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Fahey conveys [what] thousands of his fellows have never managed to convey to wives or friends back home: this is what it was like.
Throughout the World War II campaign in the Pacific, an ordinary seaman defied navy regulations by surreptitiously compiling a diary on scraps of paper. One of the most extraordinary personal documents to emerge from the war, James J. Fahey's diary presents a vivid picture of an average sailor's daily life—from the first battle to the typhoons and food shortages to the final desperate attacks by kamikaze pilots and Japanese suicide ships.
Through the long naval campaign in the Pacific, an ordinary seaman defied regulations by surreptitiously compiling a diary on scraps of paper, writing it in secret when no one was looking. What Fahey recorded is a view of the war not found in history books--a vivid picture of an average sailor's daily life from the first taste of battle to the final desperate attacks by kamikaze pilots and Japanese suicide ships.
|Pt. I||The Solomons: October 1942 - May 1944||1|
|Pt. II||The Marianas: May 1944 - August 1944||139|
|Pt. III||U.S.A.: August 1944 - October 1944||203|
|Pt. IV||The Philippines - Mindoro, Luzon, Palawan: October 1944 - June 1945||215|
|Pt. V||Borneo: June 1945 - July 1945||323|
|Pt. VI||China and Japan: July 1945 - December 1945||353|
Posted October 28, 2009
At one point seaman James T. Fahey remembered "I picked up a tin pie plate with a tongue on it." The tongue had belonged to the pilot of a Japanese suicide plane, one of dozens--no, hundreds--blown to pieces over Fahey's light cruiser, U.S.S Montpelier, maybe by Flahey's own quad 40 mm "The deck ran red with blood," a cliche made horrible because it was true. Other sailors collected ribs and knee bones as souvenirs. "The ...bodies were blown into all sorts of pieces."
This was the battle of Leyte Gulf, in the center of the Phillipines, Nov. 27, 1944. It was also the middle of seaman Fahey's war. He left his position driving a garbage truck in 1942, signed up for the navy like his two older brothers,and served on the Montpelier until discharged in December 1945. During his time at war the Montpelier traveled 200,000 miles, bombarded enemy strongholds 53 times, took part in 26 invasions, and fired 100,000 rounds of 5 and 6 inch shells. The concussion from the shells rendered many of the sailors deaf, temporarily or permanently stunned, and a few quite insane, having to be tied down. The men lived in conditions similar to those of the Revolutionary War: Half-starved (often getting one ham sandwich, an apple, and a cookie for a day's rations) sleeping on a roasting hot metal deck because it was even hotter down below, staying in a cramped, scalding hot turret at their guns for days at a time with a bucket for a toilet, remaining awake and scared to death for endless hours, yet eager to join in the next battle.Mail was months in coming, shore leave was walking on a barren beach for an hour with your buddies and two cans of beer. Armament and practice made the Montpeliier the deadliest of weapons. When the men were not in battle they were lugging 130 lb. warheads and ammo sacks on their shoulders from supply ship to cruiser hold, and then were immediately firing the live ammo at sleeve targets pulled by planes or floating targets pulled by boats. The guns--cannon and machine guns--were always firing.
Amazingly, seaman Flahey wrote it all as it happened, or immediately after, on small sheets of paper disguised as letters to family. Diaries were forbidden by the navy, and on pop inspections this sailor hid the illegal sheets inside his shirt. He wrote very small, and very detailed, whenever he had a chance : sometimes daily, sometimes with a gap of weeks. It's all here in this Pacific War Diary: the boredom, the sleeplessness, the rumors, the food, the storms, the battles for Guadalcanal, Corregidor, Saipan, Japan itself, the floating bodies of suicidal civilians--men, women, children--, the endless, endless, endless booming. And in the end, the victory. Sailing into Kobe Bay to free American prisoners, and even walking innocently--if illegally--down Japanese streets immediately after surrender and even visiting Hiroshima.
After meeting a number of Japanese civilians and even visiting Hiroshima, he concluded, "The Japanese people are no different from people in any other part of the world. The people all over the world are good. It's the leaders who are to blame."
This was one hell of a war. This is one hell of a book. Read it.
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Posted March 21, 2010
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