Monday, April 9, 2007

Beneath the Radar

Sometimes a book doesn't get its due, and sometimes it gets lost in the mass of information that flows, especially at Christmastime.

I just finished this book and can tell you it's a story I never knew before. From what I had known about Admiral Halsey, I admired him. My admiration is not lessened after reading this, but my empathy for our WWII naval personnel certainly increased.

I'm going to cheat a bit (I still don't have Internet at home) by using a general piece from the publisher to describe the book, but here's a piece of trivia. Admiral William Halsey was colloquially known as "Bull" - and his personality fit the moniker. But Halsey hated the name. He said he didn't want to acquire such a name simply because a drunken journalist type "u" instead of "i" in a dispatch, but the name, intended or not, stuck.

Halsey and his superior, Adm. Chester Nimitz, were both awarded a fifth star at the conclusion of the war, the first ever awarded.
In December 1944, America's most popular and colorful naval hero, Admiral William "Bull" Halsey, unwittingly sailed his undefeated Pacific Fleet into the teeth of a powerful typhoon. Three destroyers were capsized, sending hundreds of sailors and officers into the raging, shark-infested waters. Over the next sixty hours, small bands of survivors fought seventy-foot waves, exhaustion, and dehydration to await rescue at the hands of the courageous Lt. Com. Henry Lee Plage, who, defying orders, sailed his tiny destroyer escort USS Tabberer through 150-mph winds to reach the lost men. Thanks to documents that have been declassified after sixty years and dozens of first-hand accounts from survivors--including former President Gerald Ford--one of the greatest World War II stories, and a riveting tale of survival at sea, can finally be told.

Halsey's Typhoon by Tom Clavin and Bob Drury
ISBN 9780871139481 November 2006 Atlantic Monthly Press (Hardcover) $25

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