In Rogers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific, Emile de Becque, the French planter, and US Navy Lieutenant Joseph Cable accept an assignment to go behind enemy lines and observe enemy shipping and aircraft. Cable is killed and de Becque returns alone. de Becque and Cable were coastwatchers. Walter Lord’s Lonely Vigil is a detailed history of the men who performed this dangerous job in the Solomon Islands during World War II.
The book describes a world that no longer exists. A world of Mad Dogs and Englishmen, populated with expatriates, Methodist missionaries, native tribesman, Catholic nuns, and military misfits. This was before the days of reconnaissance satellites and tracking the aircraft attacking Guadalcanal and the Tokyo Express (the Japanese ships steaming down the slot). When the Japanese attacked the Solomons, many of these people took to the hills with radios in occupied territory to monitor and report. As Lord writes,
If Midway ended forever any chance of a Japanese victory, it was the Allied seizure of Guadalcanal and the recapture of the Solomons that started Tokyo down the road to final defeat.
This book has all the excitement of James Bond, Jason Bourne and Jack Ryan all rolled into one. I could not put it down. These are some of the unsung heroes of the war.
|Lonely Vigil: Coastwatchers of the Solomons gets 5 of 5 dis-oriented smileys|
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