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History of United States Naval Operations in World War II

The History of United States Naval Operations in World War II is a 15-volume account of the United States Navy in World War II, written by eminent historian Samuel Eliot Morison and published by Little, Brown between 1947 and 1962. It is considered the finest history of US Navy operations ever produced.

Immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Morison, already convinced of the value of personal involvement as a result of sailing experience while writing his biography of Christopher Columbus, wrote to President Roosevelt suggesting the preparation of an official history of the Navy in the war, and volunteering for the task. Both Roosevelt and Secretary of the Navy Knox agreed, and in May 1942 Morison found himself a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Naval Reserve, with permission to go anywhere and to see all official records. Morison's reputation as a knowledgeable sailor (based on the analysis in his Columbus biography) preceded him, and he was welcomed on a number of ships, 11 in all by the end of the war.

The result was a normal historical work, not an official history; although meticulously researched and footnoted using primary sources, Morison puts his personal stamp on every page. He is careful to call out individual heroics, while enlisted men and junior officers who make mistakes are always anonymous; but admirals are not spared. As the title suggests, the narrative of operations is always central, and matters such as logistics and the home front are only mentioned occasionally. There are plenty of detailed maps, including ones annotated with ship courses and time, often essential to understanding confused actions, and a handful of photographs in each volume.

Limitations of the History are mostly due to its time period; some material, especially related to codebreaking, was still classified, and later in-depth research into particular episodes would clarify points that had been passed over lightly. Some fixes were incorporated in later printings. The History also avoids a certain amount of analysis, for instance deferring to other works for the causes of the Pearl Harbor attack. The overall point of view is decidedly American, for which Morison is unapologetic, and the audience is, to quote from the preface, "the general reader rather than the professional sailor".

Nevertheless, the History is required reading for students of the period, and each volume has been reprinted regularly.

The volumes:

  1. The Battle of the Atlantic, September 1939 - May 1943
  2. Operations in North African Waters, October 1942 - June 1943
  3. The Rising Sun in the Pacific, 1931 - April 1942
  4. Coral Sea, Midway, and Submarine Actions, May 1942 - August 1942
  5. The Struggle for Guadalcanal, August 1942 - February 1943
  6. Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier, 22 July 1942 - 1 May 1944
  7. Aleutians, Gilberts, and Marshalls, June 1942 - April 1944
  8. New Guinea and the Marianas, March 1944 - August 1944
  9. Sicily - Salerno - Anzio, January 1943 - June 1944
  10. The Atlantic Battle Won, May 1943 - May 1945
  11. The Invasion of France and Germany, 1944 - 1945
  12. Leyte, June 1944 - January 1945
  13. The Liberation of the Philippines: Luzon, Mindanao, the Visayas, 1944 - 1945
  14. Victory in the Pacific, 1945
  15. Supplement and General Index