Jessica's Reviews > The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King—the Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea

The Admirals by Walter R. Borneman
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's review
Jun 01, 2012

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Read from June 01 to July 10, 2012

The Admirals is written as four biographies, sometimes intertwined and sometimes simply told in sequence, of Admirals Chester Nimitz, Bill Halsey Jr., William Leahy, and Ernest King. It begins with brief overviews of their childhood, their formative years at the Naval Academy, and then their first assignments in the Navy and how they arrived at the World War II era with a vast array of experiences and knowledge that would serve them well in the war (including naval gunnery, submarines, the transition to diesel propulsion, etc). It then follows them through the major naval engagements showing how they were able "to work together to build the modern United States Navy and win World War II."

There are a number of entertaining stories and facts scattered throughout the book, but unfortunately it reads like a series of detailed notecards stacked together in bundles. The facts are not always connected in a way that's clear or chronological, and it frequently felt like Borneman was jumping from one topic to another in each paragraph (as if he had run out of things to say). He frequently makes generalized statements about future events, naval training, or strategy/organization that were not explained, leaving the reader hanging. In essence, it feels as if Borneman inaccurately assumes readers' familiarity with nautical terms and historical events is vast. That is a false assumption for popular histories, and I suspect that the problem instead results from a lack of depth in research, especially into lateral topics, that leaves the author unable (rather than unwilling) to elaborate or explain properly.

While the book is worth reading to know more about these prominent figures, I wonder if individual biographies of people like Nimitz might not be more satisfying in detail and explanation, even for a lay audience.

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