Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A lousy book review (or "Why did I even buy this?")

Just added to my library Japan's Blitzkrieg: The Allied Collapse in the East 1941-42, by Bernard Edwards. Now, just based on the title, you'd think that this book is right up my World War II alley and fits perfectly with my ongoing interest in the activities of the slender American, British, Dutch and Australian forces trapped in the western Pacific in the days after Pearl Harbor to face Imperial Japan basically by themselves. And you'd be right.

So, when I got this book, I immediately went to the section on the Battle of the Java Sea, February 27-28, 1942. And was aghast at what I read:
  • Page 68: "Doorman's force consisted of the two Netherlands Navy light cruisers De Ruyter and Java, the British heavy cruiser Exeter, the American heavy cruiser Houston, the Australian light cruiser Perth, and nine destroyers, three British, five American and one Dutch." Except of the nine destoyers, three were British, four American and two Dutch.
  • Page 68: "Houston's forward turret was out of action." Um, Houston had two forward turrets; it was her single aft turret that was out of action, disabled by a bomb hit some three weeks before.
  • Page 69: "The British destroyers Electra, Encounter, Jupiter, with the Dutch destoyer Kortenaer, screened ahead[.]" Except the Kortenaer could not get ahead of the column because she had a damaged boiler as a result of a grounding incident a week earlier. So she was stuck with her sister Witte de With (who seems to have been ignored completely in this book) on the column's port beam. Her reduced speed was dragging the entire column.
  • Page 69: The American destroyers "each caried twelve toprpedo tubes loaded with 21-inch 'Long Lance' torpedoes." The American destroyers did carry a torpedo 21 inches in diameter, but it was not the "Long Lance." It was the Mark 15, a really crappy torpedo plagued early in the war by horrendous performance issues that rendered it almost completely ineffective. The "Long Lance" was the famous nickname coined by naval historian Samuel Eliot Morison for the Japanese 24-inch Type 93 torpedo, by far the best torpedo of the war and probably the best torpedo in history.
  • Page 74: "HMS Exeter, accompanied by the Dutch destroyer Evertsen, limped back to Sourabaya, arriving there late on the 27th." Um, the Evertsen was not in Soerabaja (I use the Dutch spelling for the city today known as Surabaya, but Edwards' spelling is acceptable) but was all the way at the other end of Java at Tandjoeng Priok, the port of Batavia (now Jakarta). The Exeter was accompanied to Soerabaja by the Dutch destroyer Witte de With, who had been damaged during the battle when one of her own depth charges was swept overboard and detonated under her stern. This looks like an editing error, as the next paragraph mentions the Evertsen as being at Tanjoeng Priok.
These are also big errors, especially the one saying the US destroyers were armed with the Long Lance. And these just what I found on a quick skim of the chapter that interested me the most.

I'm almost scared to read the rest of the book, because I wonder what other inaccuracies are in there that I won't find and will instead accept as the truth.

1 comment:

  1. Jeff, Excellent perspective on a book I might have been tempted to read had I seen it on the shelf.