Monday, February 18, 2019
Books: "Tin Cans & Greyhounds," A Story Of American Heroism
Tin Cans & Greyhounds: The Destroyers That Won Two World Wars
By Clint Johnson
Regnery History; hardcover; $29.99, available Tuesday, February 19
The battles fought by Destroyer Men were often fought "against overwhelming odds from which survival could not be expected."
This is what Lieutenant Commander Robert Copeland calmly told his crew while their tiny, unarmored destroyer escort rushed toward giant, armored Japanese battleships at the Battle of Samar on October 25, 1944.
Destroyers, nicknamed “tin cans” or “greyhounds,” were quick naval ships used to defend larger battleships, and they proved to be indispensable in America’s military victories.
Author Clint Johnson's new book, Tin Cans and Greyhounds, brings readers inside the quarter-inch hulls of destroyers to meet the men who manned the ships’ five-inch guns and fought America’s wars from inside a “tin can”—risking death by cannon shell, shrapnel, bomb, fire, drowning, exposure, and sharks.
This action-packed narrative history of destroyer-class ships begins with destroyers’ first incarnation as torpedo boats in 1898 through the last true combat service of the ships in the Vietnam War.
"I may deploy a bold argument in this book, but I'll guess tens of thousands of Destroyer Men would agree with me," Johnson writes.
"Destroyers played the major role in fighting both world wars.
"Yes, soldiers of all nations fought each other face to face. Airmen were the most likely to die in combat, falling from the skies due to machine gun and cannon fire, ground anti-aircraft artillery, weather, and mechanical failures. Sailors braved the dark, unforgiving ocean from the single coxswain on a landing craft to the admiral on a battleship commanding tens of thousands of men in hundreds of ships.
"But I think all of them depended on Destroyer Men."
"It was destroyers that escorted the convoys which successfully supplied troops on battlefields in both world wars. It was destroyers that sank the submarines stalking the convoys. It was destroyers that rushed in to rescue men from sinking ships. And it was destroyers that scraped their keels on the ocean's sandy bottom to provide bombardment support for beach landings of the soldiers who would fight the land war.
"This book started when I stumbled on the stories of the USS Jacob Jones (DD-61), the only U.S. warship lost in World War I, and the USS Jacob Jones (DD-130), the only U.S. warship lost in American mainland waters in World War II. The coincidences in the stories of their sinking struck me as intriguing, but I soon realized that there was not enough there for an entire book.
"Researching those two ships showed me there was no general history of the development of the destroyer classes that spanned both world wars. I wanted to learn more about the destroyers of the principal warring nations of the United States, Great Britain, Germany, and Japan.
"I was surprises at some of the things I found.
"Great Britain essentially invented the destroyer in the 1870s and thought it would rule the waves. But it was Japan that sobered the rest of the world just thirty years later when its British-built and home-built destroyers played a major role in sinking much of the supposedly superior Russian fleet.
"Had America not sent dozens of destroyers to a tiny Irish coastal town in May 1917, Germany might have defeated Great Britain before the end of the year.
"While Germany had the technological ability to build the V-1 and V-2 rockets, it invested little toward discerning good destroyers.
"Readers know the German Enigma machine codes were broken, but may not know that a handful of British Destroyer Men risked their lives, and some died, in capturing the machines and codebooks.
"Japan's most historic destroyer did not win any battles for its own country, but it played the major role in the most important American naval victory of the war.
"Had it not been for the dogged determination of United States Destroyer Men, Guadalcanal might have stayed in Japanese hands in 1942 and the U.S. invasion fleet off the Philippines in 1944 might have been destroyed."
Tin Cans & Greyhounds is one of the most detailed histories on America's wars that you will ever read, a story of heroism that will keep you on the edge of your seat.