Joe Rochefort's War by Elliot Ward Carlson
The Odyssey of the Codebreaker Who Outwitted Yamamoto at Midway

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 2 Critic Reviews

unrated

Synopsis

This is the first biography of Capt. Joe Rochefort, the Officer in Charge of Station Hypo the U.S. Navy’s decrypt unit at Pearl Harbor and his key role in breaking the Imperial Japanese Navy’s main code before the Battle of Midway. It brings together the disparate threads of Rochefort’s life and career, beginning with his enlistment in the Naval Reserve in 1918 at age 17 (dropping out of high school and adding a year to his age). It chronicles his earliest days as a mustang (an officer who has risen from the ranks), his fortuitous posting to Washington, where he headed the Navy’s codebreaking desk at age 25, then, in another unexpected twist, found himself assigned to Tokyo to learn Japanese.

This biography records Rochefort’s surprising love-hate relationship with cryptanalysis, his joyful exit from the field, his love of sea duty, his adventure-filled years in the ‘30s as the right-hand man to the Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, and his reluctant return to codebreaking in mid-1941 when he was ordered to head the Navy’s decrypt unit at Pearl (Station Hypo).

The book focuses on Rochefort’s inspiring leadership of Hypo, recording first his frustrating months in late 1941 searching for Yamamoto’s fleet, then capturing a guilt-ridden Rochefort in early 1942 mounting a redemptive effort to track that fleet after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor . It details his critical role in May 1942 when he and his team, against the bitter opposition of some top Navy brass, concluded Midway was Yamamoto’s invasion target, making possible a victory regarded by many as the turning point in the Pacific War.

The account also tells the story of Rochefort’s ouster from Pearl, the result of the machinations of key officers in Washington, first to deny him the Distinguished Service Medal recommended by Admiral Nimitz, then to effect his removal as OIC of Hypo. The book reports his productive final years in the Navy when he supervises the building of a floating drydock on the West Coast, then, back in Washington, finds himself directing a planning body charged with doing spade work leading to the invasion of Japan.

The Epilogue narrates the postwar effort waged by Rochefort’s Hypo colleagues to obtain for him the DSM denied in 1942—a drive that pays off in 1986 when President Reagan awards him the medal posthumously at a White House ceremony attended by his daughter and son. It also explores Rochefort’s legacy, primarily his pioneering role at Pearl in which, contrary to Washington’s wishes, he reported directly to Commander in Chief, US Fleet, providing actionable intelligence without any delays and enabling codebreaking to play the key role it did in the Battle of Midway.

Ultimately, this book is aimed at bringing Joe Rochefort to life as the irreverent, fiercely independent and consequential officer that he was. It assumes his career can’t be understood without looking at his entire life. It seeks to capture the interplay of policy and personality, and the role played by politics and personal rifts at the highest levels of Navy power during a time of national crisis. This bio emerges as a history of the Navy’s intelligence culture.
 

About Elliot Ward Carlson

See more books from this Author
Elliot Carlson is a longtime journalist who has worked for such newspapers and magazines as the Honolulu Advertiser, the Wall Street Journal, and Newsweek. He holds degrees from Stanford University and the University of Oregon and lives with his wife in Silver Spring, Maryland. Danny Campbell's regional acting credits include the Actors Theatre of Louisville, the Utah Shakespearean Festival, the Vermont Stage, Stage West, the Mint Theatre in New York City, and six years with the Independent Shakespeare Company in Los Angeles. His favorite roles include Falstaff, Bottom, Launce, and the Porter. He has appeared in CBS's The Guardian, the recent films A Pool, a Fool, and a Duel and Greater Than Gravity, and over twenty-five commercials. He is also a member of the adjunct faculty in the theatre arts department at Santa Monica College. An AudioFile Earphones Award winner, Danny has recently narrated the audiobook Once a Spy by Keith Thomson, and he read the part of David Foster Wallace in Mike Lipsky's Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself.
 
Published September 15, 2011 by Naval Institute Press. 622 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, War. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Joe Rochefort's War

The Wall Street Journal

See more reviews from this publication

On May 13, 1942, in a basement office at Pearl Harbor, a naval officer named Joe Rochefort called Edwin Layton, the Combat Intelligence Officer for the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Dec 24 2011 | Read Full Review of Joe Rochefort's War: The Odys...

World War II Database

The story about the mock message of Midway running out of fresh water had since become a popular tale, but strangely enough, there had been no comprehensive biography of Rochefort that I had come across, thus when I picked up Elliott Carlson's Joe Rochefort's War, I had very high expectations for...

Aug 18 2012 | Read Full Review of Joe Rochefort's War: The Odys...

Reader Rating for Joe Rochefort's War
90%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 74 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


Rate this book!

Add Review
×