Review: The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors
As someone who has served in the military, I have mostly fond memories. There were some trials and tribulations along the way as it is a hard and fast lesson on how people from different walk of life really are. Most of us found this out in boot camp and a reality that became galvanized once we were out in the fleet. This is where we got to learn how to work people we would never get along in any other situation.
The recent war movie by Tom Hanks, Greyhound brought back so many of those memories. It got me excited, but also put me back in those memories of operating underway at sea. I was not in during the first Gulf War, but heard so many “sea stories” of the combat they saw and how scary every day was. In the graphic novel adaptation of James Hornfischer’s The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors, we finally get to see firsthand, one of the greatest naval battles of World War II in full color.
We are taken to the Pacific Ocean in October of 1944, shortly after General Macarthur returned to the Philippines. We soon find out two naval sea powers occupy the Pacific, the Third Fleet under the command of Admiral Halsey and Seventh Fleet known as “Macarthur’s Navy”, which relied smaller escort carriers, but screened by the powerful and fast Fletcher Class Destroyer ships. Meanwhile in Japan, Admiral Shoji Nishimura, who commands their Southern Force, looks to draw the US Navy into combat and diminish them in any way they can. Unfortunately, he gets beaten by Admiral Oldendorf, giving the US Navy, temporary relief, but the Japanese have another plan in play, lead by Admiral Takeo Kurita, who commands the Central Force who look to drive the Americans out of the Philippines. Because Halsey becomes obsessed with chasing Japanese carriers, this leave the san Bernardino Strait unguarded, which leaves it up to Third Fleet to defend , and unbeknownst to all of both carrier groups, the Japanese were using this as an opportunity to gain tactical advantage. As the Seventh Fleet beats back the Central Force, they also take casualties as the USS Johnston takes a major casualty, leaving the ship to be dead in the water. Through a series of maneuvers and luck and through some air support, each ship captain makes a decisive blow against the Japanese fleet, but not without loss, of men and vessels. By book’s end, Japan’s Central Force retreats in defeat, failing to breakthrough General Macarthur’s beachhead in the Philippines, but permanently disabling each of the tin can ships, forcing the crews to abandon each ship, but the US Navy would have the last laugh, as the guide bomber squadron accompanied by torpedo planes would end them before they could return home.
Overall, The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors is an epic graphic novel that covers the wide scope of the battle through different viewpoints. The story by Hornfischer is well researched and exciting. The adaptation by Doug Murray is seamless. The art by the creative team is beautiful. Altogether, this book feels like the war movies my grandfather raised me on. As a Navy veteran, I’m proud to know that this is part of our heritage.
Story: James Hornfischer Adaptation: Doug Murray
Art: Steven Sanders, Rob Steen, and Matt Soffe
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy