Countdown to Pearl Harbor|Twomey, Steve
Countdown to Pearl Harbor
local_shippingFor Delivery
Sorry: This item is not currently available.
FREE Shipping for Club Members help


A Smithsonian Top History Book of 2016
A Japan Times Best Book About Japan of 2016

A fascinating look at the twelve days leading up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor--the warnings, clues and missteps--by a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter.

In Washington, DC, in late November 1941, admirals compose the most ominous message in Navy history to warn Hawaii of possible danger, but they write it too vaguely. They think precautions are being taken, but never check to see if they are. A key intelligence officer wants more warnings sent, but he is on the losing end of a bureaucratic battle and can't get the message out. American sleuths have pierced Japan's most vital diplomatic code, and Washington believes it has a window on the enemy's soul--but it does not.

In a small office at Pearl Harbor, overlooking the battleships at the heart of America's seafaring power, the Commander of the Pacific Fleet tries to figure out how much danger he really faces. His intelligence unit has lost track of Japan's biggest aircraft carriers, but assumes they are resting in a port far away. The admiral thinks Pearl is too shallow for torpedoes, so he never puts up a barrier. As he frets, a Japanese spy is counting the warships in the harbor and reporting to Tokyo.

There were false assumptions, and racist ones: The Japanese aren't very good aviators and they don't have the nerve or the skill to attempt a strike so far from their home. There were misunderstandings, conflicting desires, painful choices. And there was a naval officer who, on his very first mission as captain of his very first ship, did exactly the right thing. His warning could have averted disaster, but his superiors reacted too leisurely. Japanese planes arrived moments later.

Twomey's telescoping of the twelve days leading to the attack unravels the crucial characters and moments, and produces an edge-of-your seat drama with fascinating details about America at this moment in its history. By the end, the reader understands how assumption is the root of disaster, and how sometimes a gamble pays off.


  • ISBN-13: 9781476776460
  • ISBN-10: 1476776466
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publish Date: November 2016

The heroes and failures of war

This year marks the 75th anniversary of America’s entry into World War II. While the major events of the war have been extensively chronicled, this anniversary is a reminder that many untold stories remain. Two books focusing on the Pacific war represent a great start for digging deeper.

In Countdown to Pearl Harbor, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Steve Twomey uses his impressive research and storytelling skills to recreate the dozen days leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Drawing on a range of resources, including public investigations and interviews conducted by legendary Pearl Harbor historian Gordon Prange, Twomey creates a dramatic, page-turning narrative that feels both fresh and suspenseful. Events, missteps and, most importantly, the human players leap off the page. Among others, we get to know Husband E. Kimmel, commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet; Harold Stark, chief of naval operations; and Isoroku Yamamoto, bold mastermind of the Japanese attack. 

Overconfidence, poor communications and complacency at all levels played a part in the tragedy. While Kimmel kept a laser focus on training and offensive readiness, he underestimated Japan’s capacity and never mounted sufficient defensive reconnaissance. As Twomey notes in his conclusion, “Assumption fathered defeat.” Countdown to Pearl Harbor offers a new and fascinating look at one of the defining events in U.S. history.

When Tom Brokaw coined the term “the greatest generation,” he might well have been describing Medal of Honor recipients Jay Zeamer Jr. and Joe Sarnoski, the heroes of Lucky 666. The resourceful, independent Zeamer was a renegade who was transferred after falling asleep as a co-pilot on a B-26 combat mission. 

Redeployment to the Port Moresby-based 43rd Bomb Group put Zeamer right where he wanted to be—at the controls of a four-engine B-17 Flying Fortress. In early 1943, Zeamer was reunited with an Army bombardier named Joe Sarnoski. Zeamer remembered that the two were “close enough to feel that we were born to fly together.”

The unconventional pilot and bombardier set out to pull together their own handpicked men to undertake dangerous reconnaissance missions. One commander wrote that Zeamer recruited “a crew of renegades and screwoffs. . . . But they gravitated toward one another and made a hell of a team.” With Zeamer’s engineering talents, the team “Zeamerized” a broken down B-17, dubbing it Old 666

In June 1943, Zeamer and Sarnoski volunteered for the heartbreaking “impossible mission” that forms the core of this remarkable account of friendship and bravery. Authors Bob Drury and Tom Clavin not only tell the inspiring story of these two young airmen, they also provide a cogent, absorbing analysis of the air war in the Pacific. Lucky 666 is highly recommended for WWII and aviation history buffs alike.


This article was originally published in the November 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.