In "A Matter of Honor: Pearl Harbor: Betrayal, Blame, and a Family's Quest for Justice" Anthony Summers has written what is likely to be the definitive account of the events that led to the Pearl Harbor attack (on the U.S. Pacific Fleet) of December 7th, 1941 and the failures among the U.S. political and military leadership that helped make the attack likely.
Summers has a deserved reputation as a journalist/writer who leaves no stone unturned and scrupulously explores every source available to him, checking thoroughly for the veracity of various documents and data he finds on a subject that is his prime interest. Some years ago, I read his biography of J. Edgar Hoover - 'Official and Confidential, The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover' - which made me a fervent fan of his work. (The way he was able to marshal facts and personal accounts from people who both worked closely for Hoover or suffered as the result of his unjust acts, absolutely captivated my interest in the book.) And here in "A Matter of Honor", as a way of giving a further scope to the common narrative of the Pearl Harbor attack that has been perpetuated for decades, Summer provides the reader with a compelling account of the life and career of Admiral Husband E. Kimmel - the commander of the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. Here was a man who devoted his whole life to the U.S. Navy, from his time at Annapolis in the early 1900s, to the various commands he served - always earning the highest commendations from his superiors. He truly epitomized through his personal conduct and service all that could be asked for from an officer.
Yet, from the time, Kimmel was made commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in February 1941, there are factors that Summers brings to light that show that Kimmel and his Army counterpart, General Walter Short, were not provided with all the resources they needed to defend Hawaii against a possible Japanese attack. This was during a time when diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Japan were deteriorating, and by the latter part of 1941, it was judged likely by both Washington and the top military leadership that war between the 2 countries would result. (Indeed, the U.S. military had broken the Japanese military and diplomatic codes - and so, had some sense of what Tokyo was contemplating as a resolution to its impasse with Washington.)
This is a book that anyone who wants to know the definitive account of who(m) is (are) responsible or culpable for the tragedy of Pearl Harbor should read and then quietly reflect upon. I know that I will never again judge Admiral Husband Kimmel as guilty as dereliction of duty. In my view, he was a convenient scapegoat (which is not easy for me to admit, as someone who had earlier accepted wholesale the official stories behind Admiral Kimmel's and General Short's "neglect" of Hawaii's defense).
Jim Dowd and Maureen O'Brien are sent to the notorious location of the Ardoyne a republican enclave in a divided and secular Belfast of the 1980's...."Several streets have disappeared altogether leaving large tracts of waste ground covered in the rubble of demolition. The scene resembles the shattered landscapes of Britain's cities in the aftermath of German bombing during the Second World War."... Their mission is to settle, infiltrate and befriend a deeply suspicious mainly Catholic population. Their occupation is that of school teachers, cast adrift in a world full of dangerous men, and they must use all their training and skill to avoid being outed as infiltrators and spies. Once accepted in the community they patiently await further instructions from their handlers in London. As time passes Jim becomes attracted to Kathleen McKee the daughter of Jimmy McKee, quartermaster of the Ardoyne branch of the IRA. This is a dangerous situation made even worse when orders are received to assassinate Sean Murphy the Ardoyne OC (Officer Commanding) Has Jim become too involved and understanding of the plight of the catholic population to carry out his orders? Can Maureen convince him how perilous their situation is fast becoming imploring him to do as ordered?
I have to confess that I have a keen knowledge of the politics of Northern Ireland at the time. I lived in Belfast during this period and knew firsthand what it felt like living in a country close to the brink of civil war. The constant bombings and tensions between a proud and stubborn people were a day to day occurrence creating a very nervous and uneasy environment in which to live. Stewart Binns has written a wonderful book that oozes fear and suspicion from the very first chapter creating a tour de force that is impossible to put down. His use of dialogue to build a picture of a society in meltdown creates some of the most memorable prose I have read this year....."We must have victory, victory at all costs, however long the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival."........."On the other hand, the opposite side of his head explodes. Blood and brain matter are sprayed everywhere making a shocking splash as they cascade across the inside of the windscreen. His short life is over in an instant."....."We're like so many others- civilians and military, guilty and innocent. We're all pawns in a game. So many have died; there's been so much pain, so much hurt."..........
You, dear reader, will have to read this book for yourself to discover if Jim and Maureen can escape before their true identity becomes know to the local IRA.
As always in politics life is complicated and every organization be it MI5, MI6, Special Branch etc have hidden agendas and are equally as ruthless in their ability to carry out killings..."There's a rogue unit at large; right wing, disaffected. They're on our tails and feeding intel back to the RUC which, in turn, may be leaking it to the IRA and its ASU in England."... Over the years I have read a number of books concerning "The Troubles" and Betrayal by Stewart Binns is undoubtedly one of the best. Many thanks to the good people at netgalley and Penguin UK-Michael Joseph for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written. Highly Recommended.