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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  ·  4,124 ratings  ·  241 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
ebook, 512 pages
Published November 12th 2008 by Bantam (first published November 12th 2003)
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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
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
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.
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.


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
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
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
Jeff Miller
"Covers the battle off Samar, the Philippines, in October 1944, in which a force of American escort carriers and destroyers fought off a Japanese force many times its strength, and the larger battle of Leyte Gulf, the opening of the American liberation of the Philippines,"

Wow, oh wow. Totally blown away by the retelling of this history. Way beyond reciting a history of events, but including the stories of the sailors involved especially the crew of the destroyer escort USS Samuel B. Roberts. Suc
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.
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
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

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
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
most Americans are familiar with the Battle of Midway, June 1942, the famous cryptological decrypts; the US aircraft carrier rushed to repair; the 4 Japanese fleet aircraft carriers caught at the vulnerable moment as they switch from land bombs to ocean torpedoes-- and Pearl Harbor is avenged. lesser known is the last fleet-on-fleet battle in history, the Battle off Samar 25 October 1944 in which due to Japanese decoy action, the US Navy Task Force 3 ("Taffy 3") comprising 'jeep carrier' escort ...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
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
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
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.
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
"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
Van Bedell
I recommend this book to anyone who loves a story with action, courage, and enough detail to make it interesting. This book was thoroughly researched, well written, and had very few flaws. I read it on my kindle which does make it difficult to see the maps, and to page back to other data like the list of ships. Amazingly, the author provides website references so you can go see the information in larger format. What a concept until Kindle figures out how to do this.

Hornfischer provides just eno
This book recounts personal stories of men aboard the destroyers and escorts at the famous battle off Samar Island near the Leyte invasion beaches of the Philippines. THe Japanese launched a powerful two-pronged attack, but lacking air cover. The southern fleet was chopped up, but the Center Force, with several battleships and heavy cruisers had no opposition as numb-nuts "Bull" Halsey pulled his powerful 3rd fleet north after a decoy attack. A squadron of jeep carriers and tin cans, Taffy 3, fo ...more
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
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.
An incredible story of David vs. Goliath, with David being destroyed but damaging Goliath so badly that he gives up and retreats. Hornfischer makes a convincing argument that the Japanese retreat was not just due to a lack of will, but the result of continuous, unflinching resistance, and that the outcome was far from clear if their attack has continued.

The book is very detailed, and Hornfischer has done his research; I noticed very few obvious mistakes in terminology and jargon. The timeline c
Judy Templeton-sims
To dry. To many dates and people.
If they had expounded on the people longer, it may have been more interesting to me.
I did not finish reading the book.
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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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
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“Wildcats could carry a light bomb load too. Their pilots, however, found to their dismay that the bombs could be difficult to drop: a pilot had not only to pull the bomb release but also to jerk the plane’s rudder back and forth, shaking the plane in midflight to dislodge the bombs from their notoriously sticky mountings.” 0 likes
“ESCORT CARRIERS HAD MANY nicknames, only a few tinged with anything resembling affection: jeep carriers, Woolworth flattops, Kaiser coffins, one-torpedo ships. Wags in the fleet deadpanned that the acronym CVE stood for the escort carrier’s three most salient characteristics: combustible, vulnerable, expendable. That most everyone seemed to get the joke—laughing in that grim, nervous way—was probably the surest sign that it was rooted in truth.” 0 likes
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