Tales from a Tin Can
Contributor: Jimmy Lebel
Review Date: 25 Sep 2010
I just finished reading Tales from a Tin Can by Michael Keith Olson. This book had a totally different feel to it when it came to accounts of the Pacific Theater. The book chronicled the adventures of the USS Dale (DD-353), a Farragut-class destroyer. The Dales' thin armor plating, and its small size earned it, and the other 8 Farragut-class destroyers in the US Pacific Fleet in 1941, the name "Tin Cans" as the sailors claimed this was what they were made from. The Dale was not the most heavily equipped ship in the war, but she had one heck of a battle record. I mean, this ship was docked at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, was involved in the Battle of the Coral Sea, fought to protect the fleet that won the Battle of Midway, escorted numerous ships through what is now known as Iron Bottom Sound on their way to aid in the battle of Guadalcanal, to spending nine months in the Bering Sea patrolling, the only thing to protect them from the deadly cold water being their life rafts with netted floors! If they went down, those boats would surely mean death within minutes. You can really go on and on to great battles at places like Wake Island, the Marshall Islands, the Philippines, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. From 1941 through the end of the war in 1945, the Dale sailed countless miles and seemed to be involved in a little bit of everything that went on in the Pacific throughout the whole war.
I really got a great perspective on how the Dale participated in all of these great conflicts (and more), because I did not get just one perspective. The author Michael Keith Olson was a sailor himself. So was his father, Robert "Pat" Olson. Pat served aboard the Dale for the whole time from Pearl Harbor until the end of the war. So Michael followed around the traveling reunion for the Dale that traveled across the country for a year. During this time he was able to interview multiple survivors that had served aboard the Dale and get their account on how everything went down. So there about 40 men throughout the book that told of various experiences during certain times aboard the Dale. About 10 of them were on the ship for the long haul, like Pat, and provide a good base line for the book. At first I had to get used to the read, but once I could appreciate it for what it was trying to do, it was great and it really kept my attention. These were two accounts of the total and utter commotion that took place during the attack on Pearl Harbor as explained by two different men:
Harold Reichert, Store Keeper - My general quarters station was at gun two, which was up forward. So, when that torpedo hit the old Utah, I took off as fast as I could. As I was moving along the length of the ship, I passed the ward room, where a frightened-looking ensign was standing in the hatchway. "We're being attacked, sir," I said without slowing down."
John Cruce, Fire control man - A young ensign was standing in the hatchway with his jaws wide open. I ran past him yelling, "We're at war, sir!" I kept right on a-running until I reached the galley, where I pulled the general quarter's alarm."
So you could see that these two men ran by the same officer, while the Utah was getting torpedoed. You got this type of thing throughout the book. It was a great way to tell the story of a ship. There were so many men that made the ship a living, breathing thing, and you needed all of them to paint the full picture. I really recommend this book. It was a great change of pace from the usual carnage that was the Pacific Theater. Heck, the Dale only had one casualty throughout the whole war, and it was an accident! There were endless reasons for this, and you will have to read this book to find them out!
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Chiang Kaishek, 31 Jul 1937