a publisher that is highly skilled and very well respected in producing quality works of military history.

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