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At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor
At Dawn We Slept The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor
Author: Gordon William Prange
At 7:53 a.m., December 7, 1941, America's national consciousness and confidence were rocked as the first wave of Japanese warplanes took aim at the U.S. Naval fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor. As intense and absorbing as a suspense novel, At Dawn We Slept is the unparalleled and exhaustive account of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. It i...  more »
ISBN-13: 9780140064551
ISBN-10: 0140064559
Publication Date: 12/7/1982
Pages: 873
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.

3.9 stars, based on 7 ratings
Publisher: Penguin Books
Book Type: Paperback
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reviewed At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor on
Helpful Score: 1
The author's background is amazing. No one spends 37 years researching a single book, but that's what Prange did. Following his death in early 1980, his principal research associates picked up the ball and edited the volumes of research down to a single 738 page book, which was published for the first time in 1981. Prange's study of this historical event didn't just rehash the past with a unique twist, it bashed many of accepted "facts" of Pearl Harbor while unearthing an entirely new perspective - that of the Japanese government and military.

Sticklers for detail will love this book. I liked it because it really is the definitive book on Pearl Harbor, debunking conventional and odd ball theories along the way. But I didn't love it as I initial suspected I would.

Writing on the subject in the 1940's and 1950's was difficult... the attack on the US was still very raw and bitterness consumed many of the early works on the topic. In addition, much of the known, key information of Pearl was still classified as Top Secret. Better work on the topic came out in books in the 1960's and 1970's, but it borrowed heavily on past books and articles, which made fact checking difficult. Today, no one could take up the task and write a strong book on Pearl - too many key players have died since 1941. Only someone who patiently gathered information right from the start, collecting it carefully over time through personal interviews could do this event justice.

There's too much superficial information included in the book for my liking, making it a long read. There are many golden nuggets of information revealed along the way, hidden in long passages of character study detail that seemed to go on for pages and pages. This book, as thorough as it is, needs a hard edit to remove the trivial stuff, which would knock 200 pages off in my estimation.

The actual strike on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese doesn't take place until you're 500 pages into the book and covers 50 pages. The remainder of the book deals with the aftermath, including inquiry after inquiry into fixing blame on specific officials involved with the attack. This book is 95% about the planning of the Japanese, missteps by the US at key moments which turned the attack into a full blown disaster and assessing the disaster afterwards. If you want to know what happened at Pearl Harbor on December 7th in detail, this is not the book.

That said, the book ends strong, going through the major revisionist theories on Pearl and debunking each line by line. There's also a very key letter from Prange to McGraw-Hill, outlining his book treatment that is very insightful.

Well worth the read, but give yourself a lot of time to finish.
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reviewed At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor on + 3 more book reviews
The author's exhaustive interviews of people on both sides enable him to tell the story in personal terms.