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While the resounding American victory at Midway in June 1942 blunted Japanese momentum to a great extent, it left the opposing forces precariously balanced, particularly in the South Pacific. In Knife's Edge Robert C. Stern provides an account of the Battles of the Eastern Solomons and the Santa Cruz Islands, the two pivotal carrier air battles that followed the initial engagements at the Coral Sea and Midway between the U.S. Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy. Three U.S. aircraft carriers were sunk or badly damaged over the two months following Midway, including USS Enterprise at the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. Had it not been for the fortuitous arrival of USS Hornet at the end of August, the Americans would have been without an aircraft carrier in the South Pacific until Enterprise returned from repairs on 24 October. At that moment, another major Japanese offensive was afoot, again led by two large carriers, this time supported by another light carrier and a mid-sized merchant-hull conversion. The resulting Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands on 26 October 1942 was a solid tactical victory for the Japanese, who managed to sink Hornet and once again damage Enterprise. Stern has written a history of the two final early carrier battles fought between the U.S. Navy and Imperial Japan. These pivotal battles, coming after the triumph of the U.S. at Midway, illustrate lessons learned from these earlier battles of the Pacific War. Readers already familiar with the history of World War II at sea should find this account a riveting new look at a chapter of the Pacific War rarely covered until now.
About the Author
Robert C. Stern is the author of eleven major works of naval history spanning more than thirty years, including, most recently, The Battleship Holiday (2017), Scratch One Flattop (2019), and The Modern Cruiser (2020).