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The Big E: The Story of the USS Enterprise (Bluejacket Books) Paperback – April 18, 2002
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That said, "The Big E" is without peer, as both a history of the World War II-era carrier Enterprise, and as a record of what carrier warfare in the '40's was like. Stafford's prose is both elegant and -- given the records he had available in 1960 -- accurate. His descriptions are vivid: you can feel the decks whip violently at Santa Cruz, you can see the vibrant green of the Philippines at Leyte Gulf, you can sense the tension in the ready rooms at Midway. Her men are not just names on a page, but tangible characters: bold, fast-thinking, humble, optimistic, but sometimes very worried about their prospects.
There are a couple points about the book which the prospective reader should be aware of. Stafford's focus is primarily on the ship's squadrons, and less so on efforts of her crew. Originally published over 40 years ago, some of the language is a bit dated, though, again, overall the writing is superb.
The fact, however, that a 40-year old book about a ship that was decommissioned in 1947 is deemed fit to reprint in 2002 should tell you two things. The book is not a throwaway, but a genuine work of literature. And Enterprise was not just a warship, but a unique bonding of man and machine, that came through for her country when she was needed most.
One last thing. Commander Stafford also wrote Little Ship, Big War: the Saga of the U.S.S. Abercrombie DE343. This is a history/memoir of the destroyer he served on during the war. This too is recommended. He basically accomplished for the Navy what Stephen Ambrose did so admirably for the Army; he told the story of the average Citizen Sailor who rode the small ships to victory in the war.
It is one of those rare works of history that manages to be factual, straightforward, and still read like a novel. The writing is crisp, the imagery moving, and the detail satisfying. I admit to being biased -- don't we all have fond memories of books read when we were young? -- but I cannot think of any flaws.
Here's a historical nugget I first recognized reading "The Big E." Only two US fleet carriers survived WWII. The first was the Saratoga, which survived by being heavily damaged seemingly everytime she left port, and spent the war safely in drydock being repaired. The second was the Enterprise, which was engaged in nearly every major battle in the Pacific, and was arguably the "luckiest" large ship in the Navy.
Given the resurgence of interest in WWII (see Stephen Ambrose and Tom Hanks) I cannot imagine why someone does not reprint this book. If you can find a copy, buy it. If you live in western Washington I might loan you my copy, but you have to promise to take good care of it and return it promptly.
My father was a plank owner of the BIG "E" and loved the ship with a special love that only someone who have faced death and servived can feel. It was a disgrace to have her scrapped and after readin Cdr Stafford's incredible story, I believe that everyone would agree she(and more importantly the men who seved on her) were and are national treasures
The writing is at times more like poetry than prose, the description's vivid and clear, something that anyone who served on ships at that time can recognize from their own experince. Stafford's work ranks with the best of historical novelists like Bruce Catton or Shelby Foote, who painted such clear pictures of the American Civil War.
Every high school student would gain much for his understanding of life from knowing the deeds that those men and that ship performed. And they would see a clear example of what great writing and prose are meant to be.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a great narrative of life aboard the Enterprise during WWII. This along with "Queen of the Flat-Tops" are two of my favorite books. Read morePublished 9 months ago by K. J. Kendall
Great book! I had to finally replace my grandfathers copy and have always loved the story behind the men and actions of the Big E! Read morePublished 12 months ago by RICH
Well written and interesting however I found the intricate details of the nuts and bolts of combat sorties a bit boring.Published 14 months ago by James Vanfoeken
Had this book when I was in middle school. Was great to find & read again. In my opinion the best narrative of WW II carrier operations.Published 15 months ago by Timothy Snyder
CDR Stafford's "The Big E" has to be one of the easiest books to review imaginable. It is simply the finest ship's history ever written about and American war vessel. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Full Fathom Five
If you only read one book about World War II in the Pacific, it must be The Big E: The Story of the USS Enterprise. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Russell J.
Wonderful history of a great ship and the men who crewed her. I read this as a young man, and I am pleased to find that it is available again. Read morePublished 20 months ago by David Hill
Fantastic!!! If you love reading about the carrier war in the Pacific then this is the book for you. I first read this book in the mid 80's and have re-read it 4 times since. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Kevin O'Brien