Brian Lane Herder, Early Pacific Raids 1942 (Osprey, 2023)
Between 1 February and 10 March 1942, the United States conducted raids in the Pacific to avenge the Japanese surprise attacks of December 1941 and keep them strategically off-balance. These were a remarkable achievement for a depleted US Navy and an ominous warning for the Japanese of what was to come. In this Osprey Campaign Series book, Brian Lane Herder follows the action.
The American reaction to Japan’s attacks was swift and aggressive. Herder notes the rapid American reorganisation of its Pacific fleet, both in ships and command, then turns to the opposing commanders. Here we meet, among others, Admirals Yamamoto, Shigeyoshi, and Goto for the Japanese, and Admirals King, Nimitz, and Halsey on the US side. What and who they commanded follows, with the Japanese Kido Butai leading the way, backed by defensive forces based at sea and on captured islands. The US in the wake of Pearl Harbor organised Carrier task forces to conduct operations, again with defensive support. A brief survey of respective strategies precedes Herder’s narrative of the campaign. This included the submarine attack on the USS Saratoga, the Japanese invasion of Rabaul, the aborted US attack on Wake Island, and the February 1942 raids on the Marshalls and Gilberts, attacks on Kwajalein, Wotje, and Taroa. The Japanese carrier force reacted, but they lacked any real purpose. Their invasion of Lae and Salamaua in March 1942 proved more useful, though they were hit hard by a US air raid shortly thereafter. Herder closes by noting that while this first US campaign was relatively minor compared to what was to come, it had positive strategic consequences for the American war effort.
Despite its uninspiring title, Early Pacific Raids 1942 is an enjoyable read that covers a lot of action. Herder writes well, managing to convey the sense of the US learning how to fight with Carriers, and Japanese indecisiveness playing out a strategy they hadn’t quite anticipated – they meant to sink the Carriers at Pearl Harbor. Herder is limited by the format to a surface level exploration of this fascinating campaign, but he adds a useful bibliography for further reading. As ever, Osprey supports their author with excellent maps and artwork. A good read for those interested in the Pacific theatre or Carrier warfare in World War II.