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Unseen Body Blows: The "Fighting LST 479" and its Seven Pacific Campaigns, 1943-1945

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Between 1942 and 1945, 1,051 amphibious tank-landing ships were rapidly produced. These were anonymous vessels, slow and unwieldy, and in the words of one crewmember, they looked like bathtubs. At first, LSTs had a reputation of being expendable and of relatively low value, and so were bestowed another, less noble, nickname; “Large Slow Targets.” Put into service to get troops and equipment ashore, the story of LST 479 is in some respects the story of all of these ships. Typical of all early LSTs, its crew on commissioning day, April 19, 1943, consisted of raw amateurs. But over the next 1,046 days, through collisions, accidental groundings, navigational errors, and lots of mechanical breakdowns, the 479 crew became sailors. Displaying heroism and ingenuity, they rescued the crew of a crippled landing craft during an Alaskan storm, battled fires aboard a burning LST hit by kamikazes, and fought off air attacks on the way to Makin and Guam, at Saipan, in the Philippines and around Okinawa. This LST crew became the embodiment of the Navy’s 2018 recruiting slogan: “Forged by the Sea.” In gripping, meticulously researched, “you are there” fashion, author William A. Gay, recounts the fascinating history of the 479’s seven Pacific campaigns; from the day-to-day life of the men aboard her, to their terrifying encounters in battle as they delivered “unseen body blows” to the enemy that helped win the war in the Pacific.

235 pages, Kindle Edition

Published April 21, 2019

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About the author

William A. Gay

1 book23 followers
Bill Gay is the author of the award-winning "Unseen Body Blows," the true story of life aboard a World War 2 Landing Ship Tank that participated in seven Pacific Campaigns. The book received a silver medal in the 2020 Military Writers Society of America awards. Gay's background includes 25 years in the Navy, serving aboard two different ships and then as a public affairs officer in the Naval Reserve. After working as a reporter on a daily newspaper, he formed his public relations agency in 1994.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews
April 20, 2020
MWSA Review

Unseen Body Blows: The Fighting LST 479 and Its Seven Pacific Campaigns, 1943-1945 caught my eye for several reasons. First, because of my father’s service as a 19-year-old Marine on Iwo Jima, I find anything about the Marines or the Navy in the Pacific interesting. On the other hand, the history of an LST? Really? My initial thought was, “Isn’t that kind of like the history of a particular truck in a land war?” I was so wrong.

Alex Gay was a young sailor assigned to brand new LST 479 in 1943. In his later years, as old vets often do, he began a book of personal wartime memories combined with a wider historical background. However, Mr. Gay didn’t finish this project before he died, and his son William took his father’s original book, notes, photos, and stories—and added some serious research. From the concept, design, and building of the LSTs in general—and LST 479 in particular—to amusing images of inexperienced crews tooling around the coast of California in newly designed, built, and delivered LSTs, to early adventures in the Aleutians, to the harrowing Pacific battles in 1944 and 1945, William Gay both educates and entertains the reader. Aside from the young sailor’s wartime adventures, LST 479 herself becomes a beloved “action” character. Her journey from shiny new vessel to a tired-old rusting hulk, to the proverbial scrap heap is both educational and fun—so much so that I was reading sections out loud to my husband.

This book is well written and edited. It’s educational and easy to read. It includes a much-appreciated glossary for landlubbers like me who don’t speak Navy. And even more importantly for fellow researchers, the author included chapter by chapter sources that include published and unpublished papers, after-action reports, historical analyses, and other information. In fact, I got stuck in Sources looking up this or that for a delightful week of curiosity browsing. I wish there was an audio version so I could continue enjoying it while driving.

Review by Joyce Faulkner (April 2020)
16 reviews7 followers
December 30, 2019
A fascinating account of a single small ship and its crew as they helped win the war in the Pacific. If your knowledge of WW2 is based on the big battles and major campaigns, Unseen Body Blows will give you insights into a green crew and a brand new ship took their place in US History.
Profile Image for Deborah.
55 reviews
December 16, 2019
I won this on Goodreads Giveaway. I just want to say what an excellent book. I couldn’t put it down. It was very interesting. My husband is going to read it now. I enjoyed it but I think he’ll enjoy it more seeing he’s retired Navy.
Profile Image for Kratz.
98 reviews3 followers
May 27, 2021
An excellent read. Highly recommended.

This was an excellent book. Well written and free of grammatical and spelling errors. It was very readable. There was a lot of detail about daily life, Captain's Masts, the weather and how it affected the men on board. When the ship was stuck at sea for weeks, fresh water running out, food rations running out, and morale getting low, you could understand what life was like for guys from many places across America. William Gay really honored his father by completing a book about the 479 his dad couldn't finish.
He put a lot of research into this to give a more complete history than the ship's log provided, supplemented by a couple other sailors who kept illegal journals.
Profile Image for Carol.
363 reviews50 followers
December 31, 2019
I had initially thought to give this a 3 rating but over time and tearing up at the end when the ship was decommissioned (who would have thought that would be sad for a land lubber!) I changed this to a 4. There was indeed meticulous research done into this book. You can feel the tremendous pride these men had for their ships. That battered bull dog DID deserve every one of its stars, all SEVEN of them!

Thank you to Goodreads for a copy for my review.
Profile Image for Alison .
86 reviews1 follower
December 26, 2019
Although this genre is not one I usually read, Unseen Body Blows I found interesting. I was unfamiliar with this type of ship, what they were used for and had no idea what life on one was like. It has made me appreciate and be forever grateful for our past and present servicemen and women who fight for the freedom of our great country.
27 reviews2 followers
February 3, 2020
Incredible detail was given and incredible research was obviously put into this! Very interesting, even for me who thought I would never be interested
Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews

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