World War II historian Wukovits (“Bull” Halsey: The Life and Wars of the Navy's Most Controversial Commander, 2010, etc.) commemorates the heroism and sacrifice on board the USS Samuel B. Roberts.
Named for Samuel Booker Roberts, who sacrificed his life to save others at the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942, the destroyer escort and its crew rose to the challenge of trying to screen the protecting aircraft carriers from an oncoming Japanese heavy cruiser task force. The escort ship, loaded with radar and sonar equipment, was not designed for battle, but for locating airborne and underwater hostiles for others to engage. Nearly half of the crew’s 200 men lost their lives during the battle and afterward, while survivors were fighting to stay alive in the ocean. Debate about how the events occurred began promptly, with attention focusing on the absence of forces assigned to the protective screen, which was chasing after a Japanese aircraft carrier task force. The debate still continues, and Wukovits weaves the discussion into his battle narrative. The author prepares his ground with an account of the recruitment and training of the ship's crew and its officers, and he spotlights the leading contribution of Lt. Cmdr. Robert W. Copeland, whose insistence on the highest standards of training for combat readiness prepared the crew and ship for what lay ahead. Wukovits worked with survivors and their family members compiling detailed accounts of the lives of as many of the junior officers and enlisted men as possible. The author also includes a chronology and list of the crew.
A memorable account of training, service and heroism.