4 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
As I was reading this historical account, The U.S. Navy’s On-the-Roof Gang: Volume II – War in the Pacific by Matt Zullo, I kept on thinking what if the mentioned heroes never acted as they did, what sort of a world would we be living in today? The heroic group, the On-the-Roof Gang, owed its origin to a U.S. Navy chief radioman, Harry Kidder, who taught himself Japanese (katakana) telegraphic code interception without expecting anything in return. I also noticed that not only did these men possess a great inherent sense of team spirit, but they also went out of their way to voluntarily put in extra hours in their line of duty.
Such was the case on December 8, 1941, when a group of eight intelligence interceptors was hard at work at a covert center known as Station BAKER in Guam, Hawaii. This day was, however, to remain etched in their mind forever, as only a few hours earlier the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) had bombed Pearl Harbor. Hearing the news from their second in charge, Radioman First Class Markle Smith, was like being struck by a bolt of lightning, as it dawned on them that the U.S. had been drawn officially into the Second World War. Besides, the attack made it clear to all that the U.S. Navy’s radio intelligence network, of which they were a part of, had failed in predicting the Japanese attack.
As a result, my favorite aspect about this title was the detailed information Zullo gave touching on the frantic effort the Navy took in establishing more radio intelligence networks across the globe. Some of these networks were established aboard U.S. combat ships—Radio Intelligence Units (RIU) meant to provide up-to-the-minute tactical information to the ships' commanding officers—while the majority were land-based, which were constructed in such diverse and remote areas in Greenland, China, Philippines, Australia, and the Pacific regions. Given that this information was classified before 1983, Zullo’s story felt like I was reading through a top-secret brief meant for the president.
The war between the U.S. and Japan was a high-stakes venture. Consequently, the role played by the radio intelligence operatives (a.k.a. On-the-Roof Gang) was influential and central to this conflict. Hence, the pacing in Zullo’s tome is quite engaging: for example, some of the characters I invested myself in consisted of Station BAKER’s crew, right from the time they were captured as POWs by the Japanese and beyond. For one, it was disheartening reading about the injustices that were meted on them, as the acts were in blatant violation of the Geneva Convention on the humane treatment of POWs.
On the other hand, in terms of weaknesses, I identified three editing errors in the narrative. So, even though the editing wasn’t exceptional, the errors were, nevertheless, not enough to affect the book’s rating. Having not, therefore, identified anything overly dislikeable about the book, I rate it 4 out of 4 stars.
As I finish, I recommend the book to readers who are interested in reading about one of the worst periods in human history. This is because, unlike other books on the Second World War, this 442-page book contains chronologically detailed accounts of other less known wars, like the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Battle of Midway, the Battle of the Solomon Islands, the Battle of the Philippine Sea, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf, among many others. Contrastingly, it may be less suited to readers who are sensitive to the acts of war, such as torture, violence, and mayhem.
View: on Bookshelves