A few years ago, I read Craig L. Symond’s The Battle of Midway (Pivotal Moments in American History) and saw Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway: The Japanese Story of the Battle of Midway by Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully referenced in it. I took a look at the book on Amazon and it had a plain simple cover, giving it the feeling of an academic work, so I added it to my reading list but didn’t put it very high on the list. Recently, I finally got around to reading it.
Shattered Sword presents a new way of looking at the Battle of Midway. It is well researched and well documented with extensive endnotes and a lengthy bibliography. It is detailed yet captivating. Most of all, it presents strong arguments, backs up those arguments with documented sources, and effectively turns the traditional narrative of the Battle of Midway on its ear. The authors explore doctrine, strategy, planning, and tactics from the Japanese perspective; in doing so, they don’t just challenge the conventional wisdom about the battle and its after effects; to borrow from the title, it shatters them.
To put it mildly, this book is not what I thought it was. It is not a dry academic work, it is well written in a witty, conversational style. You’re not only getting a completely new understanding of the battle, you’re being entertained. It truly is hard to put this book down. Very seldom do you come across a book that presents an all-new way of looking at a historical event, but this book fits that bill. I’ve purposely not included any of Shattered Swords’ conclusions in order not to spoil the book. Buy it read it, you won’t be disappointed and you’ll come away with a whole new understanding of one of World War II’s important battles. I also think that those interested in military history can come away with important lessons, one of them being not to apply one side’s doctrine and operational practices to its opponent, analyze both sides’ actions in the light of their respective doctrines. It’s helpful to have about the Battle of Midway previously and have an understanding of how the US Navy fought the battle, but this truly is a five-star book and one that anyone interested in the Pacific Theater of World War II must read.