Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors, by James D. Hornfischer:
Years ago, I heard of the Battle of Samar Bay. It was the ultimate David and Goliath fight. A small group of US Navy ships, alone, outgunned, and all that stood between a massive Japanese battle fleet and US Marines on a beachhead in the invasion of the Philippines. It’s an amazing story, made even more so because every word of it is true.
I’d learned of this battle several years ago, and I remember talking to some friends about it at a break. One woman at our table stopped, looked at me with these big wide eyes and said, “My Father was aboard the U.S.S. Johnston. He was there”.
All I could do was stand up, and salute her and say, “It’s a pleasure to render him honors through his daughter.”
A must read for anyone who follows WWII history.
The First Hero’s, by Craig Nelson
One night during a long deployment (a lot of times I watch youtube videos to pass the time), I stumbled across a lecture Mr. Nelson was giving at the Smithsonian. He’d just written the First Hero’s, and was talking about it. It centered around the Doolittle Raid at the start of WW II, and it started filling in a lot of gaps in my knowledge. I’d read Ted Lawson’s book, Thirty Seconds over Tokyo and between that and a handful of other sources, that pretty well constituted what I knew about that mission.
So I finally broke down and bought the book. It gave me a lot of information I just didn’t know. Some of it was that there was at least some knowledge on the part of the Japanese that the strike was coming (they had a reception committee waiting). That if things hadn’t happened as they did, and if the strike had really gone according to plan, we might easily have lost Hornet and Enterprise right there.
One thing I really liked was he did some follow up to find out what happened to many of the people involved. There story, in many ways, was much more heroic than the mission they flew.
His research is perfect and I now have a lot more understanding of the events around that mission and a deeper appreciation for what they did.
Another highly recommended book for the WW II history buff.
THE LAST OF THE BREED by Louis L’Amour
I hate to say it, but I really haven’t read much of L-Amour. The last book of his I read was way back in the Gulf War, and that was Haunted Mesa (which I also really enjoyed).
Basically it’s the ultimate survival story with the hero, a pilot named Joe Mack inside Russia, fighting to survive in Siberia and to evade capture. Along the way, he encounters people he can call friend as well as more than a few enemies.
While I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I wasn’t crazy about the ending. It was too opened ended. Did Joe and the girl ever meet up again? Did he ever get his revenge? Is there a second book out there that I don’t know about?
Still, a very good read.