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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

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  8,332 ratings  ·  502 reviews
“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 Philippine Island of Samar. On the horizon loomed the mightiest ships of the Japanese nav
Paperback, 528 pages
Published March 29th 2005 by Bantam (first published November 12th 2003)
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Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
“When a heavy round from a naval rifle hits a ship and explodes, the energy released pulverizes the hardened steel of the shell and swirls up the shattered remnants of surrounding metal decks and bulkheads. All of this metal rushes outward on the edge of a wave of blast pressure that a typical shipboard compartment cannot hope to contain. The sudden and overwhelming ‘overpressure’ turns the compartment itself into a weapon, its remains churning up into a superheated storm of fragmented or liquef ...more
Aug 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
5 Battle Stars! There are few books that will impact you physically as well as mentally. This is one of them. I sit drained and awe-inspired. Hornfischer will take you into the heart of this final major sea battle off the coast of the Philippine Islands, a battle that should have been a slaughter of American ships by a vastly more powerful Japanese force. But a small force of destroyers/destroyer escorts and swirling naval air attacked, and attacked, and attacked until the Japanese force finally ...more
A. L. Sowards
What do you do when you’re a relatively small group of light aircraft carriers, destroyers, and destroyer escorts and you’re suddenly faced with the biggest ships in the Japanese Navy? Japanese ships that are faster, sturdier, and have guns that can fire long before you’ll be in range to fire back?

You can:

A) Curse Admiral Halsey for chasing a decoy group of Japanese ships and leaving your flank exposed.

B) Accept the fact that you are probably going to die.

C) Charge the Japanese line anyway,
Feb 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: military, history
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
Dec 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The history of the U. S. Navy contains many stories of great valor -- from Stephen Decatur burning the frigate PHILADELPHIA in the harbor at Tripoli, through David Dixon Porter running the gauntlet of Confederate batteries at Vicksburg, to the attack of Torpedo Squadron 8 at Midway -- but few compare to the actions of USS JOHNSTON and USS HOEL off Samar in 1944. Commander Ernest E. Evans demonstrated the “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity” worthy of his posthumous Medal of Honor. The sea bat ...more
Bob Mayer
Jul 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Exceptional story of courage

My father served in the Navy in World War II. Reading this gave me an idea of what he faced as a 17 year old shipped out to the Pacific. Well worth the time to read and appreciate
Jan 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Mark C
Jul 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jul 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-war-ii
Military history that is as compelling a read as the best novel you've ever read. This book is at once a detailed telling of a part of the larger battle of Leyte Gulf and an excellent tribute to the naval service and to a small segment of the "Greatest Generation."
Wayne Barrett
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing

What a powerful piece of our history. An event that is slowly being forgotten as time goes by. This story covers the details of the Naval battle in Samar (during the conquest to retake the Philippines from the Japanese) in which, against overwhelming odds, a small group of ships under Admiral Sprague defeated a massive Japanese imperial fleet. It was from this battle that Herman Wouk used for his classic, War and Remembrance.
I served in the Navy, so obviously this hits home for me. I can relate
Evan Filby
Sep 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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
Nov 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ww2, naval
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.
I was passingly familiar with the Battle of Leyte Gulf and Admiral Halsey, but I didn't know about the Battle off Samar, in which a handful of American escort ships charged and, incredible as it sounds, beat back a large Japanese fleet full of Goliaths like the Yamato, the largest-ever warship at the time.

The courage and guts of this small naval battlegroup, called Taffy 3, reads like pure fiction, yet it isn't. A bunch of outnumbered and outgunned "peashooter" tin cans making a hopeless last st
Feb 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I had a conversation a while back with a soldier who'd distinguished himself in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. He observed to me that "A lot of heroes in a battle means someone screwed up bad." So it was in this tale of a desperate World War II naval battle against impossible odds that would have never occurred had the legendary Admiral "Bull" Halsey not been played for a sucker by the Imperial Japanese Navy.

While Halsey chased a decoy force in his obsession to sink another Japanese carrier, a
May 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Another of his superb works of naval history, James Hornfischer's tale of the Battle of Leyte Gulf concentrates its sights on the Battle Off Samar on October 25, 1944, when a 13-ship US Navy task force of fragile escort carriers and the small ships of their screen (code name: Taffy 3) were forced to face an enormous Japanese fleet of battleships, heavy and light cruisers, and many more destroyers ships than the Americans possessed and fight them to the death. Like many last stand situations, the ...more
Richard Bensing
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There are just some books that sweep you up into their embrace and drag you helplessly through their tale until the conclusion is reached. "The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors" is just such a book, and should be required reading for all members of the sea services. I was aware of the circumstances of the Battle off Samar --- Halsey gorging on the bait of the decoy carrier fleet to the north and moving his fleet to attack; the undersized U.S. fleet that was left behind to face the mighty Japane ...more
Apr 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, wwii
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
Brian Leach
Apr 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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
Jan 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This was probably the best book about a naval battle that I have ever read. No, it was the best book that I have ever read. There was literally never a dull moment. The author did a great job setting up the battle by developing the characters and explaining all the events that led up to the battle of Samar/Leyte Gulf.

The actual battle was described in vivid detail through the eyes of the American aviators and sailors who fought it. Your heart will leap when the tin can sailors of the USN Samuel
Jeff Miller
Dec 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"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
Nov 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
N.N. Light
Originally published in 1953 this is a key factor in why this book is still relevant rather than a demerit against it's value. The author, Theodore Roscoe, is able to bring the fierce and dangerous experience of the little thought of ship to the forefront. Never getting the glamor that carriers or battleships receive, these little ships were everywhere and did everything. This includes protecting the aforementioned big ships.

Told in a terrific chronological fashion, this book flips from Atlant
The Battle of Leyte Gulf is by far the greatest example of David vs. Goliath. David of course wins the day. Goliath is badly mauled and retreats to Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The battle illustrates the desparate gamble of destroyers against the entire IJN Center Force. I can only imagine the sickening feeling the sailors had when the pagoda style masts of battleships and cruisers came over the horizon. I only wish there was more included from the Japanese side of the battle. A great book.
Jeff Dawson
Jul 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a great story! I’ve read a few accounts of this battle but nothing like this. Hornsfischer puts you onboard the Hoel, Johnston and Samuel B. Roberts like no one else has.
On October 24th, the men of these ships and others, awoke to another day of protecting MacArthur’s landing troops in Leyte Gulf. They received the normal morning general alarm drill to keep them sharp. They were told to stand down and went about their daily chores until the klaxon sounded again. A little annoyed, irritat
Feb 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm not very familiar with naval military history. My focus has always been on the ground forces, but there has the been the occasional event or action that has caught my attention. Task Force Taffy 3's ordeal on October 25, 1944 during the Battle of Leyte Gulf is one of those events. Dramatic, exciting and horrific the two hour battle between the U.S. Navy light carrier task force and the huge Japanese heavy surface fleet makes for gripping reading - akin to watching a movie. It also reads like ...more
Jul 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
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
Apr 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The last stand of the Tin Can Sailors by James D Hornfisher
The true story of the naval battle of San Bernardino Strait. Philippines during WWII. A last ditch battle of navy Destroys and Destroy escorts against Japanese heavy cruisers and battle ships. defending the USCarriers from destruction. The little against the giants. As a Korean War sailor I understand the heroic struggle they made it was in the last stand of the Alamo style of a battle.gave it 5 stars
May 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shortly after 0630 on the morning of October 25, 1944 on the waters off Samar Island in the Philippines; American task force 77:4.3 known as task force or Taffy 3 would be engaged by a vastly superior Japanese force. The total American Naval forces on scene would include six small escort carriers none carrying the types of weapons needed for ship to ship battle. Providing escort would be a total of seven American ships three destroyers and four destroyer escorts. Japanese forces would include fo ...more
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, world-war-ii
Thursday, August 22, 2019

The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors
by James D. Hornfischer

This is the third Hornfischer book I have read this year and in addition to a few other books about the U.S. Navy it describes the gallantry of the Navy. He mentions that unlike the ground soldiers Sailors had no foxhole to dive into during attack.

I wonder whether my generation and later appreciate the sacrifices made by the veterans of WWII. World War II was a war that needed to be fought. Japan and Germany wer
Tony duncan
Mar 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Tony by: library
Shelves: history, audio
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
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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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