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The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story of the U.S. Navy's Finest Hour
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The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story of the U.S. Navy's Finest Hour

4.27 of 5 stars 4.27  ·  rating details  ·  3,914 ratings  ·  226 reviews
BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from James D. Hornfischer's Neptune's Inferno.

“This will be a fight against overwhelming odds from which survival cannot be expected. We will do what damage we can.”

With these words, Lieutenant Commander Robert W. Copeland addressed the crew of the destroyer escort USS Samuel B. Roberts on the morning of October 25, 1944, off the P
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ebook, 512 pages
Published November 12th 2008 by Bantam (first published November 12th 2003)
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Community Reviews

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Jacqui
This should be required reading for all those who serve in the Navy--on or above the sea. It is the story of Taffy 3, a WWII force of America's smallest ships--Destroyers and Destroyer Escorts. Tasked with protecting the carriers that were part of MacArthur's return to the Philippines, they ended up the front line against Japan's largest collection of battleships and the island nation's last gasp to turn the tides of WWII. No one expected these tiny ships--therein lies the name, 'tin cans'--to f ...more
Evan Filby
As a WW-II history buff, I had read long ago about the part played by Taffy 3 in the overall Battle of Leyte Gulf. Even a "mundane" report of the incredible heroics sent chills up the spine, and brought tears -- and this wonderfully-researched account is far, far beyond mundane. As a writer, I know how difficult it is to move smoothly between viewpoints when the action is widespread and changing fast, and author Hornfischer does a fine job. (That's one of the many strengths of this book.)
An adde
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Brian Leach
I wanted to give this book five stars but I will get into why I had to give four. I really reserve the 5 star rating for the best books I have ever read. The last half of this book fits this description but the first half falls short.

What I mean by this is the level of detail and the number of people described in the first half of the book, before the battle scenes. I found myself struggling to remember all the names because I knew I would want to remember them when the battles were described. I
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Mark C
As a former crew member of the HOEL (DDG-13) the history surrounding the desperate battle at Samar is of great interest. This book captures the extreme peril that was accepted and overcome by the fearless Captains and their crews. Makes one realize that we owe a great debt to the "greatest generation" that we may never be able to repay.
Christopher
I've written before that I am easily annoyed by Tom Brokaw's assertion of the GI Generation as "The Greatest Generation" especially when applied selectively to only Americans. I in no way mean to demean WWII vets (quite the opposite), but I feel like today's young men and women would make the same sacrafices if called upon.

Usually.

The story of Taffy Three is the first time in a WWII history that I have found myself this amazed at the courage under fire of American servicemen. The courage of Army
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Jeremy
If you like reading history books about World War II, the Navy or military subjects in general, this is a well written, gripping book worth reading. It's about a single naval battle toward the end of WWII off the coast of the Philippines, A tiny group of small US ships managed to survive (mostly) an intense onslaught by a huge group of Japanese vessels through a combination of luck, determination and strategy, with help from the "fog of war." The author interviewed many of the survivors of the b ...more
Tony duncan
Mar 12, 2012 Tony duncan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Tony by: library
Shelves: audio, history
A really fascinating book, both for the history of the battle and the detail of so many sailors lives and their history. A well written book that covers mostly one battle from a huge variety of individuals involved in it. The book captures the human element that covers simple relationships between various members of different ships in this one carrier fleet, as well as the over-arching background of the war and the specific strategies and events that led up to this particular battle. There are a ...more
Max
This is the absolutely amazing story of perhaps the greatest sea battle that you have never heard of. While there bigger and more powerful counterparts were away, a group of tin can ships (carrier escorts and destroyer escorts) that were never supposed to see real battle were engaged by a massive Japanese fleet.

The tiny American ships are forced to outlast their enemies through nothing but seamanship, fortitude, and inferior weapons (and maybe a little luck). The ensuing battle is amazing and sh
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Sean
My grandfather was in this battle, on the USS Hoel. He was a survivor. I've had the HONOR and OPPORTUNITY in meeting these brave men who fought along side him on these "Tin Cans" at Leyte Gulf and have heard the most amazing stories from them. Sam Lucas, Bill Mercer, Glenn Parkin, and others. This is a great book on their accounts. Also, my family and I attended the monument dedication in San Diego in 1996, and its an amazing site. If you're a history buff like myself, you wont be disappointed., ...more
Dennis
I was standing in the bookstore contemplating buying when an older gent on a cane told me I should read it. Turned out he was on one of the ships at the time and his photo was in the book. I shook his hand, thanked him for his service and bought the book. An excellent read for anyone interested in Naval History.
Colin Rush
I never thought I would use the term "gripping", but this book merits that description. This is a very intense recounting of the last major ship-to-ship action in naval history, the Battle of Samar. When a group of destroyer escorts and aircraft carrier escorts are patrolling the Leyte Gulf off the coast of the Philippines, they run smack into a group of Japanese battleships, including the Yamato, largest of her fleet. Hopelessly outgunned and unable to outrun the Japanese, the Americans adopted ...more
Jim Hale
History writing at its very finest. Like a great novelist, Hornfischer conveys emotional depth by providing detail. In the circumstances leading up to the disaster (caused by Admiral Halsey's blunder), the gruesome battle scenes, the individual stories of self-sacrifice, courage and American ingenuity, Hornfischer keeps the tension going, superbly describing one of the most stirring, against-the-odds naval battles of all time. This book rises to the level of classic and is a must-read for milita ...more
John
An excellent narrative history of the last great surface battle in history where a division of second line US fleet units faced off against much of what was left of the Japanese main fleet.

I've been aware of the heroic actions of Taffy 3 off Samar at the Battle of Leyte Gulf for some time, but only in a more abstract sense from more general histories of the war. This book goes into far more detail concerning the actions of each of the destroyers and destroyer escorts involved, and goes into as
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Al
An exhaustively detailed and well-researched story of the desperate battle between a powerful Japanese naval force and a task force of U.S. light carriers, destroyers, and destroyer escorts off the Philippines in 1944. The engagement occurred only because Admiral Halsey took his main fleet north in an ill-advised pursuit of a small Japanese carrier force, leaving the other group of ships unprotected. No one saw the Japanese force coming. Outgunned, the U.S. force fought valiantly and inflicted ...more
Joe

This is an incredible story of the sea battle that could have changed the course of the Pacific battle. Against overwhelming odds, a group of courageous "Tin Cans" (smaller Destroyers) fought the BEST that Japan had in Naval carriers. The courage of our smaller ships fought with true heroic effort.

Where were our carriers? A famous Naval Admiral had gone against orders and chased a diversion of Japanese freight ships which fortunately was not aware of the successful feign. If it had realized of t
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Jonathan
Excellent book on the stand of Taffy 3, where men given the opportunity to run or fight chose to fight, despite the overwhelming odds and help change the course of the battle. Personal and down in the action style of writing helps make this read like a novel.
Tom
I have always been a fan of military history, WWII in particular. Having been in the Army, and currently the Air Force, my interests have always been focused on land/air combat and those who have made history in those arenas; paying little attention to naval warfare.

This book, recommended by my father (former Navy), was the one that kindeled a new interest in the history of naval combat in WWII. I have read few military history books that are written so well about what many people find to be a
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J.
"Our schoolchildren should know about [this] incident, and our enemies should ponder it."

In late October 1944 the US Navy guarded the seas off the Philippines protecting the return of General MacArthur. With the 7th Fleet (Kinkaid) guarding from the south, and the 3rd Fleet (Halsey) guarding the north, those in the middle didn't expect to see much action. But Japan knew it's days were numbered and invented a daring plan to protect their position and resources in the Philippines by attacking from
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Michael Burnam-fink
There are moments in history of transcendence, of courage and duty that lifts men and material out of this world and into another. The Battle off Samar was one such moment, when the men of Taffy 3 faced a Japanese fleet containing the super-battleship Yamato with nothing more than a handful of destroyers, destroyer-escorts, and escort carriers, and through gumption, gunnery, and the grace of god, won. Hornfischer chronicles every minute of the battle in this tale, writing a grand tale of heroism ...more
Scott
Should be the bible of all Navy Surface Warriors. Excellent account of shipboard leadership (both good and bad) during Battle of Leyte Gulf, centering on the incredible engagement between small USN destroyers and huge Japanese Battleships and Cruisers off Samar Island in Philippines. In quiet moments LCDR Ernest Evans will pop into my head. He was skipper of the brave USS JOHNSTON (DD-557). Awarded MOH.
Tom Hanks
Great piece of military history, good explanation of the battle from top-level strategic to minute details of shipboard life. Compelling narrative. A few too many characters are introduced; a little too much relish on some of the gruesome details; a little repetitive nearer the end. Finishes strong though, glad to be enlightened about this piece of history.
Todd Miles
This is an excellent account of the WWII Pacific Battle off Samar - one of the most gripping and exciting naval battles in US History. A small American fleet was left defending McArthur’s invasion of the Philippines against the strength of the Japanese navy. Incredible bravery by the American forces. Strong narrative account.
Broadwaydon
I can tell you all the reasons this is an exceptional book. It puts a human face on war, it is extremely well written, it brings history to life. for some reason, however, it just did not hold my interest all that long; so I read it in little bursts and didn't actually finish it. I have chosen to add it to my list only because the book deserves to be publicized so that more folks will give it a try. I suspect that I will come back to it at some future date; this just may not have been the right ...more
Jessie Gussman
The reason this book should be read?
"The vision of Sprague's three destroyers...charging out of the smoke and the rain straight toward the main batteries of Karita's battleships and cruisers, can endure as a picture of the way Americans fight when they don't have superiority. Our schoolchildren should know about that incident, and our enemies should ponder it." --Herman Wouk in War and Remembrance.

"Legend, tradition, history can drive a commitment to excellence that raises people and has them pe
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Byron
For decades, I have watched and rewatched a few of those classic WWII movies such as the Longest Day, the Battle of the Bulge, Midway, and a Bridge too Far. I knew the Dirty Dozen and Kelly's Heroes were fiction, but certainly were part of my list of WWII era movies that I would always watch if they were on.

In the reading splurge I have enjoyed over the past several years, it has been my pleasure to discover other classic stories of World War II that I was less familiar with. Most recently, I ha
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Joe
I fell in love with this book about 6 years ago. It is the most enthalling account of a battle that I have ever read. The depiction of courage and heroism in the face of hopeless odds is inspirational, and quit astounding for having actually happened. It was the kind of stuff that would make a novel seem phony for being so far from normal expectation.

History buffs know of the Battle off Samar on October 24, 1944 (aka The Defense of TAFFY-3), but I find the general public seems largely unaware of
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Michael
This book is an excellent account of the events of the Battle of Samar in October, 1944. Hornfischer has written a dramatic account, liberally spreading quotes, images, and first-person accounts gathered from survivors, reports, and secondary sources about the battle. He does a broad overview of the strategic situation leading up to the invasion of the Philippines by the US and the Battle of the Surigao Strait. It is clear that, like most contemporary authors, he views Halsey's chase to the nort ...more
Judah Nielsen
So we've reached the point in our discussions of WWII where writing about individual battles isn't exciting enough, and we need to start breaking up the action even further. This book, for instance, is the story of the near catastrophe off Samar, which was one component of the naval action usually grouped together as the Battle of Leyte Gulf. It also covers, in some detail, the previous day's Battle of the Sibuyan Sea and the previous night's Battle of Surigao Strait, and Halsey's decision to ta ...more
Steve
One of the greatest naval battles that was fought during World War II, I didn't know much about until reading this book. The battle off Samar around the Philippine Sea was fought on October 25, 1944. 13 American warships were sunk or destroyed by overwhelming Japanese firepower. The destroyers of Task Force-Known as Taffy 3 were involved in this battle. They were the Hoel, the Heermann, and the Johnston. They were nicknamed Tin cans, Because three-eighths-inch steel decks creaked and bent in wav ...more
Walt O'Hara
In the long roll of the history of naval warfare, there are many great names that ring with the authoritative clang of a sword blow on a shield; Trafalgar, Jutland, Tsushima, Midway. Less well known, yet oddly eclipsing them all, is the desperate defense of Task Force 3 (the ubiquitous "Taffy 3") off Samar Island in the Philippines on 25 October 1944. The Battle off Samar was just part of the largest, most sprawling battle in naval history-- the battle of Leyte Gulf, a clash of titans. The leade ...more
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Hornfischer’s writing career has grown out of a lifelong interest in the Pacific war. He has appeared on television on The History Channel, Fox News Channel’s “War Stories with Oliver North” and C-SPAN’s “BookTV.” A frequent speaker on the subject of the war in the Pacific, the U.S. Navy, and the experience of America’s sailors in World War II, he frequently addresses veterans organizations, youth ...more
More about James D. Hornfischer...
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“Though distrust of the Japanese was widespread in the Navy, Sprague was among the first to appreciate exactly what the Japanese might do. In June 1928 the Lexington participated in a mock surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.” 0 likes
“The previous day, December 6, Sprague had upbraided his crew for their sloppy performance during an intensive series of drills. He broke with his nature and let them have it. Gathering his officers in the Tangier's wardroom, Sprague said, “We're not prepared. We can't trust the Japanese. How do you know the Japanese won't attack tomorrow?” The next morning the Combined Fleet struck.” 0 likes
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