The Admirals

Written by Walter R. Borneman

The Admirals


On my most recent trip to Fredricksburg, Texas, my friend and I walked through the outdoor courtyard of the Nimitz Museum.  I wanted desperately to go in, but our girls’ trip was more about wineries than war.  I realized then how much I don’t know about the war in the Pacific.

Fast forward a year.  I stumble across The Admirals at the bookstore, and decide it seems like a good choice to bridge the gaps in my knowledge.

What It’s About

The Admirals is a non-fiction book about Admiral Nimitz, Admiral Halsey, Admiral Leahy, and Admiral King.  Borneman looks to their families, childhood, and time at the US Naval Academy in an attempt to understand what made these men so remarkable.  He then explores their career paths, culminating in their roles in ending World War II.

The Good

Borneman pulls no punches, and in describing these men impartially, he makes them so very human.  His writing is sparse and clear, wasting no words and leaving nothing important out.  I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to write a complete history of one of these men, and he did it for all four.

What is even more remarkable is that this book wasn’t simply relegated to the four Admirals.  I learned more about President Roosevelt, Admiral Spruance, Generals Marshall, Eisenhower, and MacArthur.  I came to know ships as living, breathing creatures.  I felt the heat and sweat inside a submarine. This book was a college course contained in about four hundred pages.

The Not-So-Good

I’ve wracked my brain to try and find anything negative to say about this book.  I thought about saying that it doesn’t flow as story in the way of Unbroken or The Perfect Horse.  But The Admirals isn’t that kind of book.  So that’s not fair.  I thought about saying I got a little lost in the statistics and battle descriptions, but that’s not fair either.  Borneman walks a perfect line between giving too much and not enough detail.  I wouldn’t have understood the lives of the Admirals or their impact or their experience without those details.

If I think of something negative about this book, I’ll let you know.

Final Thoughts

At first glance, this is a book about a noble struggle.  But close the cover after reading the final word, and you’ll realize that it’s a book about leadership.  Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King made life-and-death decisions for their men, themselves, their country, and arguably the whole world.  They made mistakes.  They argued and they loved.  They rubbed people the wrong way and they inspired unwavering devotion.  They risked and lost and won.  The Admirals is their story.  And it is a great as they were.