This thing is amongst the WORST military history books I read in my life - and I read certainly more than a thousand of them!
Maxwell Taylor Kennedy, son of Robert Kennedy, wrote a book about the aircraft carrier USS "Bunker Hill", the horrible kamikaze attack which devastated her on 11 May 1945 and the desperate struggle to save this precious ship from sinking. The good idea was to mix this great tale with the story of life of two kamikaze pilots, Kiyoshi Ogawa and Yasunori Seizo, who made this attack. This could have been a great book about a great tragedy in which 373 US sailors died and 46 more were declared MIA. However, the execution of this good idea was ABYSMALLY BAD! Below, the reasons why I consider this thing as an utter disaster.
1. ERRORS, ERRORS, ERRORS - on every single page! And on 463 pages, that it is A LOT! Here are some examples:
- Lt John Powers "crash-dived" INTO Japanese carrier "Shokaku". Sorry - he didn't! He hit the "Shokaku" with a bomb and then was downed by Japanese anti-aircraft guns and his plane crashed into the ocean. He was awarded Medal of Honor for this and those facts are therefore matter of public record.
- "the dogged resistance of Bataan and Corregidor played an important role in the Solomons fight" !! No, it didn't. The Solomon's campaign began on 7 August 1942, THREE months after the fight for Corregidor was over (Bataan surrendered even before).
- "Mustang and Lightning fighters couldn't land on carriers and therefore were of little utility in Pacific War" - is this guy for real? Lightnings operating from Henderson Field were crucially important in Guadalcanal campaign and they were also the planes which intercepted and killed Yamamoto himself! As for land based Mustangs, they were crucial especially in 1944-45, when escorting the bombers attacking Japan!
- "Zero fighter carried a single 7,5mm gun which could do considerable damage but its 20-mm machine guns were ineffective". So... the heavier guns were ineffective, but the little one could do more damage!? I can't believe how it is possible to let such an obvious idiocy in the text! In fact the Zero carried two 7,5mm machine guns and two 20-mm guns - and the latter were indeed more efficient than the former...
- "on 20 October 1944 the first kamikaze pilot, Yukio Seki, attacked USS "Kitkun Bay" and damaged her heavily killing 16 men". NO, HE DIDN'T! He crashed into USS "St.Lo" and sunk her. USS "Kitkun Bay" suffered only a near miss by a kamikaze that day, losing one man killed... This 20 October 1944 fight is a famous episode - how on Earth could somebody make a mistake there??
- Vice-Admiral Ozawa took four carriers to Leyte Gulf without aircraft or escorts. FALSE! He had 108 planes on his carriers and his screen was composed of two battleships, three cruisers and nine destroyers. This is an information available on the internet - it takes like 30 seconds to find it.
- Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay refused to send B-29s against kamikaze bases during Okinawa campaign. BULL****! Later in the SAME BOOK it is repeated many times the he actually DID SEND B-29s against kamikaze bases!
- "by 1945 Japan manufactured almost nothing". Absolutely - except for HUNDREDS of tanks, planes, anti-tank guns and special weapons (Ohka flying bomb, Kaiten human torpedo, etc.) and DOZENS of warships (Tachibana class destroyers, Ukuru, Type C and Type D class escorts, Sentoku class giant submarines, I-201 class medium submarines, Kairyu class midget submarines, suicide motor boats, etc.) EVERY MONTH UNTIL SEPTEMBER!
- the loss of four carriers at Midway is attributed to the mistakes committed during the battle by Yamamoto. But he was not in tactical command and was NOT EVEN PRESENT at the battle - it was Vice-Admiral Nagumo who commanded this day!
- we are told that Grumman Avengers were used at Coral Sea. FALSE! Their operational debut was Midway - and even then there was only six of them available at that moment.
- we are told that Soviet Union warned Japan about Leyte Gulf landings! That is sheer LUNACY! Soviets had no way to know it, had no interest in sharing it with the Japanese and last but not least, in REAL HISTORY the Japanese were actually SURPRISED by Leyte Gulf landings and therefore didn't react immediately!
- when air operations are described we are told that bombs were attached to Corsair's - wait, hold it, here it goes... LANDING GEAR...))) I almost died laughing at that moment!
- according to this book "all students at the top Japanese universities were gathered together and became kamikaze". Not some, not even a majority - ALL! Well, this is just another obvious case of BULL****! In reality there were about 4000 kamikazes who took off and died in those missions in 1944 and 1945. Most of them were already in aviation in 1944 or earlier - the number of university students more or less pressed into kamikaze units was in fact very limited (hundreds rather than thousands) and even amongst those who trained to become kamikaze pilots, many didn't go for a mission because the war ended
- it is said that "Yamato" was armed with 18-inch guns (that is correct) which could fire shells "the size of a VW". Well, author is welcome to try to fit a Volkswagen (any model of it) into an 18-inch (457mm) hole...))) And I want to watch it with popcorn and a beer...)))
- author claims that when USS "Franklin" was damaged and was burning, her crew was "locked down the inside of the ship and left there by their comrades to rot until Pearl Harbor". This is a HORRIBLE LIE! Exactly the opposite was true! An enormous effort was made to save every single sailor on USS "Franklin", for 48 hours, amongst raging fires, exploding ordonnance and under Japanese bombs! Why say such a horribly false thing? It is BEYOND my ken!
- etc, etc, etc. ON EVERY SINGLE PAGE!
2. Complete lack of editing. I usually do not consider poor editing as a major problem, but in this book it makes the reading almost impossible, especially for anybody who has even the slightest idea about the Pacific War! Typos are crawling in virtually every place where any kind of military equipement is concerned - amongst the most unnerving is reading about American planes being armed with 40 mm guns (they really weren't).
3. Author clearly has a big problem with English language. Being Polish I am not a native speaker and in fact English is only my second foreign language (after French) - but even me I would not make some errors which I found in "Danger's hour". Possibly the worst example: author writes at one moment after the kamikaze attack "in one moment USS "Bunker Hill" and her all crew became expendable" - before describing the incredible efforts of other US warships to SAVE her... I really wondered at that moment if author (who supposedly graduated from a prestigious college) knows what "expendable" means...
4. Author simply invents things. At one moment he writes about US pilots who sunk some Japanese ships and bombed Japanese bases "all Bunker Hill fliers were challenged by the guilt of homicide." Not some, not most - all of them! Well, funny, but he somehow never cites even one real veteran who said such a thing - and I read enough books of Pacific War to know that American soldiers, fliers, sailors and Marines were very much OK with the war they were fighting!
5. But the CHERRY ON THE CAKE is the conclusion! Author writes: "The challenging lesson of the Pacific War may not so much be that aicraft carriers can extend American foreign policy across the world, but rather that a few determined men, willing to give their lives for a cause, may block that policy from ever being fullfilled". In my life I read already many things idiotic beyond belief, but that one really takes the cake! EVERYTHING described in this book proves the exact opposite - even the sacrifice of 4000 kamikazes didn't prevent USA from winning the Pacific War and liberating countless millions of Asians from Japanese tyranny.
For all those reasons, I consider this book to be not only a FAILURE, but also an INSULT to the memory of all sailors who fought (and for many died) on board of USS "Bunker Hill" on this fateful 11 May 1945. And I believe author should be ashamed of himself too! When one belongs to a great patrician family and has all the time and money needed to make research and work on such a book, when one is the son of such an eminent man and when one is named after another, even more eminent man (General Maxwell Taylor), well, then "NOBLESSE OBLIGE"!
But author simply didn't care about this obligation and when one looks at his biography, it is not so hard to see why. Born in 1965, educated in history and law, Maxwell T. Kennedy started a career as Assistant District Attorney in Philadelphia in 1992 - but interrupted it after only three years. Since then he never held a real job! He got work as Director of Robert Kennedy Memorial, a NGO owned by Kennedy clan, then he got successive sinecures at Boston College, Georgetown University and Brown University and another NGO, the Pearl Coalition. According to his biography he spend all his life until now travelling around the world and talking with different people about human rights and environment...
All this shows clearly a guy who is rich, connected and has no ambitions nor will to really work. The publication of this book in 2008 was clearly supposed to fill a little bit his rather empty CV - and this thing received some extravagant praise from all kind of prestigious left-winged intellectuals connected to Kennedy clan and Democratic establishment...
Well, no matter how much praise this thing gets from prestigious intellectuals, as a simple military history buff and a simple amateur of good books, I say "STAY AWAY FROM THIS PIECE OF CR@P". And if you want to read an AMAZING book about a US aircraft carrier damaged by the Japanese and saved by the heroism of her crew, read "Inferno" by Joseph A. Springer, about the ordeal of USS "Franklin" - a book which was well researched, well written, carefully edited, all of which took many YEARS of hard WORK by a REAL historian - not a lazy, spoiled, jaded, rich brat...