The Franklin came to life on 31 January 1944 during her commissioning and soon became a vital warfighting force in the war in the Pacific. As the crew readies the ship for combat operations, the author walks the reader through the experiences of the plank owners—the commissioning crew members. They provide candid recollections of life at sea and first-hand accounts of the dangers associated with carrier operations as they take their ship through her shakedown and combat readiness tests. On 23 June, the Franklin became part of "the most imposing and feared formation in naval history—Vice Admiral Raymond A. Spruance's Fifth Fleet." Then, on Independence Day, the captain brought Big Ben around into the wind and launched her first combat strike of the war.
Springer relates in great detail the tactics, techniques, and procedures the untested pilots of Air Group 13 used in their initial combat mission, against the Bonin Islands—Chichi Jima and Iwo Jima. He illustrates the crew's maturation and growing confidence as they proceed from strike to strike. Later, the carrier was reassigned to Admiral William F. Halsey's Third Fleet in preparation for the "greatest sea and air battle of all time, the Battle of Leyte Gulf, a complex and multifaceted campaign that merged four major air and sea battles over a two-day period."
Tragedy struck the Franklin during the battle in the form of a kamikaze aircraft and its 250-kg bomb. After it slammed into the carrier, both blew up, initiating a chain reaction of exploding ordnance and aviation fuel. Big Ben lost 56 crewmen and 33 aircraft. After five months of deployment with more that 80 percent of that time at sea, the Franklin headed home for repairs, equipment upgrades, and much-needed crew rest.
The author continues weaving oral history accounts with the factual record when he recounts the Franklin 's redeployment into the Pacific on 2 February 1945 with a fresh crew, updated equipment, and Air Group 5. She joined famed Task Force 58 and was positioned just off the coast of mainland Japan—closer than any other U.S. carrier—on 19 March 1945 when she was attacked by a lone Japanese aircraft. This one dropped two armor-piercing bombs; both hit her with devastating results. The author does a brilliant job describing the heroic efforts by the crew to save their ship. With 724 killed and 265 wounded, those remaining rose to the task. Cited as the most heavily damaged aircraft carrier of the war, the Franklin made it to Pearl Harbor and eventually the U.S. East Coast under her own power.
This book is a fitting tribute to the crew members of the Franklin and all the Sailors who fought during World War II.
The Great Naval Game: Britain and Germany in the Age of Empire
Jan Ruger. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2007. 272 pp. Illus. Bib. $95.
Reviewed by Edward J. Sheehy
Naval histories often focus on shot-and-shell narratives. In this relatively brief work, Jan Ruger, a history professor at Birbeck College, University of London, breaks from those to undertake a daunting task. He aims to discuss naval issues and how they affect and are affected by the culture of the times in both Great Britain and Germany in the late 19th to early 20th centuries—in short, "the cult of the navy" in "the imperial age." This exhaustively researched study uses archival materials from a number of countries and an impressive list of primary and secondary sources. Moreover, an aptly chosen series of illustrations nicely supports his presentation.
Ruger suggests that we need to reflect on the role of culture and its many meanings in reference to sea power. Thus he studies reviews, launchings and accompanying speeches, views of the common workers, and the naming of ships. The book reads well and flows logically, building a step-by-step case for an examination of media and messages revolving around the great fleets of the day. His conclusions to various chapters tie major ideas together and provide excellent summaries of the individual projects. His final pages to the section about "The Anglo-German Theatre" are a fine example. Moreover, he makes the salient point that naval matters were not outside the pale of politics, but an integral part of this process. The author's discussion of the role of the media and movies is especially pertinent to the time period. Millions could then view the impact of naval power, and this connection to naval activities seems a rich field for development.
Yet the author's success also underlines the difficulties of providing such an overview in a short presentation. Culture, as he rightly points out, has many currents and swirls to its meaning. Thus while some points seem a bit overemphasized, others simply may need more development. For example, for a variety of reasons, geographic and otherwise, the naming of ships seems common enough for all powers. In addition, speeches at launchings may or may not have intrinsic significance much beyond political motivation.
Ruger admirably weaves discussions of technology and gender into his work, but these points seem to need more detail and examples, if used at all. Thus, he has set a tough task for himself by mentioning and developing perhaps too many points in too few pages. Indeed, some areas need further supporting evidence. In addition, more delineation of the views of leading British admirals of the day might provide helpful context, especially for the general reader.
An example of perhaps trying to do too much can be seen in an epilogue, which in a few pages attempts to cover decades of subsequent history. Developing some of the other themes a bit more instead of including this general overview might have been more useful.
Despite these shortfalls, Ruger has done an admirable job focusing on a neglected area of naval history. The bibliography and notes alone are a rich source of information for the serious student of the period, particularly in naval matters. He opens the door to a hitherto underdeveloped area of study, and this work provides an important addition to students of naval power and historians generally.
The Admiral's Daughter
Julian Stockwin. Ithaca, NY: McBook Press, Inc., 2007. 357 pp. $24.
Reviewed by Commander Tyrone G. Martin, U. S. Navy (Retired)
"Kydd Sea Adventures" is a series of naval historical novels chronicling the career of Thomas Paine Kydd, an impressed man who "comes aft through the hawse" to earn a commission in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars (an occurrence actually repeated several hundred times in that service).
In this eighth installment, half-pay Commander Kydd returns to England early in 1803 to find his service positioning itself for the soon-to-be-announced resumption of war against Napoleon. He received orders to recommission HM brig-sloop Teazer and report to flag officer, Plymouth. That gentleman assigns Kydd to patrol the English coast west of Plymouth to Land's End and the Scilly Isles, to defend against expected French privateers (one of whom may already be operating), assist Englishmen fleeing France before the formal war declaration, and harass the smuggling trade.
Coasting down the contorted shoreline, Kydd learns that the rumored privateer has been given the name "Bloody Jacques" because of depredations already committed, and that he sails in a three-masted lugger. Nosing into every little cove and inlet, the commander eventually discovers his lurking quarry who, after an exciting chase through rock-strewn waters, eventually makes good his escape because he can sail closer to the wind. In any event, he has been cleared off the coast for a while.
On his return to Plymouth for reprovisioning and minor voyage repairs, Kydd is invited to his admiral's gala, where he meets the man's daughter and they are attracted to each other. He soon realizes that if he is to move in her circle he will have to learn quickly the ways of the gentry. At the same time, local gossips begin to bruit about an impending engagement.
Back on patrol, the Teazer again makes a close inspection of the coast's nooks and crannies, and this time calls at some of the small fishing hamlets to learn whatever is to be discovered about local smuggling efforts. In the process of his patrol, Kydd gradually becomes aware that the smugglers are working in some sort of coordinated effort and that they appear to have an overlord. In one of the villages, he also meets a winsome lass to whom he is powerfully attracted and in whom he recognizes social graces more attuned to his experience.
Kydd eventually identifies the smuggler overlord, but when he moves to capture him learns that the man, in fact, is a government agent using smuggling as a cover for his intelligence gathering activities. Shortly thereafter, "Bloody Jacques" is met and defeated in a night battle—and is found not to be a "Jacques" after all. And will the termination of his almost-engagement to his admiral's daughter damage his career?
Author Stockwin tells his story with crispness and clarity. His characters are simply but well-drawn, and events happen at a pace to keep the reader involved. As always, his display of seamanship savvy is one of the best in the genre, and in this outing his descriptions of the topography and sailing conditions of the southwest English coast bear the unmistakable mark of someone who knows the territory intimately.
In the Ruins of Empire: The Japanese Surrender and the Battle for Postwar Asia
Ronald H. Spector. New York: Random House, 2007. 384 pp. Illus. Bib. Notes. $27.95.
Reviewed by Robert Fahs
An indispensable survey of the Allied military occupations that followed the defeat of imperial Japan, Ronald Spector's In the Ruins of Empire joins a growing number of studies that present vivid glimpses of events drawn from previously classified sources on the Pacific war and its aftermath. Relying mainly on Office of Strategic Services (OSS) files that the CIA only began to release in the early 1990s, Spector reveals the ambiguities of governing zones liberated from the Japanese.
Indeed, when Japan surrendered in August 1945, the OSS led other government agencies into the newly liberated areas by offering its own parachute-qualified teams to rescue American POWs held in China, Manchuria, Vietnam, and Laos. Spector begins by reconstructing the efforts of four rescue teams that operated from Xian, China: "Cardinal" in Manchuria, "Duck" on China's Shantung Peninsula, "Magpie" in Peiping (Beijing), and "Eagle" in Korea.
The most poignant vignette is from late August 1945 when the 22-man Eagle team disembarked from a C-47 at Keijo (Seoul) as a Japanese officer "practiced executioner sweeps with his long samurai sword," according to the Office of War Information dispatch cited by the author. With no authority to negotiate surrender terms, Eagle remained under detention for an evening before the delivery of gasoline for their aircraft. The next day, surrounded by tanks and mortars, they departed with no greater accomplishment than an exchange of air force songs and a round of sake with Japanese officers. Thus, although Japan "lost" while Americans and their allies "won" the war, "four million Japanese, many of them armed" remained on the Asian mainland.
Other scholars, including William Duicker in his biography of Ho Chi Minh and Maochun Yu on the OSS in China, have used the declassified OSS materials to provide similarly colorful accounts of their subjects. While Spector joins in their achievement of bringing these documents to light, his current work goes a step further to place events in the broader context of "regional and communal animosities" that complicated the emerging "confrontation between Asian nationalism and Western imperialism" throughout East Asia. Where others plumbed the files to examine one country or specific leaders in detail, Spector offers a unique panorama of distinct situations in Korea, Manchuria (China), the Straits Settlements (Singapore and Malaysia), Vietnam (both Hanoi and what Europeans then called Cochinchina), and Indonesia. By carrying the narrative forward from that precocious landing of Eagle in Keijo through developments across the region, he draws more balanced comparisons and larger lessons than any other researcher yet working with these materials.
Nevertheless, Spector's survey leaves enticing gaps that should inspire further research. For example, who served in the OSS rescue teams and what happened to them after the demise of OSS? My own research indicates that the declassified files contain much more about the formation of these teams than the author tells. Notably, by 1943, special operations recruits began to include Korean-Americans approved by Syngman Rhee, the future president of South Korea. This story and what implications it might have for the subsequent course of American policy in Korea remain beyond the scope of Spector's study. Furthermore, since the OSS files illustrate several continuities between U.S. operations during the war and after 1945, one wonders what if any significance they have for Spector's still-definitive account of the American-Japanese war: Eagle Against the Sun: The American War With Japan (Viking, 1985).
In conclusion, Spector warns that just as Washington policymakers ignored at their peril the precise reports of OSS officers in Vietnam and Lieutenant General John Reed Hodge in Korea, "it remains to be seen whether these patterns of behavior will be repeated in Iraq and Afghanistan." By doing so, he presents the most noble and ambitious variety of history: seeking to teach from the past at a moment when the lessons of experience might yet impose the best possible influence.