Amphibious Operations in the South Pacific in World War II
A Pacific War Trilogy
by William L. McGee
BMC Publications, 2000, 2001, 2009
MARINE CORPS LEAGUE Magazine, Summer 2002
Blow by Blow Through the Solomons – One real-life incident during World War II was the inspiration for the box office success, “Saving Private Ryan”….However, there is enough gripping drama, heroism, and heartbreak in McGee’s almost encyclopedic The Solomons Campaigns to supply Hollywood with material for a century. . . . It is difficult to select what to excerpt from his narrative, because his spare but effective style is as precise and economical as a Mickey Spillane novel….His narrative is copiously supplemented with photographs, tables, stats, command lists, and even official critiques of operations and lessons learned. He drew extensively on a variety of sources to tell the whole tale: records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy, Marine, Army and Army Air Corps archives, Japanese records, veterans’ accounts, memoirs, and other histories of the campaigns. And, as with a good Spillane novel, his tale bears repeated readings.—Edward Cline
LIBRARY JOURNAL, March 1, 2002
A World War II navy veteran and prolific author, McGee has written the second of a three-volume set that will form a definitive account of naval, sea, and land operations in the South Pacific, where America’s response to Pearl Harbor began. McGee’s narrative coverage in this second volume is encyclopedic, providing concise details of operations, often on a daily basis. His introductory essay is an informative summary of events from 1931 to 1941 that illustrates how these events led up to World War II. An exhaustive list of sources and notes creates a solid background for a detailed but readable text. In addition to battle history, the book discusses logistics, tactics, and the deployment of forces. Most useful is the author’s analysis of the campaigns (“Lessons Learned in the Solomons”). Numerous interviews and recollections of veterans bring in the war’s human side, and a long list of military abbreviations and designations aids the reader, as do photos, maps, and charts. This work is a thoroughgoing historical record and analysis that historians and scholars will find invaluable. Recommended for academic and large public libraries and for specialized collections.—David M. Alperstein
LEATHERNECK, Magazine of the Marines, April 2002
Author William L. McGee’s work [The Solomon’s Campaigns] is intended to accomplish a mighty task: to encompass the entire Solomons campaigns in a single, detailed study. The result is a masterpiece outlining U.S. Navy and Marine Corps operations in the South Pacific from Aug. 7, 1942, through Nov. 25, 1943. As McGee points out, there is no other single work of this detail that covers such a large expanse in time and space. . . . McGee is particularly qualified to document the Solomons campaigns. He knows the fear and frustration of torpedo and aerial attack, the monotony of endless watches and the thrill of victory because he was a young enlisted sailor serving in the waters off Guadalcanal, as well as during other engagements throughout the Pacific campaign….The reader who desires to see life through the eyes of the men who actually manned the guns, fought the fires and stood mind-numbing “go on, stay on” watches, will come away with an enlightened appreciation of just how good our sailors and Marines are. The indexes and appendices are the book’s crown jewels—detailed and easily accessible as a starting point for further research. McGee has done an absolute superb job here, and future authors will benefit from his efforts. Overall, the book is a great read worthy of any Marine’s time and efforts.—Capt. Scott E. Ukeiley
WW II HISTORY Magazine, March 2003
The Solomons Campaigns is a broad-ranging and informative study, a masterwork of extensive research, brisk prose, and convincing analysis. Besides being a wonderfully comprehensive overview of operations in the Solomons, from Tulagi and Savo Island to Tassafaronga and Rennell Island, McGee’s volume provides considerable detail about the American and Japanese sea, ground, and air units involved; planning and logistics, leaders and heroes, equipment and weaponry; the costs and lessons learned.
LEATHERNECK, Magazine of the Marines, July 2001
William L. McGee both built and served with amphibians in the early days of the Guadalcanal invasion. He has authored the first of his intended three-volume treatment of the WWII `Gator Navy in the Pacific. The reader is regaled with the tales of the first amphibians and the men who sailed them. Through ships’ logs, war diaries and oral histories, we learn about the experiences of these early “plankowners” of “Earlybird” Flotilla Five. For the most part, they were naval novelists, and we can catch a small glimpse of their enormous tasks, trials and challenges. . . . We look forward to the next two volumes of the series. This first volume is an easy read. It recalls the saga of an oft neglected but highly hazardous aspect of America’s naval war waged in the vast and expansive waters of the Pacific Ocean and will prove a welcome reference library addition.—Robert Loring
MILITARY Magazine, June 2001
The author is to be commended for the research and excellent preparation of The Amphibians Are Coming! For me, it tied me closer to the Navy we were a part of.—Francis Hepburn
SEA CLASSICS Magazine, April 2002
William L. McGee is no novice when it comes to writing. He’s written nine books; two of them best-sellers. Nor is he an armchair historian. He lived much of what he writes about as a volunteer enlisted man who joined up in ’42 simply because he wanted to get in the fight. And this he did in spades. His first action occurred the day he arrived in the South Pacific when his ship was attacked by a flight of Japanese bombers. From that day on McGee was up to his armpits in the Pacific War. . . . A prolific writer and astute historian, McGee’s latest effort is part of a series dedicated to the Navy’s amphibious forces of WWII. First published late in 1999, Volume I, “The Amphibians Are Coming!” was an immediate sell-out and has now been reprinted. Volume II, “The Solomons Campaigns,” carries a 2002 indicia and is now available. Volume III, “Pacific Express”, won’t be ready for a few years.
What we have here is a very readable biographical history of revolutionary WWII landing craft…and their crews. Volume I focuses on the landing craft themselves: their evolution, baptism of fire, training and deployment as the tip of the sword in every amphibious Pacific invasion. McGee offers immense detail on these unique flat-bottomed vessels—the LCTs, LCIs, LSTs and LSMs that formed the sea-going ridge which took us to Tokyo. He also examines the background of amphibious warfare, how it was employed in North Africa, and profiles other interesting vessels like the “Green Dragon” high-speed destroyer transports which presaged many of the landing craft. All in all, this volume is an amazing job of research and skillful presentation.
This same penchant for authentic detail is evident in McGee’s latest companion volume entitled “The Solomons Campaigns: 1942-1943.” Certainly one of the longest of the hard-fought Pacific battles, the six month campaign to secure these islands fills Volume II with enough dynamic action, derring-do, brutal horror and conflict to keep one on the edge of his chair for days on end. Astute use of photos and maps helps clarify many engagements, making these offerings a must read for anyone interested in the perils of amphibious warfare.—Rod E. Redman & Myrle Chivers
SANTA BARBARA NEWS-PRESS, April 7, 2002
The Solomons Campaigns is filled with graphic photographs, maps and even daily journal entries on the various aspects of Solomons Islands campaigns. Not only does one follow the landing craft warfare, but the ground fighting, the air war and naval battles as well. Mr. McGee shows both sides of the conflict.—Fred Klein
SEA HISTORY Magazine, NATIONAL MARITIME HISTORICAL SOCIETY, Winter 2000-01
The author’s background as shipyard worker and later participant in Pacific landings in World War II gives authenticity and spice to this account of the conception, growth, and operations of U.S. landing craft in the Pacific theater.
THE ELSIE ITEM, Newsletter of the USS LCI National Association, Inc., March 2001
If your children or grandchildren have ever asked, “What did you do in the war?” then point them to McGee’s The Amphibians Are Coming! . . . Bill McGee, a prolific author and veteran of naval service in the South Pacific, has written a book that will do any “Amphibian” proud. He has managed by dint of exceptional research and extensive interviews, to perfectly blend the historical development of naval amphibious forces with humorous anecdotal references. You will find yourself chuckling and nodding in the affirmative as you recall your own moments of terror, mind-numbing boredom and outrageous pranks. . . . McGee tells his story by following the formations of the Flotilla 5 LCTs, LSTs and LCIs, from the formation of their crews in the states, through their training (or lack thereof), crossing the Pacific, and their arrival and operations in the Solomon Islands group. It is a compelling story of “green” crews, “green” officers, “green” dragons, and “green” camouflage.
Throughout the book, you will find yourself saying, “Yup, that was us.” Read this book and I will guarantee that you will have a renewed respect for the guy you see in the mirror every morning.—Howard Clarkson, USS LCI National Association
MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW, December 2000
A deeply engaging biographical history of World War II ship-to-shore landing craft and their crews….A welcome and informative addition to personal, academic, and community library World War II history and reference collections.
READ WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING . . .
■ Pacific Express is a polished and professional volume covering a major and relatively unheralded part of World War II…and will receive widespread acclaim for providing the quality and quantity of naval history.
—David H. Grover, CDR USNR (Ret), and author of U.S. Army Ships and Watercraft of World War II
■ Bill McGee’s account of amphibious operations in the Pacific and of the supply effort needed to support all operations there is meticulously researched and told with the skill of a born story teller. Pacific Express and the other volumes in the series will make a proud addition to anyone’s library.
—Gordon Smith, Chairman of the Board, Amphibious Forces Memorial Museum
■ Solomons Campaigns will become the definitive work on the campaigns.
—John Cummer, President, USS LCI National Association
■ Amphibians Are Coming! describe miracles: bringing LSTs and other landing vessels into high production in a short time; bringing together untrained officers and men to perform tasks which should have taken months of training; making all this work under unbelievable combat conditions.
—Mel Barger, Author of Large Slow Target
■ Your books brought tears to my eyes. A “must read” for all sea services veterans and their descendants.
—Charles C. Espy, Lt (jg), USNR, SS Thomas Nelson, Armed Guard C.O.
■As a Marine who landed on Guadalcanal on 7 August 1942, Solomons Campaigns is the most comprehensive book that I’ve read on the war in the Solomons. It brought back memories of those very dark days. Semper Fi.
—William J. Carroll, President, Guadalcanal Campaign Veterans
■ To say Bill McGee is a serious naval historian is an understatement. As they say in the Navy, well done!
—W. C. Hilderbrand, Capt, CEC, USN (Ret), CEC/Seabee Historical Foundation
■ Amphibians Are Coming! is a “must read” for all Armed Guard and merchant mariners and their families.
—C.A. Lloyd, Chairman, USN Armed Guard Veterans of WWII
■ Solomons Campaigns is perfectly balanced between riveting history, personal narratives, and pleasing layout packed with photos, maps, and illustrations. As the son of a Flotilla Five veteran of the Pacific, McGee’s books are a fine tribute to all who served in that theater.
—Ron Swanson, Editor, The Flotilla Newsletter, LCT Flotillas of WWII
■ Having experienced a full measure of life at sea during WWII, I find your military histories detailed, vivid, accurate. They capture the essence of that war.
—Anthony P. Tesori, USNR, Gunnery Officer, LST-340
■ I knew McGee’s years of exhaustive and intensive research would produce a lasting history of the Solomons campaigns. That he has done. Admirably.
—Charles J. Adams Jr, LST-281
■ One of the best books I’ve ever read on WWII. I was impressed with the scholarly effort the author put forth. I’m a former Marine and didn’t know the kind of detail that occurred in that sector of the campaign, but I sure do now.
—Jim Comiskey, Author, Academic Innovations
■ I heard about this book from my cousin, John A. McNeill Sr, skipper of the LCT-159 of the Solomons campaign. I was a sailor on USS LSM-342 which evolved out of the LCT in 1943 and first hit the beaches in the Philippines in 1944. Every ‘amphib’ needs to have all three volumes of William McGee’s series, Amphibious Operations in the South Pacific in WWII so the next generation can read and learn what their loved ones went through.
—Royce N. McNeill, USS LSM-LSMR Association
■ Amphibians Are Coming! is a long-awaited dream since it deals with my kind of war. You’ve brought great pride and joy to thousands who were there and to future generations who will learn how America fought in World War II.
—John A. McNeill Sr., USNR, Officer-in-Charge, LCT-159
■ Having done my own research for the famed “Green Dragons”—the history of the Four Stack APD (Destroyer Transports) in WWII—I consider your Amphib’s book a must read for anyone interested in the history of our great amphibious navy that was so instrumental in winning WWII.
—Curt Clark, Secretary, The Four Stack APD Veterans
■ A masterful job in dealing with the wide range of Amphibians. You included just the right amount of detail to make the book very readable.
—Alfred J. Ormston, Skipper, LCI-334
■ My father, a Flotilla Five veteran, pulled rank and read the book first. It’s filled with many personal accounts of the pioneering men of Flotilla Five and gave me an idea of what life was like in those days of the war in the South Pacific. For my father, it brought back many memories.
—Richard Fox, Webmaster, LCT Flotillas of WWII
■ Excellent reading.
—”Frenchy” Maurais, Duty Yeoman, USS McCawley (aka “Wackymac”)
■ Truly comprehensive.
—Robert M. Carr, Skipper, LCT-364
■ I went into the Amphib fleet after I saw the Missouri go out of commission in 1955. I’m fascinated with small craft of the Navy and thank you for the wonderful contribution you are making to keep this history alive.
—Herbert Fahr Jr, President, 1998-2000, USS Missouri (BB-63) Association
■ I was on LCT-146 that was transported to Noumea, New Caledonia on LST-399 as narrated in your book. I am still in close contact with a navy buddy who was on LST-398 that transported his LCT-145 as narrated on page 162 in your book. I would like a copy of your book sent to him as a gift.
—Howard Breckenfeld, USN
■ Your book reminded me of how easy it was to lose one’s life then. Your story of the ship’s gun crew firing at planet Venus gave me a chuckle. Some gun crews were really trigger-happy and dangerous.
—Paul Clodfelter, First Special Naval Construction Battalion
■ Another great book. There is very good coverage of the amphibs’ role during the Solomons campaigns.
—Jacob Miller, Fightin’ Foxes Reunions
■ Being an “old amphib”, I never really knew how much I didn’t know about the new landing crafts’ humble beginnings. I look forward to Volume II and highly recommend not only amphib sailors read it, but all those interested in the Navy and WWII. Great stuff!
—Bill Bartz, Capt., USNR-R, President, ACU Veterans Group