Contact Us   |    Join   |    Donate


Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland, 1998
ISBN 1-55750-136-X
Reviewed by RADM Sam Packer, USN(Ret.)

This book should be read by all. It is a fascinating and factually precise account of the Solomons naval campaign in the South Pacific as seen from the viewpoint of a young naval officer in positions of increasing responsibility aboard a fighting destroyer, USS MAURY (DD 401), during this critical period of World War II. Captain Crenshaw describes in realistic and at times almost understated terms the extremely rigorous, demanding, and often terrifying events in the area of the Solomon Islands during the period of December 1942 to August 1943.

There are three elements of the book which are particularly worth noting, and for the submarine community, the third point is of particular note.

First of all, the book is written with a warmth of understanding and a great personal touch for the officers and men of the ships which fought in that tough area when denying freedom of movement to the Japanese, and in fact eventually turning around their advance, became so important to the outcome of the war in the Pacific. Captain Crenshaw writes with authority on the events of the period-he was there and knows well about which he and his shipmates endured, and on some occasions were able to enjoy. To put the intensity of the combat in perspective, during this eight month period in the Solomons area the Japanese had some seventeen cruisers and destroyers sunk and nine severely damaged, while losing a number of other ships including five submarines. American losses in that area during the same time period included eight cruisers and destroyers sunk and eight severely damaged, not to mention thirteen PT boats sunk or otherwise destroyed. Of our Allies in that region, Australia and New Zealand, the latter also suffered casualties to include severe damage to two cruisers. Captain Crenshaw captures the continual and intense pressure of the situation very well. His narrative is we11 constructed and makes the book very readable.

As a second point, although not specifically called out by the author as a situation of significance, there is an excellent representation of the total environment in which the war was being fought in the Solomons. In terms of today it was both a joint and combined operation. The forces of the U.S. Navy {ships, air, and ground), U.S. Marine Corps (ground and air), and U.S. Anny (ground and air), were all fighting together along with forces from Australia and New Zealand as well, and with friendly elements from the many islands involved. Command and control of the forces involved worked, probably not without some breakdowns and confusion, but it worked. There were strong individuals at the higher levels in the various chains of command in that part of the world who reportedly differed on some issues, but, as Captain Crenshaw’s book portrays, again without specific reference to this aspect of the war, the combat situation on the ground-and at sea and in the air-in the Solomons focused the efforts of those involved towards their common objectives and dictated that extensive coordination was necessary to achieve them.

The final point to make about this book is one of which, I must admit, I was not aware and that was the extent of the torpedo problem beyond the Submarine Force during the war. I think all submariners either experienced, if they were there, or heard about, in the case of those like me who came after the war to the Submarine Force, the torpedo exploder problem and how it became such a critical matter. Until I read this book, I did not realize that the problem was also experienced in spades in the destroyer force, and was also a concern in the PT boats and for the torpedo planes. The author describes the frustration of destroyers firing torpedoes at enemy targets, and at derelict Navy ships, without success even at close range; the difficulty in convincing those up the chain of command (to include those in Washington and at the laboratories) that there was a torpedo problem which wasn’t the doing of the firing units; and the final eleventh hour focus of senior attention which eventually led to fixes of this operationally disastrous condition. Of interest, Captain Crenshaw relates that Alfred Einstein early in the war was shown with pride by the Navy a secret Mk 6 exploder and immediately described, in writing, why it would not be reliable! The author makes the point very clearly that weapons testing must be conducted realistically and thoroughly. One must wonder if today we are conducting enough fullup torpedo testing to include detonation at a target. This reviewer does not think so.

In summary, this book is recommended reading, not only for the points highlighted above, but also for its contribution to the historical record of tough battles fought in a remote area for important national and international interests-the book also needs to be read for its lessom to be learned, many of which are pertinent today and will be tomorrow. Although containing a wealth of very detailed information reflecting both the personal experience of the author as well as his extensive preparatory research, this is a very readable book. Many of us remember well the classic text Naval Shiphandling-Captain Crenshaw continues his writing mastery with this book.

Captain Frank Wadsworth, USN(Ret.) Is composing a collection of Rickover stories which many submariners (and others in the nuclear field) should enjoy. If you are willing to share shome of your experiences with the Kindly Old Gentleman (KOG), please send some samples to Frank. Both serious and amusing anecdotes are desired. What form the end product will take depends upon the inputs received. But Frank will not alter or publish your inputs unless you agree with the wording and the general context. Whatever the end product, it will be truthful and as objective as possible. If any opinions are added to the collection, they will be clearly identified and attributed to the proper owners.

Please send to: Frank Wadsworth, 15 Matson Ridge, Old Lyme, CT. Phones: (860) 434-3959 in Old Lyme, (401) 466-8958 in Block Island, FAX (860) 434-3722; e-mail: fwads@aol .com

Naval Submarine League

© 2022 Naval Submarine League