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Book Review Of Tales From a Tin Can: The USS Dale from Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay

Tales from a Tin Can:  The USS Dale from Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay          Tales from a Tin Can: 

The USS Dale from Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay

by Michael Keith Olson

Eye Witness Accounts From the Crew of the USS Dale

One of the first destoyers to escape from the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, was the USS Dale.  It evaded machine gun fire, bombs and torpedoes without suffering one casualty.  In Michael Keith Olson’s book Tales From a Tin Can:  The USS Dale from Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay, stories of the Pearl Harbor attack and WW II are told as seen from the eyes of the USS Dale crew. 

The USS Dale crew provides Olson with an impressive group of eye-witnesses who, like most combat veterans, can remember the events in impressive detail, along with their reactions and thoughts during combat.  For the men of the USS Dale, their memories of life on ship is not restricted to combat, as substantive as that would be.  They also spoke of daily chores…letters home…shore time.  Though the eye witness accounts prevented the sustained cohesive flow of story telling, they are priceless histories as is.  The accounts are in the individual’s words and are irresistibly engaging.  The men’s honesty, humility and unpretentiousness is often coupled with profound insight or witty humor.  Reading their personal accounts is like sitting next to them on their front porch on a summer evening.  Just as simple and just as wonderful.  But war is un-wonderful, and one wonders in listening to their stories how these men survived such horrors on the USS Dale and still came out gentle and kind. 

The writing by Olson himself in notes throughout the book is impressively tight and compelling.   The book may have benefited from more of his literary presence, but it was wise to cede the center stage to the veterans themselves for no one can disagree that they deserve it. 

Because of the number of eyewitnesses, the attack on Pearl Harbor is not only vivid but multidimensional. 

“I jumped out of bed, got dressed, and ran topside.  When I stuck my head out of the hatch, I saw explosions throughout the harbor and burning ships.  My stomach fell and I knew in an instant that we were at war.”  — Jim Sturgill, USS Dale.

“The next time I cashed up to the bridge I saw a horrible sight.  The USS Utah had turned over and was lying with only her bottom showing…the big bomber hanger over on Ford Island alive with flames.  The USS Arizona was afire and sinking fast.  The West Virginia was hit…and afire.  The USS Nevada was hit …and heading for the beach…”  — Johnny Miller, USS Dale.

Olson notes:  “At about 0810, the Arizona was hit by one of the 16-inch armor-piercing naval rounds dropped by a level bomber.  The round penetrated the Arizona’s deck near turret two and ignited in the ships’ forward ammunition magazine, mortally wounding the ship.  The resulting explosion and fire killed 1, 177 crewmen.  Those serving on the ships near the exploding Arizona that day would say, ‘It rained sailors.’” 

“When we got under way, the first ship we passed was the Monaghan, which was stuck in the mud…  eight Jap planes were attacking her…” — Alvis Harris, USS Dale.

The enemy causing all this havoc was Admiral Isproku Yamamoto of the Imperial Japanese Navy.  Yamamoto had attended Harvard University as a student and was appointed as Japan’s Naval Attaché to the US.  By 1941, Yamamoto was commandeering a fleet of aircraft that exceeded the U.S.’s. 

More treasures are found throughout the book.   There is a very interesting narrative on Butch O’Hare, for whom the airport in Chicago is named, and a reference to the Navy’s use of author James Michener on the Island of Espiritu Santo as part of an information-gathering mission.  TV’s Deadliest Catch fans will be fascinated by the account of Yamamoto’s battle plans that included an attack on Dutch Harbor, Alaska.

But the appeal of Tin Can remains with its crew.  They also speak of boys willingly enlisting when War broke out.  The Great Depression, poor wages and an urge to get involved all brought out America’s best—and often its youngest.   Robert “Pat” Olson, who never learned how to swim and wondered how he would do floating on all that water, admits, “But the sea gets into your blood and you learn to love it.”   There was wide-eyed disbelief during an engagement with the enemy when all seemed to be lost, when the Japanese turned away and broke off the fighting.  The USS Dale official account states simply,  “Enemy has evidently withdrawn completely.”  Or the thank you from the Salt Lake City to the USS Dale for its successful support during an attack, sent along with a bit of the brew.  “Most of the crew got pretty well lit that day, thanks to the Salt Lake City.”

Michael Keith Olsons Tales From a Tin Can:  The USS Dale from Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay is a tribute to his father, Robert “Pat” Olson, and his mates.  It is to the son’s credit that the book, although inspired by his father, is a well-rounded and balanced account of what life on a Farragut-class destroyer was like in the 1940s. 

Thank you to all the menof the USS Dale  for their service and to Michael Keith Olson for giving us the gift of their memories.

To purchase Tales from a Tin Can: The USS Dale from Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay, go to Zenith Press or Amazon.

View the original article at Veterans Today

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