Book Review: Blazing Star, Setting Sun: The Guadalcanal-Solomons Campaign November 1942–March 1943


by Jeffrey R. Cox

Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2020. Pp. 512+. Maps, notes, biblio., index. $35.00. ISBN: 1472840461

The Tipping Point in the Pacific War

Cox’s 2018 book Morning Star, Midnight Sun, on the opening phases of the Allied campaign in the Solomons from August through October of 1942, left the Marines holding Henderson Field and some adjacent portions of Guadalcanal against the Japanese, with the outcome still in doubt.

Cox opens Blazing Star, Setting Sun with a review of earlier events. He then covers the desperate air-sea fighting in mid-November – the “Naval Battle of Guadalcanal” – that shifted command of the seas decidedly over to the U.S. Navy. Cox then covers in considerable detail Japan’s efforts – the “Tokyo Express” – to hold on to Guadalcanal through their final decision to withdraw, in early 1943, and U.S. and Allied operations to complete the conquest of the island and continue operations up the chain of the Solomons.

Cox writes well, drawing on numerous personal accounts, albeit mostly American or Allied due largely to absence of much first-hand Japanese memoirs, and gives us grim narratives of brutal naval combat, interspersed with looks at the decisions of political and military leaders that affected the events.

He offers critical analysis of many of the issues encountered during the campaign, from the U.S. Navy’s problems adapting to radar to such matters as why the inexperienced Rear-Adm. Dan Callaghan was in command on November 13th, 1942, rather than the seasoned Read-Adm Norman Scott, or the failure of Vice-Adm. Kondo Nobutake to commit all his battleships on November 15th, flaws in Japanese staff work, and more. His notes are excellent, identifying obscure persons or events, and he often carefully parses of the available evidence where it is murky or contradictory. There are a few errors, such as misidentifying 27th Infantry Regiment as a division, but they are indeed few.

Blazing Star, Setting Sun, essentially a synthesis of the most recent scholarship on the campaign, will prove rewarding reading for anyone interested in naval operations in the Solomons or World War II in general.


Note: Blazing Star, Setting Sun is also available in several e-editions.

StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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