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Infamy cover Infamy: Pearl Harbor and its Aftermath

by John Toland

Published by Doubleday


Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel

This book, published in the same year as Gordon W. Prange's monumental At Dawn We Slept, is a fascinating counterpoint to that volume. It is of course improbable that Toland should have consciously or deliberately set out to write a counterblast to Prange, since there is no evidence of any contact between the two men while they were writing their respective works. All the same, the mere fact that both books came out in the same year makes comparisons inevitible.

Toland comes to the subject with suitably impressive credentials, viz his record of published books on World War II, one of which won the Pulitzer Prize. In The Rising Sun, Toland had concluded that the attack on Pearl Harbor had been the result of political and military miscalculations by the United States as well as Japan. However, he remained troubled by many aspects of Pearl Harbor, particularly the handling of the various investigations afterward. Did the government have something to hide?

Toland's book on Pearl Harbor begins with the attack itself, which he summarizes in a single chapter. From there he delves into the tangled history of the subsequent investigations. Toland examines the problem of why certain people (in particular the commanders in Hawaii) should have been singled out for the brunt of the blame while others (most notably Marshall, but other senior officials in Washington as well) were spared and even shielded from any question of culpability.

Toland draws his conclusions with meticulous care, in a volume replete with footnotes and documentation. Even writing four decades after the events, Toland was able to locate surprising new evidence, including testimony from a Dutch general who was in Java at the time of the attack.

Toland's book is a very important source on the course of the investigations. It serves as a counterbalance to Prange, and should stand beside Prange's work on the shelves of the serious Pearl Harbor scholar.

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Review posted March 27, 2001

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