Book Review: Racing the Sunrise: The Reinforcement of America's Pacific Outposts, 1941-1942


by Glen M. Williford

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2010. Pp. xvi, 394. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $37.95. ISBN: 9781591149569

Racing the Sunrise, provides an excellent nuts-and-bolts treatment of the US build-up in the Pacific during the year-long run-up to war and the critical first few months after it began. 

Williford, a specialist in the history of the U.S. Army's coast artillery and author of such works as Defenses of Pearl Harbor & Oahu 1907-50, is especially good on the intersection of administration, logistics, and finance that was needed to get two military services still largely operating with peacetime procedures and mentalities to prepare for a Pacific War.  Although the focus is on the creation of a supply line to the Philippines in the context of a major military build-up there, he covers the other Pacific locations including such relatively obscure places as Palmyra Island.

The book should be considered a necessity for anyone with a serious interest in the early phases of the Pacific War, as it makes clear on multiple levels the severe limits of US force projection abilities in the South and Southwest Pacific in early 1942.  It should also be of interest to those who enjoy exploring Pearl Harbor conspiracy theories, as it demonstrates in detail that neither service expected a war exactly where and how the Japanese gave it to them.  Indeed the sections on the reinforcement of the Philippines the and Netherlands East Indies early in the war show how improvised and limited US capabilities were at that stage of the conflict and how shocked higher command in Washington was by the entire strategic situation. 

Racing the Sunrise succeeds on many levels and is well worth the reader's time.

Reviewer: Scott Palter   

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