"Fletcher, Task Force Commander : the early years of WWII in the Pacific"
by James Bauer.
6x9, 254 pages, illustrated, tables. $20. Shipping and tax included
This book is about the Pacific War; about Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher, a virtually unknown admiral who contributed greatly to that victory; and a reference work about the early days of the Pacific War. "Fletcher, Task Force Commander" is in three parts. The first is about the early life of Fletcher raised in a small town in Iowa to an entrepreneurial family. The second part summaries the naval battles of the first year of the war that starts with the Japanese winning and has the appropriate title "Till they met Fletcher". The third part is a reference with hard to find lists, comparisons, specifications, photos, time-lines and discussions on various topics about the first year of that war. Some myths of that period are exploded including some that are embedded in popular culture. As the author put it, "This is information I wish I had when starting my studies of Ww2."
The Japanese reason for the Pacific War was to obtain resources needed to complete their primary aim to conquer China. They did not seek war with the United State, rather just to keep the USN from interfering with their acquisition of the oil, rubber, other strategic materials from the East Indies. They were able to rampage throughout the Pacific because the English, Dutch and Russians were engaged is a fight for their lives in Europe. The intent was to quickly form an impenetrable circle of defenses, then to acquiesce to clamors for peace by the pacifist Americans, which they would grant while keeping their acquisitions. Then to get on with their plans in China and the domination of Asia. That plan was nearly fulfilled, their navy defeated five fleets of three nations in five months.
The Imperial Japanese Navy had been able to rampage from Hawaii to Ceylon, from Australia to Alaska and continue in the spirit of Tsushima by never losing a capital ship larger than a submarine or auxiliary destroyer till they met Fletcher. The book on aircraft carrier-on-carrier warfare had not yet been written when Admiral Fletcher made the first attack where opposing ships never saw each other. He was the man on the spot who had to invent that book when a Japanese invasion fleet tried to encircle Australia to cut off her supply lines. Fletcher drew first blood by sinking the first capital ship in the history of the Japanese Navy
After saving Australia in the Battle of Coral Sea, he led two task forces at the crucial Battle of Midway where the overwhelming superiority of Japan's navy was reduced, then he covered the invasions at Guadalcanal and saved that beachhead in the Battle of Eastern Solomons. To understand the significance of this, we must note that Japan started the war with ten battleships ans ten aircraft carriers. After Pearl Harbor, the USN had no battleships and three carriers in the Pacific. Fletcher had to husband his few ships and perform his work with the remnants of a depression-funded, peace-time fleet. He was up against an enemy trained by years of war in China, that had perfected modern weapons and tactics. Yet, in eight months of continuous combat, Fletcher sank six enemy carriers with the loss of only two in a near perfect balance of aggressiveness and caution.
After Pearl Harbor, Americans wanted to fight the Japanese, but the administration had a "Germany First" policy in which Pacific and Asian theaters were to be a holding action and were allotted only 15% of war production. If Fletcher had failed and the Pacific required more aid, the African and European campaigns would have taken far longer, had much higher tolls of lives lost, or even risked the loss of Britain or Russia.
Fletcher deserves far more attention than he has been given in the history of the Pacific War and in WWII. This book helps spread the word while providing a rich reference to help understand that war.