Imagine being the captain of a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Pacific during World War II. Your ship is called a “tin can” because of its lack of armor and 5” guns are the largest guns available to you and the other destroyers in your unit. Now imagine sailing into battle against the major Japanese surface fleet: four battleships (including the heaviest battleship ever built with the largest guns ever put on a warship), eight cruisers, and eleven destroyers. Fiction? Nope. This is what happened in the action off Samar during the battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944, and it’s the story Pete Deutermann tells in Pacific Glory, a novel featuring a U.S. Navy destroyer captain and a U.S. Navy pilot flying off an escort carrier into the battle.
I started reading Pete Deutermann novels after either his first or second novel in the mid-1990’s and would read his grocery list if he were to publish it. He’s now written about 18 novels, many of which are military and/or political thrillers. But several of his books, including Pacific Glory, are novels set in World War II. Deutermann is a retired Navy destroyer captain (and his father was a destroyer division commander in the Pacific in World War II), so I have every confidence while reading his World War II Navy novels that the technical aspects of the book are spot on.
Most discussions of the battle of Leyte Gulf tend to focus on Halsey’s actions in abandoning the San Bernardino Straits, a debate with which Deutermann is quite familiar. But a lesser-known — far more heroic — story from Leyte Gulf is the action off Samar. Deutermann wrote this book because he always wondered what he himself would have done as a destroyer captain in Taffy 3, the small U.S. task unit — seven destroyers and destroyer escorts and six escort carriers — that took on the biggest firepower in the Japanese fleet. Note: one interesting feature on Deutermann’s website (www.ptdeutermann.com) are photos of the ships/classes of ships discussed in the novel.
Review Submitted by: Mary Hall
Rating: Highly Recommended