On Dec. 7, 1941, even as Japanese carrier-launched aircraft were winging their way toward Pearl Harbor, a small American cargo ship chartered by the U.S. Army reported it was being attacked by a submarine about halfway between Seattle and Honolulu. After that one cryptic message the humble lumber carrier Cynthia Olson and her crew vanished without a trace, their disappearance all but forgotten as the mighty warships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet burned.
Though long relegated to footnote status in Pacific War histories, the story of Cynthia Olson's mid-ocean encounter with the Japanese submarine I-26 is both a classic high-seas drama and one of the most enduring mysteries of World War II. Did Commander Minoru Yokota of I-26 disregard orders and sink the freighter before the attack on Pearl Harbor began, running the risk of alerting the Americans to the impending assault? Did master mariner Berthel Carlsen and his 34-man crew survive their vessel's sinking only to drift away into the vast Pacific, or were they machine gunned in their lifeboats at the orders of Yokota, who after the war became a devout Christian? Was Cynthia Olson the first American casualty of the Pacific War, and could her SOS have changed the course of history?
Based on years of research, Voyage to Oblivion explores both the military and human aspects of the Cynthia Olson story, bringing to life a complex tale of courage, tenacity, hubris and arrogance in the opening hours of America's war in the Pacific.
"...examines an intriguing event that took place on the same morning as the Pearl Harbor attach and that raised the possibility that perhaps history books on the Pacific War might need to be re-written...engagingly written..."Armchair General, 03/2011
"...a well written history book, but it contains elements of a mystery novel as Harding, playing detective, attempts to unravel what occurred that fateful day...lays out the facts...has finally given the story of the Cynthia Olson the recognition it was so tragically denied 70 years ago."San Pedro Today, March 2011
"...plumbs the unanswered questions behind this forgotten story." World War II Magazine, May 2011
"...fascinating saga of a little ship caught in the maelstrom of a big war. Author Harding delves deep into the archival records and comes to some startling conclusions. A complex tale of courage, tenacity, hubris, and arrogance this is an exciting exploration of one of WWII's lesser known but never the less pivotal incidents." SEA CLASSICS, 06/2011