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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

4 out of 5 stars 110 customer reviews

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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 (110 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #849,046 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Paperback
This thing is amongst the WORST military history books I read in my life - and I read certainly more than a thousand of them!

Maxwell Taylor Kennedy, son of Robert Kennedy, wrote a book about the aircraft carrier USS "Bunker Hill", the horrible kamikaze attack which devastated her on 11 May 1945 and the desperate struggle to save this precious ship from sinking. The good idea was to mix this great tale with the story of life of two kamikaze pilots, Kiyoshi Ogawa and Yasunori Seizo, who made this attack. This could have been a great book about a great tragedy in which 373 US sailors died and 46 more were declared MIA. However, the execution of this good idea was ABYSMALLY BAD! Below, the reasons why I consider this thing as an utter disaster.

1. ERRORS, ERRORS, ERRORS - on every single page! And on 528 pages, that it is A LOT! Here are some examples:

- Lt John Powers "crash-dived" INTO Japanese carrier "Shokaku". Sorry - he didn't! He hit the "Shokaku" with a bomb and then was downed by Japanese anti-aircraft guns and his plane crashed into the ocean. He was awarded Medal of Honor for this and those facts are therefore matter of public record.

- "the dogged resistance of Bataan and Corregidor played an important role in the Solomons fight" !! No, it didn't. The Solomon's campaign began on 7 August 1942, THREE months after the fight for Corregidor was over (Bataan surrendered even before).

- "Mustang and Lightning fighters couldn't land on carriers and therefore were of little utility in Pacific War" - is this guy for real? Lightnings operating from Henderson Field were crucially important in Guadalcanal campaign and they were also the planes which intercepted and killed Yamamoto himself!
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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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