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CROSSING THE LINE by Alvin Kernan

CROSSING THE LINE

A Bluejacket's World War II Odyssey

By Alvin Kernan

Pub Date: Nov. 11th, 1994
ISBN: 1-55750-455-5
Publisher: Naval Institute Press

 An unpretentious personal memoir of participation in WW II. Kernan (a senior advisor in humanities at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; The Death of Literature, 1990) left the shadow of the mountains of Wyoming to join the Navy. He soon found himself on the carrier Enterprise just outside Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Kernan watched Doolittle's bombers take off for Tokyo, was aboard the Hornet in its death throes as Japanese firepower sank it, had a sea-level view of the decisive Battle of Midway, and was again outside Pearl Harbor on V-J Day. The young sailor advanced from ordnanceman to airborne gunner and finally to chief petty officer at 22, when he was discharged at the end of the war. But that's not what the story is about. It's about the unadvertised superiority of torpedoes labeled ``Made in Japan'' and the appropriate ratio of tracers to armor-piercing ammo. It's about shore leave and drinking and women. It's about tedium and terror and random death. One sailor's story becomes, somehow, emblematic of the collective memories of all those boys of war half a century ago. And no matter who the survivors are now, this is a tale of who they--and their comrades--were then. Kernan remembers sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge to the war in the Pacific: ``My eyes moved from one face to another of men who are as alive to me now as they ever were but whose bones are washing around the bottom of the sea, tangled in the wreckage of their planes, between Okinawa and Taiwan.'' This quiet book is no techno-heroic Tom Clancy text. It's an honest story of collective courage, evocative, well-written, and fixed before the colors fade. (Photos and maps, not seen) (Book-of- the-Month Club/History Book Club selections)