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The Color of War by James Campbell

How One Battle Broke Japan and Another Changed America

The Color of War by James Campbell
  • On sale: January 1, 1970
  • Price: $
  • ISBN: 9780307461216
Contact: Mary Coyne

“A fine account of a little-known milestone in the battle for civil rights.” —  Booklist

“Excellent battle narrative and black history rolled into one.” —  Kirkus Reviews

From acclaimed World War II writer James Campbell comes an incisive account of July 1944, the cataclysmic month of victory over war in the Pacific, and the spark of a whole new struggle on the homefront.

In the pantheon of great World War II conflicts, the battle for Saipan is often forgotten, even though it was “as important to victory over Japan as the Normandy invasion was to victory over Germany,” according to historian Donald Miller. For the Americans, defeating the Japanese came at a high price, and Saipan was war at its absolute grimmest. THE COLOR OF WAR: How One Battle Broke Japan and Another Changed America (Crown, May 15, 2012) is the first ever account of this forgotten story.

On the night of July 17, 1944, as Admirals Ernest King and Chester Nimitz were celebrating the end of the battle for Saipan, the Port Chicago Naval Ammunition Depot, just 35 miles northeast of San Francisco, exploded with a force nearly that of an atomic bomb. The men who died in the blast were predominantly black sailors who had toiled in obscurity, loading munitions ships with ordnance essential to the U.S. victory in Saipan.

Instead of honoring the sacrifice these men made for their country, however, the Navy blamed them for the accident. And when the men of Port Chicago refused to handle ammunition again, the Navy launched the largest mutiny trial in naval history—a trial that attracted the attendance of Thurgood Marshall and foreshadowed the imminent fight for Civil Rights across the country.

By weaving together the dual narratives of this overlooked WWII story with extensive research and first-hand Marine interviews, Campbell paints a gripping picture of July 1944, the explosive month that changed everything. As David Maraniss paralleled the frontlines and the homefront of the Vietnam era in They Marched into Sunlight, James Campbell juxtaposes a victorious and intrepid America with the nation’s deep scars of segregation. THE COLOR OF WAR masterfully captures this critical moment in time, when war was won in the Pacific, but a whole new struggle was born at home.

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JAMES CAMPBELL is the author of The Final Frontiersman and The Ghost Mountain Boys and had written for Outside magazine and many other publications.

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