There are two other authors I’m currently helping (shout out to Clint and John B.!) with books about Fletcher-class destroyers, one focusing on the history of another ship in Desron 21. This March however, brought the release of Tin Can Titans: The Heroic Men and Ships of World War II’s Most Decorated Navy Destroyer Squadron by WW2 author and historian John Wukovits under Da Capo Press, the same group producing Steve’s current books. I helped John briefly with some contact information and he used my website, so I got a mention and reference of my website in the back of the book. Not to mention, I got a free book with a signature and a nice note. I really like this thing of helping these guys out and getting free books. Works for me!
More specifically, John’s book covers the history of Destroyer Squadron 21 (Desron 21), the very same squadron STRONG joined in January of 1943. After reading this book, I gained a new appreciation for the work done, the sacrifices made by this squadron and the men who served. Fletcher-class destroyers were the largest produced (175 ships) most successful class of war ships produced in WW2. They won more battle stars and awards, sunk more submarines and ships and all this while protecting the capital ships like HONOLULU, HELENA and ST. LOUIS and more. John takes the history of the squadron from their involvement in the battle to take back Guadalcanal, all the way to the end of the war as the last three remaining destroyers from the squadron, O’BANNON, NICHOLAS and TAYLOR steamed into Tokyo Harbor in August of 1945 to prepare for the signing of the peace accords. Admiral Halsey made sure his destroyers led the way ahead of the entire Naval armada gathered for the event. From page 238: “Besides engaging the enemy, Desron 21 made other significant contributions to the war. Admiral Halsey’s belief that Desron 21 was a key factor in holding the line in the Solomons until help arrived, an achievement of the admiral’s that may have saved the Pacific war, led to Halsey selecting the final three destroyers from the squadron to lead his armada into Tokyo Bay.”
This one gesture by the man who commanded them speaks volumes for their importance in the efforts to keep the Japanese from victory.
STRONG and her demise are covered in the book, along with references to the story of Lt. Hugh Barr Miller, Jr. One thing I noticed is he referred to Miller as a quarterback in the 1931 Rose Bowl game, when records show he was a “back”. He got the QB information from a magazine article that was in error. Otherwise, it was nice to see Miller profiled once again. At the end of the book he gives a chronology of the actions of each ship during the period between December 1941 through the time the last ship steamed home to San Francisco by November of 1945. Twelve of the ships that served are listed with the number of battle stars and awards won. O’BANNON was the most decorated with 17, with NICHOLAS at 16. Our STRONG lived long enough to earn 2 battle stars.
The book gets into some very personal stories and details of the horrors of their experiences. One story towards the end involves a sailor on the USS HOWORTH DD 681, a ship late added to help with the actions at Okinawa. I won’t post any spoilers here, but just know you may need a tissue or two when you read about this young man, Orvill Raines. What the families went through cannot be forgotten. Overall, I learned much about the history of the squadron and the part each ship played in winning the war of the Pacific theater. Even more importantly, I’m more determined than ever to have STRONG listed as the first casualty in the Battle of the Kula Gulf and get her loss assigned to the battle, not just the HELENA. Not giving up on that. Capital ships were not the only important ships.
The book is available on Amazon.com and other in-store and on-line sites. If you want to see a comprehensive view of the entire squadron, I recommend this book. I’ll also post up a reference on the resources page of the website.