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Danger's Hour: The Story of the USS Bunker Hill and the Kamikaze Pilot Who Crippled Her Hardcover – November 11, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The U.S. aircraft carrier Bunker Hill and the Japanese kamikazes that struck her on May 11, 1945, embodied two fundamentally different approaches not only to war but to life, according to Kennedy. The Bunker Hill manifested American material power, and its civilian sailors reflected the determination of a nation to punish Japan's aggression with total victory. The pilots of the Divine Wind (or kamikaze) , on the other hand, represented a philosophical and spiritual response, an epic of pride, honor and virility. And when the kamikazes struck the Bunker Hill, it seemed for a time that a few determined men could frustrate American power, killing almost 400 Americans and wounding another 250. In what he views as a relevant lesson for the age of terror, Kennedy (Make Gentle the Life of This World) explores how an individual's desire to live can be so successfully suppressed that he will train for certain death. The author combines extensive archival research with interviews of American and Japanese participants in a spellbinding account showing that much more than geopolitics was at stake in the Pacific war. Photos. (Nov. 4)
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From Booklist

A photo, a poem, a partial name tag: these war souvenirs taken from a Japanese corpse by a sailor on the aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill enabled identification of the ship’s kamikaze attacker. For this account of the agony of the Bunker Hill, author Kennedy reconstructed the brief life of Kiyoshi Ogawa. Pictures of the apparently happy young man, a university-student draftee, aid Kennedy’s intent to depict pressure on his like to volunteer for imperial Japan’s aerial suicide squads. Setting the stage for battle, Kennedy describes the naval architecture of the Bunker Hill and the functions of a World War II aircraft carrier; provides biographies of several of her crew; and discusses combat operations off Okinawa in which she was engaged on the day of Ogawa’s dive, May 11, 1945. Photographs grimly document the result; Kennedy’s text covers the struggle to save the ship, succor her injured, and bury her dead. Solid in the disaster-at-sea department, Kennedy’s book, with its original slant on Ogawa, will be of particular interest to the WWII readership. --Gilbert Taylor

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (November 11, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743260805
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743260800
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #447,861 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

74 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Check Six on December 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Where "Danger's Hour" succeeds is wholly in the human element, describing relationships among Americans and Japanese combatants. Undoubtedly that aspect will find favor among generalist readers and reviewers who care little about ships, aircraft, or history.

Sailors, aviators and historians: stand by to be repelled.

Mr. Kennedy knows almost nothing of his core subject: naval aviation. There are literally scores of errors that would have been avoided by competent fact checkers. For instance, we are told that Admiral Marc Mitscher learned to fly "soon after graduating from Annapolis" and became Naval Aviator Number 17. Actually, he was No. 33 six years after graduating. That information is readily available in a casual Internet search.

Basic chronology of the Pacific War is too often muffed, with overlapping accounts of events 1942-43 and again in 1944-45. The Guadalcanal campaign is especially convoluted.

Kennedy's attempts at describing aviation matters inevitably fail. He has bombs attached to Corsairs' landing gear (!) and his description of the Mitsubishi Zero defies explanation. His effort to explain aerodynamics becomes unfathomable.

Nor is he better with nautical subjects. Throughout, the book refers to a ship's "tunnels" (presumably passageways), "ceilings", and "hanger decks." The naval term "head" is properly used once amid "bathrooms," "restrooms," and "lavatories."

Historical facts take repeated hits. Allegedly Vice Admiral Ozawa took four carriers to Leyte Gulf without aircraft or escorts. We are told that Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay refused to send B-29s against kamikaze bases, then we read multiple accounts that state otherwise.
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful By J. Biallas on April 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The story of the Essex class fast carriers of TF58/TF38 is one that deserves telling. That the ships of the Big Blue Team bore the brunt of combat at sea in the Pacific War is unquestioned. Books like the "Big E" and the "Little Giants" are well-written expositions of fact combined with personal stories that illuminate the subject and are timeless. Telling the whole story of the Essex class in general, and the tragic story of the USS Bunker Hill in particular, would be a welcome addition to the available literature .

Unfortunately, this is not that book.

It is a disorganized mass of inaccurate, convoluted, virtually unreadable gibberish.

The most mundane facts regarding the US Navy, its ships and aircraft as well as those of the Japanese Empire are unknown to this author.

The editors, fact checkers and other support staff at Simon and Schuster who allowed this incredibly bad imitation of a history to be published should be fired, now.

I have read the 5 star reviews of this book on this site and have concluded that they must have read a different book than I did, or did not read it at all. I did read it all, and wished I had not done so.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Mr. B on May 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Maxwell Taylor Kennedy, billed as an Associate Scholar with an interest in maritime history at the John Carter Brown Library, a Center for Advanced Research in History and the Humanities at Brown University, has an interesting idea in DANGER'S HOUR, to juxtapose the parallel stories of an Essex-class aircraft carrier, the USS Bunker Hill, with that of Kiyoshi Ogawa, a Japanese student conscript who is ultimately 'volunteered' for the kamikaze corps. These parallel stories intersect on May 11, 1945, when Ogawa and his wingman crashed into the USS Bunker Hill, killing and injuring over 700 men, and knocking the Bunker Hill out of the war for the duration.

There is only one major problem: Kennedy isn't much of an historian and, if anything, a worse writer.

Other reviewers have already detailed the many factual gaffes sprinkled throughout the book's pages. There are plenty others--the two typhoons that saved Japan from the Mongols were in 1274 and 1281, not 1281 and 1284. Equally disturbing, the book is replete with numerous seeming inconsistencies. For example, on page 337, two aviators are described as "crawl[ing] across the deck, trying to keep their heads and bodies below the level of flying debris" to get to two nearby planes. Yet on the very next page the same two pilots "together leapt up from the catwalk and sprinted to the Avengers. After retrieving both raft containers, they raced back across the flight deck...." Crawl or sprint--which is it? On page 205 Kennedy describes the final aerial assault on Japan's super battleship, the Yamato, as the approaching torpedo pilots skim above the water. As they close in, antiaircraft fire lights up the sky. Every enemy ship is firing "their AA guns flashing white as the antiaircraft fire hurled skyward.
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27 of 34 people found the following review helpful By George Setzer on December 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book takes a major hit on the facts. I'm not sure if it was poor research, bad fact checking or just plain old fashioned bad editing.

It seemed that there was a major fact error every other page....It got so bad that I only read the first 180 pages, had to put it down and then returned it to the bookstore and got a refund.

I'll just site 4 very bad mistakes. There were so many that I can not list all of them in just this short review.

1. He attributes the Japanese loss of 4 carriers at Midway to mistakes made by Yamamoto the commander Combined Fleet. Any person with even a modest amount of knowledge about WWII knows that Nagumo had tactical command of the carrier task force at Midway and it was his decisions about ordinance that delayed the 2nd strike and therefore the carriers were caught with their CAP chasing the US torpedo attack surviviors.

2. He refers to a pilot named John Dixon (or Hixon?) as an Avenger pilot while describing the Battle of Coral Sea. The Avenger's debut was at Midway a month later and only in small numbers as part of the Island defense force.

3. He stated that the Bunker Hill was sold for scrap in 1989 and was the last of the Essex Class carriers. He was wrong on 2 points with that statement. It was sold for scrap in 1973 after being decomissioned in 1966 (source is Danfs). The last Essex Class carrier was to my knowledge the Lexington and was either deactivated or sold for scrap in 1991!!!!

4. The most egregious was that he stated the Japanese had forknowledge of the amphibious operation against Leyte because they were warned by......wait for it......The Soviet Union!!!!!! Japan's traditional enemy.

Regarding #4...
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