• Countdown to Pearl Harbor

  • The Twelve Days to the Attack
  • By: Steve Twomey
  • Narrated by: Holter Graham
  • Length: 11 hrs
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Americas
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (147 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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  • Overall
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    4 out of 5 stars

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 person found this helpful

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A bit tedious but informative.

Narration: uninspiring. Lacks oomph. Just not enough variety in delivery. The narration comes across more as a chore than provocative insight.

Story: important and of significance to academics. All others may find this recounting tedious.

A shorter book (just the essence) would be for the less academic listener sufficient.

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Great book, read superbly.

Very well written and read. This is a great read for WW2 history buffs and covers the myriad of bad decisions and missteps leading to the attack at Pearl Harbor. It covers the days preceeding the attack and some back story to the major players.

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Excellent !!

One of the most thorough and understandable explanations of that horrible day I've ever read.

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had some slow parts but over all a good listen

over all work the credit but it can be a bit slow in sooner parts

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This explained a lot about the failures on Dec 7th

This book so wonderfully shows the human and system failures that resulted in the attack on Pearl Harbor.and in doing so, it reports the history, not the fault findings that continue to this day. There is a lot of areas that need to be considered in the telling of the story and the author does an excellent job at covering as much as possible.

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A Great Piece Of Work

As someone who, at age 14, got his first experience in the reading of a “thick” books on history by reading my fathers copy of Samuel Elliot Morrison’s “Two Ocean War”, I can heartily recommend this book.

Twomey weaves a 12 day history steeped in the thoughts, racism and feelings of the time. Another time in history where the established ways get trampled by technology, concepts and attitudes that are straining to move forward.

A phenomenal work. Riveting and as exciting as any modern novel.

Oh, and 44 years later, I still have the same copy of Two Ocean War.

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An exploration of the relatively unknown events...

leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. As with most things in life, there are two sides to every story. This book explores many aspects of this event that I had not previously heard.

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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!