Ship of Ghosts
By: James D. Hornfischer

(544 pages (advanced copy) photos, maps)

Reviewer: Terry Miller

Overall Rating: Four Stars--Highly recommended. An excellent book.

The pride of the American Asiatic Fleet at the outbreak of WWII was its flagship, the USS HOUSTON (CA-30). In Ship of Ghosts Jim Hornfischer tells the story of FDR's favorite ship by humanizing each segment of the story through first person accounts; interviews; letters; official documents; and lists and details on scraps of paper, carefully hidden during the crew's captivity and enslavement from Japanese guards who would  have exacted terrible punishments for just having them. Hornfischer rivets the reader's attention with the story of the battles in which HOUSTON's after turret was lost and then, with the Australian cruiser HMAS PERTH, the heroic fight against incredible odds where both gallant ships were finally lost. But the saga does not end with the sinking of the HOUSTON.

For the next three and a half years the crew suffers the worst indignities and deprivations at the hands of their captors. To the Japanese and their Bushido Code, anyone who surrenders is considered worse than dead and is not to be given any consideration. Beaten, starved, and often brutally murdered, the crew relate, through Hornfischer's superb narrative style, their individual accounts in a seamless tale of bravery and uncommon personal fortitude as they work or die building Japan's railroad through the disease-infested jungles of Burma and Thailand where as many as 400 Allied prisoners died each day.

Coupled with accounts of The Lost Battalion, the Texas National Guard battalion that was also captured and interned with the HOUSTON crewmembers, and some of the other Allied prisoners, these stories depict a level of cruelty by the captors that could not be believed if it weren't so well documented.

Jim Hornfischer has crafted a terrific read and every U.S. Navy sailor and every WWII history buff will want to read Ship of Ghosts.

Available through:

Tin Can Sailors Ship's Store
Order #B-51  Hardcover
$17.00 Media Rate Shipping
$22.00 Priority Rate Shipping