LEFT TO DIE: The Tragedy of the U.S.S. Juneau by Dan Kurzman

LEFT TO DIE: The Tragedy of the U.S.S. Juneau

Email this review


From Kurzman (Fatal Voyage, A Killing Wind, etc.), a telling rundown on a WW II disaster that seldom rates more than a footnote in standard chronicles. On the night of November 12, 1942, a small American flotilla engaged in a furious battle with Japanese warships off Guadalcanal. The next morning, while the surviving US vessels were limping toward safe harbor, a torpedo from an undetected submarine slammed into the already crippled Juneau. The missile touched off below-deck explosions that sent the light cruiser to the bottom in seconds. Convinced that all hands had been lost, the task force commander maintained radio silence and cleared the area. As it happened, however, over 140 of the doomed ship's 700-man crew lived through the blast and were plunged into the shark-infested sea: when a belated rescue effort was launched almost a week later, there were only ten barely sane castaways left to save. Drawing on interviews with survivors and on archival sources, Kurzman offers harrowing tales of the ordeals experienced by the quick and the dead; among the latter were all five brothers from the Waterloo, Iowa, Sullivan family, who (against naval policy) had served together on a single craft Addressed as well are the oversights and blunders that, despite repeated aerial sightings, delayed a systematic recovery operation that probably could have saved a hundred or more sailors. While punishments were quietly meted out to culpable officers, the author notes that the home front (diverted by sympathetic coverage of the Sullivans' loss) never received a full accounting of a calamity that ranks among the most agonizing in the annals of the US military. Kurzman's evenhanded and absorbing report not only bridges a long-standing gap in the history books but pays fitting tribute to those lost.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1994
ISBN: 1451602790
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster