NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
"Son, we’re going to Hell."
The navigator of the USS Houston confided these prophetic words to a young officer as he and his captain charted a course into U.S. naval legend. Renowned as FDR’s favorite warship, the cruiser USS Houston was a prize target trapped in the far Pacific after Pearl Harbor. Without hope of reinforcement, her crew faced a superior Japanese force ruthlessly committed to total conquest. It wasn’t a fair fight, but the men of the Houston would wage it to the death.
Hornfischer brings to life the awesome terror of nighttime naval battles that turned decks into strobe-lit slaughterhouses, the deadly rain of fire from Japanese bombers, and the almost superhuman effort of the crew as they miraculously escaped disaster again and again–until their luck ran out during a daring action in Sunda Strait. There, hopelessly outnumbered, the Houston was finally sunk and its survivors taken prisoner. For more than three years their fate would be a mystery to families waiting at home.
In the brutal privation of jungle POW camps dubiously immortalized in such films as The Bridge on the River Kwai, the war continued for the men of the Houston—a life-and-death struggle to survive forced labor, starvation, disease, and psychological torture. Here is the gritty, unvarnished story of the infamous Burma–Thailand Death Railway glamorized by Hollywood, but which in reality mercilessly reduced men to little more than animals, who fought back against their dehumanization with dignity, ingenuity, sabotage, will–power—and the undying faith that their country would prevail.
Using journals and letters, rare historical documents, including testimony from postwar Japanese war crimes tribunals, and the eyewitness accounts of Houston’s survivors, James Hornfischer has crafted an account of human valor so riveting and awe-inspiring, it’s easy to forget that every single word is true.
BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from James D. Hornfischer's Neptune's Inferno.
This engrossing WWII epic by Hornfischer (TheLast Stand of the Tin Can Sailors) recounts the exploits of the Houston, mainstay of the skimpy Allied fleet opposing the Japanese onslaught in the war's early days, until her sinking in a desperate battle with overwhelming Japanese forces in the Java Sea in 1942. This part of the story features a superb evocation of naval combat as the harnessing of immense destructive forces booming eight-inch guns, plunging bombs, stealthy torpedoes by the crew's frenzied yet meticulous choreography. The narrative then shifts gears to follow the Houston's several hundred survivors through Japanese POW camps in Southeast Asia, focusing on the labor camps on the Burma-Thailand railway (glamorized in the movie Bridge on the River Kwai). Shorn of their weapons and confronting starvation, disease and the brutality of Japanese guards, the prisoners cultivated a different kind of heroism, where survival hung on the ability to absorb hardship and humiliation without complaint, and the pilfering of an egg or a can of condensed milk for the dying was the ultimate act of courage. The result is a gripping, well-told memorial to Greatest Generation martyrdom. Photos.