Elliot Carlson's biography of Captain Joe Rochefort is the first to be written of the officer who headed the U.S. Navy's decrypt unit at Pearl Harbor and broke the Japanese Navy's code before the Battle of Midway. Listeners will share Rochefort's frustrations as he searches in vain for Yamamoto's fleet prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and share his joy when he succeeds in tracking the fleet in early 1942 and breaks the code that leads him to believe Yamamoto's invasion target is Midway.
His conclusions, bitterly opposed by some top navy brass, are credited with making the U.S. victory possible and helping change the course of the war. The author tells the story of how opponents in Washington forced Rochefort's removal from the decrypt unit at Pearl and denied him the Distinguished Service Medal recommended by Admiral Nimitz.
In capturing the interplay of policy and personality and the role played by politics at the highest levels of the Navy, Carlson reveals a side of the intelligence community seldom seen by outsiders.
For a full understanding of the man, Carlson examines Rochefort's love-hate relationship with cryptanalysis, his adventure-filled years in the 1930s as the right-hand man to the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Fleet, and his return to code-breaking in mid-1941 as the officer in charge of Station Hypo at Pearl Harbor. He traces Rochefort's career from his enlistment in 1918 to his posting in Washington as head of the Navy's code-breaking desk at age 25, and beyond. In many ways a reinterpretation of Rochefort, the book makes clear the key role his codebreaking played in the outcome of Midway and the legacy he left of reporting actionable intelligence directly to the fleet.
An epilogue describes efforts waged by Rochefort's colleagues to obtain the medal denied him in 1942, a drive that finally paid off in 1986, when the medal was awarded posthumously.
©2011 Elliot Carlson (P)2012 Tantor
"The stuff of a wartime thriller." (The Wall Street Journal)
My main interests are military history and science fiction. I'm currently building up my collection of Iain M Banks novels.
Joe Rochefort is a name well known to any student of the Battle of Midway and although some other aspects of his pre and post Midway career are well known a modern biography is long overdue. This book fills that gap very well indeed. It covers his life and navy career in detail and explains how he came to be in the position he was at the time of Midway. It also explains how although the intelligence work as a whole was a real team effort it was Rochefort's almost unique combination of skills and knowledge that pulled everything together into a functional whole. If you have an interest in Midway, you should definitely buy this book! The only downside (and it's a minor one) is the narrator, way to folksy in some places.
How in the world do you make a 22 hour audiobook about an obscure Naval officer from 70 years ago work? Well, Elliot Carlson/Danny Campbell find a way. A large portion of this book is dedicated to a detailed account (almost day by day) of code-breaking in the Pacific theater from mid-1941 to mid-1942 period, but it's not boring. Before and after those detailed accounts is the story of Joe Rochefort and his career's many highs and lows; a compelling story itself.
Obviously, this is a book meant for people with a high level of interest in WWII (like me) and I can't imagine my wife sitting through even 30 minutes of this book. However, even for someone who finds the stories from WWII compelling, this could have been TMI if not written with as much care and style.
Danny Campbell's reading is adequate. He does have an occasional inflection/emphasis issue when pronouncing certain words and names (e.g. "Rabaul" comes out as "ra-BOW-el"), but overall it does not detract from the story.
Finally, when writing a book about a somewhat controversial figure from this period, Carlson could have sided with Rochefort unilaterally to make his subject an absolute hero. Instead, he does a good job of balancing the account and provides a well researched and fair treatment of Rochefort and his primary adversaries, the Redman brothers.
"Facinating but little slow in places"
facinating story although it took me a little while to get into it at the biggining.
hate to see how thick it is in paper form.
"Great about war history"
Elliot makes the events interesting but I am not sure if a listener who is not interested in war history would not want to last the distance as some of the events can be drawn out. The history is very through and well referenced.
No other book has been so researched to the extent as this book.
The Pacific Code Breakers.
Very topical and recent history to the Bush administration.
"US Navy politics at its worst"
Amazing how much politics and personal animosity almost changed history. Joe Rochefort was a modern time geek and not understood then just as they are not today.
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