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Halsey's Typhoon: The True Story of a Fighting Admiral, an Epic Storm, and an Untold Rescue Hardcover – November 27, 2006

4.4 out of 5 stars 160 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

At the height of the Second World War in 1944, the U.S. Pacific Fleet was struck by a typhoon that sank three destroyers and drowned 800 sailors. Drury (The Rescue Season) and Clavin (Dark Noon: The Final Voyage of the Fishing Boat Pelican) draw on proceedings of a navy board of inquiry and eyewitness recollections to recreate the catastrophe. On the one hand, this is an absorbing if disjointed maritime disaster saga in which shrieking winds and monstrous waves batter warships to pieces. It's also a study in judgment under pressure, as hard-charging Adm. William "Bull" Halsey (motto: "Kill Japs") keeps his fleet positioned in the storm's path because of faulty weather reports, accusations that he improperly left his station during the earlier Battle of Leyte Gulf and general overaggressiveness. Closer to the waterline, the authors contrast the fecklessness of Capt. James Marks of the U.S.S. Hull, which sank, to the steadiness of Capt. Henry Plage of the U.S.S. Tabberer, which braved mountainous seas to rescue survivors. The trumped-up leadership parable is perhaps unfair to Halsey and Marks. Still, the authors make their account a vivid tale of tragedy and gallantry at sea. Photos. (Jan.)
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From Booklist

Two seasoned writers on maritime subjects offer an impressive, long-overdue account of the U.S. Third Fleet's encounter with a savage typhoon off the Philippines in the autumn of 1944. Admiral William "Bull" Halsey was aggressively determined to remain on station in support of General Douglas MacArthur's "I Shall Return" campaign, the weather-reporting network was inadequate, and a number of ships were low on fuel and, not having taken in water ballast to compensate, had become less stable. The results of the storm encounter thereby entailed the loss of three destroyers, more than 800 men, and many aircraft, and many other ships were heavily damaged. Particular emphasis in this account is laid on the exploits of the destroyer escort Tabberer, one of the smallest ships in the fleet. She not only rode out the mountainous seas with a minimum of damage but also rescued most of the survivors of the sunken destroyer Hull. An entirely gripping account and a guaranteed hit with maritime buffs. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; 1st edition (November 27, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871139480
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871139481
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (160 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #369,459 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By C. Ryan on July 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Halsey's Typhoon is a World War II disaster-survival tale about Typhoon Cobra enveloping the U.S. Navy's Third Fleet, commanded by Admiral William F. (Bull) Halsey, in the Philippine Sea in December 1944.

The best part of the book, by far, is the second half. Participants, primarily surviving crew members of the three sunken destroyers or the destroyer escort Tabberer which rescued 60% of the survivors despite its own severe damage, relate their experiences during the storm, floating in the water for 24-48 hours, being rescued and recovering These survivors' and rescuers' tales, related recently to the authors by a handful of remaining veterans, are informative, frightening, fascinating, memorable and inspiring. I'm glad their firsthand experiences, even in part, have been published.

Unfortunately, apart from the survivors' personal narratives, this book's deficiencies are many. The authors seem to have relatively little knowledge of either the Navy or World War II, with misused terms and questionable characterization events being too numerous to itemize.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In 2007 two different publishers released two different books on the 1944-1945 typhoons that sank three ships in the U.S. Third Fleet. Under the command of Admiral William Halsey, the U.S. Navy lost more men due to these natural disasters than it did at the battle of Midway. Bob Drury and Tom Clavin's "Halsey's Typhoon" was the first one to make it to book stores and garnered more attention and sales than Buckner F. Melton Jr.'s "Sea Cobra." Given the timing and focus of these two books, this review will compare and contrast the two. In short, there is no question that Melton wrote the better book.

The illustrations of carriers, battleships, oilers, destroyers, and destroyer escorts compared to 30, 60, and 90 foot waves is the best feature of Drury and Clavin's account. It gives landlubbers a good idea of how rough seas are problems for some ships and not for others. The shortcomings of this book, however, are much more significant. First, the book ignores altogether the second typhoon Halsey sailed into. Melton discusses this one, but not at length. This brevity is understandable, the second typhoon did less damage and sank no ships. It does show, though, that the commander and staff of the Third Fleet learned little from their experiences with the first typhoon despite efforts to do so. The problem that Drury and Clavin have is that this second storm undermines their argument that Halsey was largely blameless for sailing into the typhoons.

The mechanics of publishing also favor Melton. Drury and Clavin have only one map. Melton has nine. He also provides an extensive bibliography and footnotes, whereas Drury and Clavin have a brief bibliography and make no effort to provide any sort of documentation on their sources.
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Format: Paperback
A most hilarious book!

Not that the authors, touted by the publisher as "seasoned writers on maritime topics," mean it to be funny, but the constant misuse of nautical terminology, inappropriate allusions to the classics and silly quotations leads to inadvertent humor ranging from mild chuckles to outright howlers.

The two authors evidently had a contest to see who could use the "saltiest" language and include the most irrelevant quotations in their portions of the book. Every opportunity is taken to use some nautical term - often it appears that some inane sentence is included just so another nautical term can be displayed.

So, so often, the terms are used incorrectly.

Some of the best:
The authors assert that sonar pings are displayed on radar scopes.

Trying to be nautical, they describe an admiral who daily "skiffs over" to consult with his commander - they evidently are not aware that a skiff is a tiny one-man boat, usually oared. Sailors would have paid good coin to see an admiral rowing himself about on his official rounds.

They assert that the task force's radars were improperly adjusted, making them unable to make "long-range weather predictions."

"Squadron" and "flotilla" are used by the authors any time they want a synonym for "a bunch of ships." They appear not to understand that these terms have precise meanings.

Ships are constantly referred to as being "in irons." The authors evidently do not know that this term refers only to sailing ships. Powered vessels cannot be "in irons."
American sailors are constantly referred to as "jack tars," a term actually given to British seamen during the sailing ship era.
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