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A Dawn Like Thunder: The True Story Of Torpedo Squadron Eight (2008)

A Dawn Like Thunder: The True Story of Torpedo Squadron Eight (2008)

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4.22 of 5 Votes: 1
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0316021393 (ISBN13: 9780316021395)
little, brown and company

About book A Dawn Like Thunder: The True Story Of Torpedo Squadron Eight (2008)

"A Dawn Like Thunder" is about one of my favorite historical subjects, the Battle of Midway during WWII. These are the facts as history had taught me. On 4 June 1942, just five months and change after Pearl Harbor the Japanese made an attempt to take Midway Island in a gambit to draw out and destroy the American fleet. When the Japanese fleet, including four aircraft carriers, arrived in the vicinity of Midway the United States fleet was waiting in ambush. As Japanese bombers attacked the island several Midway based aircraft, including several US Army aircraft and a detachment of six TBF Avenger torpedo planes from Torpedo Squadron 8 were sent to attack the Japanese but failed to get a single hit on the Japanese ships. The army planes returned to Midway but all of the Torpedo planes were shot down but one, a bullet ridden Avenger flown by Albert "Bert" Earnest. Meanwhile, the USS carriers Enterprise, Hornet and Yorktown launched their air groups consisting fighters, torpedo planes and dive bombers, against the massive Japanese fleet. The US torpedo planes, all obsolete slow moving TBD Devastators, found the Japanese first and, in the ensuing attacks, nearly all of the US torpedo planes, 37 of 41, from the three carriers were shot down. It was a slaughter. The USS Hornet's Torpedo Squadron 8, led by John C. Waldron, went in first and alone, without fighter protection. If there is an American "Charge of the Light Brigade" this was it. Everyone of the attacking planes of Torpedo 8 was shot down. Only one man, George Gay, who floated in the midst of the Japanese fleet, using a seat cushion from his plane to hide from the Japanese, lived to tell about it. The sacrifice of Torpedo 8 was not in vain. The Japanese commander, in the middle of arming his planes with bombs for a second attack on Midway Island, realized that the newest attack had to have come from US carriers, and ordered his own planes to switch from bombs to torpedoes. All of that live ordinance covered the decks of the Japanese carriers as the US dive bombers, unimpeded by Japanese fighters which were still wiping out the remainder of the US torpedo planes, arrived and dropped their payloads on the decks of the Japanese carriers. The resulting conflagration, increased by the explosions of Japanese bombs and torpedoes spread about the decks, sank three Japanese carriers. Later the fourth Japanese carrier and the USS Yorktown would join them on the bottom. It was the first great American victory against the Japanese and a set back for the latter from which they would never recover. It was the turning point in the war. Those were the facts but not the entire story.In "A Dawn Like Thunder" Robert J. Mrazek carefully explains what really happened to Torpedo 8. Oh, the heroism and the facts of the attack were found to be true but the facts of what had happened before that had been carefully obscured. On the morning of the battle Marc Mitscher, commander of the Hornet, had sent the Hornet's air group in the wrong direction. Stanhope Ring, commander of the air group and flying that day, refused to change the heading even when John Waldron, who was adamant that he knew where the Japanese fleet was, asked permission to change course. So, violating orders, Waldron and his nine Devastators left the formation and were therefore alone during that first attack. Ring's dive bombers left him a little later but returned to the Hornet without ever finding the battle. Ring's fighters soon left the formation, ran out of fuel and crashed in the ocean. In the end Ring flew on alone. Finally, the true extent of Waldron's heroism that day haw been revealed. I have always thought that he and his men should have gotten the Medal of Honor for their suicide attack now even more so.That is not all, however. Mrazek also wrote of what happened to Torpedo 8 after the battle. The pilots and men of the squadron who did not participate in the attack that day, plus replacements for those lost, were sent to Guadalcanal to fight on with the Cactus Air Force in that desperate campaign. During this time the squadron commander was Harold "Swede" Larsen who was bent on revenge against the Japanese. Larsen was a difficult man to serve under, two of his men actually tried to kill him at different times, and he was probably as hated by the men as much as the Japanese. That any of the men in the squadron survived Larsen AND the war is amazing. The Torpedo 8 men who flew their torpedo planes from Henderson Field, along with the mechanics and crewmen of the squadron, were shelled by Japanese battleships, fought in the line with Marines during suicidal attacks and suffered all the rigors and deprivations as everyone else who fought on Guadalcanal. Finally that part of the story is told. "A Dawn Like Thunder" should be read by every American and I can't recommend it highly enough. Get it and read it, you will be so glad you did.

It was by chance hat I selected this book to read. I am most certainly glad that I did. It was a very descriptive and vivid documentary of the battles at Midway and Guadalcanal. It is an accurate and detailed account of these events as experience by Torpedo Squadron Eight. Your get to know these men by their names and background. You admire their bravery morn their loss. Although official Navy records of military awards are not maintained on a squadron by squadron basis this squadron of brave men became most likely the most highly decorated air squadron of the war. Thirty five pilots won an astounding thirty-nine Navy crosses. The enlisted men in the squadron earned more than fifty medals for bravery in action, including multiple awards of the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Silver Star, and the Air Medal. At Midway, forty-five of the forty-eight officers and men serving in Torpedo Eight were killed. At Guadalcanal, seven of the remaining squadron members were killed and another eight wounded. This is the best book I have ever read about the Midway and Guadalcanal battles that turned the tide the war. I am so glad I read it and I gave it five of five stars. This is a must read for every American of any age.

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I love WW II history. I would not recommend this book to anyone who has not already read a good deal of war history. However, having read books on the Pacific War, Pearl Harbor, Midway, Gaudacanal, etc, this book was perfect for me. It gives an in depth look at the role of a squadron of torpedo and dive bombers at Midway and Guadacanal. As well as discussing the role of the planes and pilots, there is a good deal about the personalities of the pilots and the frustations and fears they felt.This book was a gift from my son-in-laws mother. She could not have picked a better present.

The more I read about World War II, the more I appreciate reading books about smaller parts of the war. Not all stories, for instance, have the scope of something like D-Day, but smaller parts of the War had their importance, too.This book covers a torpedo squadron that suffered horrific losses throughout the war, and yet still could have been considered successful. It contains a very different view of Guadalcanal that would be what you'd think if you were a pilot, and not a ground soldier...though their life was in danger just the same.The book also mentions places in the war I'd never heard of, and you can't find much about elsewhere. Pavuvu, for instance, figures in here, and in an important way, too...and it seems to be a footnote elsewhere.I thought getting to know the pilots in detail was a nice touch at the beginning...made all the more heartbreaking when most perish in the war, some without any explanation or search for their bodies.I think it's a must-read for people who are eager to know all they can about World War II, hence the rating. I'd give it four stars as a work of non-fiction standing alone.
—David Becker

Not being a history buff of any kind, I am woe fully ignorant of the events that shaped our military challenges in WW 2. Reading this book helped me overcome that deficit as far as the Pacific theater is concerned. I was familiar with the names such as Midway and Guadacanal, but had no idea of their significance. Now that has changed. From this incredibly well researched book, you learn about the improbable odds we were facing from the Japanese fleet, the various tactics used by both sides to win a victory, the fatal foul ups and cover ups that are an unfortunate part of war, the crudeness of torpedoe and dive bomber attacks compared to the precision of modern weapon systems, and most of all the unbelievable courage shown by these torpedo pilots as they attempted to deliver their loads under fierce anti-aircraft and enemy fighter shelling while hopefully not crashing into the sea or a comrade's plane. This book strongly reinforces in my mind that our military personnel deserve all the help and benefits they can get.
—Drew Danko

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