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The dramatic tale of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet in World War II received little attention prior to the publication of this book in 1982, when Winslow chronicled their short and tragic story of heroism and defeat.
Greatly outnumbered by vastly superior forces, and saddled with defective equipment; a lack of supplies, reinforcements, and air cover; and, towards the end, an incompetent and bungled Allied combined command, the Asiatic fleet met the Japanese head-on. Within a matter of three months, however, the beleaguered ships were totally wiped out.
Captain Walter Winslow, a naval aviator on board the USS Houston, flagship of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet, was in a unique position to tell the riveting story. As an active participant in all the major battles the fleet engaged in, he had an intimate understanding of the calamities that befell it. In addition, he drew upon the his own extensive notes he kept from a POW camp while interviewing other American, British, Dutch, and Australian prisoners from the Allied fleet. Winslow also painstakingly tracked down war documents and battle reports from all the ships assigned to the fleet to paint a complete picture filled with graphic details of the fleet’s only victory at Balikpapan; the disastrous Battle of the Java Sea that broke the back of the combined Asiatic fleet; the ghastly spectacle at Sunda Strait where the Houston struggled to survive; the suspenseful episode in the submarine Perch trapped in the mud at the bottom of the sea; and the daring escape from Corregidor of eighteen
crewmembers from the USS Quail who refused to surrender to the Japanese forces.