The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors by James Hornfischer

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The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors by James Hornfischer

Unread post by pfclt » Sun May 04, 2014 5:28 pm

This book tells part of the story of the battle of Leyte Gulf. This account focuses mostly on the taffy 3 (tin cans) destroyers. This is an amazing story of the leaders and men of those ships as well as the Taffy 3 contingent’s encounter with the center force. The book does not lose sight of the overall story either and gives a good account of the Southern Japanese encounter. He also informs us of the overall battle strategy, role of all the characters without glossing over say Halsey’s mistake. And like all history there are the what ifs.

In documentaries I have seen - they have left me with the impression that Kurita’s withdrawal was a mistake in leadership and if he had pressed the attack that something more would have been attained by or for the Japanese. This book leaves me with the impression that it more than likely would have resulted in nearly if not a complete destruction of the remaining Japanese forces with little more accomplished - this can be attributed to the delay imposed by the destroyers of Taffy 3 as well as the pilots involved initially Taffy 3's then more and more from Taffy 1 and 2 and land units. Kurita was sustaining losses from the air with every American sortie and they were increasing continually with the air offensive becoming more and more organized. Documentaries also have left me with the impression that there were no anti-ship aerial weaponry available but that was only during the initial encounter. Another picture I have taken away from most caricatures of the Japanese and one most servicemen had at the time is that all Japanese were heartless mechanical killers. At least some of the Japanese leaders depicted here are portrayed with humanity. Sailors are different and fight a different way than land soldiers.

Like many history books it gives an introduction to the men, materials, training and development, the leaders and the history leading up to the main story. This is the best War History book I think I have read. Having said that I think there are a few reasons I feel that beyond that fact that it’s a history book. One - I read little to nothing on the naval aspect of war and therefore an introduction to a lot of new and different information I have limited knowledge about. Two -the description of the battle encounters read like a novel – exciting and yet appalling - a shear sense of awe at the savagery and human element in dealing with it. The bravery as an unreal reality – one I am glad I will never experience. Three - there is a family history of the sea - yet I have always been more attracted to the land? There are probably more reasons but I will never think of a destroyer at the end of WWII as just a mere screening ship - their performance here is awe inspiring and the story and history here is well worth reading!!

Losses - The Battle of Leyte Gulf:

Japanese losses: 4 aircraft carriers, 3 battleships, 8 cruisers, and 12 destroyers, as well as 10,000+ killed
Allied losses: were1,500 killed -- one light carrier, and from Taffy 3 - 2 escort carriers, 2 destroyers, 1 destroyer escort sunk
Aircraft losses: I think heavily Japanese. But as cited here there were 400 planes destroyed without saying who lost what but here it says the Japanese lost several hundred - I don't know what that means but at this point in the war the Japanese were losing heavily in every use of its aircraft.

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