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Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway

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Many consider the Battle of Midway to have turned the tide of the Pacific War. It is without question one of the most famous battles in history. Now, for the first time since Gordon W. Prange’s bestselling Miracle at Midway, Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully offer a new interpretation of this great naval engagement.

Unlike previous accounts, Shattered Sword makes extensive use of Japanese primary sources. It also corrects the many errors of Mitsuo Fuchida’s Midway: The Battle That Doomed Japan, an uncritical reliance upon which has tainted every previous Western account. It thus forces a major, potentially controversial reevaluation of the great battle. The authors examine the battle in detail and effortlessly place it within the context of the Imperial Navy’s doctrine and technology. With a foreword by leading WWII naval historian John Lundstrom, Shattered Sword will become an indispensable part of any military buff’s library. Winner of the 2005 John Lyman Book Award for the "Best Book in U.S. Naval History" and cited by Proceedings as one of its "Notable Naval Books" for 2005.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The authors have researched deeply and widely to provide a new narrative of and analyses about the battle of Midway, and as such have produced an account that as of now should be seen as the definitive volume available. . . . This book is a treasure trove of technical details and will provide even someone who has read a great deal about the battle with new information. . . . A valuable resource for those with any serious interest in the subject.”

"…A fascinating, unique and groundbreaking study on the Japanese and American sides of the encounter with emphasis on the former…Shattered Sword is well written, spectacularly and thoroughly researched and vividly narrated, and is fast becoming the definitive tome on the legendary naval battle."

"It’s not often I finish a book that energizes me the way Parshall and Tully did with Shattered Sword. I highly recommend it."

Shattered Sword [is] a necessary read for anyone interested in the Pacific War.”

“This incredibly detailed book provides a whole new approach to the study and interpretation of the battle."

“To really know about the Battle of Midway, you must read this book.”

“Jon Parshall and Anthony Tully explain, in an entirely new light and from a fresh perspective, how the Japanese navy fought the Battle of Midway. Extensively researched, soundly reasoned, and engagingly and colorfully written, Shattered Sword is the most original piece of scholarship on this decisive event since John B. Lundstrom’s groundbreaking The First Team.”

“At last, the Japanese side of the Battle of Midway has been limned in English with accuracy, lucidity, authority, and objectivity. The authors’ specialized knowledge of the tactics and technologies of Japanese naval air power, their careful reading of surviving Japanese air unit records, and their appreciation of the larger meaning of the battle combine to give us a combat narrative and analysis that superbly balance expert detail and grand historical import. I suspect it of being a classic.”

“A lot has been written about Midway since 1945. Yet everyone who thinks that they know the last word about this momentous event must examine Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully’s book on the subject. Shattered Sword, packed with new information, will certainly become the definitive volume on the most important naval battle of World War II.”

"This incredible book shatters all previous notions on how the Battle of Midway was fought. It also shatters all the standards for military reference works.Shattered Sword will come to be regarded as a benchmark in modern history, for it brings to bear all the tools of modern communication technology in a way that has never been done before. [It] utterly refutes the conclusions of most of the previous accounts of the battle. . . . This book is a page turner, but its importance and its wealth of detail will deman an immediate re-reading."

"This book releases a large number of bombshells, blowing apart the account of Mitsuo Fuchida, the air commander who wrote a book on Midway. [The authors] also tell a gripping story that is backed up by evidence in a massive book that sets the new starting point for the discussion of Midway. . . . This book brings a well-presented case, one that places the 'Incredible Victory' in a whole new context. . . . Shattered Sword is a superb work that should become the definitive reference when the Battle of Midway is discussed. Gordon W. Prange and Walter Lord have been thoroughly eclipsed by this new work creating a full perspective of the pivotal battle of World War II in the Pacific theater."

"Forget what you think you know about Midway. Shattered Sword is a landmark study that redefines the crucial 1942 carrier battle, widely considered the most important naval engagement of the last century. . . . Parshall and Tully dissect the reasons for the Japanese defeat at every level--tactical, operational, and strategic. . . . It has taken sixty years to begin undoing the enduring myths of Midway, and Shattered Sword will likely become the ultimate reference. . . . Sixty-three years is not too long to wait for the authoritative word on the Battle of Midway."

"Why would anyone who has read Walter Lord, Gordon Prange, and Mitsuo Fuchida on this subject think that anything more is to be said, especially by a couple of relatively unknown writers? The short answer is, simply, get this book. Parshall and Tully have pulled off what every author/historian aspires to do: take the body of literature on a chosen topic to a level of insight and understanding not formerly attained or perhaps even imagined. . . . Shattered Sword can justifiably be labled a groundbreaker, a landmark work that bleongs at eye-level center in any naval historian's bookcase."

"Myth-breaking . . . Drawing on Japanese records and accounts untapped by Western historians, [Parshall and Tully] dispell many of the myths and falsehoods surrounding the decisive clash. . . . The authors paint vivid pictures of the death and destruction wrought on the Japanese carriers."

"This meticulously researched and thoroughly documented study is an essential corrective. It is essential reading for anyone interested in carrier aviation, past, present, or future. Although imposing in scale, Shattered Sword is a bargain, and a highly engaging read. Every page seems to throw up a new perspective--from the pathetically low Japanese aircraft production figures, to the political infighting both within the Naval High Command and between the services. The best naval history book of 2005."

"While most of their predecessors have fallen into the same mold--looking at the battle from the American vantage only--Parshall and Tully break new ground in bringing the Japanese perspective into the picture. . . . The authors state that their book attempts to do three things--present the battle from the Japanese side, study it almost exclusively from an aircraft carrier viewpoint, and point out the errors and exaggerations in a group of myths that have surrounded the battle. The authors succeed in all three goals. . . . [They] have produced a superb volume."

"Will earn its place in the already impressive library that focuses on one of the great moments in naval history."

"A remarkable book . . . The breadth and quality of the information about the Japanese air groups provided here is simply staggering. . . . Shattered Sword is equally strong on Japanese strategy and tactics, and on the mentality of the IJN's admirals. . . . This account will undoubtedly revolutionise the way we think about the battle of Midway; it is a towering piece of research by two IJN enthusiastists who have left no stone unturned in their efforts to resolve the plethora of conflicting information which has bedevilled previous analyses."

"Provides a much-needed reassessment of the Battle of Midway. . . . The chapters devoted to the actual battle are a treat, starting with an in-depth description of Japanese flight deck procedures and activities, something rarely detailed in Western publications. This new treatment is basically the Battle of Midway as seen through Japanese eyes. . . . The authors are to be congratulated. Writing on a topic that might not first seem to have anything new to be divulged, they have created something that is as fresh and vital as if it were the first account written at war's end instead of more than sixty years later. I believe that Shattered Sword will become the preeminent narrative history of this crucial battle, and I consider it to be one of the most important books on WWII naval operations to be published in the last twenty years."

"A new and definitive account . . . With the correction of many errors in previous accounts and its new graphics, the book forces scholars of the battle to undertake a major reevaluation of the great naval engagement. . . . Highly recommended."

"Parshall and Tully have set a new standard for researching, evaluating, and synthesizing material from sources around the world to provide a complete account of the Battle of Midway and the underlying causes of Japan's defeat. . . . At least eleven 'urban myths' universally accepted by scholars and sailors have been shattered, providing a whole new level of understanding of the Battle of Midway. Parshall and Tully have provided one of the most readable accounts of the Battle of Midway available anywhere. . . . Experts will certainly agree that this is one of the two or three most important books on the Pacific War published in the last decade."

"Shattered Sword is a must for any student of World War II history interested in the naval conflict in the Pacific. . . . The book will be the standard work on the Battle of Midway for years to come. Parshall and Tully's original approach demonstrates how much can still be revealed about World War II even after sixty years of research and writing."

"Magisterial in its coverage . . . revelatory . . . Parshall and Tully's work is deply researched, all-encompassing in its perspective, painstakingly detailed in its exposition, and lucidly written. It makes an invaluable contribution to the literature of the Pacific War, especially for bringing the vast research of Japanese scholars to the fore, and is absolutely essential reading for every student of the history of World War II at sea."

"One of the year's ten best books."

". . . . this is arguably the most important book on Midway yet written. The authors have made extensive and extremely thoughtful use of Japanese records, particularly pilot log-books and the like, blended this with technical expertise of a high order and produced an account which challenges conventional understanding of this battle . . . . the definitive book on Midway."

"Jonathan B. Parshall and Anthony P. Tully have skillfully reserached, analyzed, and drawn sound conclusions about the actual causes of Japan's defeat at Midway. The authors expose many myths that surround the battle. This is the first truly complete and balanced examination of the decisive battle of Midway."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781574889239
  • Publisher: Potomac Books Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/30/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 640
  • Sales rank: 274,469
  • Product dimensions: 7.10 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Both Jonathan Parshall and Tony Tully were members of a 1999 mission to the Midway battle site by the Nauticos Corp. and the U.S. Navy Oceanographic Office. Parshall is widely published on naval history in journals and magazines and has contributed to a number of books on the topic. He maintains an award-winning Web site on the Imperial Navy, Parshall lives in Minneapolis.

Anthony Tully has been published in such leading military journals as Warship and the U.S. Naval War College Review and is a frequent contributor to He lives in Dallas.

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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 5, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    As good as history writing gets

    The Battle of Midway has been chronicled in books and films countless times in the sixty-six years since the battle between the Japanese and American navies during the Second World War. The summer of 1942 has forever been stamped as the turning point in the war in the Pacific and Parshall & Tully do nothing to discount its importance. What the do is provide accessibility to information - most notably large amounts of Japanese writings and documentation - and make them available to English readers in many cases for the very first time. One thing this book is not is revisionist history. If anything, it is a clarification of the facts of what actually happened and - more importantly - the chain of events that took place to bring about one of the most decisive battles in history. The most important result of all of the research is to throw into doubt the idea that the Japanese naval force was vastly superior to the Americans in every way and it was only due to luck and circumstance that the American navy was able to win the day. This is a view that was championed most notably by Mitsuo Fuchida - a Japanese naval officer who participated in the battle - in his book Midway: The Battle That Doomed Japan. This view has been echoed throughout the years, notably in the movie Midway, not just because of Fuchida's first-hand knowledge and a lack of substantial documentation to the contrary, but because of our American love of being a victorious underdog. But by pouring through stacks of Japanese documentation, Parshall & Tulley are able to piece together a somewhat different account demonstrating that the two navies were far more evenly matched than anyone thought going into the battle. A combination of Japan's poor military communication, the limited training of the Japanese ship crews, the flawed construction of their ships and their low opinion of the capabilities of the American sailor contributed as much to the outcome of the battle as the tenacity, daring and exquisite training of the American navy. Ultimately, overconfidence and poor planning all but doomed the Japanese navy before the battle even began. Sun Tzu would be proud.

    The book provides a thorough view from the Japanese side to compliment the detailed American accounting of books such as Miracle at Midway. Throughout the book, Parshall & Tulley provide the reader an in-depth, well researched treatise. Better yet, they write it in such a way that the reader becomes a part of the events from the very first page all the way to the conclusion, taking you from the conferences of the Japanese leadership to the bridge of Admiral Nagumo's flagship to the view from the water as a young sailor watches his proud ship go under. The result of this is a book that balances all the facts and provides a clear accounting of everything that led up to the most important single battle of the Pacific War while simultaneously keeping the reader engaged in the drama of the events. Not only is this the best, most thorough book on the Battle of Midway, it is one of the best written and researched books on the Second World War ever produced. If you are going to write history, Parshall has provided the roadmap on how to do it right with Shattered Sword. This book sets the bar extremely high for any future works on the topic. Shattered Sword is as good as history writing gets.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2005

    The Imperial Japanese Navy at the Battle of Midway

    Don't discount this book as just another telling of the much-told Battle of Midway. This is a definitive new work on the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) at Midway, although you wouldn't gather that from the title. 'Shattered Sword' effectively supplants 'Midway: the Battle That Doomed Japan' by Fuchida and Okumiya as THE resource on the IJN at Midway. The authors effectively debunk a number of popular myths about the battle (including a few seminal fables instigated by Fuchida himself) while giving a detailed, in-depth accounting of the Japanese side of the battle, including the fundamental flaws in their strategy and the reasons for those flaws. The graphics are superb, with computer-generated charts and diagrams that ably support the text. Naval historians at all levels will want this book prominently positioned in their bookcase.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Japan's Midway: A Fresh Re-examination

    A lot of commonly accepted reasons for the IJN's stunning defeat at Midway turn out on deeper analysis to be flawed or even outright self-serving myths. These flawed ideas are perpetuated in the West because of lazy scholarship and intellectual corner-cutting. Parshall and Tully set out to reconsider the evidence and dig deeper than many American historians were willing to do. The result is "Shattered Sword," a meticulously researched and analyzed look at the battle from the Japanese perspective. Their study isn't so much a revisionist look back as a neccesary corrective. They convincingly argue that the data has always been available, but Western writers often chose to take the easier path and simply accept self-serving post-war Japanese analysis, vis-a-vis Fuchida's "Midway: The Battle That Doomed Japan". Using much primary material, they METICULOUSLY detail within the text and in Appendices the IJNs operations before, during and after the battle. They argue the IJN was never close to launching strikes against USN forces when caught unprepared by dive bombing attack. They further argue that the IJN was way out of it's depth from the beginning. Individual acts of Japanese heroism were negated by poor planning, tactical ineptitude and outdated operational thinking.

    "Shattered Sword" is incredibly detailed and precisely analyzed, yet the narrative is engaging and readily accessible to anyone with an interest in the Pacific war, rarely pedantic or succumbing to cant. The authors present an at times moving portrait of what the ordinary IJN sailor faced that day. I was pleasantly surprised at their ability to draw me in and keep me engaged through the entire work.

    "Shattered Sword" is a memorable, critical view from the "other side" of a hugely important battle. Read in conjunction with SE Morison's official USN history, "Shattered Sword" will give the reader a well-rounded historical view of Midway. Reading it with Gordon Prange's popular "Miracle at Midway" will offer a stark counter-point to that work's flawed conclusions. I highly recommend this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Well-researched account of Midway makes use of comparatively new and original research to give a comprehensive account of the Japanese side of the battle, destroying several long-held misconceptions.

    Tully and Parshall start from scratch, employ rigorous cholarly standards,and come up with some terrific revelations and several surprising conclusions on the Battle of Midway. Very detailed accounts of the planning stages of the battle, technical aspects of Japanese carrier operations, and almost minute-by-minute accounts of the crucial hours combine to give a new historical perspective. Authors' conclusions are unconventional, but well-founded on solid research. Many revelations and a fresh approach make this a treat for military history buffs. If you haven't read Shattered Sword, you don't know the full story of the Battle of Midway.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 16, 2009

    The Finest Analysis of the Battle of Midway that I have ever read.

    This is THE book you must read if you have read any other account of the Battle of Miday. Not only do the authors build a riviting story, but back it up with crisp analysis of the actions of those involved and point out where other popular misconceptions of the battle have arose. The authors pull from recently translated Japanese documents previously unavailable to Western authors to build a story that was facinating. I have read many of the books that were previously published regarding this famous battle and this book is the most precise account in its detail that I have found.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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