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"Tin Can Sailor: Life Aboard The U.S.S. Sterett 1939-45"


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I posted this in the 'What are you currently reading?' thread, but then I realized we didn't have a thread on this book.



"Tin Can Sailor: Life Aboard The U.S.S. Sterett 1939-45", written by C. Raymond Calhoun.


Commander Calhoun (ret) recounts his experiences as an officer aboard the U.S.S. Sterett (DD-407) during WWII. Most of the book is based on his own personal recollection, however there are times when he shifts to accounts from other crewman or official reports to fill in gaps. It has been an interesting and enjoyable account of a destroyerman's war in the South Pacific. The Sterett had a storied career, originally having been assigned to the Atlantic Fleet when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Sterett served as an escort to the U.S.S. Wasp during most of the early months of the war, even sailing to the United Kingdom in the spring of 1942 (being present during the mysterious and tragic loss of the Task Force 39 Commander, Admiral John Wilcox), and thence sailing to Malta. She accompanied the Wasp when that vessel was transferred to the Pacific in mid-1942, before being detached in the fall of 1942.


Sterett was seriously damaged during the naval battle of Guadalcanal on November 13th 1942 (Friday the 13th). Sterett suffered several casualties in the ensuing melee, even trading shots at nearly point-blank range with the IJN Hiei, a Kongo class battleship. The battered and bloody Sterett cleared the battle area after being losing contact with the force commander Admiral Dan Callahan, and Rear Admiral Norman Scott; both of whom were killed during the engagement. Following the battle, Sterett managed to rejoin the other surviving American vessels only to witness the tragic loss of the USS Juneau, with the 5 Sullivan brothers aboard. Admiral Halsey toured the damage, and in in a particularly poignant moment, the author recollects that Halsey had tears in his eyes after he heard what had happened, and saw the damage for himself. Due to the serious damage the Sterett had absorbed, it was sent back to the mainland in company of USS San Francisco (Callahan's flagship) for major repairs, stopping over at Pearl Harbor for an inspection by Chester Nimitz. The Sterett returned after an overhaul and took part in the Battle of Vella Gulf, August 6-7, 1943. In what many consider a textbook perfect attack, a force of 6 USN destroyers (including Sterett) ambushed 4 IJN destroyers under cover of darkness. 3 of the 4 IJN vessels were sent to the bottom without a single USN casualty. Again and again this ship took the enemy on, even enduring Kamikaze attacks later in the war. No less than three of Sterett's wartime Captains were awarded the Navy Cross for their part in Sterett's success.


I have read many WWII USN Destroyer accounts, but this is perhaps the most historically action packed one yet. If you have any interest in the Naval campaigns of the South Pacific during WWII, I heartily recommend this book find a place on your bookshelf.

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