"Neptune's Inferno" is the tale of the Navy's role in the tide turning battle of Guadalcanal. Extending from August to November 1942, it brings to life the titanic struggle between the U.S. Navy, weakened by the attack at Pearl Harbor, and the Imperial Japanese Navy as it struggled to supply this outpost of empire.
Author James Hornfisher does an excellent job of placing this story into the context of the overall war. He shows the crucial role that Guadalcanal in the decision between a Germany first policy, as promoted by the President, and Japan first, the choice of the navy. While defeat at Guadalcanal may have compelled an American concentration on the Pacific, the Navy's success permitted the United States to direct its greatest effort against Germany.
Hornfisher presents profiles of the Naval officers involved, particularly, Admirals Nimitz, King and Ghormley. The saying is that amateurs talk tactics while professional talk logistics. This is brought to light by the information that some of the Navy's surviving battleships were tied to the West Coast due to a lack of fuel that would have permitted them to roam the seas. The cameo appearances of the Marines ashore, including the legendary Chesty Puller, and the importance of the IJN in attacking, and USN in protecting, Henderson Field and other Marine installations demonstrate the role of inter-service cooperation in the Pacific War. The practice of the Japanese Army and Navy not to share information and the American communication failures remind us that such problems are nothing new. The incredible series of battles in the Slot that gave the name to Ironbottom Sound enrich the maritime lexicon and boggle the mind with the horror and carnage. The tragic story of the five Sullivan Brothers who went down with the Juneau reminds us that the war may be over there, but the suffering is also over here.
The book is well written however its detail makes it hard to follow for someone who does not begin it with a fairly good understanding of the Pacific War. Although I was never tempted to stop reading, at times I had difficulty keeping track of the ships and how each of them was important to the overall story. I recommend this work to the reader looking for an in-depth study of the Guadalcanal naval campaign.