ABOUT THE BOOK
THE STORY OF TORPEDO SQUADRON EIGHT
first awareness of the story of Torpedo Squadron Eight came from the pen
of novelist Herman Wouk, author of the The Caine Mutiny. It was
Mr. Wouk’s account of the sacrifice of the torpedo squadrons at
Midway that first brought their story alive for me. My first thoughts
of researching the lives of these men took root after reading the following
words, which followed his riveting account of their action that day.
What was not luck, but the soul of the United States of
America in action, was this willingness of the torpedo plane squadrons
to go in against hopeless odds. This was the extra ounce of martial weight
that in a few decisive minutes tipped the balance of history. So long
as men choose to decide the turns of history with the slaughter of youths—and
even in a better day, when this form of human sacrifice has been abolished
like the ancient, superstitious, but no more horrible form—the memory
of these three torpedo squadrons should not die.
Who were these brave men, I wondered? How did they arrive
at this moment of destiny, in which their personal sacrifice actually
changed the course of the Pacific War against Japan?
Thanks to my good friend, the renowned Civil War historian
Bob Krick, I learned that Torpedo Eight pilot Bert Earnest, who won two
Navy Crosses at Midway, was living in Virginia. He agreed to my coming
down for an interview, and I subsequently spent three days with Captain
Earnest and his lovely wife Millie.
At the end of each day, I would go back to my room at the
Dam Neck Bachelor Officers’ Quarters with a tape full of his stirring
and powerful recollections. After reluctantly saying goodbye, the chase
was on for the rest of the stories. In the years since, I was able to
locate and interview many of the other survivors of the squadron, and
to contact or visit many of the lost pilots’ families, friends,
and schoolmates, which led to the discovery of hundreds of letters and
photographs that helped to illuminate their lives.
This website is dedicated to the memory of Torpedo Eight.
It has given me the opportunity to include letters, stories, and photographs
that are not in the book. It is my hope that in the future, family members
of the lost pilots and crews will contact me to provide more information
about these extraordinary men. Hopefully, the website will continue to
shed light into this small but important corner of the World War II landscape.
I wish to express my deep appreciation to the survivors
of the squadron who I was able to personally meet or interview over the
course of my research, including Bert Earnest, Smiley Morgan, Gene Hanson,
Frank Balsley, Wiley Bartlett, George Bernstein, Del Delchamps, Harry
Ferrier, Ski Kowalewski, Ridgeway Liccioni, Bill Magee, Lee Marona, Jack
Stark, Bill Tunstall, and Judge Wendt. It was a privilege to talk to them
I am also grateful for the opportunity to have met so many
of the family members, loved ones, and friends of those who never came
back from the Pacific. They have kept the memories of the fallen aviators
alive in their hearts.
ADVANCE PRAISE FOR THE BOOK
“A Dawn Like Thunder is no ordinary history. It is a soaring
epic prose ballad about a group of young Americans whose rendezvous with
destiny blazed a trail their whole generation would follow. With an amazing
depth of research and a keen eye for detail, Robert Mrazek has brought
to vivid life an enduring tale of human tragedy and triumph that will
speak down to the latest generation.”
—Richard B. Frank, author of Downfall and Guadalcanal
“A remarkably vivid tale of valor, fate, and young men dying young.
Robert Mrazek’s epic story, reconstructed with breathtaking research
and recounted with a novelist’s keen eye for detail, is a worthy
monument to Torpedo Squadron Eight.”
—Rick Atkinson, author of The Day of Battle and An
Army at Dawn
“A Dawn Like Thunder hooked me from the first page and
didn’t let go. Robert Mrazek has written the definitive account
of how the few American pilots of Torpedo Squadron Eight changed history
at Midway and Guadalcanal. A stirring, truly heroic book that is destined
to become a classic.”
—Alex Kershaw, author of The Longest Winter and The
“Bob Mrazek has found fresh material about the two pivotal Pacific
battles of 1942 and written a marvelous book. His research and obvious
affection for his heroes is indeed extraordinary. A Dawn Like Thunder
is a spectacular achievement and a vital addition to any Pacific War library.”
—Hon. Charles Wilson of Charlie Wilson’s War
"Robert Mrazek has, with a raw, unsparing telling given grace and
life to so many who died so young, so every-day, so gallantly. Wonderfully
—Frank Deford, author of The Entitled and The Old Ball
“Robert Mrazek brings the dare-devil pilots of Torpedo Squadron
Eight back to life in a narrative so vivid and heartbreaking that their
courage reaches across the decades, leaving us moved by their incredible
sacrifice and heroism.”
—Thurston Clarke, author The Last Campaign and Pearl
“The most highly decorated Navy Flyboys of World War II flew through
hell and suffered the highest combat losses. Strap yourself in as Robert
Mrazek takes you on a heroic flight into history.”
—James Bradley, author of Flyboys and Flags of Our
Mrazek (Stonewall's Gold) brilliantly captures the bravery of Squadron Eight in World War II's pivotal battle of Midway and the unit's subsequent involvement at Guadalcanal. Presented in logbook format, the author's clipped narrative offers fascinating vignettes of the aviators' prewar lives. At Midway the squadron, in obsolete torpedo bombers without fighter protection, was ordered to attack Japanese carriers—and was nearly decimated. Mrazek indicts the captain and air commander of the formation's carrier, the USS Hornet, for this fiasco and intimates that the squadron may have been used as a decoy to benefit high-altitude dive bombers as they took the greatest toll on the enemy flattops. Following Midway, Squadron Eight was reassigned to the USS Saratoga as part of a task force charged with expelling the Japanese from Guadalcanal. Mrazek's gripping account of the group's bombing activities is rich in detail and tactical analysis. A special treat is Mrazek's winsome epilog, which details the postwar achievements of the surviving squadron officers and men. A well-written and meticulously researched account of one of America's most distinguished World War II aerial groups; recommended for general military and aviation collections and all libraries.—John Carver Edwards, Univ. of Georgia Libs. Ref. http://www.libraryjournal.com/
OTHER BOOKS BY THE AUTHOR
Published by St. Martin’s Press, this highly-acclaimed
novel tells the story of Jamie Lockhart, a young man who embarks on a
quest that tests the limit of his courage and endurance in the last winter
of the Civil War. Stonewall’s Gold won the Michael Shaara award
as the best Civil War novel of 1999, the Civil War Society Seal of Approval,
and was a main selection of the Literary Guild. Also honored by the American
Library Association as one of its best books of the year, it was published
in nine countries around the world.
To buy Stonwall's Gold, click here.
Fire: A Novel of the Civil War
Also published by St. Martin’s Press, Unholy
Fire tells the story of John McKittredge, who is terribly wounded in one
of the first battles of the Civil War. Recovering in Washington, DC hospital,
he is recruited to join an unorthodox colonel in the Provost Marshal’s
Department to investigate corruption in the War Department. In reviewing
the book, award-winning author Nelson Demille wrote that, “Mrazek
builds a time machine out of words and transports the reader back to the
most critical period in American history. Great writing…great history.”
To buy Unholy Fire, click
Deadly Embrace: A Novel of World War II
Published by Viking Press, Deadly Embrace brings
alive a war-torn London in 1944. Elizabeth Marantz, a young officer working
in the security command of General Eisenhower’s headquarters, investigates
the deaths of two young women who turn out to have been the mistresses
of two allied commanders. Deadly Embrace won the annual W.Y. Boyd prize
as the best piece of military fiction published in 2006.
To buy The Deadly Embrace,
To Kingdom Come:
An Epic Saga of Survival in the Air War Over Germany
Published by New American Library, a division of Penguin Group. This is the true story of an aerial bombing mission to Stuttgart, Germany, that resulted in a shattering defeat of the U.S. Army Air Forces in the Second World War. Drawing on declassified documents, confidential diaries, and internal interviews of the top commanders - and focusing on gripping first-person accounts of six of the B-17 airmen, this account vividly re-creates the fierce air battle above Stuttgart and reveals the often astonishing valor of the airmen who survived being shot down - and the tragic fate of those who did not.
"With power and passion, Robert J. Mrazek tells the story of one of the most calamitous American bombing missions of World War II....Mrazek writes about the ill-fated Stuttgart Raid as though he had gone into the heart of the Reich with the audacious American bomber crews...a great book with 'hold on to your seat' suspense."
--Donald L. Miller, Author of Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany
"Mrazek has uncovered the moment of profound exigency for the bomber crews, when the course and consequence of the air war converged and rendered it in vivid clarity."
--Hugh Ambrose, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Pacific
"Through superb historical research and powerful narrative writing, the author brings back to life a pivotal, heartbreaking episode."
--Tami Biddle, Professor, U.S. Army War College, and Author of Rhetoric and Reality in Air Warfare
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