Leaders Are Readers: Neptune’s Inferno

Issue 1 and Volume 15.

(Michael Dugan photo)

Neptune’s Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal, by James D. Hornfischer, is a great read. This book tells the story of the United States Navy at Guadalcanal. The Marines were on land and had a great victory at Guadalcanal. Without the support of the United States Navy and the men who bravely fought, the Marines might not have been able to hold out at Guadalcanal.

This book tells the story of the sailors who fought and died on destroyers, cruisers, and battleships in the areas around Guadalcanal in 1942. The timeframe for this book is from August 9, 1942, through November 30, 1942. Both the U.S. Navy and the Japanese Navy lost 24 ships. The book tells in amazing detail the stories of the men who fought in the deadly waters around Guadalcanal and in a place aptly named “Ironbottom Sound” for the number of ships sank there. The stories of the courage and bravery of these men is wonderfully told in this book. Seven major naval actions took place; at the beginning, the American Navy was being questioned as to whether it could help win the war. The book shows the struggles and the issues these brave men and officers dealt with as they fought to preserve the United States of America.

The stories told in this book were amazing and affected me on a personal level. My younger brother was in the U.S. Navy and served on the USS Juneau. This ship is famous in U.S. Navy history, as the five Sullivan brothers died while serving on the ship during the actions on November 13, 1942. The loss of these brothers changed the Navy’s practice of allowing family members to serve on ships together.

This book relates to the fire service on many levels. The sacrifice of these officers and sailors no doubt help change the course of the Pacific theater in World War II. There were also parts of this book that talk about commanders not understanding or knowing how to use the new radar technology that was available to them. They did not trust “these newfangled gadgets.” There were also officers and commanders who did not understand what their people were telling them. These points relate to the fire service so well. The boots on the ground know what they are encountering at any given time! Technology helps make firefighters safe, but officers and chiefs must know how to use it and understand the information it’s giving. Neptune’s Inferno is well worth the read and another highly recommended book.