cover image The Silver Waterfall: How America Won the War in the Pacific at Midway

The Silver Waterfall: How America Won the War in the Pacific at Midway

Brendan Simms and Steven McGregor. PublicAffairs, $30 (304p) ISBN 978-1-5417-01

The U.S. Navy’s victory at the Battle of Midway in June 1942 was the result of the skills of its veteran pilots and “the effectiveness of their equipment,” according to this immersive account from biographer Simms (coauthor, Hitler’s American Gamble) and U.S. Army veteran McGregor. Highlighting the design of the Dauntless dive bomber, which was capable of a near vertical plummet that turned bombs into “guided missile[s]”; Adm. Chester Nimitz’s wily strategy to “snare the snarer”; and the diligent professionalism and steel nerves of pilots, the authors contend that Midway reveals the importance of experimenting with new technology and how “procurement wins wars.” Simms and McGregor also provide a searing, moment-by-moment account from the Japanese perspective, describing the “scream” of descending aircraft and an explosion aboard the carrier Akagi that “seemed to open the bowels of the ship in a rolling, greenish-yellow ball of flame.” Applying the lessons of Midway to today’s geopolitical situation, Simms and McGregor describe China’s naval buildup and territorial disputes as the most “serious naval challenge” in the Pacific since WWII and cast doubt on the idea that the U.S. has “done the necessary preparation to earn another Midway.” Well-researched and fluidly written, this military history issues a stark warning for the future. (May)