Pearl Harbor Countdown: Admiral James O. Richardson, by Skipper Steely

Though CINCUS (Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet) just before WWII, Richardson didn’t have the chance to lead that fleet in climactic battle. We’ll never know what might have happened if he’d retained that post until 07 December 1941, or if FDR had accepted his advice and left that fleet based in San Diego, with or without him in command. The book is not about the campaigns he might have directed in the Pacific. Perhaps of most interest to the general public is the account of events preceding Pearl Harbor and the various investigations of that attack. There is also a wealth of background information on such things as the unification of the Armed Forces after the war. Though mentioned, the book does not cast much light on the conspiracy theory that FDR provoked the conflict and/or was aware of the coming attack and deliberately withheld warning.

This is a complete life and family history, some of which may not appeal to all readers. It’s a good snapshot of the Navy of his era, events leading to the Pacific War, and some little-known things during WWII. It contains background on some important individuals of that time from a different perspective. Much of the work has to do with Richardson’s relief from command and that of Kimmel and Short.

The value of the book could have been enhanced by at least one more map, giving an idea of the distances and the location of key spots in the Pacific as well as a few more pictures of the important figures mentions. This is a well-written account and merits reading for a complete history of that time.

(Pelican, 2008; 543 pp.; 1 map, 34 pictures, notes, bibliography, index; $35 — ISBN 9781589805927)