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Down to the Sea
Cover of Down to the Sea
Down to the Sea
An Epic Story of Naval Disaster and Heroism in World War II
Borrow Borrow Borrow

This epic story opens at the hour the Greatest Generation went to war on December 7, 1941, and follows four U.S. Navy ships and their crews in the Pacific until their day of reckoning three years later with a far different enemy: a deadly typhoon. In December 1944, while supporting General MacArthur's invasion of the Philippines, Admiral William "Bull" Halsey neglected the Law of Storms, placing the mighty U.S. Third Fleet in harm's way. Drawing on extensive interviews with nearly every living survivor and rescuer, as well as many families of lost sailors, transcripts and other records from naval courts of inquiry, ships' logs, personal letters, and diaries, Bruce Henderson finds some of the story's truest heroes exhibiting selflessness, courage, and even defiance.

This epic story opens at the hour the Greatest Generation went to war on December 7, 1941, and follows four U.S. Navy ships and their crews in the Pacific until their day of reckoning three years later with a far different enemy: a deadly typhoon. In December 1944, while supporting General MacArthur's invasion of the Philippines, Admiral William "Bull" Halsey neglected the Law of Storms, placing the mighty U.S. Third Fleet in harm's way. Drawing on extensive interviews with nearly every living survivor and rescuer, as well as many families of lost sailors, transcripts and other records from naval courts of inquiry, ships' logs, personal letters, and diaries, Bruce Henderson finds some of the story's truest heroes exhibiting selflessness, courage, and even defiance.

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  • Chapter One

    Pearl Harbor

    December 7, 1941

    The greatest generation's first day of war dawned bright over Oahu.

    Although sunrise came officially to the Hawaiian Islands at 6:36 A.M. that morning, Pearl Harbor remained shaded to the east by the 2,000-foot volcanic twins, Tantalus and Olympus, for another half an hour. As the sun crested the low-slung mountaintops, its brilliance washed the sky with bold streaks of light and painted in emerald the endless sugarcane fields stretching up the lush slopes above the nearly landlocked home port of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet.

    The destroyer Monaghan (DD-354) was tied up to a nest of three other destroyers: Aylwin, Dale, and Farragut. The four vessels, which made up Destroyer Division 2, were moored side by side in East Loch off the north end of Ford Island—less than one square mile of land situated in the middle of Pearl Harbor—home to a naval air station, ware-houses, and oil storage tanks. Several dozen other ships, including three other destroyer divisions, were moored on that side of the island; however, most of the fleet's anchorages (including an impressive lineup of America's biggest warships on Battleship Row), dry docks, and repair facilities, along with a sprawling oil-tank farm, were located along the harbor's expansive southeastern shores.

    Monaghan had been the ready-duty destroyer since 8:00 the previous morning, meaning that for twenty-four hours the ship was "in readiness to get under way on one hour's notice" should her presence be required outside the harbor. To ensure a quick getaway, Monaghan was moored in the outboard position of the nest and singled up (with only one mooring line rather than multiple tie-downs), with a fire under one boiler and the full crew aboard. In the event of hostilities, enemy submarines were believed to be the most serious threat to the flow of ships that came and went from the harbor, so there was always at least one destroyer patrolling outside the entrance. Another destroyer was on standby to assist with any emergency outside the harbor.

    Monaghan belonged to the Farragut class (named for the first U.S. Navy admiral, David Glasgow Farragut, a Civil War hero credited with the legendary battle cry "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!"), which were the first modern destroyers built for the U.S. Navy since the end of World War I. A total of eight ships in this class were launched in 1934-35. Designed to carry a crew of 150 men (war-time complements exceeded 200), the vessels were dubbed by sailors as "gold platers" because they were so plush compared with their predecessors. Representing the peak of technology and naval design for their era, these 1,395-ton two-stackers with a flank speed of 37 knots (43 miles per hour) were originally armed with five 5-inch deck guns (two forward, two aft, one amidships), four .50-caliber mounted machine guns, eight torpedo tubes, and a pair of depth-charge tracks.

    The last Farragut-class destroyer built, Monaghan was launched on January 9, 1935, in Boston and christened by Mary F. Monaghan, niece of its namesake. Like all destroyers, Monaghan was named for a hero; other ships were named for states (battleships), cities (cruisers), famous ships (aircraft carriers), and fish (submarines). Ensign John R. Monaghan had served aboard the cruiser Philadelphia during a native uprising in Samoa in 1899. Monaghan had joined a landing party assigned to restore order among the natives, and his small band was returning to the ship when they were ambushed, during which a lieutenant was badly wounded. Despite the lieutenant's order to leave him and save themselves, Monaghan and two sailors stood...

About the Author-
  • Bruce Henderson has written more than twenty books, including the national bestseller Hero Found and Rescue at Los Baños. Henderson served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CVA-61) during the Vietnam War. He lives in Menlo Park, California.

Reviews-
  • L.A. Times Book Review Praise for AND THE SEA WILL TELL: "Engrossing...compelling. This book succeeds on all counts"
  • Kirkus Review Praise for TRUE NORTH: "Nail-biting true adventure"
  • San Francisco Chronicle Praise for TRUE NORTH: "A masterful job"
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Down to the Sea
Down to the Sea
An Epic Story of Naval Disaster and Heroism in World War II
Bruce Henderson
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