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In early December 1941 in the Philippines, a young Navy ensign named Kemp Tolley was given his first ship command, an old 76-foot schooner that had once served as a movie prop in John Ford's "The Hurricane." Crewed mostly by Filipinos who did not speak English and armed with a cannon that had last seen service in the Spanish-American War, the Lanikai was under top-secret presidential orders to sail south into waters where the Japanese fleet was thought to be. Ostensibly the crew was to spy on Japanese naval movements, but to Tolley it was clear that their mission was to create an incident that would provoke war.
Events overtook the plan, however, when Pearl Harbor was bombed before the Lanikai could get underway. When Bataan and Corregidor fell, she was ordered to set sail for Australia and became one of the few U.S. naval vessels to escape the Philippines. In this book Tolley tells the saga of her great adventure during these grim, early days of the war and makes history come alive as he regales the reader with details of the operation and an explanation of President Roosevelt's order. Tolley's description of their escape in Japanese warship-infested waters ranks with the best of sea tales, and few will be able to forget the Lanikai's 4,000-mile, three-month odyssey.
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Unbelievable that this book has not acquired anything approaching the attention it deserves. Written by a Navy Admiral who rose all the way to the top, and who also skippered the boat, this strange Navy boat, on her sad and gallant 'cruise,' it makes the case, irrefutably as far as I can tell, that Roosevelt either devised or personally consented to a plan by advisers to provoke a Japanese attack that would in turn provide the popular support for a declaration of war against Japan. The author, who writes very well, was and remained in Intelligence for most of his career, and spent years trying to learn the reason why he and the Lanikai were sent on their odd mission. It wasn't until he reached flag rank that he at last gained access to the records he needed. Among other things, he learned that the Lanikai was the third small vessel to be sent on the same mission. The ostensible purpose was to sail from the Philippines to a position off the French Indochina coast, and monitor Japanese shipping. As a young intelligence officer, he already knew the Navy was running PBY's over the area for the same reason, and there was no way a surface vessel could provide anything the PBY's wouldn't see first.This was what turned out to be only a week or so before Pearl Harbor, which was attacked before they reached Indochina, and were recalled. The more salient documents of his research are included in the book. This book changes history, and nobody is looking. Get it.