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Double-Edged Secrets
: U.S. Naval Intelligence Operations in the Pacific During World War II (Bluejacket Books)

Author: W. J. Holmes
256 pages (September 1998)
United States Naval Inst.;
ISBN: 1557503249 ;
Dimensions (in inches): 0.65 x 9.04 x 6.04

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U.S. Naval Intelligence Operations in the Pacific during World War II

by W. J. Holmes


In the foreword to this book, first published in 1978, Sen. Daniel Inouye describes the story as "the raw material of adventure fiction-but this is all true and told in a manner that is at the same time fascinating and professional." Despite the passage of twenty years and the appearance of several studies of code breaking, this inside look at naval intelligence in the Pacific is as powerful as ever. This book provides a compassionate and unique understanding of the war and the business of intelligence gathering.


Assigned to the combat intelligence unit in Honolulu from June 1941 to the end of the war, W. J. Holmes shares his history-making experiences as part of an organization that collected, analyzed, and disseminated naval intelligence throughout World War II. His book not only captures the mood of the period but gives rare insight into the problems and personalities involved, allowing the reader to fully appreciate the painful moral dilemma faced daily by commanders in the Pacific once the Japanese naval codes were broken. Every time the Americans made use of the enemy messages they had decoded, they increased the probability of the Japanese realizing what had happened and changing their codes. And such a change would cause the U.S. Pacific Fleet to lose a vital edge. On the other hand, withholding the information could-and sometimes did-result in the loss of U.S. lives and ships. This revealing study illuminates the difficulties in both collecting intelligence and deciding when to use it.


W. J. Holmes, an engineering professor at the University of Hawaii where a building was named in his honor at the time of his death, wrote short stories for The Saturday Evening Post under the pen name of Alec Hudson.


256 pages. 25 Photographs.

Line drawing. 9 maps. Index. 6 x 9

ISBN: 1557503249

Jasper Holmes could have chosen as his title the phrase his colleague Edwin T. Layton used for his memoirs: 'And I Was There.' As a USN reservist returned to active duty at Pearl Harbor just months before the attack, Holmes was there at the start of the war. And he remained near the center of naval intelligence activities in the Pacific until the end.

My bigggest criticism of this book has nothing to do (directly) with Holmes himself. Like many memoirs written in the decades immediately after the war, this book is limited by the fact that much of the information Holmes would otherwise have been able to share was still officially secret. It would be for later researchers to say what Holmes couldn't.

The other complaint I have is that, based on what I've read elsewhere, Holmes modestly understates the important role he played in the events he describes. It's to his credit that he's eager to praise talented and dedicated cryptologists and analysts. But Holmes frequently makes himself sound like someone standing on the sidelines watching the varsity team play. In fact, he was one of the team's key players.

What could be a highly technical memoir is leavened by a light tone and entertaining asides, like his tales of trying to drive through Honolulu with darkened headlights (a feat he describes as probably a greater danger to the citizens of Honolulu than the Japanese attack was).

Any student of the war in the Pacific, and particularly of Naval Intelligence operations or the attack on Pearl Harbor, will find this an interesting and entertaining memoir.


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