Book Review

From the Bookshelf

From the Bookshelf

Neptune’s Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal

by James D. Hornfischer 

The Battle of Guadalcanal has long been heralded as a Marine Corps victory and not without reason. Now, with his powerful portrait of the Navy’s sacrifice, James D. Hornfischer tells the full story of the men who fought in destroyers, cruisers, and battleships in the narrow, deadly waters of “Ironbottom Sound.” Here are the seven major naval actions that began in August 1942, a time when the war seemed unwinnable and America fought on a shoestring, with the outcome always in doubt. Hornfischer paints a vivid picture of the officers and enlisted men who opposed the Japanese in America’s hour of need. It is worth noting that despite long a standing Marine view that the Navy abandoned the Marines to their own devices at Guadalcanal, (and one can understand that view) in the end USN KIA (5041) vastly exceeded those of the USMC ashore (1,592). 

It is an honor to once again review a book which tells a story lived by one of our Post 8870 comrades, in this case 101 year old Edgar Shepherd, member of the ship’s company of USS Helena, a key participant in the actions described in this book and lost the year following the Guadalcanal campaign at the battle of Kula Gulf. From the Bookshelf It is an honor to once again review a book which tells a story lived by one of our Post 8870 comrades, in this case 101 year old Edgar Shepherd, member of the ship’s company of USS Helena, a key participant in the actions described in this book and lost the year following the Guadalcanal campaign at the battle of Kula Gulf. 

From the Book Shelf

by Mike Denton 

The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors 

by James D. Hornfischer 

The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors by James D. Hornfischer

By sheer coincidence, your book reviewer read this fine book just before learning of the medal awarded to our own Amos Chapman, who’s ship USS Killen DD-593 took part in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, around which this book is written. (See Amos Chapman Awarded Medal)

Killen and other destroyers and cruisers destroyed much of the Japanese fleet attempting to thwart the landings at Leyte Island as they approached through Surigao Strait. Another group, comprised of escort carriers, destroyers and destroyer escorts, encountered a force of Japanese cruisers, destroyers and battleships, among them, the largest battleship ever built. 

The entire battle, including the Surigao Strait engagement, took place over less than twenty four hours, but the impact of this stand on the part of the United States Navy cannot be overstated. 

From the Bookshelf

by Carl Kurfess 

Tin Can Titans 

Tin Can Titans

The Heroic Men and Ships of World War II’s Most Decorated Navy Destroyer Squadron. By Wukovits, John F. 

This book tells the story of the first of the new Fletcher-class destroyers that joined the Pacific fleet in fall of 1942. They held the line against the Japanese fleet until America’s shipyards produced the new ships that would eventually defeat the Japanese Navy. These first three ships would later be formed into Destroyer Squadron 21 (Desron 21), which became the battle hardened US Naval squadron of World War II. 

The USS O’Bannon (DD 450), the USS Nicholas (DD 449), and the USS Fletcher (DD 445) arrived in the Pacific theater in September 1942 and were immediately put to work escorting ships, patrolling against enemy submarines, bombarding enemy positions on Guadalcanal, and shooting down enemy planes. There was a severe shortage of destroyers and they were in constant demand and were working and fighting almost non-stop. Other new destroyers arrived in 1943 and were also put to work immediately. Over time, some were sunk, others were damaged, but they were constantly in service. 

When Admiral William Halsey selected Desron 21 to lead his victorious ships into Tokyo Bay to accept the Japanese surrender, he chose the most battle-hardened US naval squadron of the war. But it was not the squadron of ships that had accumulated such an inspiring résumé; it was the people serving aboard them who won the battles. This is the story of Desron 21’s heroic sailors whose battle history is the stuff of legend. Through diaries, personal interviews with survivors, and letters written to and by the crew during the war, John Wukovits brings to life the human story of the squadron and its men who bested the Japanese in the Pacific and helped take the war to Tokyo. – King County Library Review. 

From the Bookshelf

by Carl Kurfess

War Animals — The Unsung Heroes of World War II

By Robin L. Hutton 

War Animals -The Unsung Heroes of World War II. By Robin L. Hutton

“Today, war is a high-tech affair. The modern soldier relies on advanced weapons and communications technology as his essential support. But in World War II, soldiers relied on an entirely different kind of support–a kind of support soldiers have used since ancient times. Animals. Dogs, horses, and pigeons became World War II soldiers’ best friends in battle, serving to carry weapons, wounded men, and messages through artillery fire. In War Animals, bestselling author Robin Hutton brings the animal heroes of World War II to vivid life with the heroic true tales of: Famed pigeon G.I. Joe, who saved an Italian village and British troops by flying 20 miles in 20 minutes to carry a message to Allied forces; Chips, a German Shepherd trained as a sentry who attacked an Italian machine gun team, sustaining powder burns and saving his handler’s life; Bing, a paradog who jumped out of a plane on D-Day, landed in a tree, and once on the ground helped his handlers locate the enemy. A heartwarming and sometimes even hilarious history of bonafide heroes of feather and fur, War Animals is a World War II story you’ve never read before.”– Provided by publisher. 

I found this book quite interesting, especially the War Dog part. The US Army used dogs as sentry, scout dogs, sled and pack, mine detection, and messenger dogs. The US Coast Guard used them mainly for sentry duties, and the US Marines used them as scout dogs. Pigeons were used as message carriers, horses and mules were used it the Italian theater, carrying supplies up hills and mountains that vehicles could not traverse. 

The book also covers the British use of animals, especially rescue dogs who located trapped civilians in bombed out buildings from German bombing attacks. This book introduced me to the British People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) Dicken Medal which was awarded to some of these outstanding animals. 

From the Bookshelf “Tin Can Titans”

Tin Can Titans

The Heroic Men and Ships of World War II’s Most Decorated Navy Destroyer Squadron. 

This book tells the story of the first of the new Fletcher-class destroyers that joined the Pacific fleet in fall of 1942. They held the line against the Japanese fleet until America’s shipyards produced the new ships that would eventually defeat the Japanese Navy. These first three ships would later be formed into Destroyer Squadron 21 (Desron 21), which became the battle hardened US Naval squadron of World War II. 

The USS O’Bannon (DD 450), the USS Nicholas (DD 449), and the USS Fletcher (DD 445) arrived in the Pacific theater in September 1942 and were immediately put to work escorting ships, patrolling against enemy submarines, bombarding enemy positions on Guadalcanal, and shooting down enemy planes. There was a severe shortage of destroyers and they were in constant demand and were working and fighting almost nonstop. Other new destroyers arrived in 1943 and were also put to work immediately. Over time, some were sunk, others were damaged, but they were constantly in service. 

When Admiral William Halsey selected Destroyer Squadron 21 (Desron 21) to lead his victorious ships into Tokyo Bay to accept the Japanese surrender, he chose the most battle-hardened US naval squadron of the war. But it was not the squadron of ships that had accumulated such an inspiring résumé; it was the people serving aboard them who won the battles. This is the story of Desron 21’s heroic sailors whose battle history is the stuff of legend. Through diaries, personal interviews with survivors, and letters written to and by the crew during the war, John Wukovits brings to life the human story of the squadron and its men who bested the Japanese in the Pacific and helped take the war to Tokyo. – King County Library Review. 

(ed. note: Later in the Pacific war, the destroyer’s role in the battle of Okinawa was described as “absorbing torpedoes” on behalf of the larger combatants and troopships, resulting in the heaviest Navy casualties of the war.) 

From the Bookshelf

by Mike Denton 

Outlaw Platoon by Sean Parnell

A riveting story of American fighting men, “Outlaw Platoon” is Lieutenant Sean Parnell’s stunning personal account of the legendary U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division’s heroic stand in the mountains of Afghanistan. Acclaimed for its vivid, poignant, and honest recreation of sixteen brutal months of nearly continuous battle in the deadly Hindu Kush, Outlaw Platoon is a Band of Brothers or We Were Soldiers Once and Young for the early 21st century–an action-packed, highly emotional true story of enormous sacrifice and bravery. A magnificent account of heroes, renegades, infidels, and brothers, it stands with Sebastian Junger’s “War” as one of the most important books to yet emerge from the heat, smoke, and fire of America’s War in Afghanistan.

Outlaw Platoon by Sean ParnellThe image at right is the logo Lt. Parnell developed and painted in green on the doors of the platoons vehicles, causing the Taliban to refer to the unit as the “Green Skulls”.

From the Book Shelf

The Unknowns:

The Untold Story of America’s Unknown Soldier and WW I’s Most Decorated Heroes Who Brought Him Home

By Patrick K. O’Donnell 

 The Unknowns:  The Untold Story of America’s Unknown Soldier and WW I’s Most Decorated Heroes Who Brought Him Home  By Patrick K. O’Donnell

One of the most visited tourist sites for anyone visiting Washington, D.C., surely, must be Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Anyone who has viewed the precision of the soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Regiment, “The Old Guard”, who guard the Tomb 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, is humbled by the experience. I have visited the Tomb and observed the ritual of the Changing of the Guard on several occasions but knew nothing regarding the establishment of this National Memorial.

This exhaustively researched book presents readers with a history of the fascinating series of events that led to the creation of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the manner in which one soldier was chosen to “select” the Unknown Soldier, and the heroics of the eight men who were selected to be Bearers and bring their comrade home.

The author provides a brief background regarding America’s entry into the Great War and General John J. Pershing who commanded the American Expeditionary Force (AEF). While the author does question some of Pershing’s decision-making in the conduct of the war, the book’s focus and purpose is directed toward the nine men who figured so prominently in our nation’s Unknown Soldier.

The nine men were personally selected by General Pershing, were all enlisted personnel, and highly decorated soldiers and sailors who demonstrated courage and initiative in the Great War. A chapter is devoted to each of these heroes who fought bravely and suffered grievous wounds in the iconic battles of Belleau Wood, Saint-Mihiel, and the brutal, and, perhaps unnecessary, Meuse-Argonne Offensive. The author provides untold private accounts of these heroic individual’s actions during combat. Most of those men earned the Medal of Honor.

The author describes, in great detail, the military ceremonies that were planned and conducted as the Bearers brought the Unknown Soldier home from the battlefields of France, to his ocean crossing on the USS Olympia, lying in repose in the Capitol Rotunda, and to his final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery. This is a must read to better understand and appreciate one of our nation’s greatest memorials, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

This review was written by Fred Apgar 

From the Bookshelf

by Mike Denton 

Drone Warrior
by Brett Velcovich

 

Drone Warrior by Brett VelicovichThe War on Terrorism has been one of the longest conflicts in American history. Since 2001, U.S. forces have been fighting on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, along with much smaller engagements in places as far-flung as Somalia, Nigeria, the Philippines, and Cameroon.

Drone Warrior is a highly personal memoir that still manages to be almost all action. Readers only get but the briefest glimpse into Velicovich’s prewar life. On 9/11, he was just an ordinary college student at the University of Houston. However, watching and digesting Al-Qaeda’s attack convinced Velicovich that there has to be something more to life than just finding a nice job in corporate America and settling down to a wife and kids. He went to find this other life in the U.S. Army.

Drone Warrior is a captivating portrayal of an American warrior at the very cutting-edge of the War on Terror. It is also the story of a normal man impacted by continuous warfare and the difficulties of conforming to civilian life. warriors.

 

From the Bookshelf

by Mike Denton 

P.T. Deutermann's novel Sentinels of FireP.T. Deutermann’s novel Sentinels of Fire tells the tale of a lone destroyer, part of the Allied invasion forces attacking the island of Okinawa and the Japanese home islands.

By the spring of 1945, the once mighty Japanese fleet has been virtually destroyed, leaving Japan open to invasion. The Japanese react by dispatching hundreds of suicide bombers against the Allied fleet surrounding Okinawa. By mid-May, the Allied fleet is losing a major ship a day to murderous swarms of kamikazes streaming out of Formosa and southern Japan. The radar picket line is the first defense and early warning against these hellish formations, but the Japanese direct special attention to these lone destroyers stationed north and west of Okinawa.

 

Author’s Note: 

“My father was a division commander (Commodore) of destroyers at Okinawa in 1945. I wish I could say that he told me all about it; he did not. He wouldn’t speak of it. It was simply that bad. 

Navy KIA exceeded those of the ground troops in the campaign. Considering the meat-grinder nature of the Okinawa land battle, with hundreds of thousand engaged, that is truly significant. Navy losses were driven by the ferocious Japanese kamikaze assault. I’ve long believed that the Okinawa campaign played a significant part in the decision to drop the atomic bombs on Japan. The Japanese knew they could not hold Okinawa, but were determined to make the Americans bleed for it and perhaps think twice about invading the home islands. I think they succeeded in that.” 

P.T. Deutermann spent twenty-six years in military and government service, including command of the guided missile destroyer USS Tattnall for a three-year tour of duty, which included combat operations off Lebanon.

From the Bookshelf

by Mike Denton

“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”

Make Your Bed by Admiral William H. McRaven

On May 17, 2014, Admiral William H. McRaven addressed the graduating class of the University of Texas at Austin on their Commencement day. Taking inspiration from the university’s slogan, “What starts here changes the world,” he shared the ten principles he learned during Navy Seal training that helped him overcome challenges not only in his training and long Naval career, but also throughout his life. He explained how anyone can use these basic lessons to change themselves-and the world-for the better.

A video of Admiral McRaven’s original speech went viral with over 10 million views. Building on the core tenets laid out in his speech, McRaven now recounts tales from his own life and from those of people he encountered during his military service who dealt with hardship and made tough decisions with determination, compassion, honor, and courage. Told with great humility and optimism, this timeless book provides simple wisdom, practical advice, and words of encouragement that will inspire readers to achieve more, even in life’s darkest moments.

 About the Author 

Admiral William H. McRaven (U.S. Navy Retired) served with great distinction in the Navy. In his thirty-seven years as a Navy SEAL, he commanded at every level. As a Four-Star Admiral, his final assignment was as Commander of all U.S. Special Operations Forces. He is now Chancellor of the University of Texas System.

 

From the Book Shelf

by Mike Denton

Sea Power
The History and Geopolitics of the World’s Oceans

by Admiral James Stavridis (USN Ret’d)

 

Sea Power The History and Geopolitics of the World’s Oceans by Admiral James Stavridis (USN Ret’d)The subtitle of the books tells us a great deal about it’s content, in that Admiral Stavridis examines in great but interesting detail the military/ naval history of every ocean on the planet and the influence of those large bodies of water on ecomomies and politics throughout human history.

Stavridis, the only Naval officer to ever serve as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, spent much of his early career as a Surface Warfare Officer (What we non aviation types think of as the real Navy) in destroyers and cruisers and seems to have taken maximum advantage of the opportunity to cruise the oceans of the world, and acquire a broad sense of how the oceans impact our lives.

Stavridis examines the world ocean by ocean, from the Mediteranean to the Arctic and everything in between. Most of us, I think, know little about the history of the worlds coastal (or “Littoral, a word of which he seems inordinately fond) peoples prior to the voyages of Columbus and the early Portugese explorers, but the Admiral gives us a good look at the early sailors of all of the world’s major civilizations and some not so major.

Other reviewers comments: “…knows his maritime history, but equally important is his firsthand knowledge of the seas. He vividly relates what it felt like as a young naval officer taking a boat through the Panama Canal or the Torres Strait between Australia and New Guinea, and he adds personal authority to his more general points about the different bodies of water…A highly readable, instructive look at the role of the oceans in our civilization, past and present.” Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“Fellow Admiral Jim Stavridis spent nearly four decades as a US Navy Sailor, and is well known as an important geopolitical thinker. In Sea Power both of those attributes come together in creating a must read for anyone seriously thinking about the world’s challenges in the 21st century.” —Admiral Bill McRaven, USN (Ret.), Chancellor, The University of Texas System and former Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command