Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Guest Review: Enterprise

Summary: Pearl Harbor . . . Midway . . . Guadalcanal . . . The Marianas . . . Leyte Gulf . . . Iwo Jima . . . Okinawa. These are just seven of the twenty battles that the USS Enterprise took part in during World War II. No other American ship came close to matching her record. Enterprise is the epic, heroic story of this legendary aircraft carrier—nicknamed “the fightingest ship” in the U.S. Navy—and of the men who fought and died on her. 

America’s most decorated warship, Enterprise was constantly engaged against the Japanese Empire from December 1941 until May 1945. Her career was eventful, vital, and short. She was commissioned in 1938, and her bombers sank a submarine just three days after the Pearl Harbor attack, claiming the first seagoing Japanese vessel lost in the war. It was the auspicious beginning of an odyssey that Tillman captures brilliantly, from escorting sister carrier Hornet as it launched the Doolittle Raiders against Tokyo in 1942, to playing leading roles in the pivotal battles of Midway and Guadalcanal, to undergoing the shattering nightmare of kamikaze strikes just three months before the end of the war. 

Barrett Tillman has been called “the man who owns naval aviation history.” He’s mined official records and oral histories as well as his own interviews with the last surviving veterans who served on Enterprise to give us not only a stunning portrait of the ship’s unique contribution to winning the Pacific war, but also unforgettable portraits of the men who flew from her deck and worked behind the scenes to make success possible. Enterprise is credited with sinking or wrecking 71 Japanese ships and destroying 911 enemy aircraft. She sank two of the four Japanese carriers lost at Midway and contributed to sinking the third. Additionally, 41 men who served in Enterprise had ships named after them. 

As with Whirlwind, Tillman’s book on the air war against Japan, Enterprise focuses on the lower ranks—the men who did the actual fighting. He puts us in the shoes of the teenage sailors and their captains and executive officers who ran the ship day-to-day. He puts us in the cockpits of dive bombers and other planes as they careen off Enterprise’s flight deck to attack enemy ships and defend her against Japanese attackers. We witness their numerous triumphs and many tragedies along the way. However, Tillman does not neglect the top brass—he takes us into the ward rooms and headquarters where larger-than-life flag officers such as Chester Nimitz and William Halsey set the broad strategy for each campaign. 

But the main character in the book is the ship itself. “The Big E" was at once a warship and a human institution, vitally unique to her time and place. In this last-minute grab at a quickly fading history, Barrett Tillman preserves the Enterprise story even as her fliers and sailors are departing the scene. -- Simon & Schuster

I'd very excited to welcome back my dad, Booking Pap Pap, as a guest reviewer. Today, he is reviewing ENTERPRISE: AMERICA'S FIGHTINGEST SHIP AND THE MEN WHO HELPED WIN WORLD WAR II by Barrett Tillman. Since this is technically a nonfiction book (about history nonetheless), it isn't really my thing; however, I think you'll find that Booking Pap Pap thinks this book will appeal to a broader audience than just history geeks. Here are his thoughts:

ENTERPRISE: AMERICA’S FIGHTINGEST SHIP AND THE MEN WHO HELPED WIN WORLD WAR II is a detailed account of the contribution of the U.S. aircraft carrier Enterprise and her crews in the Pacific war of World War II.  Author Barrett Tillman introduces Enterprise at her launching by the U.S. Navy on October 3, 1936, takes us through her final battle on May 14, 1945 and by the end of the book shares the story of her mothballing and eventual scrapping in 1958.  

Enterprise was part of the Pacific Fleet ordered by President Franklin Roosevelt to relocate from California to Hawaii.  Fortunately for the United States, Enterprise was not at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, due to a delay in returning from an assignment because of inclement weather.  Three days later, Enterprise, the sole remaining U.S. defender in the Pacific, extracted the first revenge against Japan by sinking a submarine off Oahu.  From then until 1945, Enterprise was involved in more naval engagements in the Pacific war than any other American ship. Enterprise participated in twenty Pacific battles including Midway, Guadalcanal, Philippines, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Tokyo and was given credit for downing nearly 1000 enemy aircraft and sinking 71 Japanese naval vessels.  She is the most decorated Navy vessel in our nation’s history.   

Enterprise also introduced two new technologies to the war.  She was the first ship to use night flight invasion missions and the first to adapt radar technology to flying airplanes.

After being forced from combat three times, only to be rebuilt and retrofitted for return to the war, Enterprise was finally put out of action by a Japanese kamikaze strike three months before Japan’s surrender.

However, this book is about much more than a description of an aircraft carrier.  Tillman brings the book to life with great details about the commanders, sailors, airplanes, pilots, battles and even the enemy.  Through interviews of veterans of the Enterprise, meticulous research and vivid descriptions of battles, the author was able to capture the spirit of the crew and pilots.  Tillman delivers to the reader real life stories of heroism that surpasses anything that could be written in a fiction novel.  He puts the reader in the middle of the action on the deck of the carrier and in the cockpits of the airplanes.  The fourteen pages of photographs add a realistic element to the many combat stories and personnel profiles the author shares with the reader.

ENTERPRISE is an excellent factual book that is not written as a history book but as a readable novel.  It is a must read for anyone who has interest in World War II or is just interested in reading a novel about true American heroism.

Thanks to Booking Pap Pap for his insightful review and to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.


Serena said...

This sounds like the kind of history I like to read. I find this fascinating.

bermudaonion said...

Books about the Navy always make me think of my dad even though I'm pretty sure he never served on the Enterprise. The newest Enterprise is on its last voyage right now.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I must get this for my husband's son! His idea of a good time is to go visit battleships, and I think he would love to read this!

Anna said...

I'm glad to hear the book includes the stories of the crew and pilots, that makes it more appealing to me. Great review!