This account of a disaster at sea during World War II is “a powerful and engrossing story of tragedy, survival, and heroism” (Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down).
In the final days of 1944, Admiral William “Bull” Halsey is the Pacific theater’s most popular and colorful naval hero. After a string of victories, the “Fighting Admiral” and his thirty-thousand-man Third Fleet are charged with protecting General MacArthur’s flank during the invasion of the Philippine island of Mindoro. But in the midst of the landings, Halsey attempts a complicated refueling maneuver—and unwittingly drives his 170 ships into the teeth of a massive typhoon.
Halsey’s men find themselves battling ninety-foot waves and 150 mph winds. Amid the chaos, three ships are sunk and nearly nine hundred sailors and officers are swept into the Philippine Sea. For three days, small bands of survivors battle dehydration, exhaustion, sharks, and the elements, awaiting rescue. It will be up to courageous lieutenant commander Henry Lee Plage to defy orders and sail his tiny destroyer escort, the USS Tabberer, back into the storm to rescue drifting sailors.
Revealing a little-known chapter of WWII history in absorbing detail, this is “a vivid tale of tragedy and gallantry at sea.” (Publishers Weekly).
At the height of the Second World War in 1944, the U.S. Pacific Fleet was struck by a typhoon that sank three destroyers and drowned 800 sailors. Drury (The Rescue Season) and Clavin (Dark Noon: The Final Voyage of the Fishing Boat Pelican) draw on proceedings of a navy board of inquiry and eyewitness recollections to recreate the catastrophe. On the one hand, this is an absorbing if disjointed maritime disaster saga in which shrieking winds and monstrous waves batter warships to pieces. It's also a study in judgment under pressure, as hard-charging Adm. William "Bull" Halsey (motto: "Kill Japs") keeps his fleet positioned in the storm's path because of faulty weather reports, accusations that he improperly left his station during the earlier Battle of Leyte Gulf and general overaggressiveness. Closer to the waterline, the authors contrast the fecklessness of Capt. James Marks of the U.S.S. Hull, which sank, to the steadiness of Capt. Henry Plage of the U.S.S. Tabberer, which braved mountainous seas to rescue survivors. The trumped-up leadership parable is perhaps unfair to Halsey and Marks. Still, the authors make their account a vivid tale of tragedy and gallantry at sea. Photos.
This book opened my eyes to what men went through in the Pacific. It is easy to read and I could not put it down. A well researched, fast paced, nerve racking read. It left me sad and proud.