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Racing the Sun: Reinforcing America's Pacific Outposts, 1941-1942, by Glen Williford

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2010. Pp. xviii, 394. Illus., maps, appends., notes, biblio., index. $37.95. ISBN: 978-1-59114-956-9.

Racing the Sun is about American military moves in the Pacific immediately before and for the first few weeks after the outbreak of war with Japan, as the U.S. strove to strengthen its outlying territories before the Japanese onslaught. 

Williford, a specialist in coast defense studies and author of Defenses of Pearl Harbor & Oahu 1907-50, among other works, opens with an analysis of America’s strategic position in the Pacific in the final years of peace, with a focus on the Philippines and Hawaii, but including smaller outposts, some later famous, Wake and Midway, and some not, such as Johnston and Baker.  He then follows with a sometimes day-by-day look at how the limited, though growing, supply of resources was distributed, and the political, strategic, and military calculations and juggling that underlay the movement of men and materiel, a process that accelerated after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  This is a rich book. We learn much about the intricacies of war planning, the routing of convoys, the strength of various outposts, the complex consequences of the federalization of the Philippine Army, support to Britain in the Malayan Campaign, the political battle over the Pensacola Convoy, running Japan’s blockade of the Philippines, and the beginnings of the American presence in Australia.  And, of course, we get a good cast of characters, from the egocentric Douglas MacArthur, the able and patient George C. Marshal, various lesser known admirals and generals, a host of politicians, and, of course, some ordinary people in extraordinary cicumstances.  

A “must read” for serious students of the Pacific War.

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   


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