Halsey's Typhoon: The True Story of a Fighting Admiral, an Epic Storm, and an Untold Rescue

Halsey's Typhoon: The True Story of a Fighting Admiral, an Epic Storm, and an Untold Rescue

3.8 50
by Bob Drury, Tom Clavin

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Halsey’s Typhoon is the story of World War II’s most unexpected disaster at sea. 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


Halsey’s Typhoon is the story of World War II’s most unexpected disaster at sea. 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 90-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 at the hands of the courageous lieutenant commander Henry Lee Plage, who, defying orders, sails his tiny destroyer escort, the USS Tabberer, back into the storm to rescue drifting sailors. Halsey’s Typhoon is a gripping true tale of courage and survival against impossible odds—and one of the finest untold World War II sagas of our time.

Editorial Reviews

In December 1944, Admiral William "Bull" Halsey and the U.S. 3rd Fleet confronted an onslaught as relentless and deadly as any Japanese attack. A powerful typhoon, surging with 150 mile-per-hour winds, struck the warships in the deepest, most shark-infested waters of the Pacific. Tossed around like playthings, dozens of ships suffered severe damage; but the fate of three destroyers was even worse. The USS Hull, USS Monaghan, and USS Spence capsized in the 70-foot waves, each trapping its crew in a giant steel coffin. In all, 790 men died. Using recently declassified official documents, Halsey's Typhoon captures the unfolding of this "natural" wartime calamity.
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. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
AGERANGE: Ages 15 to adult.

Admiral William “Bull” Halsey was the very image of a pugnacious hell-for-leather sea warrior, and he personified the desperate naval struggle that finally devastated Imperial Japan’s dream of empire. Yet even as the world was ringing with his fame, two incidents almost destroyed his reputation and threatened him with the humiliation of a court martial. The first of these took place during the epic Battle of Leyte Gulf, when Halsey fell for a Japanese ruse and abruptly abandoned General MacArthur’s invasion of the Philippines in order to chase down and destroy four empty enemy carriers. The battle was won anyway and the invasion succeeded, but very little of this was due to Halsey’s actions. What happened next might have been written by Shakespeare: the chastened admiral, on his way to refurbish his exhausted forces, led his Third Fleet straight into the teeth of the most intense Pacific cyclone of the century. Shrieking winds and mountainous waves smashed into Halsey’s ships, damaging his largest men-of-war and capsizing three destroyers, which were lost with all of their crewmen. The maritime tragedy was later immortalized by Herman Wouk in The Caine Mutiny. The authors have taken this high drama and presented it in a way that will appeal to a generation now far removed from these events. In their narrative the entire climax of the Pacific War comes to life again, the battles meticulously recast and explained in enough detail to satisfy the most astute military scholar, yet with enough excitement to please YA readers. In particular, they have presented all of the evidence of the oncoming storm that was available to Halsey at the time, in all of itscontradictions and uncertainties. Should the Third Fleet continue on its course, or flee? Ultimately the decision came down to Halsey’s own judgment, and the reader is left to decide if it was prudent or flawed from the outset. In all, this is an excellent piece of military reporting, recommended to all YA and adult collections. Reviewer: Raymond Puffer, Ph.D.
March 2008 (Vol. 42, No.2)

Kirkus Reviews
A tale of natural disaster, bad judgment and heroism during World War II. In December 1944, a typhoon overtook a U.S. naval fleet that, under the leadership of Admiral William Halsey, was sailing in the Philippine Sea. The catastrophe was legendary-indeed, some believe it to be the basis for Herman Wouk's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Caine Mutiny. All told, three ships were destroyed, and almost 800 men died. Drawing on recently declassified documents, Drury (The Rescue Season, 2001, etc.) and Clavin (Dark Noon, not reviewed, etc.) recreate the terrifying days during which the crew battled the elements. But this is not just a tale of men against nature. It's also a tale of men for, and against, other men: Lieutenant Commander Henry Lee Plage of the USS Tabberer flouted orders in a daring rescue effort. The most moving scenes come at the end of the book, as the survivors reckon with the fate of their many dead comrades. Sailors on the USS Knapp, having recovered a body so mutilated by sharks that it was unidentifiable, recited a service from the Book of Common Prayer, and committed the body back to the sea. Moments later, another body floated up from the depths-it was Lieutenant Lloyd Rust, and he, miraculously, was still alive. The authors' prose is often vivid: The typhoon created not just waves, but "vertical sheet[s] of ocean," slamming against the ships, and the sun that beat down on men struggling to stay afloat is "a red dahlia." Drury and Clavin have managed to avoid the problems that so often plague books with two authors-jerky breaks in the narrative, chapters cast in radically different voices. Still, the book is marred by weak characterization-even the heroic Plage neverbecomes three-dimensional. The inherent drama of the events compensates for the sometimes lackluster storytelling. Agent: Nat Sobel/Sobel Weber Associates
From the Publisher

“A powerful and engrossing story of tragedy, survival, and heroism.” —Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down

“A taut chronicle of the storm and its survivors, impeccably researched and thrillingly told.” —Men’s Journal

“This book is so good that I kept forgetting I was reading it to ensure accuracy instead of merely reading because it was captivating. What a terrific story. Where did we find such men?” —Captain Michael J. Jacobsen, United States Navy

“If the Beaufort scale were a thrill meter, Halsey’s Typhoon would rate a force 12.” ––Anthony Brandt, National Geographic Adventure

“An impressive, long-overdue account of the U.S. Third Fleet's encounter with a savage typhoon off the Philippines in the autumn of 1944 . . . Entirely gripping . . . A guaranteed hit with maritime buffs.” —Booklist

“A great strength of this book is how the reader is made to feel the tension between logistical necessity and fate in the form of a storm whose path was rendered unpredictable by the imperfect science of the day. The pay off is in the body of the book, a nonstop, teeth-gritting, nonfiction thriller that is made up of eyewitness accounts of nature doing her worst and men doing their best…under horrific circumstances…. Reads at a gallop and is extremely well researched…. Bob Drury and Tom Clavin have done it.” ––Russell Drumm, East Hampton Star

“For more than 60 years, one of the country’s greatest tales of bravery and heroism has gone untold. The story, told in plain language by dozens of men who witnessed or survived the actual tragic events but kept mum for outdated reasons, spent that time gathering dust in a box amid hundreds of thousands of other boxes in a cavernous government warehouse. Until Tom Clavin and Bob Drury found it.” ––Michael Wright, Southampton Press

“Not just a top pick for World War II history holdings, but for general interest collections strong in wartime adventure stories…. An extraordinary account of an extraordinary, little-revealed event which provoked extreme heroism under extreme conditions.” ––Library Bookwatch

“Drury and Clavin’s book could not be better timed, given the renewed interest in the Pacific theatre … and public awareness now of the infighting between and among military and civilian leaders over policies and procedures in Iraq. Halsey’s Typhoon delivers a fine, fact-filled account of the various rivalries and disagreements of the major players…. The book also provides a suspense-laden account of extraordinary endurance and heroic risk that resonates as a contemporary disaster tale…. Easy, engaging and informative reading.” ––Joan Baum, The Independent

“[Halsey’s Typhoon] is not just a top pick for World War II history holdings, but for general-interest collections strong in wartime adventure stories…. An extraordinary account of an extraordinary, little revealed event which provoked extreme heroism under extreme conditions.” ––Internet Bookwatch

“A riveting tale of the fierce storm that capsized three ships, damaged dozens of others and killed 793 sailors.” ––Carol Comegno, Courier-Post (NJ)

“Superb . . . My father flew torpedo bombers off these same carriers in these same waters, perhaps with these same men. Drury and Clavin’s writing is as clever and compelling as it is rich with detail, and for me, my father lived in each line. He once told me that the second most magnificent sight he had ever seen (after my mother on a blind date) was while flying his TBM off Saipan, and being able to see in all directions nothing but the United States Navy steaming toward Japan. I wish he were still alive so I could present him with this magnificent book.” —Gary Kinder, author of Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea

“I thought I was a student of military history, but until I read Halsey’s Typhoon, I had no inkling that such an epic disaster—and an even more epic rescue mission—struck the U.S. Navy in World War II. This is a brilliant book, a rip-roaring read that puts you, sweating with fear, right in the middle of the action. It’s so good, I’ll ignore the fact that the navy guys are the heroes.” —Colonel (Retired) David Hunt, Fox News counterterrorism and military analyst and author of They Just Don’t Get It

“[Halsey’s Typhoon] tells the story of human heroes and human failure in terms of those who lived the ordeal and suffered great loss. The anecdotal aura, supported by scientific, technical, and naval tactical information, places this story in the peerless category with Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors. It is a part of our history that deserves the light of day because of its valuable lessons and the intrepidity of those who came courageously to the rescue of sailors at sea—a tradition that stands at the pinnacle of man’s responsibilities.” —Vice Admiral (Ret.) Edward S. Briggs, United States Navy

“[Halsey’s Typhoon] is a tale of high adventure that was carefully researched by two established writers… Drury and Clavin have done a fine job. Their work has first place on my Christmas gift list for Navy Friends.” ––Colonel (Ret.) Gordon W. Keiser, U.S. Marine Corps, Proceedings

“I couldn't put this great read down. This account of Admiral William 'Bull' Halsey's Pacific Fleet facing a devastating typhoon during WW II has military history, naval operations, suspense, adventure, tragedy, and triumph interwoven in a little-known episode from the war in the Pacific.” —Rich Daley, Pass Christian Books, Pass Christian, MS, Book Sense quote

“With Halsey’s Typhoon, Drury and Clavin have discovered an epic nautical adventure worthy of Joseph Conrad. What’s more, their telling of the story is at once taut, poignant, and evocative. You can smell the blood in the water, but you can’t put it down.” —Mark Kriegel, author of Namath and Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich

“Terrifying . . . This is not just a tale of men against nature. It’s also a tale of men for, and against, other men.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Absorbing . . . A vivid tale of tragedy and gallantry at sea.” —Publishers Weekly

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Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
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Meet the Author

A contributing editor and foreign correspondent for Men’s Health magazine, Bob Drury has reported from numerous war zones. His last book, The Rescue Season, was made into a documentary by the History Channel. Tom Clavin is the author of seven books, including Dark Noon: The Final Voyage of the Fishing Boat Pelican.

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Halsey's Typhoon: The True Story of a Fighting Admiral, an Epic Storm, and an Untold Rescue 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 49 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I read that 'Halseys Typhoon' was 'an untold rescue,' I blanched. Havng read 'Halsey's Typhoons' by Hans Christan Adamsom, Co., USAF (Ret) and George Francois Kosco, Capt. USN (Ret), published i 1967, I was astonished at this claim. 'Halsey's Typhoons' (Yes, there were two of them) is a true first hand account of the rescue. Kosco was an eyewitness. Moreover, the original book contains dramatic photographs of the typhoons and their impact on the ships. Drury and Clavin in 'Halsey's Typhoon' deals with the first of the typhoons, Cobra, and not with the second, Viper. Their map of the the path of Cobra is virtualy the same as the map in the original, only slightly modified. That they have used virtually the same title is unconscionable. Moreover the hero of the rescue, Henry L. Plage is quoted at length in the orginal, so this is not an 'untold rescue' by any means. I do not think that the mere listing of 'Halsy's Typhoon' in the middle of the selected biograpy along with numerous other books, exonerates Drury and Calvin from their responsibility to disclose the extent of their reliance, including paraphrasing, on 'Halsey's Typhoon.' Their publishers should be made aware of this, if they were not aware of it from the outset. What the authors have done is irresponsible.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Halsey's Typhoon is one of a few recently published WWII books. The subtitle is not accurate. The story of Typhoon Cobra has been told many times, in fact, someone WHO WAS ACTUALLY THERE wrote a book titled Halsey's Typhoons (emphasizing plural and singular). Yes, there were two typhoons. Other than this misleading title, there are many other errors throughout the book. The authors have overdone metaphors, as if in a competition to see who could speak the most figuratively. One of the metaphors compares Halsey's destroyers to "Mrs. O'Leary's cows". Really, what does that mean? The authors do not know very much about the seamanship and the navy. I have read many WWII novels and histories and have found many conflicting statements. Firstly, Admiral King was not 'Navy Chief of Staff', the position does not exist. They must have been trying to implement different word choice that distract from the meaning of the story. The authors fail to explain ballasting effectively, probably because they do not understand the process. The two authors refer to the flags flown on the ships as "battle gidurons", which are used by land forces, not the navy. Destroyers are constantly referred to as DDs, and destroyer escorts as DEs. As far as I know, this book isn't a technical manual. It is as if the authors attempted to sound like they knew what they were taking about. Other than the authors obvious lack of basic seamanship and understanding of the navy, the book is very entertaining. The experiences of the sailors and ensigns is quite astounding. They do a very good job at making the story imminent, and are very good at expressing emotion. That is why this book earns three stars. There are many other books out there that accomplish all of the above criteria. I enjoyed reading it but think that anyone with a navy hunch will find the flaws distracting. This is why I recommend Down to the Sea by Bruce Henderson or Battle of the Leyte Gulf.
lorihanson More than 1 year ago
For anybody interested in WWII in the pacific will want to read this. It shows how limited radar was to the pacific fleet in tracking storms and how impossibly long it took to inform the admiral that he was sailing into a disaster. A definite must read.
RWatson28 More than 1 year ago
The book was non-stop action. From the onset of the typhoon, to the rescues and on to the investigation, the drama never stops. The comraderie, compassion and devotion of these men to each other was remarkable. The sacrifices they made and the will to live will astound you. I developed such a connection with the characters that I actually contacted one who was in the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was impressed with this book's readability. The story was told dramatically and with specificity, flowing seamlessly from descriptions of men, ships, winds, and sea, as if written by one rather than two historian-writers.
PSchiefelbein More than 1 year ago
Halsey's Typhoon was quite readable yet full of fascinating information. I appreciated the structure of the book, the quotations heading each section, and the way it handled the difficulties faced by those attempting to define the nature and power of the storm. The book takes a very balanced view of Halsey himself, letting readers make their own decisions as to his competency as a commander. I highly recommend the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a well-written book that keeps your interest throughout. Well-known sailors such as Bull Halsey and lesser-known sailors like future president of the United States, Gerald Ford are key players in this documentary. With wind speeds of 125 knots, barometric pressures as low as 26.30 and frequent knockdowns of sturdy US Navy ships, it was a true testament to the seamanship America has produced. Excellent reading.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the book. Well written. I had a problem with the character assination of the Capt of the Hull. I really didn't think it was necessary but appearently the authors of the book had a score to settle. I was thinking about the family and relatives of this man and how they must have felt reading or hearing about this book. Totally unnecessary.
Anonymous 12 months ago
Awesome book
Sourkraut More than 1 year ago
Having read Sea Cobra by Buckner F. Melton years before Halsey's Typhoon, it was not as good as Sea Cobra. No, Halsey's Typhoon is not an unknown thing, especially by serious historians and by those that love reading books about the sea. One of the issues I had was what happened to the CO of the Hull after he was rescued. I could not  find out what his life after the typhoon was like. Did he get another command? Did he do as well on his new ship? Did he gain the trust of his crew. These are all answers I would have liked to see answered.  I gave it four stars because other than that small issue, Drury and  Clavin weave a strong tale of what happens when nature meets a modern Naval Task Force. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She pads in and looks around. "Hello?"
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BillCA More than 1 year ago
Halsey's Typhoon is the true story of Admiral Halsey's Third Fleet encounter with a super Pacific typhoon, 90-foot waves and 150 knot winds, while enroute to support the allied landings in the Philippines. It is a powerful well written story of courage and ship-handling skill by young naval officers in an attempt to save their ships and crews. The sacrifices made by the sailors on the small ships, destroyers and destroyer escorts, are described in vivid detail. For anyone who has been at sea, this is an absolute must read. Well researched, good character development.
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