Tin Cans and Greyhounds
The Destroyers that Won Two World Wars
For men on destroyer-class warships during World War I and World War II, battles were waged “against overwhelming odds from which survival could not be expected.” Those were the words Lieutenant Commander Robert Copeland calmly told his crew as their tiny, unarmored destroyer escort rushed toward giant, armored Japanese battleships at the Battle off Samar on October 25, 1944.
This action-packed narrative history of destroyer-class ships brings readers inside the half-inch-thick hulls to meet the men who fired the ships' guns, torpedoes, hedgehogs, and depth charges. Nicknamed "tin cans" or "greyhounds," destroyers were fast escort and attack ships that proved indispensable to America's military victories. Beginning with destroyers' first incarnation as torpedo boats in 1874 and ending with World War II, author Clint Johnson shares the riveting stories of the Destroyer Men who fought from inside a "tin can"—risking death by cannons, bombs, torpedoes, fire, and drowning.
The British invented destroyers, the Japanese improved them, and the Germans failed miserably with them. It was the Americans who perfected destroyers as the best fighting ship in two world wars. Tin Cans & Greyhounds compares the designs of these countries with focus on the old, modified World War I destroyers, and the new and numerous World War II destroyers of the United States.
Tin Cans & Greyhounds details how destroyers fought submarines, escorted convoys, rescued sailors and airmen, downed aircraft, shelled beaches, and attacked armored battleships and cruisers with nothing more than a half-inch of steel separating their crews from the dark waves.
Civil War historian Johnson (A Vast and Fiendish Plot) turns his attention to naval warfare in this enjoyable history of destroyer class warships, which formed the backbone of most 20th-century navies and made immense contributions to victory in WWI and WWII. Drawing primarily on secondary sources, Johnson recounts memorable sea battles in which destroyers played prominent roles. The first part of the book covers the development of destroyer-type warships fast and comparatively easy-to-maneuver naval vessels originally used to protect larger battleships from torpedo boats before WWI, WWI actions, and the advances in destroyers during the interwar years. More than two-thirds of the book is focused on destroyer operations in WWII. Though German, Japanese, British, and American destroyers are all addressed, the major focus of the narrative is on the experiences of U.S. Navy destroyers (such as the USS Leary, the first to be equipped with radar and the first to be sunk by a Gnat torpedo), and the Mediterranean theater is curiously ignored altogether. This work isn't for historians; it's more of a well-written and nontechnical introduction to the subject for readers unfamiliar with naval operations in WWII and in general.
Ok but lost opportunity
Not bad but a very mechanical recitation of facts. Could have developed much more around the crews, their decisions, and their daily lives. Misses the human element.