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They Were Expendable: An American Torpedo Boat Squadron in the U.S. Retreat from the Philippines (Bluejacket Books) Paperback – April, 1998

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Product Details

  • Series: Bluejacket Books
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (April 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557509484
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557509482
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #453,946 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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43 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Edison McIntyre VINE VOICE on May 30, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is not a book to read as history, in the sense of seeking facts and figures about an event in the past. "They Were Expendable" is ostensibly an account of the exploits of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 3, which gained glory amidst the disaster that was America's defense of the Philippine Islands in the opening months of the war with Japan (December 1941 - May 1942). But this is wartime journalism, and it is replete with inaccuracies and exaggerations, not to mention a few passages that were subjected to military censorship. This must be expected of a book that was written only a few weeks after Allied resistance of the Philippines formally ended in humiliating surrender; William L. White had no way to corroborate or fact-check the stories told to him by the four youthful naval officers he interviewed for this book. But as an emotional record of the early, sometimes despairing days of the war against Japan, "They Were Expendable" is a work of truth and power. This is not so much a slam-bang story of naval warfare as it is an account of the emotional trauma of defeat suffered by a nation accustomed to victory.
White originally wrote the book for "The Reader's Digest," which published a condensed version in its September, 1942, issue, not quite four months after the fall of Corregidor. The full-length book was released several days later and became a huge bestseller (one reason so many used copies are available today). "They Were Expendable" was one of the first pieces of World War II "hardcover journalism" to give firsthand accounts of the U.S. debacle in the Philippines, and it promised no-holds-barred revelations about how and why the United States could have been so badly beaten.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By George Webster, Ph.D., VINE VOICE on April 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
Not everyone understands the fact that, if you are in military service, you are expendable. Your commander can order you to sacrifice your life to achieve an objective. You may be ordered to hold off the enemy so your fellow soldiers can escape, or you may be ordered to dive your bomber into an impossible hail of gunfire, but you are expendable. Such was the case for the six 70-foot speedboats of the US Navy's Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Three. They were part of the Navy's tiny Far Eastern Fleet in the Philippines when the Japanese attacked with overwhelming force in 1941. It was soon clear that the Philippines would be lost, and the remains of the fleet went to Australia, leaving MTB Squadron Three to help the doomed soldiers on Bataan hold off the Japanese Army for as long as possible. After losing boat after boat in suicidal attacks on Japanese cruisers and destroyers, the remaining boats carried General MacArthur, his wife, his son, and assorted generals and admirals on a perilous trip to the southern Philippines for escape by air to Australia. MTB Squadron Three lost its remaining boats in further attacks on the Japanese and prepared to fight as infantry against the oncoming juggernaut. But four of the officers were ordered to get out on the last planes to leave the Philippines. William L. White, in a magnificent piece of writing, lets the survivors tell their story. It is certainly one of the best stories ever written of World War Two.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 4, 1998
Format: Hardcover
W.L. White's They Were Expendable is a good book and an equally good movie. It's the true story of John D. Bulkelley and the men of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 3. In the dark early days of World War II, the United States was far from being prepared for World War II. Our forces were woe- fully inadequate. It was with this obsolete force that we went to war against Japan. The Asiatic Fleet was obsolete. Its ships were flush-decked four-pipers that were armed with inaccurate torpedoes, the Army had its share of problems as well. The only plane available to the Army in the Philippines was the Boeing P-26 Peashooter which, by 1941, was obsolete. The Army didn't have any maps had to use road maps put out by Richfield Oil. When Douglas MacArthur received orders to evacuate the Philippines for the safety of Australia, it was Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 3 that got him there.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By James Hercules Sutton on September 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
early accounts of WWII in the Pacific. Interesting for what it says & how it says it. Written almost entirely in dialogue, as if it were a transcription, which it is not. Like Casey's "Torpedo Junction," attempts to tell the truth about how the war was going, despite wartime censorship. An easy read, with large type in the 1942 edition. Manifests the Navy's colonial-style racism prior to WWII & some officers' impatience with it. One of the best "first person" reports available.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By James Hazlett on September 9, 2005
Format: Paperback
If it weren't for the Naval Institute Press, this 1942 book wouldn't be available. It's not heavy reading; you could finish it in 2 days just reading it on the subway and before you go to bed, but it's a powerful reminder of the desparate state of affairs in the Pacific and in the U.S. in the days following the destruction of the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor. See the film of the same name. The director, John Ford, had the good sense to incorporate the dialogue wholesale into his really terrific 1945 movie.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lael Prock on February 6, 2010
Format: Paperback
I first read this book in 1955 when I was 14 and my uncle died and I was given many of his books. This copy was published in 1942 and given to my uncle by my mother (his sister) the same year. He was serving as an infantry officer in the South Pacific on Guadalcanal, New Guinea and the Phillipines. I have been reading a number of these old books again and have been enjoying them a lot. This was a particularily good book, one of the best. It was an unusual book in that it was a 200 page narrative with no chapters. There were no maps, no pictures just the words (as transcribed by White) of young men who had just come through an amazingly heroic adventure. The lost of practically all their supplies early in the war limited what they could accomplish and their frustration was evident. The did mostly patrolling as their offensive capabilities were pretty limited. Since this book was written shortly after the events and subject to military censorship no doubt things were left out or other things were magnified. Their sinkings of a number of Japanese large ships were well overstated as determined by post war analysis. But that in no way takes the bit away from the absolute heroism of these few men in their 70 foot long wood boats with little more than their speed to protect. They gave the Japanese fits all out of proportion to their size and capabilities and accomplishments.

My only very minor criticism was that it was sometime difficult who was doing the talking, Bulkelly or one of the other officers.

Readers of World War II history will find this book well worth the time.
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They Were Expendable: An American Torpedo Boat Squadron in the U.S. Retreat from the Philippines (Bluejacket Books)
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