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Extended Audio Sample Neptunes Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal, by James D. Hornfischer Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (600 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: James D. Hornfischer Narrator: Robertson Dean Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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With The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors and Ship of Ghosts, James D. Hornfischer created essential and enduring narratives about America’s World War II Navy—works of unique immediacy distinguished by rich portraits of ordinary men in extremis and exclusive new information. Now he does the same for the deadliest, most pivotal naval campaign of the Pacific war: Guadalcanal.

Neptune’s Inferno is at once the most epic and the most intimate account ever written of the contest for control of the seaways of the Solomon Islands, America’s first concerted offensive against the Imperial Japanese juggernaut and the true turning point of the Pacific conflict. This grim, protracted campaign has long been heralded as a Marine victory. Now, with his powerful portrait of the Navy’s sacrifice—three sailors died at sea for every man lost ashore—Hornfischer tells for the first time the full story of the men who fought in destroyers, cruisers,  and battleships in the narrow, deadly waters of “Ironbottom Sound.” Here, in brilliant cinematic detail, are the seven major naval actions that began in August of 1942, a time when the war seemed unwinnable and America fought on a shoestring, with the outcome always in doubt. But at Guadalcanal the US proved it had the implacable will to match the Imperial war machine blow for violent blow. 

Working from new interviews with survivors, unpublished eyewitness accounts, and newly available documents, Hornfischer paints a vivid picture of the officers and enlisted men who took on the Japanese in America’s hour of need: Vice Admiral William “Bull” Halsey, who took command of the faltering South Pacific Area from his aloof, overwhelmed predecessor and became a national hero; the brilliant Rear Admiral Norman Scott, who died even as he showed his command how to fight and win; Rear Admiral Daniel Callaghan, the folksy and genteel “Uncle Dan,” lost in the strobe-lit chaos of his burning flagship; Rear Admiral Willis Lee, who took vengeance two nights later in a legendary showdown with the Japanese battleship Kirishima; the five Sullivan brothers, all killed in the shocking destruction of the Juneau; and many others, all vividly brought to life.

The first major work on this essential subject in almost two decades, Neptune’s Inferno does what all great battle narratives do: It cuts through the smoke and fog to tell the gripping human stories behind the momentous events and critical decisions that altered the course of history and shaped so many lives. This is a thrilling achievement from a master historian at the very top of his game.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “A masterpiece of twentieth century naval history.”

    Bob Shacochis, National Book Award–winning author of The Immaculate Invasion

  • “With this grand, sweeping, history-correcting book, James Hornfischer takes his place among the elite historians of the United States war in the Pacific during World War II.”

    Ron Powers, New York Times bestselling coauthor of Flags of Our Fathers

  • “Ambitious…entertaining…insightful…judicious…A vivid and engaging account…of war at sea in 1942.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • “The star of this year’s reading list is James D. Hornfischer, a military historian whose flair for narrative is rivaled only by his ability to organize the sweep of battle and assess strategy and tactics in layman’s terms.”

    Cleveland Plain Dealer

  • “An epic work…It deserves a place of honor on every military bookshelf.”

    San Antonio Express-News

  • “Well written, packed with scene-setting details, and clearly the product of extensive research.”

    Dallas Morning News

  • “A masterful synthesis of technical analysis, operational narrative, and tales of courage.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “This is gripping and readable, not a dry military report.”

    Library Journal

  • “Outstanding…As in his first two books, the author’s narrative gifts and excellent choice of detail give an almost Homeric quality to the men who met on the sea in steel titans.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “Hornfischer’s accounts of naval combat in the Pacific are simply the best in the business.”

    Ian W. Toll, author of Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the US Navy

  • Neptune’s Inferno is a superb portrait of the US Navy’s critical role in the Guadalcanal campaign, both the surface and aerial combat. Comprehensive with much that is new, yet immensely readable, it covers not only the admirals, but the junior officers and bluejackets as well. Highly recommended.”

    John B. Lundstrom, author of The First Team

  • “Hornfischer has produced an account that is visceral, yet technical; sweeping, yet personal. It’s a terrific read, and an important new addition to the literature on this most important naval campaign in the Pacific.”

    Jonathan Parshall, co-author of Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway

  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • A Boston Globe Bestseller
  • A Publishers Weekly Bestseller

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Harry Lane | 2/20/2014

    " Many histories are dry as dust -- not this one! The accounts of the Naval battles read like fiction. The struggle for Guadalcanal is told as well as any one book could, and while the outcome was long in doubt, it can be seen in retrospect as the "end of the beginning" in Churchill's famous phrase on another turning point. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Greg | 2/10/2014

    " Well documented book about the efforts of the US Navy during the WWII battle of Guadalcanal. While the Marines were fighting on the island, the Navy was engaged in an epic battle on the sea. This is the best book I've found explaining the people and ships involved in the conflict. (Also enjoyed it since my Dad served during this battle.) "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Kim | 2/3/2014

    " This is the best book I've read in a long time, in any category -- a non-fiction account that has all the color and pace of a novel. Rather than take the "great man" approach of following the actions of a single individual, or a single unit, Hornfischer weaves together the narratives of hundreds of men to tell this story. The result is an impressive account of the battle that also helps to fully reveal the human beings that fought it. As the stories of individual sailors and airmen develop, the reader never truly knows until the very end whether they survived -- and you will very much care, by the end of their stories, about what happened to them. Despite all the individual detail, however, the story does not lose pace or wander off the path. The lessons of this battle -- the consequences of the slow adoption of new technology, the painful sorting out of officers who could adapt to wartime conditions from those who could not -- are presented with unsentimental clarity. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Matt Bohn | 2/3/2014

    " Everyone knows about the U.S. Marines at Guadalcanal. The U.S. Navy made their mark too, eventually. "

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