The key naval battles against Imperial Japan in the Pacific during the Second World War have been described many times by numerous diligent and skilful historians. Such histories are, of course, the products of many years, even decades, of accumulated knowledge, but also of a received consensus of how the war played out to its, seemingly, inevitable conclusion. That of course is not how it was perceived at the time.
Hindsight, as we know, gives us 20/20 vision. The accounts here, compiled for and on behalf of the Admiralty, were written either during or immediately after the end of the war before historians had begun to give their assessments of these momentous events. These accounts were written for internal consumption, to guide and instruct naval officers.
It was never intended that they would be released to the general public. As such, there was no jingoistic drum beating, no axes to grind, no new angles to try and find. The authors of these accounts relate each battle, move by move, as they unfolded, accurately and dispassionately.
This makes these accounts so invaluable. They read almost like a running commentary, as action follows action, minute follows minute. This sensation is magnified by the absolute impartiality of the authors, their sole attempt being to provide a thorough but very clear and comprehensible record so that others in the future could understand precisely how each battle was fought.
These accounts can never be superseded and never replaced. Written by naval officers of the time for naval officers of the future, they are the permanent record of the great victories, and the sobering defeat in the Java Sea, during the struggle for control of the Pacific which, for many months, hung precariously in the balance.
Author(s): John Grehan
First Publishment Date: 30 May 2022