[Review] Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness by Craig Nelson

Publisher and Publication Date: Scribner. 2016.
Genre: Nonfiction. History. War literature.
Pages: 545.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Public library.
Audience: Readers of World War II, Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941, and the war in the Pacific.
Rating: Excellent.

This is the first book in 2023 I’ve given 5 stars for excellent.

Link for the book at Amazon.


On Sunday, December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii.

Their primary focus was at Pearl Harbor; however, they attacked other airfields on the island, and they even attacked civilians who were in their path. There were two attack waves of planes. The attack lasted about two hours. The planes caring torpedoes inflicted heavy damage to the ships. Several ships were tied to each other and at dry dock. The Japanese had wanted to attack and destroy the aircraft carriers, but they were out at sea. There were 96 ships at Pearl Harbor during the attack.

Pearl Harbor is a chronological detail history of the attack, Imperial Japan, the building up of the Great Pacific War/World War II, America’s response before and after the attack, and eyewitness stories.

The total death count is at 2,403. Most of the deaths were from the USS Arizona.

My Thoughts:

This is a second read for me. I read this book for the first time in 2018. I’d actually forgotten that I’d read it. The book is a library copy.

I’m currently on a nonfiction reading kick. I have several nonfiction books that I’m juggling. Not all of them are war related. Some are poetry books. One is a history of various articles that were published in the 1960s in the New York Magazine. I just finished reading In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, a nonfiction novel.

The following is a copy of the first review with new updates from the second read.

I have many thoughts, and most of them are emotions without adequate words.

I love this book, and several reasons are listed below.

To begin with, there are two strong points about this book.

  1. Craig Nelson lets the history and eyewitness stories support the book.
  2. It is a strong testament to the courageous American military men and women.

Further reasons why this is an excellent book:

3. Pearl Harbor gives a close-up examination of Imperial Japan. Their mindset, aggressive actions against other countries, and preparations for the Pearl Harbor attack. The rape and murderous rampage in China are shocking to me. They were swept up in a frenzy of evil. One of the Japanese men remarked, “It was almost like being addicted to murder.”
4. How Americans perceived the Japanese, as well as how the Japanese perceived Americans are shared.
5. The island of Oahu, Hawaii. It was a peaceful, relaxed type atmosphere. On the day of the attack, it was a beautiful day. It was believed to be a safe paradise.
6. The process of the attacks on the island are carefully and chronologically shown. Beginning at Wheeler Field, Schofield Barracks, and followed by Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Bellows Field, Ewa Marine Core Station, Hickam Air Force Base, Ford Island, and the Pearl Harbor U.S. Naval Base.
7. Pearl Harbor is filled with eyewitness stories from men and women (military and civilian), including those who were children during the attack, both Americans and Japanese.
8. A nurse remarked she was at the new Hickam Field Hospital. It had been open three weeks. There were six nurses. They did not have all the mattresses yet to cover the beds. They gave the wounded morphine, not much else could be done in many cases.
9. Craig Nelson organizes the ships according to the events of their attack; sharing the damage, loss of life, and those that were wounded.
10. Statistics are shared of the wounded and dead on each ship.
11. Many courageous stories of survivors are shared.
12. Stories of those who worked in the clean-up crews and rebuilding of the ships.
13. The USS Nevada almost made it out of Pearl Harbor. They ran aground rather than blocking the entrance of the harbor which is what the Japanese had hoped for.
14. How President Roosevelt handled hearing the news. His words and behavior are given.
15. After the attack, the Doolittle Raid; and in brief, the Pacific War and the Japanese surrender.
16. The book ends with a closure on the people that were written about in the book. What happened to these men after the war. A list is given of those who received the Medal of Honor. A final chapter is on controversies surrounding the event.
17. When I finished the book, it was the day after Memorial Day (2018.) Books like Pearl Harbor are a vivid reminder of the true meaning of Memorial Day. I’ve read quotes on Facebook pertaining to the holiday-to remember why we have this special day. Pearl Harbor is a testament to American military men and women who gave courageously and sacrificially for American freedom.


2 thoughts on “[Review] Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness by Craig Nelson

    • It is truly a broad and solid view of the event. I have another review coming up. And a book you may want to add to your list. Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man by Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic.

      Liked by 1 person

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