“The Battle of Midway: The Naval Institute Guide to the U.S. Navy’s Greatest Victory,” edited by Thomas C. Hone, Naval Institute Press, 384 pages, $38.95.

Fought more than 71 years ago, the Battle of Midway was one of the decisive battles of World War II.

The United States Navy sank four Imperial Japanese Navy fleet aircraft carriers and a heavy cruiser in exchange for an American aircraft carrier and a destroyer.

More importantly, the United States turned back a Japanese invasion of Midway atoll.

The battle has been the subject of countless books and articles, as well as numerous appraisals and counter-appraisals.

“The Battle of Midway: The Naval Institute Guide to the U.S. Navy’s Greatest Victory,” edited by Thomas C. Hone, appraises the appraisals.

The work is not a new book about the battle. Rather, it retells the battle through articles and book excerpts previously published by the Naval Institute.

Creation dates for selections span over 60 years.

The earliest, “Battle Experience from Pearl Harbor to Midway, December 1941 to June 1943” was the official report developed the staff of the Commander in Chief of the American Pacific Fleet. Prepared in 1943 it was written during World War II, without access to Japanese perspectives.

The most recent, “Mitscher and the Mystery of Midway,” was published last year, in a 2012 piece in “Naval History” magazine.

The book opens with a section containing general overviews of the battle. This is followed by three sections examining the opening, main and closing phases of the battle.

The official report of the battle follows. Sections then examine the commanders and the role code breaking played. The book closes with an extensive section containing assessments of the battle.

Contributors include participants of the battle from both navies, noted historians and even an appraisal by a former secretary of defense.

The result is a book that combines a comprehensive review of the Battle of Midway and an equally comprehensive look at how attitudes about the battle evolved.

One of the book’s most fascinating aspects is the way it captures how interpretations of the battle’s significance changed over time.

Some men hailed as heroes in the postwar years later had their contributions debunked or minimized, only to still have later authors rehabilitate their contributions.

Similarly, one school holds Midway to be an unappreciated victory, while another questions whether the battle was truly decisive. Both are represented in “The Battle of Midway.”

The result is a book which offers a refreshing and original look at a key American naval victory using judiciously-chosen reprints.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

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