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Blood on the Sea: American
Destroyers Lost in World War II

by Robert Sinclair Parkin
Da Capo Press, 1995, 360 pages

This reference book relies heavily on standard sources such as the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, readily available on the Internet. Most of the book reads like rather dry Navy action reports with some words changed and added by the author to make the narrative more readable. However, a few chapters include personal accounts of survivors. Blood on the Sea contains individual histories for 71 destroyers lost in World War II in chronological order based on date of sinking. The histories cover 14 destroyers sunk by kamikaze planes, but these sections have no firsthand survivor accounts, contain a few factual errors, and sometimes include little more than details found in the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

The section on each destroyer has three parts: (1) biographical information on person for whom destroyer was named, (2) ship's history, and (3) summary information on the ship such as class, builder, date commissioned, and awards. These sections range from 2 to 11 pages, with the longest one for a ship sunk by kamikaze aircraft being just over 4 pages. The front of the book includes three maps to indicate locations where destroyers sank: 19 in West (mainly Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea), 23 in Solomon Islands, and 29 in Far East, including 13 off Okinawa. The book has two 16-page sections of historical photos. The appendices include information on destroyer classes, a listing of destroyers and destroyer escorts damaged but not sunk by kamikaze, and a glossary.

Several statements on kamikaze pilots and ships sunk by kamikaze contain inaccuracies. For example, the summary of destroyer sinkings at the front of the book does not list Abner Read (DD-526) as being sunk by a kamikaze, even though the Naval Historical Center (2007) indicates that the ship was sunk in a kamikaze attack. Parkin incorrectly explains (p. 252), "Thus it was that Abner Read became the first American destroyer to be sunk deliberately by a suicide aircraft—a forerunner of the dreaded Kamikaze ("Divine Wind") pilots, who would strike terror among the U.S. and British fleets during the Okinawan campaign some six months later." The Kamikaze Special Attack Corps had been formed on October 20, 1944, by Vice Admiral Takijiro Ohnishi in the Philippines, so the pilot of this aircraft that stuck Abner Read was not a "forerunner" but rather an actual kamikaze pilot. Also, kamikaze planes sunk two other destroyers in the Philippines in December 1944 (Mahan and Reid), so they "would strike terror" in destroyer crewmen long before the Battle of Okinawa. Although the summary of destroyer sinkings and the section on Abner Read do not indicate the ship was sunk by a kamikaze plane, a caption in the photo section gives a contradictory explanation: "Abner Read was the first U.S. warship to fall victim to the 'Divine Wind,' also known as Kamikazes." However, this statement also is incorrect, since kamikaze planes sank three other warships prior to Abner Read (see 47 Ships Sunk by Kamikaze Aircraft, which indicates ocean tug Sonoma and LCI(L)-1065 sank on October 24, 1944, and escort carrier St. Lo sank on October 25, 1944).

In another example of errors in the histories of ships sunk by kamikaze aircraft, Parkin includes the following paragraph in the history of Drexler (DD-741):

The final hour of Drexler's short life arrived on the morning of May 28, while she was manning her picket station (No. 10), about 60 miles southwest of Okinawa. In company with the Lowery (DD-770), this was her fifteenth consecutive day on the picket line, . . . .

Hard cover edition published
by Sarpedon. Cover shows
USS Drexler (DD-741). 

 

Drexler's Action Report for May 28, 1945, states the destroyer was actually at Radar Picket Station No. 15, about 45 miles northwest of Nago Bay on the western side of Okinawa (Brown 2002, 98). The spelling for Lowery in the book should be Lowry. Drexler had not been on the picket line for 15 consecutive days, but rather the Action Reports submitted by Drexler's captain state the ship was at Radar Picket Station No. 15 between May 14 to 18 and May 24 to 26, which totals 8 of the 14 days prior to May 28 (Brown 2002, 79). Drexler and Lowry were not "in company" for 15 consecutive days, but rather the two ships proceeded together to Radar Picket Station No. 15 in the early hours of May 28 (Acord 2000, 86; Brown 2002, 98).

The book provides no details on Japan's kamikaze operations other than describing planes headed toward American destroyers. Parkin sometimes uses emotional phrases such as "maniacal suicide pilots," "fanatical Kamikazes," "pilot determined to end his own life," and "still intent on suicide." These phrases do not help to understand the real reasons why Japanese military leaders decided to employ suicide weapons against the advancing American fleet.

The accounts from eyewitnesses provide fascinating insights regarding the sinkings of some ships sunk for reasons other than kamikaze aircraft. Spence and Monaghan sank off the Philippines on December 18, 1944, in a huge typhoon. The two chapters on these ships in Blood on the Sea include several survivors' accounts, including one that tells of nine Spence crewmen adrift for three days in the searing, tropical sun and cold nights before a ship picked up the six men who had survived.

Although this reference book provides convenient summary battle histories of individual destroyers sunk during World War II, the sections on the 14 destroyers sunk by kamikaze aircraft lack firsthand accounts and contain some errors. Convenient Internet references with ship histories, such as the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, make this book published in 1995 somewhat redundant.

Sources Cited

Acord, John Glenn, and Jimmie Lewis Holbrook. 2000. Hell and High Water in the Pacific: The Story of the USS Lowry, DD 770. New York: Vantage Press.

Brown, Charles D., comp., and Robert L. Anteau, ed. 2002. Historical Review: U.S.S. Drexler DD-741. 3rd ed. Privately published.

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Department of the Navy, Naval Historical Center. Web site: <http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/> Other web site: <http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/> (June 10, 2007).

Naval Historical Center. 2007. Casualties: U.S. Navy and Coast Guard Vessels, Sunk or Damaged Beyond Repair during World War II, 7 December 1941-1 October 1945. <http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq82-1.htm> (June 10, 2007).