Ghosts of Honolulu

Ghosts of Honolulu by Mark Harmon and Leon Carroll Jr

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for Ghosts of Honolulu:

Yes, THAT Mark Harmon.

Quick synopsis:

The story of the spying in Hawaii before Pearl Harbor.

Fact for Non-History People:

In 1920, there were 109,000 Japanese immigrants in Hawaii which made up 43% of the total population.

Fact for History Nerds:

2,403 Americans were killed at Pearl Harbor including 49 civilians.

My Take on Ghosts of Honolulu:

I always take a slight pause before picking up a history book which has an actor or pundit listed as a co-author. Luckily, I can confirm that Mark Harmon (from NCIS but more importantly, Summer School) and Leon Carroll do a great job with Ghosts of Honolulu.

The subtitle of the book is a bit misleading. While it sounds like this is a spy vs. spy espionage thriller, this book is more about the shifting fortunes of Japanese Americans on Oahu during World War II. There is the main character of Doug Wada, but he disappears for extensive periods of time in a short book. That said, the book is still a great read, and it covers a lot of ground.

There is one criticism I have which can either be a nitpick or a deal-breaker depending on your adherence to the tenets of non-fiction. There are at least two places in the book where the authors point out they “dramatized” a conversation. This would normally drive me insane, but the authors do have footnotes explaining where the information comes from and that the conversations are not made up from nothing. If you are a casual history reader, you won’t notice and will enjoy the book immensely. For the history nerds who see this as sacrilege (I am usually in this camp), these sections are slight and do not come from nowhere. The footnotes are extensive throughout the book. Quite frankly, the authors should have never bothered as the narrative would have been strong even without the dramatizations.

This is a great, fast-paced, and interesting book for anyone who likes a good story even if you aren’t a full-on history nerd.


A fantastic read for everyone. Buy it here!

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