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Countdown to Pearl Harbor

The Twelve Days to the Attack
Narrated by: Holter Graham
Length: 11 hrs
4.5 out of 5 stars (98 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

A fascinating look at the twelve days leading up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor—the warnings, clues and missteps—by a Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter.

In Washington, DC, in late November 1941, admirals compose the most ominous message in Navy history to warn Hawaii of possible danger, but they write it too vaguely. They think precautions are being taken, but never check to see if they are. A key intelligence officer wants more warnings sent, but he is on the losing end of a bureaucratic battle and can’t get the message out. American sleuths have pierced Japan’s most vital diplomatic code, and Washington believes it has a window on the enemy’s soul - but it does not.

In a small office at Pearl Harbor, overlooking the battleships at the heart of America’s seafaring power, the Commander of the Pacific Fleet tries to figure out how much danger he really faces. His intelligence unit has lost track of Japan’s biggest aircraft carriers, but assumes they are resting in a port far away. The admiral thinks Pearl is too shallow for torpedoes, so he never puts up a barrier. As he frets, a Japanese spy is counting the warships in the harbor and reporting to Tokyo.

There were false assumptions, and racist ones: The Japanese aren’t very good aviators and they don’t have the nerve or the skill to attempt a strike so far from their home. There were misunderstandings, conflicting desires, painful choices. And there was a naval officer who, on his very first mission as captain of his very first ship, did exactly the right thing. His warning could have averted disaster, but his superiors reacted too leisurely. Japanese planes arrived moments later.

Twomey’s telescoping of the twelve days leading to the attack unravels the crucial characters and moments, and produces an edge-of-your seat drama with fascinating details about America at this moment in its history. By the end, the reader understands how assumption is the root of disaster, and how sometimes a gamble pays off.

©2016 Steve Twomey. All rights reserved. (P)2016 Simon & Schuster

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New insights even for history buffs

I enjoyed learning about the weaknesses in the US preparation for war in the Pacific. The book makes it clear that with the knowledge they had at the time, it would have been a leap of faith for Admiral Kimmel and General Short to anticipate and prepare for an air raid. After all, the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor was unprecedented. Never before had a force of aircraft carriers attacked a distant naval base by surprise.

However, it's also clear that Kimmel and Short could have done a lot more. They could have had a long distance air patrol, torpedo nets (especially after the British raid on the Italian navy in harbor in Taranto), and crews alerted to imminent hostile action.

But it was disappointing that the book did not address the US response to this lack of preparation after the attack. The book concludes with a postscript that briefly mentions the court martial of Kimmel and Short. I expected a discussion and analysis that was as insightful as the rest of the book, but the author did not discuss the command changes, changes in military procedure, and military response after the attack.

As with a lot of history books, this one is also written from the point of view of the victors and Japanese sources are few. It is never clear why the Japanese chose to attack and start a war that they knew they could not win.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Blake
  • Annapolis, MD, United States
  • 06-06-17

The Facts Build to a Crescendo Despite Comical Reading

The author does a good job pulling together the multiple clues the U.S. Military had available to prevent being caught by surprise by Japan's attack on Dec. 7, 1941. The bad part: the reading by Holter Graham borders on laughable, with comical emphasis on certain words. At time it sounds like listening to a high school play, no disrespect intended to teenage actors.

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Excellent book!

As a lifelong Navy sailor, I particularly enjoyed this book. It gives a great deal of background on all the things that were happening with the Navy in Pearl Harbor leading up to the attack. A very good read!

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An Excellent Historical Story

Expertly told...I had no idea of this history or its story. This story needs to be more fully understood by ALL students in schools and colleges as well as the General public.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Technical problems in Chapter 7

Would you try another book from Steve Twomey and/or Holter Graham?

Holter Graham's narration is unlistenable.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Text seems OK

How could the performance have been better?

Serious technical problems with narration in Chapter 7. Halting speech, weird gaps between words, UNLISTENABLE.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Doesn't ANYBODY review this stuff?

Any additional comments?

Same problem on both my iPod and on my Kindle.

3 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Good read

Where does Countdown to Pearl Harbor rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Never really knew what the lead up was to the attack. Amazing that we were "surprised" it happened, but hindsight is 20/20 and intelligence was very limited to what we are accustomed to today. Great research

0 of 1 people found this review helpful