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

4.23  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,698 Ratings  ·  238 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. SledgeThe Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors by James D. HornfischerEscape From Davao by John D. LukacsNeptune's Inferno by James D. HornfischerGhost Soldiers by Hampton Sides
Best Books on the Pacific War
4th out of 136 books — 172 voters
Unbroken by Laura HillenbrandWith the Old Breed by Eugene B. SledgeGoodbye, Darkness by William ManchesterNeptune's Inferno by James D. HornfischerThe Bridge Over the River Kwai by Pierre Boulle
World War II - Pacific Theatre
4th out of 84 books — 65 voters

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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
Jan 01, 2015 Dj rated it really liked it
Overall this is an Excellent book. It covers the Naval portion of the Battle to take Guadalcanal away from the Japanese. The book covers just enough of the Ground force action to give a framework, but little else in that regard. This isn't a criticism of the book, this book is focused on the Naval actions and it is nice to have a little framework but not required in an absolute sense.

In regards to the focus of the book, the author takes a much wider scope than many of the books on the subject t
Mar 23, 2015 Sweetwilliam rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Yes
Recommended to Sweetwilliam by: J.P. Mac
I had just finished the Last Stand of the Tin Can Soldiers. I considered it one of the best books I have ever read. A fellow GoodReads friend suggested I check out Neptune’s Inferno by the same author. I received the book on a Friday, started reading it on a Saturday and, in spite of a busy schedule, I finished it by the next Friday. The conclusion is that Hornfischer has done it again. As my friend JP say’s “the guy really pitches strikes when it comes to Pacific naval warfare.” James D. Hornfi ...more
Mar 05, 2011 David rated it liked it
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
Mac McCormick III
Jun 16, 2015 Mac McCormick III rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, military
Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal by James D. Hornfischer is, ostensibly, the story of the naval fight in the waters around Guadalcanal. It goes beyond the story of just the naval battles to tell the story of how the U.S. Navy and specifically its small surface fleet (cruisers and destroyers) learned how to fight World War II. This book looks at the battle itself and the impact the battle had on both the U.S. and Imperial Japanese navies.

"And despite the the ostensible lesson of th
Apr 04, 2012 Kevin rated it it was amazing
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
Mike Harbert
Aug 11, 2013 Mike Harbert rated it it was amazing
Shelves: military-history
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
Bill Rogers
Jun 27, 2015 Bill Rogers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It seems like everyone in the USA knows the history of the invasion of Guadalcanal. I learned it from my uncle, who was there. I've read the common stories of the Marines and how they held on. But if I'd never met a veteran or read a word, I think I'd still know the legend. It is part of our mythology. It seeps into our pores.

We all know how the US Navy dumped the Marines on that hellish island and abandoned them there. And what we know is wrong.

Oh, not completely wrong. The support fleet, havin
Eric Tolladay
Mar 04, 2014 Eric Tolladay rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 28, 2011 Larry rated it it was amazing
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
Tony Taylor
Apr 02, 2011 Tony Taylor rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 22, 2012 Mike rated it really liked it
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
May 01, 2011 Ross rated it liked it
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
Feb 05, 2011 Barrett rated it it was amazing
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
carl  theaker
Feb 15, 2011 carl theaker rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ww2

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
Nathan Trachta
Dec 28, 2010 Nathan Trachta rated it really liked it
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
Paul Duggan
Mar 05, 2013 Paul Duggan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Antoine Vanner
May 31, 2015 Antoine Vanner rated it it was amazing
Quite simply - one of the best narrative histories l have read about any period and essential for anybody interested in WW2. This is history - and human endeavour - on an epic scale. I thought that this author could never repeat the excellence of his previous books but this one exceeds all superlatives.
Emmanuel Gustin
Sep 30, 2013 Emmanuel Gustin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history_wwii
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
Michel Poulin
Oct 23, 2013 Michel Poulin rated it really liked it
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
philip maiuri
Aug 08, 2015 philip maiuri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Courage Revealed

The author has a excellent Grasp on the subject matter. The courage taken to battle at night with a more experienced enemy is unimaginable as shells rained down from above and torpedoes chased them from below. it is amazing how the U.S. Navy learned on the job and used radar to fight the Japanese.
Jim Boswell
Jan 12, 2012 Jim Boswell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
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
Jim Nesbitt
Apr 16, 2016 Jim Nesbitt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An outstanding book. Hornfischer is a thorough historian and lyric writer with very keen insights.
Lee Mandel
Feb 04, 2012 Lee Mandel rated it it was amazing
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
May 15, 2014 Don Halpert rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 23, 2016 Elliott rated it it was ok
Far inferior to The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors Hornfischer's history on the naval battle of Guadalcanal is timely for the necessity of a more naval-centric history of the battle when much has been devoted to the Marine experience, but engages in the usual, annoying "America-did-it-all." Early on Hornfischer criticizes the Germany first strategy and of course Britain. Hornfischer disparages the British and Russian strategic situation and states that Roosevelt was thinking politically in pu ...more
James Zarzana
Dec 10, 2015 James Zarzana rated it it was amazing
Neptune’s Inferno: The US Navy at Guadalcanal

By James D. Hornfischer

To its credit, Neptune’s Inferno reads like two books. On the one hand, it has all the information and background to be a well-grounded historical study of an important set of naval battles early in World War II. Readers will understand the US Navy, its battle actions, its shortcomings, and its reasons for success in and around Guadalcanal soon after the US Marines landed in August 1942. Additionally, the descriptions of the
Michael Burnam-fink
Aug 27, 2014 Michael Burnam-fink rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, war, 2014
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
James Clark
Jun 26, 2014 James Clark rated it it was amazing
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
John Machata
Apr 22, 2016 John Machata rated it it was amazing
Excellent account of Navy's role at Guadalcanal.
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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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