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Ship of Ghosts: The Story of the USS Houston, FDR's Legendary Lost Cruiser, and the Epic Saga of Her Survivors Paperback – August 28, 2007

4.7 out of 5 stars 626 ratings

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Editorial Reviews


Ship of Ghostswould be an unforgettable book if only for its brilliantly wrought account of the massive, chaotic sea battle that destroyed the USS Houston. But that is only the beginning of a story that grows more harrowing with every chapter, and that finally leaves the reader amazed at what human beings are capable of achieving and enduring.” —Stephen Harrigan, author of Challenger Park and The Gates of the Alamo

"On sea and on land, these intrepid sailors endured enough for a thousand lifetimes. In this riveting account, Hornfischer carefully reconstructs a story none of us should be allowed to forget."—Hampton Sides, author of
Blood and Thunder and Ghost Soldiers

“Hornfischer has produced another meticulously researched naval history page-turner in
Ship of Ghosts. He manages to fuse powerful human stories into the great flow of historical events with a singular story-telling talent.”—John F. Lehman, former Secretary of the Navy, author of On Seas of Glory

“Hornfischer has done it again. His narrative is fine-tuned and always compelling but where he truly excels is in his evocative, often lyrical descriptions of combat at sea. Those who enjoyed his previous best-seller will love
Ship of Ghosts—military history at its finest.”—Alex Kershaw, author of The Bedford Boys and The Few

“Masterly…[the] description of the huge and terrifying naval engagements are as overwhelming a stretch of historical writing as I have ever come across…. Beautifully written and heartgripping.”—Adam Nicolson, author of
God’s Secretaries

“Recounts perhaps the most devastating untold saga of World War II in piercing detail.”—Donovan Webster, author of
The Burma Road

 “Hornfischer is quickly establishing himself as doing for the Navy what popular historian Stephen Ambrose did for the Army…. So great is the drama of the Houston and its survivors that this story seems to tell itself.” —Rocky Mountain News

“With vivid and visceral descriptions of the chaos and valor onboard the doomed Houston…the author penetrates the thoughts and fears of adrenaline-pumped sailors in the heat of combat…. Hornfischer masterfully shapes the narrative…. breathing life into an unforgettable epic of human endurance.” —USA Today

“Hornfischer has painted a compelling picture of one of the most gallant ships and one of the grimmest campaigns in American naval history. He has a positive genius for depicting the surface-warfare sailor in a tight spot. May he write long and give them more memorials.” –Booklist, starred review

“What kind of yarn is
Ship of Ghosts? Put Stephen Ambrose aboard the cruiser once known as ‘the Galloping Ghost of the Java Coast.’ Next, bring Patrick O’Brien for nautical detail and high seas drama. Then factor in Joseph Conrad for tales of men under stress in exotic climes…. Naval history of the highest order.” –Metrowest [Boston] Daily News

About the Author

James D. Hornfischer is an award-winning naval historian. He is the author of The Fleet at Flood Tide, Neptune's Inferno, Ship of Ghosts, and The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors, all of which have been New York Times bestsellers and selections of the U.S. Navy Professional Reading Program, maintained by the Chief of Naval Operations. A native of Massachusetts, he lives with his family in Austin, Texas.

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Bantam; NO-VALUE edition (August 28, 2007)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 576 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0553384503
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0553384505
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.38 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.11 x 1.24 x 9.12 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.7 out of 5 stars 626 ratings

About the author

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James D. Hornfischer's books have led reviewers to rate him as one of the most commanding naval historians writing today. His awards include the 2018 Samuel Eliot Morison Award, given by the Board of Trustees of the USS Constitution Museum for work that “reflects the best of Admiral Morison: artful scholarship, patriotic pride, an eclectic interest in the sea and things maritime, and a desire to preserve the best of our past for future generations.”

His most recent book is “The Fleet at Flood Tide: America at Total War in the Pacific, 1944–1945”. Recipient of the Navy League’s 2017 Commodore John Barry Book Award, it is a major narrative of the U.S. Navy’s Central Pacific drive in World War II, covering the air, land and sea operations that seized the islands of Saipan, Tinian and Guam, as well as the strategic air operations conducted from the Marianas that ended the war.

“Neptune’s Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal” (2011), a New York Times bestseller, was chosen as a best book of the year by numerous book reviews. “Ship of Ghosts” (2006) told the story of the cruiser USS Houston (CA-30) and the odyssey of its crew in Japanese captivity. “The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors” (2004), a combat narrative about the Battle off Samar, received the Samuel Eliot Morison Award from the Naval Order of the United States and was chosen by the Wall Street Journal as one of the five best books on “war as soldiers know it” and by Naval History magazine as one of “a dozen Navy classics.” Hornfischer has also collaborated with Marcus Luttrell, the bestselling author of “Lone Survivor,” on Luttrell’s second autobiography, “Service: A Navy SEAL at War” (2012).

All of Hornfischer’s books have been selections of the Navy Professional Reading program, managed by the office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV). He is a regular contributor for the Wall Street Journal and has written for Smithsonian, Naval History, Naval Institute Proceedings, and other periodicals. He has lectured at the U.S. Naval Academy, Marine Corps University at Quantico, the National WWII Museum, the National Museum of the Pacific War, and other venues.

Hornfischer's motivation to write about the U.S. military reaches back to his childhood, from his explorations of the school library's 940.54 Dewey Decimal section, building Monogram and Revell model ships and aircraft, watching "Black Sheep Squadron" on NBC (sublimely ahistorical but redeemed by Robert Conrad's portrayal of Major Gregory "Pappy" Boyington of VMF-214), and absorbing the epic intonations of Laurence Olivier in "The World at War" on PBS.

A native of Massachusetts and a graduate of Colgate University and the University of Texas School of Law, Hornfischer lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and their children.

Author photo: © Mark Matson,

Customer reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5
626 global ratings

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4.0 out of 5 stars Ship of ghosts
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on August 1, 2018
2 people found this helpful
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2.0 out of 5 stars Its pro American and Australian but not British
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on September 14, 2021
Jonathan Pyne
5.0 out of 5 stars Military history (naval)
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on October 10, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on April 23, 2018
Edgar R Wagner
5.0 out of 5 stars The Story of the USS Houston
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on June 2, 2011
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