Nightmare in the Pacific

The World War II Saga of Artie Shaw and His Navy Band

978-1-57441-946-7 Cloth
6 x 9 x 0 in
288 pp. 25 b&w illus. Map. Notes.
Pub Date: 10/15/2024
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Artie Shaw took his clarinet to war, abandoning civilian celebrity to lead World War II’s most colorful navy band on an island-hopping odyssey that raised military morale but brought him into dark waters.

Nightmare in the Pacific: The World War II Saga of Artie Shaw and His Navy Band recounts the offbeat wartime adventures of the bandleader and the musicians he recruited for the hard-swinging outfit popularly dubbed Shaw’s Rangers. This team of all-stars, seasoned pros, and promising up-and-comers were unmatched musically though never exactly squared away.

The group’s eleven-month overseas deployment started with an extended stay as a house band at a Pearl Harbor club for enlisted men. The cushy gig turned serious when Shaw’s Rangers shipped out on a battleship for the far reaches of New Caledonia, the New Hebrides, and, most fatefully, Guadalcanal. It was there that the musicians would come under fire and Shaw’s own indomitable will would crack. But then, in an unexpected and poignant coda, the band that Artie Shaw conjured into existence would reach its musical peak once he was out of the picture.

Tapping a trove of navy personnel files, medical records, court documents and archival materials, as well as contemporary accounts, Nightmare in the Pacific combines musical and military history into one unique saga.

Published by University of North Texas Press