Synopses & Reviews
The Twilight Warriors
, winner of the 2011 Samuel Eliot Morison Award for Naval Literature, is the engrossing, page-turning saga of a tightly knit band of naval aviators who are thrust into the final—and most brutal—battle of the Pacific war: Okinawa.
April 1945. The end of World War II finally appears to be nearing. The Third Reich is collapsing in Europe, and the Americans are overpowering the once-mighty Japanese Empire in the Pacific. For a group of young pilots trained in the twilight of the war, the greatest worry is that it will end before they have a chance to face the enemy. They call themselves Tail End Charlies. They fly at the tail end of formations, stand at the tail end of chow lines, and now they are catching the tail end of the war. What they don’t know is that they will be key players in the bloodiest and most difficult of naval battles—not only of World War II but in all of American history.
The Twilight Warriors relives the drama of the world’s last great naval campaign. From the cockpit of a Corsair fighter we gaze down at the Japanese task force racing to destroy the American amphibious force at Okinawa. Through the eyes of the men on the destroyers assigned to picket ship duty, we experience the terror as wave after wave of kamikazes crash into their ships. Standing on the deck of the legendary superbattleship Yamato, we watch Japan’s last hope for victory die in a tableau of gunfire and explosions.
Among the Tail End Charlies are men such as a twenty-two-year-old former art student who grows to manhood on the day of his first mission over Japan and his best friend, a ladies’ man and intrepid fighter pilot whose life abruptly changes when his Corsair goes down off the enemy shore. Another is a young Texan lieutenant who volunteers for the most dangerous flying job in the fleet—intercepting kamikazes at night over the blackened Pacific. Their leader is a charismatic officer who rises to greatness in the crucible of Okinawa. Directing the vast armada of sea, air, and land forces is a cast of brilliant and flawed commanders—from the imperturbable admiral and master of carrier warfare to the controversial soldier assigned to command the land forces.
The fate of the Americans at Okinawa is intertwined with the lives of the “young gods”— the honor-bound Japanese airmen who swarm like killer bees toward the U.S. ships. The kamikazes are dispatched on their deadly one-way missions by a classic samurai warrior who vows that he will follow them to a warrior’s grave.
The ferocity of the Okinawa fighting stuns the world. Before it ends, the long battle will cost more American lives, ships, and aircraft than any naval engagement in U.S. history. More than simply the account of a historic battle, The Twilight Warriors brings to life the human side of an epic conflict. It is the story of young Americans at war in the air and on the sea—and of their enigmatic, fanatically courageous enemy.
Praise for Don Keith's works of military history
“Riveting….[Keith] writes in an engaging you-are-there style calculated to bring the reader to the edge of his seat.”—Mobile Press-Register
“Keith will inform and please both the rank newcomer to the subject and the well-read expert.”—Booklist
“Breathes life into the heroic submarines Pacific saga…gripping.”—John Wukovits, author of American Commando and Eisenhower
Gandt delivers an engrossing, utterly page-turning chronicle of a tightly knit crew of young naval aviators in the epic final--and most brutal--major battle of World War II: Okinawa.
An acclaimed naval historian tells one of the most inspiring sea stories of World War II: the Japanese attack on the American oiler USS Neosho and the gutsy crews struggle for survival as their slowly sinking ship driftedlost, defenseless, and aloneon the treacherous Coral Sea.
In May 1942, Admiral Jack Fletchers Task Force 17 closed in for the wars first major clash with the Japanese Navy. The Neosho, a vitally important tanker capable of holding more than 140,000 barrels of fuel, was ordered away from the impending battle. Minimally armed, she was escorted by a destroyer, the Sims. As the Battle of the Coral Sea raged two hundred miles away, the ships were attacked by Japanese dive bombers. Both crews fought valiantly, but when the smoke cleared, the Sims had slipped beneath the waves, and the Neosho was ablaze and listing badly, severely damaged from seven direct hits and a suicide crash. Scores of sailors were killed or wounded, while hundreds bobbed in shark-infested waters. Fires on board threatened to spark a fatal explosion, and each passing hour brought the ship closer to sinking. It was the beginning of a hellish four-day ordeal as the crew struggled to stay alive and keep their ship afloat, while almost two hundred men in life rafts drifted away without water, food, or shelter. Only four of them would survive to be rescued after nine days.
Working from eyewitness accounts and declassified documents, Keith offers up vivid portraits of Navy heroes: the Neoshos skipper, Captain John Phillips, whose cool, determined leadership earned him a Silver Star; Lieutenant Commander Wilford Hyman, skipper of the Sims, who remained on his vessels bridge throughout the attack and made the ultimate sacrifice to try to save his ship; Seaman Jack Rolston, who pulled oil-soaked survivors out of the water and endured days adrift in an open life raft; and Chief Watertender Oscar Peterson, whose selflessness saved the lives of innumerable shipmates and earned him a posthumous Medal of Honor.
A tale of a ship as tough and resilient as its crew, The Ship That Wouldnt Die captures the indomitable spirit of the American sailorand finally brings to the surface one of the great untold sagas of the Pacific War.
About the Author
ROBERT GANDT is a former naval officer and aviator, international airline pilot, screenwriter, and a military and aviation historian. He is the author of six novels and seven non-fiction books, including Bogeys and Bandits, the definitive work on modern naval aviation, which was adapted for the television series Pensacola: Wings of Gold. He and his wife Anne live in the Spruce Creek Fly-In in Daytona Beach, Florida. You may visit his web site at www.Gandt.com.