Graveyards of the Pacific: From Pearl Harbor to Bikini Atoll, by R.D. Ballard & M.H. Morgan

My Copy: 9780792263661 (image from

National Geographic comes through again. If you’re a fan of documentaries, the beginning about Pearl Harbor will retread some of the same ground as the NOVA Documentary “Killer Subs in Pearl Harbor,” where they went to find the last midget sub supposed to be in the area that morning.

This is where our book begins, much as it did in 1941, with a sub.

Dr. Ballard–my fave science geek ever

Graveyards of the Pacific is a book on exploration, as most of Dr. Ballard’s work is, but also with a great deal of history and historical study attached to it. Actually, 75% is probably the history what happened during the war: the exploration aspect is the dessert of this meal.

Some of the chapters have the action going back and forth between the past and the exploration, but they flow well and it doesn’t interrupt the pace of reading or understanding. And the headers of each section help, too.

Ballard and Morgan have put together a 250 page book that is not overwhelming and with plenty of great illustrations and photos. And–being it’s National Geographic–fantastic maps to look at. A good map is worth a thousand words or more, and these definitely fit the bill.

The chapters in this book are named for different major sites in the Pacific, in chronological order (Pearl Harbor, Coral Sea, Midway, Guadalcanal, Truk Lagoon, Philippine Sea, Bikini Atoll). We get to trace the American battle route with some basic history and first-hand accounts of men who were there and why, and what happened during the battle to the ships they were on. Then, the chapter goes into what archaeologists have found, and how certain ships (like the Yorktown) have been so elusive over time and what they look like today.

Graveyards of the Pacific comes full circle back to Pearl Harbor and the midget sub-hunt (I’ll leave it to you to read if they found it by the time the book was finished), with some reflections by Ballard.

This one was launched from the I-20 (not the one they’re looking for in the book, but you get the gist). 20A was found off the Oahu coast in 2002…after this book’s initial publication.

For anyone interested in shipwrecks, archaeology, World War II, map enthusiasts, the U.S. Navy, or love the works National Geographic puts out in book form, then I highly recommend this book. It’s a good resource for anyone who wants to get the gist of where the Navy was and when in the Pacific theater (again, those wonderful little maps help–I’m a map nerd, sue me).

Graveyards of the Pacific doesn’t bombard you with hundreds of names and places. It’s a good introductory book if you want to give the basic gist of the events in the Pacific Theater of World War II. I’ll be keeping this one on my shelf, of course–right next to every other Ballard book I’ve got, probably forever.

One thought on “Graveyards of the Pacific: From Pearl Harbor to Bikini Atoll, by R.D. Ballard & M.H. Morgan

  1. GP Cox says:

    I’ve heard of this one, but have not as yet acquired a copy. I’ve always been a big fan of Dr. Ballard, and I research WWII in the Pacific – so it should be a logical choice for my next acquisition. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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