Book review: The Battle for Hell’s Island


World War II is a fading memory in the collective conscious. For some. Others continue to live it to their last breath. War does that to people. Few days go by where I don’t think on my time in Iraq, Afghanistan, or on the Korean DMZ. The men who fought on Guadalcanal had no idea what they were getting into. The Army and Marines who slogged through the mud against a determined and vicious Japanese Army had never faced the enemy before. While there is a small amount of ground fighting involved in The Battle for Hell’s Island, the focus is on the Navy’s carrier bomber and fighter squadrons.

I had no idea just how difficult it was for these men. The movies make pilots out to be glory hounds who don’t really find much adversity in their campaigns. Boy are they wrong. How any of these guys survived is beyond me. From training accidents, running out of fuel constantly while out at sea, no reliable navigation, and being blasted by Japanese Zeros, its a wonder that they came home.

Many did not. Their planes rust on the bottom of the ocean. Their ships (in some cases) are beside them. The battle for Guadalcanal lasted just under a year and at great cost. It is the decisive battle in the Pacific Theater that finally turned the tide against Imperial Japan. Midway was a great victory, but the Canal was when America started beating back Japan and heading for Tokyo.

This is a great story about amazing individuals who rose to levels they never imagined they would need before Dec 1941. My problem with the book is the way it was written. Sentences don’t go together. There are too many instances where the author discusses one pilot and then throws in a completely random sentence about something else. Add an excessive amount of acronyms and abbreviations and it made me want to pull my hair out. Fortunately I don’t have any so that wasn’t a problem. The Battle for Hells Island needed to be told and I am glad I read it, but it was like pulling teeth trying to slog through the antiquated writing style.

3 out of 5 stars.

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