A U.S. sailor during World War II recollects his harrowing experiences aboard a Navy destroyer besieged by a typhoon in this debut memoir.
Robert J. Loyd was born in 1927 in Annapolis, a town in rural Missouri with fewer than 500 inhabitants. His childhood wasn’t always easy—his father died suddenly from appendicitis when the boy was just 5—but he eventually felt relatively happy. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, though, the national mood darkened and he became eager to do his part. He decided to enlist in the Navy when he was only 16, falsifying forms to conceal the fact that he fell two years short of the age requirement. When his mother received the news, her grief was inconsolable, but she supported her son, and he decamped for Idaho for basic training. Upon graduation, he was assigned to the USS Dewey, a destroyer that was part of a naval fleet that handled bombing, patrolling, and escort missions in the South Pacific. In 1943, the Dewey made its way to Pearl Harbor, and in December 1944, the ship faced an adversary more formidable than any weapon the Axis Powers possessed: a typhoon. Low on fuel, Capt. Raymond Calhoun made a bold decision to take the ship directly into the storm, later nicknamed Cobra, which boasted winds as high as 185 miles per hour. The vessel, which began to take on a dangerous amount of water, made it into the storm’s eye, providing a brief moment of refuge. But it was nearly destroyed exiting the other side. This vivid memoir—co-authored by Loyd’s daughter-in-law, Donna—ably captures the terrifying force of the tempest: “The deafening roar of the wind increased, paralleling the intense, unrelenting pitching and crashing of the ship. Powerless, we clung to our leather straps and belts in the dark recesses of our iron ship in a vast ocean in the middle of a raging typhoon.” The authors interpret the sailor’s unlikely survival as a miracle (“Every man who had survived the typhoon on the Dewey felt certain he had come face-to-face with a higher power in the South Pacific those December days in 1944”). Given this riveting account, the reader may be inclined to agree. Compact and exciting, this volume is an excellent peek into World War II naval life.
A gripping account of a natural disaster within a man-made one: war.