Mike's Reviews > The Twilight Warriors: The Deadliest Naval Battle of World War II and the Men Who Fought It

The Twilight Warriors by Robert Gandt
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's review
Jun 08, 13

bookshelves: aviation, history, military, naval, ww2
Read from June 04 to 08, 2013

The last great battle of the Pacific war loomed. They didn’t know it at the time but most realized the war was coming to an end. This is a story of the Okinawa campaign. This is primarily the story of the Navy pilots of the USS Intrepid. Some were veterans of other battles and campaigns. Some were brand new pilots, who called themselves ‘Tail-end Charlies’, anxious to get into the war before it ended. Some were senior officers who had never been to combat. It is also the story of the Army and Marines who landed on Okinawa and the Japanese Navy, Air Force and Army who fought there. It is a much more complete story of the campaign than I expected. Ernie Pyle is here. Kamikazes become more than early precision-guided-weapon, you get to know who they are. The last sortie of the Yamato and the race to kill it is an exciting story.

I give The Twilight Warriors: The Deadliest Naval Battle of World War II and the Men Who Fought It 5 Battle Stars, this story is superbly well-told. I appreciated how he weaves the stories together, US and Japanese, until you get to know the participants from the commanders down to the grunts and swabbies. Perhaps I have a special connection to the story. The book I read is signed by a veteran aviator from the USS Intrepid who fought in the Okinawa campaign and was a source for the book (although his episodes are not part of the story). I had the great privilege of meeting and listening to this ‘Tail-End Charley’ tell war stories last year at our local chapter of the EAA. (Sadly he just passed away 2 months ago.)

Here is the scene as they prepare to shove off:

ALAMEDA NAVALAIR STATION, CALIFORNIA

FEBRUARY 19, 1945


It was late, nearly ten o’clock, but the party was going strong. You could hear them singing a hundred yards down the street from the officers’ club.

I wanted wiiiings

till I got the goddamn things,

Now I don’t want ‘em anymooore...


Getting plastered before deployment was a ritual in the wartime Navy, and the pilots of Bomber Fighting 10 were no exception. It was the night before their departure aboard the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid. The entire squadron had suited up in their dress blues and mustered in the club for their farewell bash.

The party began like most such occasions Pronouncements were made, senior officers recognized, lost comrades toasted. The liquor flowed, and then came the singing. It was a form of therapy. For the new pilots, the booze, bravado, and macho lyrics masked their anxieties about what lay ahead. For the veterans, the singing and the camaraderie brought reassurance. Most knew in their secret hearts that they’d been lucky. They’d lived through this much of the war. There were no guarantees they’d make it through the next round.

Leaning against the bar and clutching his drink, Ensign Roy “Eric” Erickson bellowed out the verses of the song. Erickson was a gangly twenty-two-year-old from Lincoln, Nebraska. He was one of the new pilots in the squadron. They called themselves “Tail End Charlies.” They flew at the tail end of formations, stood at the tail end of chow lines, and now were catching the tail end of the war.


But US Navy flying is only part of the story told here. The story of the kamikaze is also told in great detail because this was the battle where they made their major impact. We also will get to know US and Japanese sailors on various ships, Ernie Pyle shows up for his rendezvous with fate, the landing and battles are covered on both sides…you get a real picture of the entire campaign here. Not as detailed as Tennozan: The Battle Of Okinawa And The Atomic Bomb will give you but this book would be a great place to get excited about learning more.

Hilarious description of the gulf between the surface Navy men (black shoe) and the Navy pilots (Brown shoes). After the first day of combat in the Okinawa air campaign, the flyboys gather to relive the day’s events while the regular Navy looks on.

(view spoiler)

The drama of the final sortie of the Yamato and her escorts is superb, told from the perspectives of all the participants. Really well done. The war in the Pacific had a completely different experience from the European theater. The aftermath of the sinking of the Yamato shows this clearly.

(view spoiler)

I don't think the British contribution is well known but they were there at Okinawa. Had a different result. The American carriers were getting hammered by the kamikazes. Attack after attack featured a Japanese aircraft penetrating the flight deck and creating a maelstrom in the lower hangar spaces where fully loaded and fueled airplanes waited. The Brits, on the other hand, had a different experience in the same battle:

(view spoiler)

Strongly recommended!

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06/04/2013 marked as: currently-reading
06/08/2013 marked as: read

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message 1: by Mark (new) - added it

Mark Mortensen ALAMEDA NAVALAIR STATION, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 19, 1945

That caption in your review caught my attention as the festivities at that moment clashed with action on the far side of the globe that same day, D-Day at Iwo Jima.


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