They Were Expendable, by William L White – 1942 (Unknown artist)


THIS story was told me largely in the officers’ quarters of the Motor Torpedo Boat Station at Melville, Rhode Island, by four young officers of MTB Squadron 3, who were all that was left of the squadron which proudly sailed for the Philippines last summer.  A fifth officer, Lieutenant Henry J. Brantingham, has since arrived from Australia.

These men had been singled out from the multitude for return to America because General MacArthur believed that the MTB’s had proved their worth in warfare, and hoped that these officers could bring back to America their actual battle experience, by which trainees could benefit.

Their Squadron Commander, Lieutenant John Bulkeley (now Lieutenant-Commander) of course needs no introduction, as he is already a national hero for his part in bringing MacArthur out of Bataan.  But because the navy was then keeping him so busy fulfilling his obligations as a national hero, Bulkeley had to delegate to Lieutenant Robert Boiling Kelly a major part of the task of rounding out the narrative.  I think the reader will agree that the choice was wise, for Lieutenant Kelly, in addition to being a brave and competent naval officer, has a sense of narrative and a keen eye for significant detail, two attributes which may never help him in battle but which were of great value to this book.  Ensigns Anthony Akers and George E. Cox, Jr., also contributed much vivid detail.

As a result, I found when I had finished that I had not just the adventure story of a single squadron, but in the background the whole tragic panorama of the Philippine campaign – America’s little Dunkirk.

We are a democracy, running a war.  If our mistakes are concealed from us, they can never be corrected.  Facts are frequently and properly withheld in a war, because the enemy would take advantage of our weaknesses if he knew them.  But this story now can safely be told because the sad chapter is ended.  The Japanese know just how inadequate our equipment was, because they destroyed or captured practically all of it.

I have been wandering in and out of wars since 1939, and many times before have I seen the sad young men come out of battle – come with the whistle of flying steel and the rumble of falling walls still in their ears, come out to the fat, well-fed cities behind the lines, where the complacent citizens always choose from the newsstands those papers whose headlines proclaim every skirmish as a magnificent victory.

And through those plump cities the sad young men back from battle wander as strangers in a strange land, talking a grim language of realism which the smug citizenry doesn’t understand, trying to tell of a tragedy which few enjoy hearing.

These four sad young men differ from those I have talked to in Europe only in that they are Americans, and the tragedy they bear witness to is our own failure, and the smugness they struggle against is our own complacency.


Two Years Before the Mast, by Richard Henry Dana – 1869, 1969, 1977 (Unknown Artist)

I wished to be alone,
so I let the other passengers go up to the town,
and was quietly pulled ashore in a boat,
and left to myself. 
The recollections and the emotions all were sad, and only sad.

Fugit, interea fugit irreparabile tempus.

The past was real.
The present, all about me, was unreal, unnatural, repellent.
I saw the big ships lying in the stream,
the Alert, the California, the Rosa, with her Italians;
then the handsome Ayacucho, my favourite;
the poor dear old Pilgrim, the home of hardship and helplessness;
the boats passing to and fro;
the cries of the sailors at the capstan or falls;
the peopled beach; the large hide-houses, with their gangs of men;
and the Kanakas interspersed everywhere.
All, all were gone! not a vestige to mark where one hide-house stood.
The oven, too, was gone.
I searched for its site, and found, where I thought it should be,
a few broken bricks and bits of mortar.
I alone was left of all, and how strangely was I here!
What changes to me!
Where were they all?
Why should I care for them –
poor Kanakas and sailors,
the refuse of civilisation,
the outlaws and beach-combers of the Pacific?

United States Submarine Operations in World War II, by Theodore Roscoe – 1949 (Lieut. Comdr. Fred Freeman) – II

(p. vi)

(Holocaust at Pearl Harbor – p. 1)

(The Fighting Defense – p. 47)

(All-Out Attrition – p. 189)

(Pacific Sweep – p. 301)

(Japanese Sunset – p. 437)

(Epilogue – p. 495)

HMS Ulysses, by Alistair MacLean – 1953 (Robert Schulz)

Cap in hand, Ralston sat down opposite the captain.
Vallery look at him for a long time in silence.
He wondered what to say, how best to say it.
He hated to have to do this.

Richard Vallery also hated war. 
He always had hated it,
and he cursed the day it had dragged him out of his comfortable retirement. 
At least “dragged” was how he put it;
only Tyndall knew that he had volunteered his services to the Admiralty
on September 1, 1939,
and had had them gladly accepted.

But he hated war. 
Not because it interfered with his lifelong passion for music and literature,
on both of which he was a considerable authority,
not even because it was a perpetual affront to his aestheticism,
to his sense of rightness and fitness. 
He hated it because he was a deeply religious man,
because it grieved him to see in mankind the wild beasts of the primeval jungle,
because he thought the cross of his life was already burden enough
without the gratuitous infliction of the mental and physical agony of war,
and, above all,
because he saw war all too clearly as the wild and insensate folly it was, –
as a madness of the mind that settled nothing, proved nothing –
except the old, old truth that God was on the side of the big battalions.

But some things he had to do,
and Vallery had clearly seen that this war was to be his also. 
And so he had come back to the service and had grown older
as the bitter years passed, older and frailer,
and more kindly and tolerant and understanding. 
Among naval captains – indeed, among men – he was unique. 
In his charity, in his humility, Captain Richard Vallery walked alone. 
It was a measure of the man’s greatness
that this thought never occurred to him.


United States Destroyer Operations in World War II, by Theodore Roscoe – 1953 (Lieut. Comdr. Fred Freeman) – III

(Winning the Mediterranean – p. 364) (Central Pacific Push – p. 384) (Western Pacific Push – p. 402) (Battle off Samar – p. 424) (U.S.S. Hoel – p. 427) (U.S.S. Ross – p. 437) (Typhoon – Manila Bay – p. 448) (Typhoon – Manila Bay – p. 459) (Okinawa Invasion – p. 485) (Small Boys Finish Big Job – p. 501)

United States Destroyer Operations in World War II, by Theodore Roscoe – 1953 (Lieut. Comdr. Fred Freeman) – II

(Destroyers to North Africa – p. 149)

(Central Solomons Sweep – p. 215)

(Aleutian Conclusion – p. 249)

(South Seas Mop-Up – p. 256)

(Coming of the Hunter-Killers – p. 273)

(Holding the Trans-Atlantic Line – p. 274)

(Destroyers to Europe – p. 315)

(Destroyers to Sicily – p. 316)

(Destroyers to Italy – p. 329)

(Destroyers to Normandy – p. 343)

United States Submarine Operations in World War II, by Theodore Roscoe – 1949 (Lieut. Comdr. Fred Freeman) – I


(p. iv)

(p. viii)

(Preface – p. xiii)

(Holocaust at Pearl Harbor – p. 3)

(Central Pacific Front – p. 12)

(Philippines Invasion – p. 23)

(Thunder Down Under – p. 93)

(The Empire Blockade – p. 169)

(Japanese Anti-Submarine War – p. 209)

(Torpedo! – p. 250)

(Central Pacific Offensive – p. 279)

(Tokyo Approach – p. 439)

(Submarine Lifeguarding – p. 465)

United States Destroyer Operations in World War II, by Theodore Roscoe – 1953 (Lieut. Comdr. Fred Freeman) – I


(Preface – p. xiii)

(Introduction – p. xvii)

(The Modern DD – p. 11) (Shield and Spearhead – p. 53)

(Destroying the Submarine – p. 67) (DesLant Into Battle (I) – p. 68)

(DesLant Into Battle (II) – p. 76) (Ordeal of DesRon 29 – p. 97)

(Ordeal of DesRon 29 – p. 110)

(Pacific Stand – p. 111) (Convoy Escorts Versus Wolfpacks – p. 137)

(Destroyers to North Africa – p. 138)

The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – 1986 (Douglas Fraser)

the-story-of-a-shipwrecked-sailor-1Uncertain as to what to do, I decided to make an inventory of my belongings.
I wanted to figure out what I could count on in my solitude at sea.
First of all, I could rely on my watch, which kept perfect time,
and which I couldn’t stop glancing at every two or three minutes.
In addition, I had my gold ring, which I’d bought in Cartagena the year before,
and a chain with a medal of the Virgin of Carmen on it,
also purchased in Cartagena, from another sailor for thirty-five pesos.
In my pockets I had nothing but the keys to my locker on the destroyer
and three business cards I have been given at a store in Mobile
one day in January when I had gone out shopping with Mary Address.
Since I had nothing to do,
I read the cards over and over to distract myself until I was rescued.
I don’t know why the cards seemed like the messages in bottles
that shipwrecked sailors pitch into the sea.
I think if I had had a bottle at that moment
I would have put one of the cards into it, playing shipwrecked sailors,
just to do something amusing to tell my friends about in Cartagena.



The Cruel Sea, by Nicholas J.T. Monsarrat – 1953 (Ray Pease)

the-cruel-sea-nicholas-monsarrat-1953-ray-pease_edited-1So their battle ended, and so,
all over the Atlantic, the fighting died –
a strangely tame finish,
after five and a half years of bitter struggle.
There was no eleventh-hour,
death-or-glory assault on shipping,
no individual attempt at piracy after the surrender date:
the vicious war petered out in bubbles,
blown tanks, a sulky yielding, and the laconic order:
“Follow me.”
But no anti-climax, no quiet end,
could obscure the triumph and the pride inherent in this victory,
with its large cost –
thirty thousand seamen killed,
three thousand ships sent to the bottom in this one ocean –
and its huge toll of seven hundred and eighty U-boats sunk,
to even the balance.

It would live in history,
because of its length and its unremitting ferocity:
it would live in men’s minds
for what it did to themselves and to their friends,
and to the ships they often loved. 
After all, it would live in naval tradition,
and become legend,
because of its crucial service to an island at war,
its price in sailor’s lives, and its golden prize –
the uncut lifeline to the sustaining outer world.