I very much enjoyed Michael Hull’s discussion of the history and development of the battle cruiser HMS Hood (“The Royal Navy’s Ill-Fated Symbol,” December 2017, pp. 24–29). Hull does emphasize the ship’s inadequate deck armor but omits a very important consequence of this lack of protection. British Admiral Lancelot Holland knew the Hood’s deck was vulnerable to plunging fire. Thus, he desperately tried to close the range on the Bismarck during the Battle of Denmark Strait to get out of the zone in which the German ship’s shells would arc right into the Hood’s deck. Unfortunately, the Hood did not close the gap and Bismarck’s fire arced perfectly into the battle cruiser’s deck.
Robert Winklareth’s article in the same issue, “The Not-So-Mighty Bismarck” (pp. 20–23) is to be commended for highlighting the performance of the battleship Prince of Wales in the Denmark Strait battle. The damage inflicted by this Royal Navy ship did contribute to the Bismarck’s demise.
I do take exception to Winklareth’s reliance solely on projectile weight and number of guns to measure the power of battleships. This is indeed a “simple comparison,” and it ignores perhaps much more important factors: fire control and accuracy.
Lieutenant Commander Frank M. Graham, U.S. Navy (Retired)
I really enjoyed reading Norman Polmar’s article “The COD Fish Lines” (December 2017, pp. 58–59). From August 1966 through July 1969, I served as the E2/C2 project officer at Naval Air Rework Facility (NARF) North Island, California. From August 1969 through August 1974 I served in NAVAIR as the assistant program manager logistics for E2/C2 aircraft.
In the article, the author makes a parenthetical statement: “The two YC2A prototypes were converted to E-2A early warning aircraft.” Actually, the conversion was just the reverse. Two prototype E2As (bureau numbers 147147 and 147148) were converted to the two C2A prototypes, which retained the same BUNOs. The first C2A was ditched in Long Island Sound on 28 April 1965, with the loss of all hands. On 13 September 1967, I departed Grumman Calverton, New York, in BUNO 147148 en route to North Island, where at that NARF we turned this prototype into a fleet aircraft.
Trent Hone’s article in the December 2017 issue (“Guadalcanal Proved Experimentation Works,” pp. 30–37) was very interesting and highlights the difference between those in the combat zones in World War II and those who might be in one today. Back then, the admirals in the Pacific had the advantage of communications time lag (as well as no communications at all) with Washington. They and their captains could “try things out” with a good degree of anonymity from those back at the various headquarters locations. The combat officers did not have the CYA (cover your a**) syndrome that seems to pervade the present-day military, nor were they being second-guessed by those not there. I do not see such experimentation happening today under any circumstances.
Dennis P. McLaughlin
I disagree strongly with Robert Love’s at-best lukewarm review of Implacable Foes: War in the Pacific, 1944–1945 in the December 2017 issue (pp. 62–63). He fails to grasp, or convey to his readers, why this book is so refreshing and valuable for students of the Pacific war.
Love criticizes the authors’ overall “approach and conclusions” as already “thoroughly conventional decades ago.” Really? What previous history of the later period of the war, readily available to the interested American reader over these decades, has ever done precisely what this book does, and in the great detail that it does? Implacable Foes eschews the same old simplistic, triumphalist narrative of events. Instead it presents the many intertwined—and ever-evolving—problems of strategy, manpower management and allocation, combat power, base and shipping logistics, military production versus peacetime transition, and war-weariness that actually made the U.S. effort to fight and successfully end the Pacific war very difficult for those facing the issues at the time.
Beginning in the mid-1990s and continuing to the present, scholars such as John Ray Skates (The Invasion of Japan), Thomas B. Allen and Norman Polmar (Code-Name Downfall), Richard Frank (Downfall), and D. M. Giangreco (Hell to Pay) have greatly revised and illuminated our understanding of the overall Japanese political and military strategy in the final phase of the war, as well as the many issues and problems that surrounded the projected invasion of Japan. But until Implacable Foes, interested students have not seen any deeper, systematic analysis that draws together, so well and so convincingly, the whole American side of the story over the entire last phase of the war.
Lieutenant Commander George J. Walsh, U.S. Naval Reserve (Retired)
Applause for Richard Hulver’s final paragraph in his article on the fate of the Indianapolis (“Dispelling the Myths of the Indianapolis,” December 2017, pp. 43–47):
Only by telling an accurate story, devoid of the sensationalist distractions, can we properly commemorate the men who served on Indianapolis, tell the story of her final crew, and put the history of a decorated warship in its proper context. The Navy has a moral obligation to ensure that the sacrifice of all those who served is not forgotten; by telling the complete history—good and bad.
Now let’s have Hulver, or some other talented young historian, apply these same principles to a new look at the Battle of Midway. There is a magnificent story of the U.S. Navy’s 1942 victory at Midway that remains untold. For 75 years the true story of the Midway achievements of our U.S. Naval Academy graduates of the 1920s and ’30s has been lost in the smoke generated to cover up mistakes that almost cost us the victory. These Annapolis men provided our nation with tools and trained officers to lead the charges against the ships of the Japanese fleet. Their prewar planning made victory possible at Midway.
The opening painting for “Guadalcanal Proved Experimentation Works” (December 2017, pp. 30–31) was misidentified as depicting the Second Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. John Hamilton’s painting shows the Guadalcanal campaign’s Battle of Cape Esperance.