Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Five best books on soldiers at war

Stephen Hunter retired in 2008 as chief film critic of the Washington Post. His most recent novel is I, Sniper (Simon & Schuster, 2009).

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of books about soldiers at war.

One book on the list:
The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors by James D. Hornfischer Bantam, 2004

Water is fine to drink and to bathe in, but beyond that it can be problematic. The ocean, for instance, is cold and wet, and it wants you dead. Thus men who fight on it, under it or above it are a special kind of brave, and none were braver than the members of a ragtag flotilla of destroyers, destroyer escorts and Jeep carriers called "Taffy 3" that faced off in 1944 against a Japanese task force led by the Goliath battleship Yamamoto with its 18-inch guns. As a result of U.S. missteps and Japanese cunning, a few hundred American citizen-sailors aboard ships with more paint than armor, sailed by men who loved duty more than life, faced the job of protecting Gen. Douglas MacArthur's invasion force in the Philippines from a mighty Japanese armada. Rather than wait for obliteration, the pipsqueak Taffy 3 charged the enemy. "The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors," James D. Hornfischer's account of what was called the Battle of Samar, is a splendid historical work that reads like a great novel. That it's true—that the hugely outnumbered and outgunned Americans succeeded in fending off the Japanese—is simply unbelievable. That some of the heroic survivors languished in shark-infested waters for several days is truly enraging. One hopes that these magnificent guys someday get their Spielberg.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue