First, let me start by apologizing. I’ve a stack of books I’m working through, and more reviews will be coming. So, please be patient.
Destroyers have always fascinated me. I remember as a child getting a dollar and going to the drug store on Main Street there in La Jara. The druggist must have liked building plastic models because he always had a large stock of ships, planes, and cars in stock. I’d had my eyes on a model of the U.S.S. O’Bannon – DD-450. I don’t recall if Revell or Lindbergh put the kit out, but I do recall the cover art. It showed the small destroyer churning through the sea. In the background was a hazy island. The ship was in the middle of a whole lot of trouble. Japanese warplanes roared overhead, and shell splashes carpeted the water around the speeding ship. Every gun on the small ship was firing at the attacking aircraft.
I purchased it along with paints, took it home and built it. I painted according to the instructions. Not having space for it, I gave the finished ship to my grandmother and for a very long time it was on her television set.
When I saw the book Tin Can Titans on Amazon, I had to buy it. I opened it and began reading about the real live O’Bannon.
While much of the glory of the naval battles of WW II go to the carriers, it soon becomes obvious it was the small destroyers, called “Tin Cans” by a fair chunk of the navy because of their thin armor, that held the line in the early part of the war. Under-gunned, as compared to the monsters Imperial Japan was fielding, and out-numbered, they often found themselves going muzzle to muzzle against the Imperial Navy ships as if they were 17th century pirates dueling against one another.
The ships the author talks about formed a destroyer squadron called DESRON21. During the early days of the war, they often came in, fueled up, replaced ammo and were right back out to shell Japanese targets, screen transports that were rushing much needed supplies or troops to the islands, and when the sun went down were going toe to toe with the Tokyo Express. Each man and ship were pushed to and beyond the breaking point, but they still held up and did their job.
Wukovits includes personal stories from the men who sailed these ships, excerpts from their logs, and historical data. He weaved it all into a story that was at once informative, pulse pounding, and eye opening.
One thing he did very well was cover the Kamikazes. I’ve seen the films and pictures, seen the the results and what they looked like in documentaries like Battle 360, but I’ve never really felt the sheer terror of it.
But there, on the pages were the descriptions and raw emotions of the men fighting for their lives. they’d watch the planes come in. The combat air patrol would kill a fair number of them. But the rest kept coming, each with a bomb and a man at the controls willing to die. It was the ultimate smart bomb versus the United States Navy, and often all the men could do was pull triggers and pray.
And then the day it all ended. The announcement it was over and men sagging in exhaustion at their posts trying to understand it was all over.
If you’re into WW II naval history, you need to read this book. I walked away with a greater understanding of the events, and appreciation for the sacrifices made by the Greatest Generation.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Like my blog and stories? Check out my novels available on Amazon. I have two out right now, The Cross and the Badge, and Against Flesh and Blood. A third novel, Event Horizon will be coming out soon. Click on the novel names to be taken straight to them.