At Dawn We Slept

Book Review



At Dawn We Slept


Gordon W. Prange


Penguin  Putnam Inc., New York, NY



Reviewed By:

Frank Fogg

Review Date:

June, 2001


At Dawn We Slept tells the complete tale of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor from its inception through its commission, and the aftermath  for both sides in this conflict. This is a paperback book of over 850 pages.

The story begins approximately one year prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. It examines the planning stages of the raid on the Japanese end and explains the point of view for each of the major players in this drama. Weaved into this part of the story is the political viewpoint of the Japanese military and its effect on diplomatic relations with the United  States as well as the Axis powers. An exceptional amount of time is given to the interrelationships of Admiral Yamamoto, General Tojo, the Emperor, and Japanese  politics in the ultimate decision to proceed along the path to war.

Get more information about At Swan We SleptWe also get a glimpse of the personality of many of the upper echelon military  leaders at Pearl Harbor and in other important command positions for the United  States. Many of the figures presented here played an important part in the creation of the wartime alerts that were sent to outlying military bases throughout the  world, and the author reveals the impact of editing on these messages. Although sent to alert U.S. forces in the months leading up to the raid, they actually contributed to the confusion that created a strategic opportunity for the Japanese.  The author examines the role of such well-known figures as Admiral Kimmel, General  Short, Secretary Hull, Ambassador Grew and President Roosevelt. He doesn't stop at this point, but instead follows up with reviews of personnel at all ranks and positions in the armed forces.

A large amount of information is developed that shows the  impact of spying by Japanese diplomatic personnel in Hawaii as the raid is conceived and planned. The author follows the travels of several highly placed consular officials as they investigate the Hawaiian naval and air bases by land and air.  He shows us how the maps were sent and the secret messages coded so that the  Japanese knew the actual docking location and arrival time of every Navy ship at Pearl Harbor right up to the day of the attack.

In the aftermath we clearly see the rush to judgment for Kimmel and Short as the culprits for allowing the attack. The author then brings to light the political struggle between the two major political parties  that changes the focus of the investigation to the highest levels of the military and government after the end of the war. Along the way we get to look inside every little nook and cranny of the investigation, and then watch as the memories  and stories of the participants change as time goes by.

This book stands out as the best-researched and well-written book about Pearl Harbor that I have read out of hundreds available on the subject. One must wonder what was left out as the editors reduced the size of this epic  work from four volumes down to one. Although the author states that he wrote this book with no pre-conceived notions about blame, he is forced by the nature  of the story to arrive at certain conclusions about the United States military  command structure. He does not carry this to the point of making wild accusations or revising the facts to his liking.

This is an excellent book for fans of military history.  It brings forth facts long forgotten about the Pearl Harbor attack and is sure  to have many new stories for anybody who has read other books about this era.  The book is well researched and written, and the author does not grind many axes in the presentation or in the conclusions he draws.

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