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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  April 30, 2012 6:30am-7:30am EDT

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>> halsey from that point forward never hesitated to send carriers to intercept japanese forces coming south, and he
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committed himself to a very regular and rigorous resupply to bring crucially needed supplies and ammunition to the guadalcanal. from the outset, the supply situation was very grave to the marines in guadalcanal. this is backing up somewhat but there was a terrible sort of prior to halsey's arrival, there was a terrible state of relations between the marines and the navy. in fact, it's really one of the first things somebody will often say when i say i've written a book about this. all, you've written about how they dumped the marines off and high tailed it and ran. that seems to be the perception. i mentioned earlier the 5000 sailors killed in action. clearly that is not the case. the perception exists. that perception arose from the fact that the very beginning of the campaign, the navy only agreed to stand by with its carriers for today's to support the marines landed. when the carriers hold out,
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there goes the air cover. admiral turner who was in charge of landing area realized his car government would be vulnerable without air cover. so there goes their cover. there was that blood going on. it repairs a lot of that ill will that existed in the navy and in the marine corps. and i think from that point forward, it's very much the case of two services fought side-by-side, and di it everythg they had against the japanese. so i hope i'm not losing do with all these sub themes and shifts of year. guadalcanal was a complex campaign, telling the story in one book was a trick because we had to account for the changing of the guard, the comings and goings of the ships and officers and men of every rank, every battle happy different
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commanders on both sides. and so the store is really one of the institution of the navy learning how to fight. i told you about norman scott, about how he wins the battle. the japanese don't quit. in fact, two days after that battle was won, the effect of that you could say was almost negligible. the japanese are able to get down a couple of their largest battleships off of guadalcanal, work over the air force for about two hours on the night of october 15. and the marines on the island, i don't believe in the annals of military history there's a ground force that ever endured a heavier bombardment. the japanese left i think after their handiwork was done, there were five working aircraft at guadalcanal. and so this sets up the battle of santa cruz, which was blunted
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by halsey's aggressiveness. nearly at a catastrophic cost after santa cruz at the end of october there's one carrier left in the south pacific. fortunately, the japanese, it takes its immense amount of planning and a tremendous amount of resource management to make a push such as the japanese are making. they have a martial -- they have to marshal the troops. they got to get their combat shipping together, the air support. so basically what emerged is the japanese are able to make a push against waddle can now really once every three to four weeks. so there's the spirit of regrouping and we gathering as both sides lick their wounds and plan for the next thing. santa cruz, long story short, blondes the first major japanese attempt to take guadalcanal back from the american side. the next one comes in november. now, admiral scott, because of the cascading effects of gormley's relief, the brilliant
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and aggressive admiral scott is no longer in command of the crucial force when the japanese come knocking again in november. command of 64, soon to become 67, evolves to gormley's chief of staff, callahan, wasn't about to see his career go down with his bosses. when corn is relieved he goes to halsey and says please send me back to the sea. i'm a fighting sailor, give me a command. so halsey who is also a fighting senate goes along with it, gives him demand of task force 67. he comes in, it becomes callahan has 15 days minority rank over scott, scott effectively is removed from command because of the operation of rules of seniority. so now we have apple callahan in charge of the cruisers in the japanese come calling on the night of november 13.
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the so-called battle of friday the 13th was almost impossible to track and to break apart and their rate, once the main forces collide north of guadalcanal that night, november 13. you have a japanese bombardment force, these are 42000-ton monsters. the americans have nothing like it to oppose them. callahan has, you know, three, two-eight-inch cruisers, a couple light cruisers and a couple destroyers. callahan those from reports what's coming and he realizes that there's only one way out of this, and that is straight through it. because if he fails to engage the japanese will overwhelm the cactus air force, land their troops and the party is over.
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if callahan in cages, well, all his ships will probably be lost, point-blank range at night, it's not a happy order of battle if you're on the american side. but one of the men i interviewed -- callahan is coming in for loans because once that battle begins, there's no evidence -- as if there ever could have been. but he comes in for loans because he didn't leave behind a nifty battle plan that apple scott had prepared. the last tactical or callahan gave was straight out of, straight out of lord nelson, as the forces are engaging his last command to his column is odd ships fire starboard, even ships fire port, as it is going to do anything, when suppose you're a captain and your engaging a ship and you just been instructed to fire starport, find a new
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target, turn us around. the people, you know, the loss, the blood, the death that falls on both sides at night, is really to the credit of neither commander, but what was the alternative? callahan knew he had but one alternative, and that was to sacrifice his force. one of the great interviews i did for this book, and by the way, the opportunities to interview veterans of these battles is diminishing rapidly, but i feel like this is kind of a last breath as some of this history. there's a 92 year-old man at berkeley, california, named eugene, an african-american man, which meant he would have going to go farther than captains cook in 1942 era fleet. he captains cook the night this battle was fought, and he recounted to me how his milling around, he hears officers talking and here's apple callahan saying something like i know we have no choice but we have to do it, and there is
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resigned sense of fatalism about these worse. would also have these words from a younger officer who was in this conversation with him. clearly from the somewhat fragmentary evidence, callahan was a smart man. clearly he knew what he was up against. cruisers versus battleships. he knows his job essentially to go intercept and to do what he could with what he had. the only way a cruiser be to battleship is to get in close. most ships are designed to be the equal, they are equivalent counterpart, so they are armored to protect against its own batter. so an eight-inch cruiser is armored to protect against an eight-inch man to batter at a standard 15,000-yard range. a battleship and a similar protective scheme -- but what is a cruiser going to do against a battleship? if you do all the math, you realize there's no way an eight-inch cruiser takes down a 14-inch battleship at the
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standard range. but what if they get in close? this is exactly what happened. this is the brilliance of callahan's kind of, it's frustrating to no, he had ships in is called that at the very latest radar, that could see through the night and cast out their little microwaves to find contacts to smoke and fog and darkness, very precise range of bearing. so here you have admiral callahan. behind it is a brand-new microwave set radar. the captain of the hell about is to callahan, bearing three to five, 22000 yards, every 30 seconds is a new report. callahan is having none of it is an old school fighting naval officer. is on the radio, essentially a single channel capacity to read a. if you're talking on the radio
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you're not hearing anything else. what is he doing? he is clearing his destroyers in the lead. hey, butch, what you see now? hey, butch, what do you see now? callahan had trusted his men. he didn't trust this newfangled radar that nobody knew how to use. i interviewed a radar often on one of these destroyers and he said really all it was good for really, all, we weren't trained in its use but it was a black box and is behind the pilot house, and had a flat surface and got pretty hot when it was working so we put our coffee on and that's really all we were able to use the four in 1942. the manuals had not been written yet much less distribute to the fleet and trained on. so radar is really, you know, for the average naval officer functionally useless. callahan fails to use his raider. historians have a field day criticizing him for not knowing how to use technology. is that fair? i will leave it for you to
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judge. what admiral callahan did notice he had to get in close with his eight-inch cruisers to be -- to be 14-inch battleships. in the crucial moment, callahan's column, san francisco at the stern ball about 2000 yards apart for the japanese main body, these two battleships are referred to, and they beat them in the water line. the japanese flagship is mortally wounded. so this was the moment of truth. this was the moment of truth. cruisers weren't supposed to be battleships like this. from the japanese point of view, americans were never supposed to fight like this. they didn't think we had this kind of savagery in this. it certainly appears, i've talked a number of people including richard frank is probably the preeminent historian of the guadalcanal campaign, it really seems like the japanese were stunned by this exhibition of americans
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fighting will but they didn't think we had it in us to sacrifice our ships. admiral callahan is struck down on his bridge by a japanese. norman scott was another ship and callahan's line. he was killed by friendly fire from the san francisco. both admirals killed in action on friday the 13th. i don't think that's ever happened again. i'm not sure -- that might've been the first and last, is that right? we have this incredible battle, which once again stops a japanese bombardment forced from hitting henderson field, therefore, it stops the convoy from coming down in lending its troops on the beaches. therefore, it saves guadalcanal yet again. the significance of callahan sacrifice is that the following day the cactus air force is able to fly, heavily spared yet another bombardment. they fly out, they find the
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japanese transport circling in the northern part and they work them over. they send down i think it is four out of six large japanese transports with most of an entire japanese infantry division. so by his sacrifice that night, guadalcanal is once again safe. two nights later, the japanese gather up the remnants of this massive multi-task force order of battle they've assembled and they try again. they circle back the one battleship that survived the encounter with callahan, he comes back with a number of cruisers. they are determined to put henderson field out of business. callahan's force has been rendered combat ineffective. and so now they're is admiral halsey, the riverboat gambler throws the dice again. all he has now are the battleships his been jealously
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holding with his kid. he is the uss enterprise, alaska in the south pacific. he's got two battleships, the washington and south dakota. these are magnificent fast battleships. the reason the old perl battle partnerships, they were prepared and modernize, the reason they're not here is fuel. they didn't have the tankers, the fuel storage to offer his carriers on a south pacific. so the auld battleship stay on the west coast. this was the cruisers, destroyers and carriers come into the new more fuel-efficient ships come into the theater. a little background there. admiral halsey has two battleships that holding close to the enterprise. as the japanese come back the night of the 15th, halsey's only choice to oppose this renewed attack, which he has detected from a research, is to release these two magnificent ships and send them into these confined waters. battleships are not supposed to fight in confined kind of island
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shall waters like this. these are massive ships with huge turning radius. but is the only choice that halsey has that night. he releases the washington and the south dakota under command of the one naval officer in the entire south pacific who knows how to use greater control gunfire. he comes from naval training center. he has helped install the hardware on the ships. he wrote the first manual that hadn't even been yet distributed, and a kentucky rifleman, a champion as a shooter, alan medalist with it is our anti-rifle master of every gun from .45 caliber to a 16-inch and he is than you want an command for a fight like this. for a man to take these two capital ships into harm's way. so that night the night of november 14 and 15th, willis lee, with the washington, flagship, south dakota take short work of that last japanese battleship.
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and with this, with this the japanese psychological route, the psychological route that was the guadalcanal is complete and the japanese point of view. they have lost two battleships in action in close range this fighting range against american squadron. and never again, remember, this is 1942. it won't be until the end of 1944 almost two years a japanese battleships come forward and engage american forces in a meaningful way. i think the psychological effects of this campaign was crushing for the japanese. there's one final battle that his father for the japanese, essentially ceased major operation. there's one final battle. i treated briefly in the book. part of you probably wondered if i could sustain the interest and yet another midnight slugfest, five in a row your, but it is
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frustrating because after the master on the night of november 15 you want there to be an exclamation point on the was performed. but we don't get the. we get is another abject u.s. defeat in the battle of tassafaronga. we view as cruisers under command of a new naval officer, he has the playbook from scott, the fighting example of callahan, he knows that uses radar. is all the advantages. he surprises the force of japanese destroyers whose decks are little with supplies coming down down to dump off the water were just north of guadalcanal. so here comes the new admiral, he surprises them, opened fire and all of the ships concentrate on one ship, the lead destroyer, blow it out of the water. the japanese react -- their mastery of nighttime or pedal warfare pays huge dividends you.
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reverse course, and, of course, the world been long last torpedo enters the u.s. cruiser lines, inflicting a shameful defeat. the virtue from the american point of view of the situation now though is this defeat simply doesn't matter. the trains are running, so to speak, the supplies are coming in from the docks, the worst, the lighters, to bring material ashore from cargo ships to all of it is in place to and there's really no unseating the americans from the guadalcanal by the time the japanese conflict is last kind of defiant class victory on a superior american force. the south pacific force can absorb the defeat, and by february, the japanese are attempting their own if you
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will. they're able to exactly the last of their starved garrison out of guadalcanal, and those been, their starvation victims. that was the state of the japanese infantry in guadalcanal, because of the constrictive force of our naval forces stopping the tokyo express from reinforcing their garrison. it's not a pretty sight. it's historic, six months of campaigning, frankly it is ghastly. what happens to a ship when it is hit like this, what happens with men on on board that ship. you know, but it was necessary because there was only one way to be the japanese and that was to step up and smack them in the mouth. we did at midway with her naval air force, at guadalcanal we did the old-fashioned way with our service may be. a story i tried to bring together comprehensively and readably. certainly after writing, you know, my first book, "the last stand of the tin can sailors" is not a single naval engagement lasted about two hours and goes
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in close for one battle. extraordinary victory fought late in the war. my second book was a story of one ship, a ship of goes about the uss houston, lost early in the war, but with "neptune's inferno" i try to tackle an entire campaign that frankly i never understood in toto like this. the last book attempts what neptune's inferno does was the volume industries was to take the hold naval experts of the guadalcanal campaign, and is really crucial i think to illustrate, to illustrate the successor because it says something about how america fights when it's been provoked, about the extent, the losses and the sacrifices to win windows that there's only one way through, and that is to win. all these questions will be on the table tomorrow for the panel on afghanistan but it's a new era, a new day, but boy, things
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sure seemed clear 70 years, seven years ago. the menu when the south pacific i think there still a few of them around, and they've got my undying gratitude and my admiration. it's been a privilege to build interview some of the men from the san francisco and the men from the uss atlanta, apple scots flagship, and to capture their story. so i appreciate your interest coming to hear about it. if we have time i'll be happy to take any questions you might have. thank you. [applause] >> take a couple of questions. i have to run to the northfield end, but -- [inaudible] >> absolutely.
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spent take as many questions as you want. >> sounds good. thank you very much. thank you. >> of the 80 ships, you mentioned there were 80 ships at the beginning of this campaign, how many of them remained seaworthy after? >> the 80 ships was the size of the initial any force and that would have included the carrier forces as well as the supporting ships. both sides, the americans and japanese sustained about equal losses in the campaign. each side lost 24 major warships. and so, i'm you, the losses were so great they eventually coined the nickname, that little, the body of water north of guadalcanal were all the fighting took place, iron bottom sound. and, in fact, robert ballard who discovered the titanic wreck followed up that feat by taking
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one of his submersibles and crew and cameras, went down and ask that the number of the racks of the guadalcanal campaign, a wonderful book called the go ships of guadalcanal. has some stunning photography of the racks of the quincy. and they are still down there. these racks will be with us forever, you know? nature is reclaiming all that metal. and so, you know, being able to grab history like that i think is very valuable. >> did you not have close watchers -- [inaudible] all down towards giving us some advance warning of what was coming? >> we did. the question is about the coast watchers. these were brave souls in the. if you look at this chain of islands, the gentleman mentioned new georgia, there were essentially rogue agents equipped with radios.
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these were australians. these were men who had been working, they might have had kind of an administered role on one of the islands. this is basically a british protection of most of these on the. so you have these agents of the ground. you had people who are attached to one or another business, such as the pineapple trade, or what have you, maybe some kind of a government role as well. when the japanese invaded they headed to the hills and is applied the crucial function of observing movements of japanese ships up and down the waterways, and with the radio signaling, usually signaling to australia, eventually word got to allied forces it very quickly when the japanese forces were coming. with that warning, usually allowed the men of the cactus air force to sort it and get to a combat altitude by the time the japanese ships i became within striking range.
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so without those coast watchers we would've been relying on her own air search, which was fraught with all kinds of unanticipated will problems, whether, you know, mixed communications, that kind of thing. coast watchers were crucially important to the allied success. >> -- [inaudible] what john keegan said in -- are you somewhere without? >> about what? >> just the course of combat and -- >> well, i think, i'm not sure what arguments you're referring to or what -- >> kind of locked into. it's almost fatalistic being in there, the battleship fleet. >> well, there's certainly a sense of fatalism. the fatalism seemed to be most evident on the japanese side. they kind of felt like somehow there were going to materialize this decisive battle where their
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fighting spirit would carry them to victory and all of a sudden the war be over because they one this big battle. and they have this faith that such a thing would come to them and that there would be this decisive battle. [inaudible] >> the losses as i said were about equal. there were about 24 ships. the losses in battleships work toward -- eyed the end of the day they were about even. the japanese were slow to realize that guadalcanal was, in fact, a decisive battle. dad always, the japanese naval command always had a certain idea. i think drawn from world war i, that they would slowly whittle away american naval forces is delivered us across the pacific, and at a moment their choosing, say off the philippines or somewhere, they would finally commit the battleship force and heavy majestic engagement on the high seas and they would crush us. guadalcanal doesn't look like that.
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guadalcanal wasn't quite that dramatic. it was a stinky, lousy, disgusting place. the island itself, and the waters around it were confined and hazardous and lend themselves really do, used by smaller ships. none of that told the japanese this was a decisive battle. i think they realized it too late. all through the campaign, i pointed out trucks earlier, the great battleship was anchored truck, was never sent into the combat area. really for lack of fuel. but i think the japanese never saw the urgency of it. a number of major elements of the force were never committed to the battle. it was to our good fortune. both sides are fighting so far from home, just look how far guadalcanal is an tokyo, and pearl harbor.
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it was far more than anybody could manage easily. these constraints of fuel and supply, and the japanese suffered as much as we did. >> anything else? well, if there's nothing else, i thank you for your attention are given a great audience, and a very proud to be with you here, so we will look forward to hearing what some other authors have to say as this symposium roles along. thank you. [applause] >> is a nonfiction author or book you would like to see featured on booktv wax send us an e-mail at or tweet us at >> my connection to this foundation goes back quite some years. i have, with great honor, and
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posting, use a lot of the work of robert rector in my own research and in writing. his work has been particularly helpful for me in terms of my own attempts to think differently about both political and economic liberation for african-americans. the united states is an incredible place. it stands out among other nations and in the world. and i recently had an opportunity to be reminded of how great this place is at my family reunion and escambia county, alabama, in the city of atmore, alabama. escambia county is the county that my families citation was. and so i stand here before you as a descendent of


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