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 description of the US Pacific buildup during the year long run-up to war at the end of 1941and the key first few months thereafter.  Williford's specialty is the history of the U.S. Army coast artillery, such as Defenses of Pearl Harbor & Oahu, 1907-50 but he seems knowledgeable of the administration and function of other services.  He is especially good on the intersection of administration, logistics and finance that was needed to get multiple military services, still largely operating with peacetime procedures and mentalities, to ramp up 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, Williford covers the other Pacific locations including relatively obscure ones such 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 no service expected a war exactly where and how Pearl Harbor gave it to them.  Indeed the sections on the reinforcement of the Philippines and Netherlands East Indies show how improvised and limited US capabilities at this stage of the war were and how shocked higher command in Washington was at the entire strategic situation. 

The book succeeds on many levels and is well worth the reader's time.    


Reviewer: Scott Palter   

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