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On 27 October 1942, four "Long Lance” torpedoes fired by the Japanese destroyers Makigumo and Akigumo exploded in the hull of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8). Minutes later, the ship that had launched the Doolitte Raid six months earlier slipped beneath the waves of the Coral Sea. Of the pre-war carrier fleet the Navy had struggled to build over 15 years, only three were left: Enterprise, that had been badly damaged in the battle of Santa Cruz; USS Saratoga (CV-3) which lay in dry dock, victim of a Japanese submarine torpedo; and the USS Ranger (CV-4), which was in mid-Atlantic on her way to support Operation Torch.
For the American naval aviators licking their wounds in the aftermath of this defeat, it would be difficult to imagine that within 24 months of this event, Zuikaku, the last survivor of the carriers that had attacked Pearl Harbor, would lie at the bottom of the sea. Alongside it lay the other surviving Japanese carriers, sacrificed as lures in a failed attempt to block the American invasion of the Philippines, leaving the United States to reign supreme on the world's largest ocean.
This is the fascinating account of the Central Pacific campaign, one of the most stunning comebacks in naval history as in 14 months the US Navy went from the jaws of defeat to the brink of victory in the Pacific.
CHAPTER ONE: DISASTER
The Japanese Navy defeats the U.S. Navy tactically at the Battle of Santa Cruz. USS Hornet (CV-8) is the last of the pre-war carriers to be sunk in battle.
CHAPTER TWO: FIRST CONTACT
The new fast carrier task force meets the enemy at Wake and intervenes decisively in the Rabaul campaign.
CHAPTER THREE: THE NEW NAVY
Development of the Essex class fleet carriers and the Independence class light fleet carriers. Development of the F6F Hellcat, SB2C Helldiver and TBF Avenger, the carriers' weapons.
CHAPTER FOUR: A STRATEGY TO WIN THE WAR
In the war games of the 1930s, the U.S. Navy discovers the facts of carrier warfare and develops the tactics of the fast carrier task force.
CHAPTER FIVE: THE COMPETITORS - HALSEY AND SPRUANCE
Two men more different could not be imagined. Halsey, the preening prima donna who cannot distinguish between the good of the Navy and the glory of Halsey versus Spruance, the quiet commander who always keeps "the big picture” foremost in his decision-making.
CHAPTER SIX: TARAWA AND THE GILBERTS
The fast carriers support the first central Pacific invasion. The Navy's first ace, Butch O'Hare, is lost in a tragic accident. The first Hellcat ace is created. In the meantime, USS Saratoga allies with HMS Victorious to provide air cover for the advance beyond Guadalcanal into the Central Solomons.
CHAPTER SEVEN: THE TRUK STRIKE
The main Japanese naval base in the Central Pacific proves to be a "paper tiger” after the Japanese carriers lose the last of their experienced air crews defending Rabaul.
CHAPTER EIGHT: CENTRAL PACIFIC STORM
The fast carriers cover the invasions of Kwajalein and Eniwetok. Japanese air power in the western Carolines is destroyed by the fast carrier task force. The carriers cover the Hollandia invasion that clears Japanese forces from New Guinea.
CHAPTER NINE: THE MARIANAS TURKEY SHOOT
The last vestige of Japanese carrier air power is destroyed in the greatest air battle of the Pacific War. "The Mission Beyond Darkness” stretches naval aviation to the limit. President Roosevelt decides that domestic politics will determine war strategy as he chooses MacArthur and the Philippines over Admiral Nimitz and Formosa.
CHAPTER TEN: HALSEY'S WESTERN PACIFIC RAMPAGE
Admiral Halsey takes command of the fast carriers from Spruance. A lightning campaign across the Philippines, Okinawa and Formosa establishes naval supremacy in the western Pacific.
CHAPTER ELEVEN: THE BATTLES OF LEYTE GULF
The largest naval battle in history. The Battle off Samar, "the Navy's Finest Hour.” The Japanese carrier fleet is destroyed off Cape Engano.
CHAPTER TWELVE: THE COMING OF THE DIVINE WIND
Carrier warfare changes forever on 25 October 1944 when a suicide bomber sinks USS St. Lo (CVE-63). The fast carriers vulnerable as the Kamikazes arrive.
CHAPTER THIRTEEN: CENTRAL PACIFIC FINALE
The battles for the Philippines after Leyte Gulf. "Halsey's Typhoon.”