Dead Reckoning: The Story of How Johnny Mitchell and His Fighter Pilots Took on Admiral Yamamoto and Avenged Pearl Harbor

Dead Reckoning: The Story of How Johnny Mitchell and His Fighter Pilots Took on Admiral Yamamoto and Avenged Pearl Harbor

by Dick Lehr

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Overview

The definitive and dramatic account of what became known as "Operation Vengeance" -- the targeted kill by U.S. fighter pilots of Japan's larger-than-life military icon, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the naval genius who had devised the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor.

 “AIR RAID, PEARL HARBOR. THIS IS NO DRILL.” At 7:58 a.m. on December 7, 1941, an officer at the Ford Island Command Center typed what would become one of the most famous radio dispatches in history, as the Japanese navy launched a surprise aerial assault on U.S. bases on Hawaii. In a little over two hours, more than 2,400 Americans were dead, propelling the U.S.’s entry into World War II.

Dead Reckoning is the epic true story of the high-stakes operation undertaken sixteen months later to avenge that deadly strike – a longshot mission hatched hastily at the U.S. base on Guadalcanal. Expertly crafting this "hunt for Bin Laden"-style WWII story, New York Times bestselling author Dick Lehr recreates the tension-filled events leading up to the climactic clash in the South Pacific skies – frontline moments loaded with xenophobia, spycraft, sacrifice and broken hearts.

 Lehr goes behind the scenes at Station Hypo on Hawaii, where U.S. Navy code breakers first discovered exactly where and when to find Admiral Yamamoto, on April 18, 1943, and then chronicles in dramatic detail the nerve-wracking mission to kill him. He focuses on Army Air Force Major John W. Mitchell, the ace fighter pilot from the tiny hamlet of Enid, Mississippi who was tasked with conceiving a flight route, literally to the second, for the only U.S. fighter plane on Guadalcanal capable of reaching Yamamoto hundreds of miles away – the new twin-engine P-38 Lightning with its fabled “cone of fire.”

Given unprecedented access to Mitchell’s personal papers and hundreds of private letters, Lehr reveals for the first time the full story of Mitchell’s wartime exploits up to the face-off with Yamamoto, along with those of key American pilots Mitchell chose for the momentous mission: Rex Barber, Thomas Lanphier Jr., Besby Holmes, and Ray Hine. The spotlight also shines on their enemy target –Admiral Yamamoto, the enigmatic, charismatic commander in chief of Japan’s Combined Fleet, whose complicated feelings about the U.S.—he studied at Harvard—add rich complexity. In this way Dead Reckoning offers at once a fast-paced recounting of a crucial turning point in the Pacific war and keenly drawn portraits of its two main protagonists: Isoroku Yamamoto, the architect of Pearl Harbor, and John Mitchell, the architect of the Yamamoto’s demise.


Dead Reckoning features black-and-white photos throughout.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

06/01/2020

In this meticulously researched history, journalist Lehr (The Birth of a Movement) chronicles the lives of U.S. Army Air Forces major John W. Mitchell and Imperial Japanese Navy admiral Isoroku Yamamoto from their childhoods to their “fatal face-off” in 1943. An ace pilot from Enid, Miss., Mitchell commanded the 339th Fighter Squadron on Guadalcanal Island. In April 1943, he led 15 other pilots on a mission to assassinate Yamamoto, the architect of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Vilified by the American press as a “hate-filled warmonger,” Yamamoto emerges in Lehr’s nuanced portrayal as a “reluctant warrior” who hoped to force a peace settlement with the U.S. Sixteen months after Pearl Harbor, American code breakers decrypted a message detailing Yamamoto’s plans to tour Japanese bases in the Solomon Islands. Mitchell and his squad flew more than 800 miles round trip from Guadalcanal to shoot down the admiral’s bomber over Bougainville Island, losing only one American pilot in the aerial attack. Lehr packs the narrative with intimate looks at both men’s personal lives, debates among U.S. and Japanese leaders over military strategy, and the history of “targeted kill” operations. Even the most dedicated WWII buffs will learn something new from this granular account. Agent: Richard Abate. (June)

Wall Street Journal

"Lehr is a gifted raconteur….Many readers will know how the intercept turns out (for the uninitiated, the book’s title…is a giveaway), but Mr. Lehr’s telling of it has the excitement of a Steve McQueen car chase."

Mitchell Zuckoff

"Dead Reckoning is a thrilling true story of courage, honor and derring-do that builds to a tremendous climax. Among Dick Lehr’s many gifts is a rare ability to depict world-shaking events on a human scale. This is a master work of narrative history."

Douglas Brinkley

"Dead Reckoning is the riveting story of how the U.S. sought to kill Japanese naval admiral Isoroku Yamamato for his diabolical masterminding of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Major John Mitchell and his avenger flyboys emerges in these pages as true-blue military heroes of the Greatest Generation ilk.  The amount of new research Lehr has undertaken about Operation Vengeance is breathtaking.  Highly recommended!"

USA Today

"Dead Reckoning tells this white-knuckle tale and sheds new light on an important, albeit little-remembered turning point in the war....[Lehr] maintains palpable tension throughout. It is a surpassingly improbable feat that these young Americans flyboys accomplished, led by ace pilot and mission planner Major Johnny Mitchell."

USA Today

"Dead Reckoning tells this white-knuckle tale and sheds new light on an important, albeit little-remembered turning point in the war....[Lehr] maintains palpable tension throughout. It is a surpassingly improbable feat that these young Americans flyboys accomplished, led by ace pilot and mission planner Major Johnny Mitchell."

Wall Street Journal

"Lehr is a gifted raconteur….Many readers will know how the intercept turns out (for the uninitiated, the book’s title…is a giveaway), but Mr. Lehr’s telling of it has the excitement of a Steve McQueen car chase."

Library Journal

04/03/2020

There are many books written about World War II, but few have focused on the targeted mission that killed Japanese admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (1883–1943). Lehr (The Fence) has pulled together historical and personal documents that shed light on two of the major actors of the mission: U.S. Army Major John Mitchell (1914–95) and Yamamoto himself. Yamamoto, the architect behind the attack on Pearl Harbor, was a military genius with a complicated personal life. Mitchell, on the other hand, was an ace American pilot and married to the girl next door. More of a biography than a strict look at the military confrontation, the text provides an intimate look at the war in the Pacific told through the eyes of the men leading up to their fateful intersection. Though the mission itself was a success from the American point of view, the anguish felt by the Japanese people is also carefully explored. VERDICT Lehr's skills as a journalist dig deep into the lives of Yamamoto and Mitchell, shining light on the public and private life of each. Anyone interested in World War II, and especially the war in the Pacific, will find this account fascinating. [See Prepub Alert, 11/4/19.]—Danielle Williams, Univ. of Evansville

Kirkus Reviews

2020-03-19
An evenhanded history of the hunt for the mastermind of the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.

Nearly a year and a half after the U.S. declared war on Japan, the Army Air Forces would finally catch up with Japanese Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, commander in chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy, in the skies over the then-Japanese-held islands of Rabaul and Bougainville. Lehr—a professor of journalism at Boston University who has written two books on Whitey Bulger—weaves together two touching stories: the tale of Maj. John Mitchell, who was an ace flyboy chosen to lead the mission, homesick for his new bride, as well as the story of Mitchell’s team; and the chronicle of Yamamoto, who, as a young cadet, had seen his country prevail against the Russians in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 and became a forward-thinking officer who attended Harvard, worked two postings in Washington, D.C., and—significantly—grasped that aircraft carriers were the weapon of the future. Yamamoto also “sensed…from a mix of press accounts and military intelligence, that the United States was waking up—that following the deadly Pearl Harbor debacle, instead of curling up into a fetal position, she was climbing to her feet, raring to fight and seek vengeance. [He] had no way of knowing its full extent, but the winter of 1942 saw the [U.S.] hastily and effectively establish its wartime footing.” By 1943, he was nearing 60, with a wife and children as well as a longtime geisha lover to whom he wrote passionate letters. Refreshingly, Lehr gets beyond the hate-filled, racist propaganda on both sides to give an honest appraisal of the protagonists, especially Yamamoto, whose logic in attacking Pearl Harbor was to “induce [America] to settle for peace with Japan.” Once the Americans cracked the Japanese code, Midway became “Yamamoto’s lament.”

A sympathetic, exciting portrait of both American and Japanese warriors caught up in “targeted-kill operations.” (b/w photos)

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062448521
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/09/2020
Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 12,591
File size: 11 MB
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