A thrilling narrative of the Battle off Samar, a
two-and-a-half-hour melee in which outgunned American sailors
fended off a Japanese attack that could have stymied the invasion
of the Philippines. In October 1944, with Gen. Douglas MacArthur
preparing to assault the Philippine island of Leyte and choke off
the Japanese empire, the Imperial Fleet formulated a desperate
plan. Aircraft carriers would lure the impulsive Adm. William
Halsey away from Leyte Gulf while two battleship groups fell on
MacArthur's suddenly vulnerable force, including the ships guarding
him. Part of the plan worked to perfection-Halsey dashed off after
the decoy force-and on the morning of October 25, the American
flotilla Taffy 3 awoke to face overwhelming odds. Their five
destroyers and destroyer carriers, or "tin cans," stood against
Japan's four fastest battleships (two being the largest on the
seas), nine cruisers, and fourteen destroyers, the largest group of
surface ships ever put to sea by the Land of the Rising Sun.
Realizing that their own vessels were doomed, the unarmored but
doughty Americans attacked a foe that enjoyed a 10-to-1 advantage
in firepower-sinking or crippling four heavy cruisers, strafing
Japanese gunners with air attacks, even bluffing with "dry runs"
when ammunition ran out. The tin cans held out long enough for
pilots from the two other Taffy groups to turn the tide of battle,
but not before sinking and losing nearly 1,000 men (including more
than 100 to exhaustion and shark attacks). The Japanese were never
able again to mount a serious challenge to the US advance on Tokyo.
Relying on interviews with aging, proud survivors of the flotilla,
Hornfischer expertly conveys the sensory experience of warfare, its
deafening roar and sickening stench, to produce a gripping
minute-by-minute reconstruction of an engagement awful in cost but
awesome in importance. Easily merits pride of place among the
flotilla of books appearing in recent years on "the greatest
generation." (B&w maps) (Kirkus Reviews)
"This will be a fight against overwhelming odds from which survival
cannot be expected. We will do what damage we can."
With these words, Lieutenant Commander Robert W. Copeland addressed
the crew of the destroyer escort USS "Samuel B. Roberts" on the
morning of October 25, 1944, off the Philippine Island of Samar. On
the horizon loomed the mightiest ships of the Japanese navy, a
massive fleet that represented the last hope of a staggering
empire. All that stood between it and Douglas MacArthur's
vulnerable invasion force were the "Roberts" and the other small
ships of a tiny American flotilla poised to charge into history.
In the tradition of the #1 "New York Times" bestseller Flags of Our
Fathers, James D. Hornfischer paints an unprecedented portrait of
the Battle of Samar, a naval engagement unlike any other in U.S.
history--and captures with unforgettable intensity the men, the
strategies, and the sacrifices that turned certain defeat into a
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