Customer Reviews for

The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story of the U.S. Navy's Finest Hour

Average Rating 4.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

Pays tribute to heroes and their sacrifices for us

Anyone who is unsure of whether to get this book should set their reservations aside and grab it now. I have no hidden agenda to hype this book - I just grabbed it off the shelf at the store and struck gold. Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors stands proudly in my library...
Anyone who is unsure of whether to get this book should set their reservations aside and grab it now. I have no hidden agenda to hype this book - I just grabbed it off the shelf at the store and struck gold. Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors stands proudly in my library and holds its own with other great non-fiction books. James Hornfischer didn't just find a great story to tell, he crafted it with a very skillful narration. A writer of non-fiction who can capture a reader and pull him into his story is rare and the author does this very well. He had me cheering as Ernest Evans led the Johnston on the attack against the entire Japanese fleet. He left me horrified by the effects of the pounding that the Tin Cans took and stunned by the heroism and sense of duty of those who manned their posts until the very end. The book gives a nice overview of the Pacific Theater until the point of this battle. Hornfischer clearly explains what has happened so that you can understand the context of the Battle off of Samar. He does this without going too far in depth and losing the reader. The explanations of the development of the Navy and Naval Aviation were clear and concise. I learned quite a bit about the planes that were used and the men who piloted them. The same can be said for his explanations of the different naval vessels and what made them unique. If you like books told from numerous first-person accounts that personalize a story and let you get to know those involved, then this book is for you. It is an honorable salute to those who survived and the heroes who did not.

posted by Anonymous on February 18, 2004

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Most Helpful Critical Review

10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

A wondefull story! Should be read, BUT!!!

The NOOK version does NOT contain the Photo Insert. This is an outrage, I spent nearly the full cost of the book and I did not get inmportant historical material that would have enhanced my enjoyment of this book. I think that really stinks, especially since BN says not...
The NOOK version does NOT contain the Photo Insert. This is an outrage, I spent nearly the full cost of the book and I did not get inmportant historical material that would have enhanced my enjoyment of this book. I think that really stinks, especially since BN says nothing about this omission in their ad for the book. My apologies to the author of this great historical narrative but come on BN, how shoddy.

posted by leeper on June 15, 2012

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  • Posted June 15, 2012

    A wondefull story! Should be read, BUT!!!

    The NOOK version does NOT contain the Photo Insert. This is an outrage, I spent nearly the full cost of the book and I did not get inmportant historical material that would have enhanced my enjoyment of this book. I think that really stinks, especially since BN says nothing about this omission in their ad for the book. My apologies to the author of this great historical narrative but come on BN, how shoddy.

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2004

    Pays tribute to heroes and their sacrifices for us

    Anyone who is unsure of whether to get this book should set their reservations aside and grab it now. I have no hidden agenda to hype this book - I just grabbed it off the shelf at the store and struck gold. Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors stands proudly in my library and holds its own with other great non-fiction books. James Hornfischer didn't just find a great story to tell, he crafted it with a very skillful narration. A writer of non-fiction who can capture a reader and pull him into his story is rare and the author does this very well. He had me cheering as Ernest Evans led the Johnston on the attack against the entire Japanese fleet. He left me horrified by the effects of the pounding that the Tin Cans took and stunned by the heroism and sense of duty of those who manned their posts until the very end. The book gives a nice overview of the Pacific Theater until the point of this battle. Hornfischer clearly explains what has happened so that you can understand the context of the Battle off of Samar. He does this without going too far in depth and losing the reader. The explanations of the development of the Navy and Naval Aviation were clear and concise. I learned quite a bit about the planes that were used and the men who piloted them. The same can be said for his explanations of the different naval vessels and what made them unique. If you like books told from numerous first-person accounts that personalize a story and let you get to know those involved, then this book is for you. It is an honorable salute to those who survived and the heroes who did not.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Coverage of a forgotten episode in American naval History.

    After hearing of this book, I was intensely interested; because, I spent 30 months as an officer aboard the 2nd USS Johnston, a WW-II Gearing class destroyer. The first Johnston was a Fletcher class destroyer which was sunk during heroic action in the Battle off Samar during the larger battle of Leyte Gulf. A synopsis, of the 1st Johnston's role in the action off Samar, was kept in our wardroom. Every officer aboard practically knew it by heart. The captain of the 1st Johnston, Cdr. Earnest Evans, was our idol.

    The book was the most comprehensive treatment of the Battle off Samar that I had ever read. As the author points out, the story of the battle was sort of swept under the rug by high-level naval commanders, mainly because of Adm. Halsey. Indeed, the Battle of Leyte Gulf revealed Halsey as myopic in battle. Like Robert E. Lee, at times Halsey had one tactic, CHARGE! Halsey's focus on, and pursuit of, the Japanese carriers to the north of Leyte could have resulted in the naval equivalent of Lee's disasters at Antietam or Gettysburg. However, in both cases their foes failed to take advantage of vulnerability and failed to deliver the coup de grace. Halsey's butt, and the entire US landing operation at Leyte, was saved by the intrepidity of the destroyermen, the tin can sailors, and airmen of the small US force engaged in the Battle off Samar. This book is important for shedding light on that otherwise forgotten heroic episode in US naval history. It is an episode of which all Americans, the American navy, in particular US navy destroyermen, should be aware and proud.

    Unfortunately, the author was not himself a navy veteran. To such a veteran, the author's occasional misuse of naval terminology is somewhat annoying; e.g., reference to a ship in battle being hit in the "quarterdeck." A ship's quarterdeck is a ceremonial area, the area of access to and egress from the ship in port. It can be located practically anywhere on the main deck or even on the second deck of large ships. So, where was the ship hit? I also found the human interest snippets excessive. I wanted to know who (name optional, rank or rate) did what and when during the battle. Information about families and what individuals did in civilian life I found distracting. There are also a few peripheral historical inaccuracies, which can generally be ignored since the reader's focus should be on the action off Samar.

    I recommend this book. A nonveteran of the navy will probably not be bothered by what annoyed me.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2003

    Naval history at its best - readible, gripping.. an instant military classic.

    Must reading for anyone who likes naval books..and for anyone else for that matter. Extremely well-written by an author who can write a sentence the way an artist paints a picture. Gripping story of courage under fire as small ships defend McArthur vs Japanese giants in key WWII Pacific battle. Demonstrates human side of naval warfare. David vs Goliath where America gets to be David !

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 26, 2010

    This may be the single BEST READ I have ever enjoyed... I felt like I was in the midst of the battle, almost from the very first page, I could taste the oil and feel the flames as I read the book. Talk about totally immersive book-this is it!

    Fast moving, interesting, exciting, stimulating...the list goes on and on of words I would use to describe this fast moving book about one of the most inspiring battles at sea in recent history. Mr. Hornfischer made wrote this story in a manner that made me feel as if I were living the battle...I could hardly put it down...my wife complained that I was "checked out" from the moment I started reading the book...then she picked it up and promptly found herself totally immersed.

    I loved the details, the way the story was told, and the inspiring stories of bravery...in the face of staggering odds...these men were exceptional in every sense of the word and this is a story every man/woman should read...it shows the indominable spirit of the American people...even in the face of totally uneven odds.

    Great book....I wish I could call the author and tell him how much I loved his book....buy this one and enjoy. BUT BEWARE...YOU WON'T WANT TO PUT IT DOWN!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 9, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors

    I just finished this book. Mr. Hornfisher delivers a solid performance. Had to leaf back to the pages that showed each warship and the page with the last map of the battle quite a few times, to see the difference in sizes of the ships, and the exact area the fighting was takiing place. As descriptive as one might expect. The gallantry of each individual sailor and what happens when everyone contributes. The mistakes made by the Japanese commander Kurita, the counter-moves by Ziggy Sprague. With a battle of this magnitude, the little guy did more than hold its own against a mighty Goliath. Both opponents kept thinking they were getting help...which never came. <BR/>Funny, I read his recent book before this (original) one, 'Ship of Ghosts' a year earlier. Hornfisher mentions numerous times about references from 'Tin Can Sailors'. Thank you to my wife for giving me the pleasure of another thrilling journey through the Pacific during WWII.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2008

    READ this book!

    Read this book! This is the best book you will read in the next ten years. It is spectacular, breathtaking, awe-inspiring, and a tribute to the men who staved off an attack by an overwhelming force. Their valor and sacrifice will over come you with sorrow and joy. Their exploits will bring tears to your eyes. Every American should know who the men of the Samuel B. Roberts are and thank them every single day. But this book. Read this book. You will not be disappointed. <BR/><BR/>PW

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2006

    Tale of bravery, valor, loyalty, sacrifice and undying devotion to duty

    You must, must, must read the nonfiction book. It tells the story of one naval battle, fought in the retaking of the Philippines. The Japanese had 23 ships, the largest of which outweighed all of the U.S. ships involved, combined. I have to warn you though, I wept openly and often reading this book. But I am a sucker for tales of bravery, valor, loyalty, sacrifice and undying devotion to duty. According to John Dufresne, fiction is the lie that tells the truth. I've read plenty of stories that tell the truth of these character traits in fictional tales. But I've rarely been as spell bound as I was by this true story.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2012

    Great book!

    This is one of the most touching, inspirational true stories to come out of WW2. I have read my hard copy three times now and will probably read it again this winter. Hornfisher has written a really good book about heroism at its finest. Highly recommened!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2012

    Awesome book

    I read this book from start to finish in one night. Why? Because I could not put it down. It was an effortless read even with all of the details put forth. Do yourself favor and read this book. You will be happy that you did!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 15, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great Gift - for the right person!

    I gave this book to my step father, who served in WWII in the Navy. He was familiar with this subject, and was very pleased with the book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 25, 2010

    Couldn't put it down!

    When my husband deployed to Iraq he left me a big box of his books to help pass the time while he was gone. This was one of his favorites, and it has become one of mine as well. It is such a thrilling, in-depth account that I literally could barely put it down. What need is there to read fiction when real life is full of heroes like this?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2008

    Good story, good reading, good production.

    The best audio book I have listened to because it combines a very good story, very good reading, and very good production. James Hornfischer¿s account of the encounter between a few escort aircraft carriers and their destroyer escorts with major elements of the Japanese Navy amid the larger backdrop of the Battle of Leyte Gulf is very fast paced, interesting, and entertaining. A layman like myself with an interest in naval encounters of the Second World War or the courage and resourcefulness shown in desperate situations will enjoy it. The abridged audio book can be appreciated without constant reference to a map which is very nice since most of us purchase audio books for times during which reading is impractical. It is probably the best read audio book I have heard: Mr. Gardner has a good speaking voice - not too fast, not too slow, good diction, good emphasis to where, quotations begin and end all around very good. He was very pleasant to listen to. It was the best produced audio book I have listened to, especially how the volume levels were so consistent between tracks on the CD. You would think that would always be the case with the same person reading - but it never is, except here. As I listen to the books on the treadmill it was so nice to not have to keep reaching for the volume control! Good story, good reading, good producing. What could be better?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2008

    Yet Another Book for the Greatest Generation

    If you are from The Greatest Generation, this book is for you. It is mostly factual, and liberal use of actual names should make it entertaining for anyone who is closely associated with The G.G. For someone more interested in just history, then you should find a different book.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2006

    a must read!

    While some reviewers pointed out some inaccurracies it should not distract from the fact that this is a factual account (as recalled by the participants)of the events which occurred during one of the greatest and most courageous naval battles fought by the USA. It details the courage and fortitude of the men who fought in WW II and should be an inspiration to the generations which follow.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2004

    every one should read this book

    this book is so good i think i learned so much about ships in World War 2. Great book

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2004

    Incredible, Astonishing, Inspiring--and True

    By Bill Marsano. The Battle of Leyte Gulf, in October of 1944, is still the greatest naval battle in history: Two gigantic armadas, Japanese and American, clashed as the Americans tried to take back the Philippines. Beyond the enormous forces involved, this battle, or series of battles, has other fascinations. For one, it was the last clash of the big-gun navies--battleship to battleship (featuring American battleships resurrected from Pearl Harbor). We shall not see its like again. Two, an American fleet was decoyed, leaving the invasion beaches with little protection. Three, that little protective force thereupon responded with what many consider the finest display of heroism, sacrifice and fighting seamanship in the history of the U.S. Navy. James D. Hornfischer covers all three areas--plus some postwar history, including the reason the Navy has been wary of celebrating what he calls 'the U.S. Navy's Finest Hour. If his prose rarely rises above the workmanlike, that's OK, because it seldom sinks to cheap melodrama and also (so far as I can tell) avoids the kind of amateurish mistakes and ignorant howlers that marred the likes of Craig Nelson's 'The First Heroes.' Indeed, Hornfischer does an excellent job of conveying the WWII naval milieu, probably because (despite his evident youth and lack of naval background, he's done real research and a lot of fresh interviewing. We come to know there are human beings involved; this is not just a tale about sheet metal and shellfire. That means we are powerfully affected when he talks about the cost. He does not shrink from the terrible sufferings and horrible deaths involved, whether from scalding steam or explosions or fires in battle--or from delerium, exposure and sharks during an aftermath of long-delayed rescue. The center of this story comes after the battleship duel (a disaster for the Japanese): When the decoy succeeds, Japan's powerful Center Force is left free to swoop into Leyte Gulf and destroy Gen. Douglas MacArthur's invasion force on the beach. Standing in the way (and utterly unaware) is Taffy 3, whose job is simply air support for the troops. It's hard to express the imbalance between the two forces, which is so great it makes David vs. Goliath resemble a sporting proposition. The Japanese have 11 destroyers, 2 light cruisers, 6 heavy cruisers and 4 battleships (the largest of which, the Yamato, outweighs all of Taffy 3's ships combined). Taffy 3's excellent Fletcher-class destroyers are, as Hornfischer aptly notes, its only ships 'not conceived as lesser versions of a more capable vessel.' Taffy 3's 6 aircraft carriers, for example, are mere escort or 'jeep' carriers (never intended for fleet actions). Its remaining ships are 4 of the frankly desperate 'destroyer escorts,' mainly intended for antisubmarine work. The clash of these forces makes for exciting reading; as a Hollywood script it would be laughed out of town as outrageous fiction, but it is in fact true and inspiring. It would be unfair to the book to go into details here, but I should add that Hornfischer is particularly good on the ship-by-ship tactical end. Too many other accounts have focused excessively on Japanese confusion: While that did weigh in the balance, it's also clear that in some cases David simply outfought Goliath--and out-thought him, too.--Bill Marsano is a long-time amateur of naval history.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2014

    Grimm

    A grim obviosly. Big black dog red eyes calm. Has half human form

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  • Posted August 30, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Military history doesn't get any more readable than this!

    Outstanding work. Well-earned recognition of the veterans and events of this epic naval engagement; impressively researched, crafted, and re-told in the words of many of the participants. I cannot recommend this highly enough!

    THEN...after you are done reading this most excellent chronicle, I strongly suggest you go read the sci-fi/alternate history novel "Into the Storm", by Taylor Anderson. A meticulous and detailed novel, it (along with the entire Destroyermen series that follows) does superb justice to this class of ship - and their crews. You will also recognize a great many names from this book and time in history, that are well-and-truly honored by Taylor. In fact, The Destroyermen has become my all-time favorite series. Together, Hornfischer's book and Taylor's collected works have given me even greater respect for those that served on 'tin cans'.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2013

    I am truly grateful for the men who served on the "tin cans

    I am truly grateful for the men who served on the &quot;tin cans&quot; in world war 2. I too served on a destroyer many years later during and after the &quot;cuban crisis&quot;. This book describes it all in great detail. Navy men would appreciate the details of this book and the men who served aboard these ships. A Truly &quot;Great Read&quot;.

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