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Islands of Destiny: The Solomons Campaign and the Eclipse of the Rising Sun

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  357 ratings  ·  42 reviews
Acclaimed WWII historian and military intelligence expert John Prados offers a provocative reassessment of the Allies’ battle for the Solomon Islands—a turbulent, dramatic campaign that, he argues, was the true turning point of the Pacific conflict. 

Historians traditionally refer to the Battle of Midway as the point when Allied forces gained the advantage over the Japanese
Hardcover, 388 pages
Published October 2nd 2012 by Nal Caliber
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Sep 22, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a detailed accounting of the war in the Solomons and to a lesser extent, New Guinea. If you are familiar with the fight for Guadalcanal then most of the material will not be new, but there is more emphasis on the Japanese efforts than in some books. It's an interesting book with sidelights on the bringing down of Yamamoto in 1943, as well as the adventures of PT-109, but it tends to move slowly at times. Perhaps there is too much detail.

The final chapter is a wrap-up of the things the Am
Jan 29, 2014 rated it liked it
I will start by saying that, though I heartily agree with Prados' thesis that the Pacific War turning point was in the Solomons Campaign, I was initially unimpressed with the book. It seemed in bad need of an editor. Prados can have a stilted, choppy writing style that is difficult to read. He also used incorrect terminology (it's F6F and F4F, not F-6F or F-4F) and flat out derogatory terms (an author using "Jap" when they are quoting a contemporary source is completely acceptable, using it whil ...more
Mike Kershaw
Mar 17, 2014 rated it it was ok
For those unfamiliar with the Solomon's Campaign, this book usefully juxtaposes the major events of the campaign, with an emphasis on sea and air activities, with intelligence work, which the author has written about extensively. His thesis that the Solomons was the decisive campaign of the war vice the Battle of Midway has been stated better elsewhere. He does go to great pains to point out several times during the campaign where the Japanese gained the upper-hand, but fails to accurately put t ...more
Jan 24, 2019 marked it as did-not-finish
Shelves: wwii
DNF at page 138

John Prados contends that the battle of Midway was NOT the turning point of the Pacific War. He points out that the "military balance still favored the Japanese", and during the campaign in the Solomons they "remained capable of giving as good as they got."

"In the Solomons the Imperial Navy inflicted eleven major warship (cruiser and above) losses and endured the sinking of nine of its own big ships. But from the end of this campaign until their surrender, the Japanese managed to
Mar 09, 2013 rated it liked it
Okay but rather pedestrian history of the Solomons campaign. It starts off rather disappointingly with the childish issue of whether Midway or the Solomons was the "turning point" of the war, as if such an amorphous concept has any analytical substance. (Not surprisingly, the author plumps for the latter.) As it turns out, this issue has little to do with the bulk of the book, which is a not particularly distinguished narrative of the campaign.

While the narrative does give some attention to US p
Apr 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
After the better part of a month trying to get through this book, I finally had to throw in the towel. I think this was written for serious students of naval tactics because it is very, very detailed in every movement of every ship that fought in, it seemed, the entire Pacific theater not just one region.

The map symbol keys were the same for U.S. and Japanese ships which pretty much rendered the maps useless as far as gleaning any information from them as to ships movements.

Sorry I had to give t
Robin Smith
Jan 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very detailed account of a very significant military campaign.
Steve Scott
This a poorly written book. The author fails to maintain a coherent chronology, and style is choppy and confusing. He continually jumps back and forth in his time line. Prados throws some interesting details provided by Japanese sources, and I agree that with his proposition concerning the impact of the campaign, but this doesn't redeem his work. Where was his editor?

To give you an example of his choppiness, see the following:

“Back in 1943, when PT boat leader Lieutenant Brantingham saw the flam
Bill Rogers
Jun 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The basic premise of this book is flawed. It makes much of the idea that the turning point of World War II in the Pacific was not the Battle of Midway, but rather the Solomons Campaign that followed; the invasion of Guadalcanal and the battles after.

In fact, the distinction is artificial. If you've read any history of Japan in World War II and before, you know that the Japanese Government of those years was about the worst that History has ever known. Not in the sense of mistreating their own pe
May 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
An excellent work. An extremely well written history of the Solomon Island campaigns. Loaded with facts from both combatants, humorous anecdotes, and human interest stories. A must read if you like WWII histories.
Cape Esperance. Savo Island. Tassafaronga. The Santa Cruz islands. The Slot. The Tokyo Express. This remarkable phase of the Pacific campaign marked the end of Japanese offensive power. Midway stopped the Japanese onslaught, but the Solomon’s campaign from 1942 to 1943 marked the beginning of the Southern and Central Pacific drives that ultimately led to Tokyo’s surrender. This book was very enlightening since the intel aspect was heavily discussed. We started by breaking the JN25 Imperial code ...more
Marc Liebman
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Most, if not all historians, make the case that the Battle of Midway was the turning point of the war against Japan. Prados makes an excellent case that while it allowed the U.S. to attempt to seize the initiative, it was the long, costly campaign to take and hold Guadalcanal that was the real turning point. His reasoning is that while the Japanese Navy lost four carriers during the Battle of Midway, it still retained the ability go on the attack, but after the island hopping to take the norther ...more
Dec 06, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If you are looking for a very boring text book on the Solomon Island campaign you have come to the right place.

I may keep this text around when ever I get insomnia it will help to put me to sleep. Nothing but numbers and anacronyms. Very few descriptions of action. The author's attempt to rewrite history to make the Solomon's the turning point battle of the Pacific failed miserably, mainly due to the unbelievably dry manor he uses to make his points. For all I know he may be correct. You'll neve
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Full-Scope History of the Solomons Campaign

John Prados work is an exemplar for how to do military history. He integrates grand stra-egy and ground tactics, weapons development, leadership, and most of all, intelligence. His treatment of the intelligence side of the campaign for both sides is illuminating. As well, he forthrightly assesses the strengths and weaknesses of Japanese and Allied leadership, strategies, forces, tactics, and weapons. This makes for a complex but rich and comprehensive
Lisa Ebert
Dec 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well balanced recounting of the Solomon Islands campaign

The author does an excellent job of not just recounting the Solomons campaign, but also explaining the background and related information. He includes both Allied and Japanese perspectives. I think his final summation is one of the most clear and yet thought-provoking that I have read.
David Watts
May 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
As a novice in knowledge of the Solomons campaign, I thought this was a great read. Followed Operation Cartwheel through it’s entirety and highlighted the role of Allied intelligence throughout. Also interesting to hear of the conflict in Japanese strategy between Decisive battle strategy and attrition battle operations.
Ed Baldwin
Jun 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: research
his is a strong book. Written by an accomplished and experienced historian after exhaustive research of source material not available to previous authors on World War II in the Pacific, Islands of Destiny is an entertaining read; if you like history. If you're looking for a summer beach book, this isn't it. I bought it for research for a historical novel I might write one day, and I wanted someone else to read the volumes of memoirs and histories published in English since WW II, then wade throu ...more
Nishant Pappireddi
This book notes that Japan still had naval superiority in the Pacific even after Midway and explains how the Allies really turned the tide in the Solomons campaign, ending with the neutralization of Rabaul.
Sep 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I remember when the author, John Prados, was connected with the publication of board war-games in the 70's and 80's. That is what drew me to "Islands of Destiny." I found the book to be a first rate read. I like books that take a new look at old History (not revisionist history which is twisting historical facts to fit a political agenda) and Prados did that in this book. His premise is that while Midway stopped the Japanese advance for a time that it was Guadalcanal and the Solomons Campaign wh ...more
Dec 06, 2016 rated it liked it
There is a lot of great content here. Prados brings in Japanese sources. He also wrote a book on the role of codebreaking in WWII, so there is a lot of great integration of information from different forms of intelligence - codebreaking, signals intelligence, photo reconnaissance - and it's nuanced, so it's a discussion of where there was or wasn't certainty, why the Allies had better success codebreaking at different times.
Prados also brings an interesting angle - his argument was that Midway w
Chuck Leonard
Nov 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Books dealing with Guadalcanal have always interested me since my father fought there during the campaign with the 25th infantry division. Prados captures many important areas that are given short shrift in earlier histories. It is a more balanced and nuanced view of the various engagements and the importance, and, on occasion, the insignificance, of the code breakers We heard of the stories of the "Coastwatchers" and the risks they took with their lives from Dad and his friends but we never rea ...more
Feb 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed the book. I don't know if I agree 100% with his thesis that the Solomon campaign was the true turning point, but he makes a very thoughtful argument that makes you think as a reader. He did a great job covering the whole campaign as a naval, air, and land fight instead of simply focusing on the land fighting or the sea fighting like many books.

I really enjoyed with the author went into more depth, especially in regards to intelligence, the Japanese perspective, and even the ins
Nov 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
A stolid narrative of the Solomons Campaign. While there are many books that deal with various battles and other aspects of the campaign, this book is valuable in that it covers it all, albeit some parts better than others. Since John Prados is an expert on the role of intelligence (especially radio intercepts and decoding) in the Pacific in World War II, that is up to date and center-stage in this work. Prados's hypothesizes that it is the Solomons Campaign rather than the battle of Midway that ...more
Aug 01, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, ww2-pacific
Flawed but interesting narrative history of the Solomon's campaign. The author can be forgiven for overstating the "turning point" trope, but not so the derogatory use of "Japs" in the text (not just in quotes). Nonetheless, the book offers a good overview of the theater of battle. The focus is mainly on the naval actions. I would have liked a bit more detail on the ground battles, especially Guadalcanal. The author clearly did not get his fascination with intelligence out of his system in his l ...more
Mike Fink
Sep 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
The sheer scope of the Solomons Campaign is thrown into dramatic relief by this book. The amount of information contained in this volume relative to the page count is truly marvelous. Of course the individual battles of the campaign are given their due—Savo Island, Santa Cruz, Eastern Solomons and all the rest—but the genius of the book lies in charting the numerous ways that Japan fell behind the U.S. over the course of this campaign, marking a turning point in the war.

Prados's strengths as pe
Apr 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own

Islands of Destiny: The Solomons Campaign and the Eclipse of the Rising Sun. He was at the San Antonio film festival I got to hear him and sign this book. It was nice to meet him.

What makes him special is he under pins his work with examinations of the intelligence being used on both sides. The premise of this book is that Midway was not the turning point of the Pacific war all by itself. It had to be coupled with the hard fought campaign of attrition on and around Guadalcanal.

Anyone who has r
Mar 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world-war-2
The scope of this book is limited to the Solomons Campaign in WWII however it is well told and very readable, being drawn from many eyewitness accounts. What makes the book outstanding is the balance -- it is told equally from both the American and Japanese POVs. Given this balance, Prodos is able to to demonstrate the role that intelligence played on both sides. Who knew what, when, and how did it affect their decisions.
Ross Kirkendoll
Jun 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written but needs better maps

The text is well written and keeps the reader engaged. I learned a lot about the Solomon campaign. Having said that the maps in t h e kindle version leave a lot to be desired. They are not useful given the very small font types which m make them difficult to read and understand. Overall an excellent book, but given the maps a physical book may be a better read.
Sep 03, 2016 rated it liked it
I liked a lot about this book, but there was a lot that frustrated me as well. I felt like many of the battle sequences were told in a disjointed fashion, and I even sensed a similar lack of cohesion of the macro structure of the book as well. It read more like a collection of essays on the Solomons Island Campaign (especially Guadalcanal), some well executed and interesting, and others less so.
Aug 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, wwii
While the book provides a solid history of the Solomon Islands Campaign, the writing style is distracting and takes away from the story. The author seems to refer to "Cactus" more often than by its actual name, Guadalcanal. The same goes from "tin fish" for torpedoes and "tin cans" as destroyers. At first it was a mere annoyance but it soon began to be distracting.
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