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

3.7 19
by Bob Drury, Tom Clavin

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A gripping true account of courage and survival at sea against impossible odds, and one of the finest untold World War II sagas of our time.


A gripping true account of courage and survival at sea 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

Product Details

Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

ERIC CONGER has voiced over 150 fiction and nonfiction audiobooks. A graduate of Wesleyan University and the University of Paris, he also works as a writer and playwright (The Eclectic Society. He lives in Weehawken, New Jersey, with his wife, Gayle, and two children.

A contributing editor and foreign correspondent for Men’s Health magazine, BOB DRURY has reported from numerous war zones. His book The Rescue Season, was made into a documentary by the History Channel.

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Halsey's Typhoon: The True Story of a Fighting Admiral, an Epic Storm, and an Untold Rescue 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 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
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.
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ICman More than 1 year ago
While efforts were made to keep the book unbiased and balanced, Halsey still is held up as some kind of faultless leader. The authors tend to excuse Halesy's errors because he got bad advice. They never explain why several junior officers were able to identified the approaching typhoon from their personal observations when the Admiral relying on his weather men was not. Could it have been that the Admiral safe on his stable battleship did not have the same concern and respect for the sea that the men on smaller ships had. I am happy that I read the book and got another view of the terrible loss of ships and men. For a different slant on the incident, I recommend Bruce Henderson's "Down To The Sea".
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Although I enjoyed the book relatively well, my biggest complaint was how it jumped back and forth. The authors also continually used the same tired phrases over and over. More maps would have certainly been helpful and possibly some diagrams of the ships that they constantly referred to. Parts of the book were very difficult to visualize. I also found it disconcerting when they threw in references to vague terms and words. It was like they were trying to impress the reader with the breadth of their vocabulary. Rather, I found this technique distracting and confusing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As others have pointed out this is hardly an untold story. Aside from the two typo mistakes by page 17 my complaint is with the authors continuely refering to 'Mae West' life preservers as old and replaced by 'Newer' kapot life preservers. The kapot was the standard Navy issue until sometime after WWII. I believe the Mae West was not only newer than the kapot life preserver but was issued to air crews not as standard surface ship issue. If the authors can't get this simle fact right (they keep repeating it), what else couldn't they get right?
Guest More than 1 year ago
Imagine the nightmare: You¿re on a small ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and a typhoon of biblical proportions has you locked in its embrace. Worse. As a member of the U.S. Navy¿serving in wartime¿you have orders to continue riding right into the teeth of that storm, and then hold course. Halsey¿s Typhoon, the new book by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin, is for anyone who thinks they¿ve heard all they care to about ¿perfect storms,¿ the heroism of the ¿Greatest Generation¿ and what it¿s like to bob about in the sea as so much shark bait. Yes, at first glance, we¿ve been there before. Well, forget that, and go buy this book. You¿ll be captivated from the first page, and you¿ll find new definition for all of the above. With the driving narrative of a great novel¿think Melville, Conrad and yes, even Homer¿and a cast of finely etched characters who served both extraordinarily well, and in some cases, very badly, Halsey¿s Typhoon deserves a special place on the shelf of history, both military and human. Not only is this book about a storm that rivaled anything the Japanese could inflict on the American navy¿the men lost at sea eventually totaled nearly as many as the casualties at the Battle of Midway and the Coral Sea combined¿but it is also a never-before told tale about one of World War II¿s most tragic and fascinating episodes. The wind blew so hard, the authors tell us, that it sandblasted paint from ships, chipped off men¿s skin, and burst the capillaries in their eyes. Once in the water, sailors bodysurfed on 90-foot waves, or drowned in total darkness. Some swallowed seawater and became delusional. One man, diving from a life raft into a school of sharks, thought he was visiting an uncle¿s farm, while others heard the voices of mermaids. Towering over the chaos and death, were men like the ¿hatchet-browed Halsey,¿ an Admiral who inspired the sort of fervent loyalty once accorded to Drake or Nelson. But standing right alongside him in both courage and seamanship was the relatively inexperienced Henry Plage, a captain who disobeyed orders and swung his heavily-damaged, tiny destroyer escort back into the path of the storm, rescuing dozens of men. Some 60 years after the events depicted in this book, Halsey¿s Typhoon gives fresh insight into a unique moment in the last, great world conflict. Above the fury of the wind, Drury and Clavin provide sure hands on the helm, and finally give the men who both perished and survived this disaster their everlasting due.