Halsey's Typhoon is the story of World War II's most unexpected disaster at sea. In the final days of 1944, Admiral William "Bull" Halsey is the Pacific theater's most popular and colorful naval hero. After a string of victories, the "Fighting Admiral" and his thirty-thousand-man Third Fleet are charged with protecting General MacArthur's flank during the invasion of the Philippine island of Mindoro. But in the midst of the landings, Halsey attempts a complicated refueling maneuver and unwittingly drives his 170 ships into the teeth of a massive typhoon. Halsey's men find themselves battling 90-foot waves and 150 mph winds--amid the chaos, three ships are sunk and nearly nine hundred sailors and officers are swept into the Philippine Sea. For three days, small bands of survivors battle dehydration, exhaustion, sharks, and the elements awaiting rescue at the hands of the courageous lieutenant commander Henry Lee Plage, who, defying orders, sails his tiny destroyer escort, the USS Tabberer, back into the storm to rescue drifting sailors. Halsey's Typhoon is a gripping true tale of courage and survival against impossible odds--and one of the finest untold World War II sagas of our time.
At the height of the Second World War in 1944, the U.S. Pacific Fleet was struck by a typhoon that sank three destroyers and drowned 800 sailors. Drury (The Rescue Season) and Clavin (Dark Noon: The Final Voyage of the Fishing Boat Pelican) draw on proceedings of a navy board of inquiry and eyewitness recollections to recreate the catastrophe. On the one hand, this is an absorbing if disjointed maritime disaster saga in which shrieking winds and monstrous waves batter warships to pieces. It's also a study in judgment under pressure, as hard-charging Adm. William "Bull" Halsey (motto: "Kill Japs") keeps his fleet positioned in the storm's path because of faulty weather reports, accusations that he improperly left his station during the earlier Battle of Leyte Gulf and general overaggressiveness. Closer to the waterline, the authors contrast the fecklessness of Capt. James Marks of the U.S.S. Hull, which sank, to the steadiness of Capt. Henry Plage of the U.S.S. Tabberer, which braved mountainous seas to rescue survivors. The trumped-up leadership parable is perhaps unfair to Halsey and Marks. Still, the authors make their account a vivid tale of tragedy and gallantry at sea. Photos. (Jan.)
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November 10, 2007
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