DEVIL BOATS: The PT War Against Japan by William Breuer

DEVIL BOATS: The PT War Against Japan

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Men drop like flies in this brutal, militaristic account of a novel offensive against Japan in the Second World War. Some war books search for shreds of human meaning in the carnage of battle, but not this one. In 21 chapters with such gruesome titles as ""Bloodbath on Iron Bottom,"" ""Ambushed by Destroyers,"" ""Agony on a Raft"" and ""A Rain of Human Bombs,"" Breuer (Drop Zone Sicily, Agony at Anzio, The Bloody Clash at Sadzot, Hitler's Fortress Cherbourg) chronicles what appears, from his unfeeling account at least, to have been a shockingly pointless waste of human life and military equipment. The book purports to be a history, but is really a screenplay of destruction, death and gore. The PT Boats, fragile plywood ""eggshells,"" were manned by crews of ""swashbuckling"" adventurers who used the boats' high speed and maneuverability to attempt daring search-and-destroy missions behind enemy lines. The missions led to such moments as this: ""Sid Hix's boat caught the brunt of the flying lead. Streams of bullets converged on it. Lieutenant Payne was struck almost immediately, and tumbled dead into the chart house. Another slug ripped into the head of Lieutenant Hix who was at the helm. . . He died moments later. QM2 James G. Cannon, who had been hit in the face, shoulder, and arm, was bleeding profusely, and was only half-conscious; yet he crawled to the vacated wheel, pulled himself to his feet and, standing astride the dead body of Sid Hix, steered 108 toward Webster Cove's entrance."" Even the account of John F. Kennedy's famous swimming ordeal, after his PT 109 was hit by a destroyer, reduces men we know to have been heroes into mete bubbles in the great bloodbath. The only memorable sentence from that chapter recounts the destruction of Kennedy's boat: ""Like a huge cleaver wielded by some mythical giant, the Amagiri neatly sliced 109 in half, leaving part of the PT on one side of her and part on the other."" And so it goes--a relentlessly bloody, oddly vapid experience.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Presidio