Sea of Thunder: Four Commanders and the Last Great Naval Campaign 1941-1945

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Evan Thomas takes us inside the naval war of 1941-1945 in the South Pacific in a way that blends the best of military and cultural history and riveting narrative drama. He follows four men throughout: Admiral William ("Bull") Halsey, the macho, gallant, racist American fleet commander; Admiral Takeo Kurita, the Japanese battleship commander charged with making what was, in essence, a suicidal fleet attack against the American invasion of the Philippines; Admiral Matome Ugaki, a self-styled samurai who was the commander of all kamikazes and himself the last kamikaze of the war; and Commander Ernest Evans, a Cherokee Indian and Annapolis graduate who led his destroyer on the last great charge in the last great naval battle in history.

Sea of Thunder climaxes with the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the biggest naval battle ever fought, over four bloody and harrowing days in October 1944. We see Halsey make an epic blunder just as he reaches for true glory; we see the Japanese navy literally sailing in circles, torn between the desire to die heroically and the exhausted, unacceptable realization that death is futile; we sail with Commander Evans and the men of the USS Johnston into the jaws of the Japanese fleet and exult and suffer with them as they torpedo a cruiser, bluff and confuse the enemy -- and then, their ship sunk, endure fifty horrific hours in shark-infested water.

Thomas, a journalist and historian, traveled to Japan, where he interviewed veterans of the Imperial Japanese Navy who survived the Battle of Leyte Gulf and friends and family of the two Japanese admirals. From new documents and interviews, he was able to piece together and answer mysteries about the Battle of Leyte Gulf that have puzzled historians for decades. He writes with a knowing feel for the clash of cultures.

Sea of Thunder is a taut, fast-paced, suspenseful narrative of the last great naval war, an important contribution to the history of the Second World War.
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About the author

Evan Thomas is the author of The Very Best Men: Four Who Dared: The Early Years of the C.I.A.; Robert Kennedy: His Life; The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst and the Rush to Empire, 1989; Sea of Thunder: The Last Great Naval Command, 1941-1945; and John Paul Jones. His most recent book is Ike’s Bluff: President Eisenhower’s Secret Battle to Save the World.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Simon and Schuster
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Published on
Nov 7, 2006
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Pages
416
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ISBN
9780743298513
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Military / Naval
History / Military / World War II
History / United States / 20th Century
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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“Beautifully researched and masterfully told” (Alex Kershaw, New York Times bestselling author of Escape from the Deep), this is the riveting story of the heroic and tragic US submarine force that helped win World War II in the Pacific.

Focusing on the unique stories of three of the war’s top submarines—Silversides, Drum, and Tang—The War Below vividly re-creates the camaraderie, exhilaration, and fear of the brave volunteers who took the fight to the enemy’s coastline in World War II. Award-winning journalist James Scott recounts incredible feats of courage—from an emergency appendectomy performed with kitchen utensils to sailors’ desperate struggle to escape from a flooded submarine—as well as moments of unimaginable tragedy, including an attack on an unmarked enemy freighter carrying 1,800 American prisoners of war.

The casualty rate among submariners topped that of all other military branches. The war claimed almost one out of every five submarines, and a submarine crewman was six times more likely to die than a sailor onboard a surface ship. But this valorous service accomplished its mission; Silversides, Drum, and Tang sank a combined sixty-two freighters, tankers, and transports. The Japanese were so ravaged from the loss of precious supplies that by the war’s end, pilots resorted to suicidal kamikaze missions and hungry civilians ate sawdust while warships had to drop anchor due to lack of fuel. In retaliation, the Japanese often beat, tortured, and starved captured submariners in the atrocious prisoner of war camps.

Based on more than 100 interviews with submarine veterans and thousands of pages of previously unpublished letters and diaries, The War Below lets readers experience the battle for the Pacific as never before.
Bitter Ocean is a masterful, authoritative account of perhaps the least-known major battle of World War II, the Battle of the Atlantic. British, Canadian, and American air and sea forces fought the German U-boats in this desperate battle, and prevailed -- at a terrible cost.

Between 1939 and 1945, over 36,000 Allied sailors and navy airmen and 36,000 merchant seamen lost their lives in the Atlantic Ocean. They were attempting to deliver the weapons, food, and supplies essential to keeping Britain alive, as well as the supplies vital to the armies fighting in Europe. In addition to the troops themselves, every tank, plane, and bomb crossed the Atlantic aboard ship. As dreadful as the loss of life was for the Allies, the Germans fared even worse. More than 80 percent of German U-boat crewmen never made it home, the highest casualty rate of any branch of the military on either side. Bitterly contested and nearly lost, the Allies' battle for control of the Atlantic shipping lanes remains perhaps the least understood chapter of World War II -- until now.

Drawing on a wealth of archival research as well as interviews with veterans on both sides of the ocean campaign, author and maritime journalist David Fairbank White takes us aboard ship and beneath the waves as he reconstructs this epic clash from both sides. With captivating immediacy, Bitter Ocean evokes the grim years 1940-42 when Admiral Karl Donitz's U-boats -- "tough wolves, stubby, 761 tons of driven, overcharged Nazi attack power" -- succeeded in sinking more tonnage than Allied shipyards could replace. He shows us the technological breakthroughs that reversed the course of the battle in 1943, including improved radar, machines that cracked the German naval code, and very long-range bombers. As the hunters became the hunted, the tide turned, but the German fleet continued to fight despite the increasingly terrible odds.

As he tells the powerful, wrenching stories of individual convoys that suffered from the German submarine attacks, White displays a novelist's flair. Vividly written, Bitter Ocean is scrupulously factual, a triumph of scholarship that will enthrall every student of history.
From the bestselling author of Hero Found comes the incredible true story of one of the greatest military rescues of all time, the 1945 World War II prison camp raid at Los Baños in the Philippines—a tale of daring, courage, and heroism that joins the ranks of Ghost Soldiers, Unbroken, and The Boys of Pointe du Hoc.

In February 1945, as the U.S. victory in the Pacific drew nearer, the Japanese army grew desperate, and its soldiers guarding U.S. and Allied POWs more sadistic. Starved, shot and beaten, many of the 2,146 prisoners of the Los Baños prison camp in the Philippines—most of them American men, women and children—would not survive much longer unless rescued soon.

Deeply concerned about the half-starved and ill-treated prisoners, General Douglas MacArthur assigned to the 11th Airborne Division a dangerous rescue mission deep behind enemy lines that became a deadly race against the clock. The Los Baños raid would become one of the greatest triumphs of that war or any war; hailed years later by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell: “I doubt that any airborne unit in the world will ever be able to rival the Los Baños prison raid. It is the textbook operation for all ages and all armies.”

Combining personal interviews, diaries, correspondence, memoirs, and archival research, Rescue at Los Baños tells the story of a remarkable group of prisoners—whose courage and fortitude helped them overcome hardship, deprivation, and cruelty—and of the young American soldiers and Filipino guerrillas who risked their lives to save them.

“This will be a fight against overwhelming odds from which survival cannot be expected. We will do what damage we can.”

With these words, Lieutenant Commander Robert W. Copeland addressed the crew of the destroyer escort USS Samuel B. Roberts on the morning of October 25, 1944, off the Philippine Island of Samar. On the horizon loomed the mightiest ships of the Japanese navy, a massive fleet that represented the last hope of a staggering empire. All that stood between it and Douglas MacArthur’ s vulnerable invasion force were the Roberts and the other small ships of a tiny American flotilla poised to charge into history.

In the tradition of the #1 New York Times bestseller Flags of Our Fathers, James D. Hornfischer paints an unprecedented portrait of the Battle of Samar, a naval engagement unlike any other in U.S. history—and captures with unforgettable intensity the men, the strategies, and the sacrifices that turned certain defeat into a legendary victory.

BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from James D. Hornfischer's Neptune's Inferno.

Praise for The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors

“One of the finest WWII naval action narratives in recent years, this book follows in the footsteps of Flags of Our Fathers. . . . Exalting American sailors and pilots as they richly deserve. . . . Reads like a very good action novel.”—Publishers Weekly

“Reads as fresh as tomorrow's headlines. . . . Hornfischer's captivating narrative uses previously classified documents to reconstruct the epic battle and eyewitness accounts to bring the officers and sailors to life.”—Texas Monthly

“Hornfischer is a powerful stylist whose explanations are clear as well as memorable. . . . A dire survival-at-sea saga.”—Denver Post

“In The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors, James Hornfischer drops you right into the middle of this raging battle, with 5-inch guns blazing, torpedoes detonating and Navy fliers dive-bombing. . . . The overall story of the battle is one of American guts, glory and heroic sacrifice.”—Omaha World Herald
Includes 6 charts and 20 photos
Pulitzer prize winning author C. Vann Woodward recounts the story of the largest naval battle of all time.
“The Battle for Leyte Gulf was the greatest naval battle of the Second World War and the largest engagement ever fought on the high seas. It was composed of four separate yet closely interrelated actions, each of which involved forces comparable in size with those engaged in any previous battle of the Pacific War. The four battles, two of them fought simultaneously, were joined in three different bodies of water separated by as much as 500 miles. Yet all four were fought between dawn of one day and dusk of the next, and all were waged in the repulse of a single, huge Japanese operation.
“They were guided by a master plan drawn up in Tokyo two months before our landing and known by the code name Sho Plan. It was a bold and complicated plan calling for reckless sacrifice and the use of cleverly conceived diversion. As an afterthought the suicidal Kamikaze campaign was inaugurated in connection with the plan. Altogether the operation was the most desperate attempted by any naval power during the war-and there were moments, several of them in fact, when it seemed to be approaching dangerously near to success.
“Unlike the majority of Pacific naval battles that preceded it, the Battle of Leyte Gulf was not limited to an exchange of air strikes between widely separated carrier forces, although it involved action of that kind. It also included surface and subsurface action between virtually all types of fighting craft from motor torpedo boats to battleships, at ranges varying from point-blank to fifteen miles, with weapons ranging from machine guns to great rifles of 18-inch bore, fired “in anger” by the Japanese for the first time in this battle.”
“A literary tour de force that is destined to become one of the . . . definitive works about the battle for Guadalcanal . . . [James D.] Hornfischer deftly captures the essence of the most pivotal naval campaign of the Pacific war.”—San Antonio Express-News

The Battle of Guadalcanal has long been heralded as a Marine victory. Now, with his powerful portrait of the Navy’s sacrifice, James D. Hornfischer tells for the first time the full story of the men who fought in destroyers, cruisers, and battleships in the narrow, deadly waters of “Ironbottom Sound.” Here, in stunning cinematic detail, are the seven major naval actions that began in August 1942, a time when the war seemed unwinnable and America fought on a shoestring, with the outcome always in doubt. Working from new interviews with survivors, unpublished eyewitness accounts, and newly available documents, Hornfischer paints a vivid picture of the officers and enlisted men who opposed the Japanese in America’s hour of need. The first major work on this subject in almost two decades, Neptune’s Inferno does what all great battle narratives do: It tells the gripping human stories behind the momentous events and critical decisions that altered the course of history and shaped so many lives.

Praise for Neptune’s Inferno

“Vivid and engaging . . . extremely readable, comprehensive and thoroughly researched.”—Ronald Spector, The Wall Street Journal

“Superlative storytelling . . . the masterwork on the long-neglected topic of World War II’s surface ship combat.”—Richard B. Frank, World War II

“The author’s two previous World War II books . . . thrust him into the major leagues of American military history writers. Neptune’s Inferno is solid proof he deserves to be there.”—The Dallas Morning News

“Outstanding . . . The author’s narrative gifts and excellent choice of detail give an almost Homeric quality to the men who met on the sea in steel titans.”—Booklist (starred review)

“Brilliant . . . a compelling narrative of naval combat . . . simply superb.”—The Washington Times



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