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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Audiobook Review: Pearl Harbor by Craig Nelson

pearl harbor

Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness by Craig Nelson
Unabridged, 18 hr. 55 min.
Simon & Schuster Audio
George Guidall (Narrator)
September 20, 2016
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Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Received download from publisher for review

The America we live in today was born not on July 4, 1776, but on December 7, 1941, when almost 400 Japanese planes attacked the US Pacific Fleet, killing 2,400 men and sinking or damaging 16 ships. In Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness, Craig Nelson follows, moment by moment, the sailors, soldiers, pilots, admirals, generals, emperors, and presidents, all starting with a pre-polio assistant secretary of the navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, attending the laying of the keel of the USS Arizona at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, against the backdrop of the imperial, military, and civilian leaders of Japan lurching into ultranationalist fascism, all culminating in an insanely daring scheme to shock the Allies with a technologically revolutionary mission in one of the boldest military stories ever told - one with consequences that continue to echo in our lives today.

Besides the little-understood history of how and why Japan attacked America, we can hear the abandoned record player endlessly repeating "Sunrise Serenade" as the Japanese bombs hit the deck of the California; we feel terror as navy wives, helped by their Japanese maids, upturn couches for cover and hide with their children in caves from a rumored invasion; and we understand the mix of frustration and triumph as a lone American teenager shoots down a Japanese bomber. Backed by a research team's five years of efforts with archives and interviews, producing nearly a million pages of documents, as well as a thorough reexamination of the original evidence produced by federal investigators, this definitive history provides a blow-by-blow account from both the Japanese and American perspectives and is a historical drama on the greatest scale. Nelson delivers all the terror, chaos, violence, tragedy, and heroism of the attack in stunning detail and offers surprising conclusions about the tragedy's unforeseen and resonant consequences.

My experience with WWII in both personal reading and in education has primarily focused on the war in Europe or even the war in the Pacific, but those events occur after the attack on Pearl Harbor, which somehow I never really read/learned about. Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness changed all of that entirely and I now feel that I am well-versed in the many different aspects of the attack and its role on the rest of the war. These are a couple of the interesting details that I came away with:

  • “Remember Pearl Harbor” is written in Morse code in Tojo’s dentures
  • The only people who may have their cremains laid to rest at the USS Arizona memorial are those who served aboard the ship that day, otherwise if they served at other times they may be scattered on the water
  • The most Japanese city outside Japan is Honolulu

In this book, I felt that I got a sense of the complex lead up to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The diplomacy the occurred, failed, and the opportunities that were missed were staggering and wound themselves in and around so many other aspects than just simply the war that was raging in Europe. I say that I walked away with a sense of the events because I think it is really hard to have a solid grasp on issues like this when simply listening; it is too easy to get distracted and at least I am less likely to stop listening to ruminate on a section than I am if I was reading. This was a very worthwhile read.



George Guidall has narrated many of the top-tier novels and non-fiction books on the market: books from Nathaniel Philbrick, Alex Berenson, and Eric Flint. For me, that tells me right off the bat that he is going to be a strong narrator, and I wasn’t disappointed. Guidall handled the plethora of Japanese names and translations effectively. His reading pace had alternately great energy or solemnness, depending on the needs of the section being narrated. He was engaging to listen to and kept me coming back to listen to more.

I did encounter what I believe to have been more of a production issue. I feel like I was able to notice some of the places where edits were made and sections maybe re-recorded. The sound of the narrator’s voice sounded slightly off from time to time. At first I thought that it was an indication of a footnote based on a subtle change, however, I noticed that these were otherwise indicated by the word “footnote” being stated before them, leading me to believe it is an editing issue.

You can check out a sample of the audiobook below:


Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by Craig Nelson:

rocket men
Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon

thomas paine
Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations

the age of radience
The Age of Radiance: The Epic Rise and Dramatic Fall of the Atomic Era

the first heroes
The First Heroes: The Extraordinary Story of the Doolittle Raid

Find Craig Nelson: Website | Twitter


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