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Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal

4.23 of 5 stars 4.23  ·  rating details  ·  1,653 ratings  ·  176 reviews
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: Guadalcan ...more
Hardcover, 516 pages
Published January 25th 2011 by Bantam (first published January 25th 2010)
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With the Old Breed by Eugene B. SledgeEscape From Davao by John D. LukacsThe Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors by James D. HornfischerGhost Soldiers by Hampton SidesNeptune's Inferno by James D. Hornfischer
Best Books on the Pacific War
5th out of 108 books — 139 voters
With the Old Breed by Eugene B. SledgeUnbroken by Laura HillenbrandA Pledge of Silence by Flora J. SolomonGhost Soldiers by Hampton SidesNeptune's Inferno by James D. Hornfischer
World War II - Pacific Theatre
5th out of 67 books — 46 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Matt
The naval battles around the island of Guadalcanal (the largest island in the Solomons, located in the southwest Pacific) were old-timey, throwback engagements. Naval warfare in World War II was dominated by two distinctly different weapons: the submarine and the aircraft carrier. The consequence of these vessels was that the war at sea often involved opposing forces that never came into direct contact. At Midway, for instance, America’s planes attacked Japanese ships, while Japanese planes atta ...more
David
Mar 05, 2011 David rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: WWII buffs
As the title suggests, “Neptune’s Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal” is a detailed account of the naval actions during the early pacific portion of WWII. I found most of this book to be a knowledgeable and interesting account of the naval actions, which was what I was looking for. While attempting to guard against Monday morning quarterbacking this 70 year old event, James Hornfischer tells a story of brave sailors whose lives were cut short for a variety of unnecessary reasons. This was the ...more
Mike
I have just had the pleasure of reading my latest selection entitled "Neptune's Inferno" (The US Navy at Guadalcanal), by James D. Hornfischer. This epic novel is the ultimate in showing the reader, just what it was like in the Pacific during World War II. Most people if they think about the Second World War, do not usually think about the fight in the Pacific, other than the attack on Pearl Harbor. Hornfischer takes the reader right into the fray.
Many of the characters in this novel were are
...more
Mike Harbert
This is a well needed and very readable account of the naval battles in and around the Solomon Islands and the Guadalcanal campaign. All too often works on this campaign focus on the fighting on the island and only mention Admiral Fletcher deciding to withdraw the US naval forces and "abandon" the Marines on the island. Some works will mention the disaster in the Battle of Savo Island, but Neptune's Inferno does a masterful job of telling the whole story of the naval actions that were essential ...more
Paul Duggan
Hornfischer’s latest epic, Neptune’s Inferno: The U. S. Navy at Guadalcanal, confirms his place as America’s pre-eminent contemporary naval historian. Correcting the conventional wisdom that has stood since the events, that the Navy “abandoned” the Marines on Guadalcanal, this important book shows that Nimitz and Halsey’s efforts were restrained by materiel – ships, fuel and crews – not by complacency or neglect.

Halsey’s “shoestring” squadrons were ultimately successful in interrupting the Japan
...more
Eric Tolladay
There are a lot of books out there on the battle for Guadalcanal, most of which focus on the land battles. This book is different. Neptune's Inferno looks at the entire conflict with a greater emphasis on the five or more naval engagements that took place at the same time. Not only does this bring some much balance to the many find land-battle books in print, it also gives the U.S. Navy some well deserved credit. As Hornfischer points out at the beginning, the number of Marines killed in the con ...more
Kevin
Recently I read Guadalcanal Diary, Richard Tregaskis' reporting of the land battle for Guadalcanal. From general knowledge, I knew that the fighting on Guadalcanal was deadly for the both the Marines and soldiers involved with 1,592 killed in action (KIA). What I didn't know was that during the time frame of the land battle the U.S. Navy was involved with seven naval battles with the Imperial Japanese Navy that claimed the lives of 5,041 seamen. In Neptune's Inferno, James Hornfischer details th ...more
Larry
James Hornfischer writes as well as Rick Atkinson, which puts him at the top of those who write about World War II. The Guadalcanal campaign involved seven major sea battles, five of them between battleships, cruisers, and destroyers, and Hornfischer does it justice. Like Operation Torch (the North African campaign described by Atkinson in "An Army at Dawn") the Guadalcanal campaign (Operation Watchtower) presented obstacles in training, leadership, and tactical skill that would be overcome by d ...more
Emmanuel Gustin
This book aims to tell one side of the long and complex battles for Guadalcanal: That of the US Navy, and specifically the surface forces of the US Navy. In this its succeeds. It omits many other aspects of the fighting on these South Pacific islands, but for the good reason that there are many other works describing them.

As an European, I felt that Neptune's Inferno is written from a very American outlook, and that goes beyond what side of the battle in 1942 that the author describes. There ar
...more
Tony Taylor
Apr 02, 2011 Tony Taylor rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Every Navy man as well as everyone who loves history, whether ancient or contemporary
EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT ... this is a Five Star book without a doubt... superbly researched and well written... a whole new insight into the first major offensive sea battle in the Pacific during WWII. Before the history of the sacrifices our parents and grandparents made during the last world war are lost, we owe it to our children and grandchildren to learn more about those who lived, served, and for many, died serving our country. Our nation was in the midst of two wars; one in Europe ...more
Ross
This is a very depressing book for any American to read. The U.S. was dragged kicking and screaming into WWII by the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor over the objections of isolationists who had kept us unprepared for the war that any fool could see was coming.
This book deals with the 3 months in 1942 when the U.S. high command decided to occupy and hold the island of Guadalcanal in the South Pacific. This was an undertaking for which the navy was not yet prepared and many thousands of U.S. sailors
...more
Barrett
First things first: Jim Hornfischer is my agent. But that does not change the fact that nobody writes naval history better than he does. His first book, Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors (detailing the David vs Goliath battle off Samar in October 1944) became an instant classic. He followed it with a last-minute grasp at history with his account of the survivors of the cruiser Houston, sunk in the Java Sea battle in early 1942.

Neptune's Inferno takes a rare look at all the Guadalcanal naval bat
...more
carl  theaker

Author Hornfischer has a way of blending the history of
strategy and tactics with personal stories and analysis that
make 'Neptune' an engaging read. I found myself reading
more slowly as not to miss anything and also, put off getting
to the end.

A great job is done with the descriptions of the chaos
that ensues during naval night fighting and the terror
of commanders as they wonder if they are firing on their
own ships. The carnage afterward is almost too much to
bear as you hear of surviving shipmat
...more
Nathan Trachta
Mr. Hornfischer blew me away with Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors and I was pleasantly happy with Ship of Ghosts. Because of this and the fact I’ve been enjoying reading about the battles in the South and Southwest Pacific, I pre-ordered Neptune’s Inferno looking forward to Mr. Hornfischer’s mix of storytelling and history until I received an offer to read Neptune’s Inferno from Amazon’s Vine program (for those not familiar, Amazon lets some readers receive Advanced Uncorrected Proofs of a boo ...more
Michel Poulin
Neptune's Inferno was by all accounts a very interesting and informative book on a subject that had been a bit neglected by many. It gives its proper dues to all the brave American sailors who fought and too often died around Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands in 1942-43. It also exposes the failings and mistakes of too many American senior Navy commanders involved in that fighting, but the book has been rather charitable/apologetic when it came to apportion blame for those failings and mistake ...more
Jim Boswell
It would be hard to remember a book that affected me as much. Make no mistake; this isn’t a book I would suggest to someone who wants an introduction to reading history. This is for a person who highly interested in history and what we can learn from our past. Through this meticulously researched and thorough examination of the US victory in Guadalcanal you can expect to simultaneously renew your patriotic spirit and glean lessons about the human condition you can apply in your life. I know afte ...more
Lee Mandel
A most excellent and comprehensive review of US Naval actions at Guadalcanal. It is a story of incredible heroism of American Sailors and Marines while at the same time, it's a story of the steep learning curve that faced our naval leadership as they struggled to overcome the initally superior Japanese naval doctrine that they faced and were unprepared for. Hornfischer, author of the classic "Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors", has prodiced another 'must-read' book for all students of World War ...more
Don Halpert
Excellent history with new and personal details. Sometime harrowing, but always respectful. After reading this book, you come away with new respect for the naval man who sacrificed so much.
Michael Burnam-fink
The Marines get all the credit for Guadalcanal, but the campaign shaped the United States Navy as well. The Navy lost almost 3 sailors for every infantryman killed ashore, with 24 ships sunk in the waters that would come to be known as Ironbottom Sound. The grinding campaign in the seas around the Solomon Island taught the Navy painful lessons, and eventually wore down the highly elite Imperial Japanese Navy.

Hornfischer is too much of a historian to pass judgement, but one of the key themes is t
...more
James Clark
James Hornfischer is an excellent writer with an exhaustive grasp of detail and story-telling capabilities. I found this book exhaustive in it's detail, digging deeply into the facts and history of the US and Japanese Naval battles in the Solomon Islands in World War II. As I read this book, I found myself constantly amazed at the acute, thorough and exhaustive grasp that the author possesses and the ease he presents the details, compellingly and professionally. It took me a long time to finish ...more
Dan Ward
A great history of the battle for Guadalcanal from the naval perspective. The author gives a great understanding of the difficulties of the naval battle and the desperation with which both sides fought. Guadalcanal was really the turning point of the land war with Japan but the navy played a huge part in that battle. The Japanese hotly contested this island and it is impossible to understand the battle without understanding the role both navies played.
Haden
Hornfischer continues to put out naval histories that don't require you to be a naval historian to understand. Fascinating read...not as celebratory as Last Stand of a Tin Can Sailor...but that's because it is about Guadalcanal. It's hard to read and not get depressed with the fact that not everyone in charge is a superstar. A good illustration on how critical the feedback loop is in all applications!
John
Just finished reading "Neptune’s Inferno" about the US Navy at Guadalcanal, and I must admit that I had not fully understood what they did there. James D. Hornfisher’s book brings to light the extreme violence of naval warfare. As an ex-Marine, I have seen Navy ships firing and watched as they rolled from side to side, but I never gave any thought as to what that must be like inside the ship. Hornfisher makes it sound only slightly less exciting than being on the receiving end. Another point he ...more
Adil Ehsan
I really enjoyed this but the book is not without one key shortcoming. if you are completely new to naval warfare then some primer would have been helpful. While the book as great at explaining the tactical uses of radar and gunnery tactics it would have helped to also provide some perspective on the classes of shops themselves. It took me sometime to figure out the difference between a cruiser, battleship and destroyer. Also I could have used some more background on why the Navy felt the carrie ...more
João Martins
Excellent overview of the Guadalcanal naval campaign. While carriers have been given a lot of the attention for most naval concerns in the PTO, this book shows the surface fleets still had their uses.

The book is well written and is gripping. It covers - as far as I know - the story of most important officers and commanders of these episodes, as well as the personal stories of people who were right in the thick of it. The maps are excellent, although their placement (at least on the Kindle versio
...more
Vijay
I did a very interesting experiment of reading two books on the battle if Gundalcanal back to back....one written from the perspective of the marines - "challenge for the pacific : Gundalcanal the turning point" by Leckie and then this book narrating the same story from Navy's perspective. I thoroughly enjoyed this experience and how fuller and reacher the understanding of this battle became as a result (wish there was a Japanese perspective as well).

This book is a very good mix of describing ma
...more
Jim
Sep 11, 2014 Jim rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: history
Tremendous accounting about the battle that truly was the beginning of the end of the Japanese Empire. This book describes the five month ordeal in which the US Navy took the mighty steps forward into the very new and modern world of warfare. A huge price was paid by the Navy, which lost over 5,000 men in the battle, compared to over 1,500 US Marines. It took a while for the Service Arm to recognize and winnow out officers not up to the task and replace them with warriors who knew how to fight, ...more
Michael Kirkham
A Great Recollection

I've probably read the Guadalcanal section of Samuel Morison's Two-Ocean War 50 times. It makes for great reading, but this book gives the reader and naval history buff the detail and personal accounts necessary to truly understand this fascinating period in naval history. Hornfischer writes an excellent narrative and truly delves into the personalities involved in each victory and, more importantly, each defeat. I'd strongly recommend this book to any fan of US Naval history
...more
Jeff
I wasn't sure how much I would learn from this, because I was well acquainted with the campaign it covers. But I certainly learned a few things, that seem obvious in retrospect. Hornfischer points out that the USMC has largely controlled the narrative about Guadalcanal, specifically that they were "abandoned" by the Navy after the humiliating defeat at Savo Island. Evidence that they weren't abandoned is how it was the USN who shut down the Tokyo Express and made resupply and reinforcement of th ...more
Jon Zug
James Hornfischer has written another classic about the naval conflict in the Pacific during WWII. Having read and thoroughly enjoyed Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors and Ship of Ghosts I bought Neptune's Inferno hoping it was comparable in both its analysis and research quality. Mr. Hornfischer does not disappoint in this excellent history of the naval conflict that is often over shadowed by the marines' on-shore struggle during the Guadalcanal campaign. It is well written with an engaging sty ...more
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Hornfischer’s writing career has grown out of a lifelong interest in the Pacific war. He has appeared on television on The History Channel, Fox News Channel’s “War Stories with Oliver North” and C-SPAN’s “BookTV.” A frequent speaker on the subject of the war in the Pacific, the U.S. Navy, and the experience of America’s sailors in World War II, he frequently addresses veterans organizations, youth ...more
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