Steve Twomey has done a public service by writing Countdown to Pearl Harbor, a well-written and fascinating account ... mostly, Twomey tells his story in terms of people, Japanese as well as American, in settings ranging from the Oval Office to the bridges of warships off Oahu. These people tell their stories in retrospect, still marveling at it all. As will readers. This is a splendid book.
[Twomey] has mined the copious testimony, memoirs, oral histories and other evidence to produce a riveting narrative of the American misjudgments and mistakes that contributed to a day rivaled in U.S. history only by Sept. 11, 2001. It’s not revisionist history so much as a poignant retelling of a familiar story ... There was plenty of blame to go around but Twomey wisely focuses on a handful of key Americans. He writes sympathetically of their struggles to understand the growing danger ... Despite repetitions, Twomey manages to maintain suspense as the tragedy builds to its inevitable finale. He disappoints only by devoting so little — six pages total — to the attack itself.
Infusing a well-known story with suspense, Countdown to Pearl Harbor reconstructs the military’s glaring errors of omission, the secret American effort to intercept Japan’s encrypted communication and the fruitless 11th-hour diplomatic negotiations between Tokyo and Washington ... The effect can be dizzying at times, as Twomey introduces an enormous cast of participants, at least one major new figure seemingly brought forth in every chapter. But his day-by-day narrative is gripping. He does not uncover any fresh documents or offer a revisionist account. Rather, he relies heavily on the nine official inquiries into the assault and the oral histories, diaries and other papers from the actors who were unable to prevent what Franklin Roosevelt decided to call 'a date which will live in infamy.'