Knife's Edge

South Pacific Carrier Battles from the Eastern Solomons to Santa Cruz

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While the resounding American victory at Midway in June 1942 blunted Japanese momentum to a great extent, it left the opposing forces precariously balanced, particularly in the South Pacific. In Knife’s Edge Robert C. Stern provides an account of the Battles of the Eastern Solomons and the Santa Cruz Islands, the two pivotal carrier air battles that followed the initial engagements at the Coral Sea and Midway between the U.S. Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Three U.S. aircraft carriers were sunk or badly damaged over the two months following Midway, including USS Enterprise at the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. Had it not been for the fortuitous arrival of USS Hornet at the end of August, the Americans would have been without an aircraft carrier in the South Pacific until Enterprise returned from repairs on 24 October. At that moment, another major Japanese offensive was afoot, again led by two large carriers, this time supported by another light carrier and a mid-sized merchant-hull conversion. The resulting Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands on 26 October 1942 was a solid tactical victory for the Japanese, who managed to sink Hornet and once again damage Enterprise.   

Stern has written a history of the two final early carrier battles fought between the U.S. Navy and Imperial Japan. These pivotal battles, coming after the triumph of the U.S. at Midway, illustrate lessons learned from these earlier battles of the Pacific War.  Readers already familiar with the history of World War II at sea should find this account a riveting new look at a chapter of the Pacific War rarely covered until now.  

About the Author

Editorial Reviews

“Thanks to Robert Stern’s meticulous research in both Japanese and American sources, we now have the most complete account ever of the great aircraft carrier battles in the latter part of 1942. He describes—in almost minute-by-minute detail—the moves and countermoves on the Pacific chessboard. Surely this will stand as the definitive work on the subject.” —Paul Stillwell, author of Battleship Commander: the Life of Vice Admiral Willis A. Lee Jr.
“Robert Stern has written a fantastic work that synthesizes the best of modern scholarship with deep research into new Japanese sources. If a reader is looking for the best information on the epochal carrier battles fought in the Solomons in 1942, wrapped in a well-written and compelling story, this book delivers.” —Vincent P. O’Hara, author of U.S. Navy Against the Axis: Surface Combat, 1941-1945
“With Knife’s Edge, Robert Stern has given us an important study of the two carrier battles fought during the Guadalcanal campaign. Stern has produced a compelling account of these dramatic actions, carefully crafted to give the reader insight into what the opposing commanders knew, when they knew it, and how that knowledge drove their crucial decisions. Stern’s masterful use of Japanese sources and his analysis of the communications and intelligence dimensions of the battles are particularly welcome and provide important context for the actions themselves.” —Leonard R. Heinz, author (with Vincent O’Hara) of Clash of Fleets: Naval Battles of the Great War, 1914-1918 and Innovating Victory: Naval Technology in Three Wars
“Stern provides a densely-researched new look at the two critical Solomons carrier battles. Drawing from Japanese sources, and interweaving the events occurring on and around Guadalcanal, Stern gives us a fresh appraisal of both the battles and their commanders.” —Jonathan Parshall, co-author, Shattered Sword, the Untold Story of the Battle of Midway