Dangers Hour: The story of the USS Bunker Hill and the Kamikazi that crippled her
Maxwell Taylor Kennedy
Simon & Schuster 2008
Danger's Hour on the USS Bunker Hill on blip.tv
Danger's Hour: The Story of the USS Bunker Hill and the Kamikaze Pilot Who Crippled Her by Maxwell Taylor Kennedy
This is an excellent book that is in effect, two different stories told in parallel. One is of CV-17, the USS Bunker Hill and her operations in the latter part of 1944 and early 1945. As this is being told, a story about the Kamikazi pilot is presented. Eventually both stories converge on the fateful morning on May 11 1945. When the Bunker Hill was hammered by two Kamikazi's.
The story on the Kamikazi's is well researched. The author used Japanese researchers and original sources to piece together the history and life of the pilot and what was happening with his "unit" as it trained and prepared for its final sortie.
The story about the Bunker Hill in the first part of the book, consists mainly on the experiences of the pilots, aircrew and support staff. Most of the information deals with the personal aspects of the air staff being aboard a carrier and flying sorties every day. This ultimately feeds back into the 2nd half of the book for when the carrier is hit and burning, what happens to the air group.
The second half deals with the two Kamikazi impacts and the resultant catastrophic explosions that nearly sunk the ship. The author interviewed many survivors to unfold a story that just captures a readers curiosity.
When it comes to the naval war of WW2, the aspects of being IN a warship that has major fires going on is not told frequently. The morbid details of what was happening to the crew is told without the author holding back punches.
Consider what any sailor trapped in a ship has to contend with: Poison gas inhalation, smoke inhalation that causes you to cough up parts of your lungs, inhalation of heated air, being in a compartment where you either get grilled or baked to death, let alone having exposure to flame. The expended water used in firefighting that fills compartments, and the electrocution hazards as water comes in contact with live power.
This book puts you right into the action, whether its the sailors trying escape the hazards all the way to the engineering crew who were trapped in the engine and boiler rooms and made sure power was not lost.
The final part of the book involves something that is rarely discussed about any ship that has survived heavy damage. The clean up and burials that follow. Nearly 400 of the ships crew perished that day. many burned or suffocated to death below decks. Every one of them had to be brought out and accounted for. This is as gruesome job as any sailor can have. But it was done. One cannot tell the story of any ship taking damage without the human element of the aftermath being discussed.
As with any book written decades after this war ended, the "bad" things about the USN had to be discussed. This was a sgregated navy, and it is impossible to discuss the ship without talking about navy policy regarding this. There also were design flaws on the Essex class carriers (early ones) that contributed to the near sinking of CV-17. This is also discussed.
My only complaint on this book, is it doesn't have deck and room diagrams so as a reader can understand what is happening in each part of the ship as the bomb and fires do their damage. This is a major omission in my opinion.
The website has lots of pictures and video clips. I highly recommend them to you.
I would say this book is a good addition to anyone's library who is interested naval warfare, or the airwar in the Pacific.
Please check the website. It has lots of pictures of the air group and operations.