Lethal Tides tells the story of the virtually unknown Mary Sears, “the first oceanographer of the Navy,” whose groundbreaking oceanographic research led the U.S. to victory in the Pacific theater during World War II.
In Lethal Tides, Catherine Musemeche weaves together science, biography, and military history in the compelling story of an unsung woman who had a dramatic effect on the U.S. Navy’s success against Japan in WWII, creating an intelligence-gathering juggernaut based on the new science of oceanography.
When World War II began, the U.S. Navy was unprepared to enact its island-hopping strategy to reach Japan. Anticipating tides, planning for coral reefs, and preparing for enemy fire was new ground for them, and with lives at stake it was ground that had to be covered quickly. Mary Sears, a marine biologist, was the untapped talent they turned to, and she along with a team of quirky marine scientists were instrumental in turning the tide of the war in the United States’ favor.
The Sears team analyzed ocean currents, made wave and tide predictions, identified zones of bioluminescence, mapped deep-water levels where submarines could hide and gathered information about the topography and surf conditions surrounding the Pacific islands and Japan. Sears was frequently called upon to make middle-of-the-night calculations for last-minute top-secret landing destinations and boldly predicted optimal landing times and locations for amphibious invasions.
In supplying these crucial details, Sears and her team played a major role in averting catastrophes that plagued earlier amphibious landings, like the disastrous Tarawa, and cleared a path to Okinawa, the last major battle of World War II.
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About the Author
Table of Contents
Part 1 A Nation at War in Two Oceans
Chapter 1 Chasing Plankton on the Eve of the War 5
Chapter 2 Choosing an Unlikely Path 20
Chapter 3 Finding a Mentor Fosters a Career 30
Chapter 4 Smoke Screens and Submarines 42
Chapter 5 Hydro Fights a War 57
Chapter 6 The War Beneath the Sea 77
Chapter 7 A Seat at the Table 85
Chapter 8 The Vast Pacific Ocean 96
Chapter 9 Oceanographers to the Rescue 110
Part 2 The Mission Begins
Chapter 10 Closing the Intelligence Gap 129
Chapter 11 Tarawa 147
Chapter 12 Reversing the Mandate 158
Chapter 13 The Oceanographic Unit Digs In 178
Chapter 14 Narrowing the Path to Victory 198
Chapter 15 Flying Blind in Iwo Jima 215
Chapter 16 Penetrating the Zone of Safety 225
Chapter 17 Closing in on Victory 239
Author's Note and Acknowledgments 259
Photo Insert Credits 293