Did the Marines win at Guadalcanal on their own? I don't think so.

I really, really like it when a book teaches me something I flat out didn't know.  Neptune's Inferno, by James D. Hornfischer is such a book.  I thought I knew quite a bit about the bloody six month struggle for Guadalcanal, certainly I know the mythology...the last stand of the Marines after the Navy left them on the beach...etc, etc.

This book lays to rest some of that mythology (not to take away the bravery of the Marines, I have too many jarhead friends) by the simple fact that more sailors died fighting over Guadalcanal than Marines..about 5,000 sailors versus about 1,500 Marines.

Hornfischer's book is an excellent amalgamation of Tom Clancy and Samuel Eliot Morrison.  He does an excellent job of describing how the U.S. Navy took some serious beatings by the Imperial Japanese Navy, even though the U.S. had radar and the Japanese did not. 

What's more interesting is that both navies were fighting with the escort ships, or what I call the little targets so to speak, cruisers and destroyers, because both sides had taken such a beating in the massive naval battles of summer 1942 and literally had no battleships or aircraft carriers they were willing to risk in the nasty knifefights that occurred in 'Ironbottom Sound' or 'the Slot', as the waters around Guadalcanal came to be called.

These nasty little knife fights are described in great detail, as well as the command decisions by both sides and their effect on the overall naval battle.  Once the Americans mastered the new technology of radar, the odds evened up a little bit and the Japanese were driven off after huge sacrifices, but the Americans never truly developed a countermeasure to Japan's awesome Long Lance Torpedoes.

If you enjoy naval history or just want to learn something entirely new about America's first real offensive of World War II, then this book is highly recommended.