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

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

4.4 119
by James D. Hornfischer

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James D. Hornfischer is a writer, literary agent, and former book editor. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Colgate University, he has graduate business and law degrees from the University of Texas at Austin. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and three children.

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Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story of the U.S. Navy's Finest Hour 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 119 reviews.
leeper More than 1 year ago
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.
Bumpa More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
Gator_Sailor More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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 !
PittsburghFrank More than 1 year ago
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.
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.

Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Ellachella More than 1 year ago
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.
Malibu_Stacy More than 1 year ago
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?
Guest More than 1 year ago
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?
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is so good i think i learned so much about ships in World War 2. Great book
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
JethroT More than 1 year ago
The author presents fascinating detail into the life of sailors at all levels during the complex battle. It is unfortunate that the Japanese records do not provide for the same level of detail to explain what was going on aboard the attack ships. So the description is truly the view as if the reader was on board a US ship that reacted to what they saw coming and acted - bravely and effectively.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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sainthelenaislandman More than 1 year ago
A spectacular story of U.S. naval bravery in one of the pivotal battles of WWII.  Mr. Hornfischer is a spectacularly talented researcher and story teller, one of the best ever.  This is a great place to begin one's introduction to an incredible author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An hour by hour - nearly minute by minute - history of the greatest sea battle ever fought. This is the tale not only of the brave sailors of the 'tin cans' (destroyers and destroyer escorts) and the 'jeep carriers' that fought but the Battle off Samar but it also details the other engagements of this famous battle. The main part of the book is, of course, focused on the plight of the ships and their crews that fought for their lives off of Samar. Also included are the struggles to survive in the aftermath of the battle, adrift in the Pacific Ocean. This is a beautifully written tribute to selless courage andbravery in the face of overwhelming odds. As a former USN Sailor myself I stand in awe of what these men accomplished.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This piece of history and the battles as told by people who were there made for a fasnating read.
hawkeye54 More than 1 year ago
The book is an excellent history lesson of a battle that is largely overlooked in WWII naval stories. It is a detailed account where men stood in the face of death, instead of backing down when faced with impossible odds against a vastly superior foe, they chose to attack. And attack with such ferocity that they turned back a force many times stronger than their own. The down side to the book IS the detail. Much research went into telling the tale. The story often times bogged down with "too much information" as the author tried to fit so much of the background into the telling.
Jim73MN More than 1 year ago
Excellent historical read. Recommend this read for all current or past sailors, especially those of us that are/were "tincan sailors."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago