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Shinano!, A Book Review

Discussion in 'The Pacific and CBI' started by George Patton, Sep 26, 2012.

  1. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    Shinano! tells the story of WW2's largest aircraft carrier and is authored by Cpt. Joseph Enright, the commander of the submarine that sank her. As some may know, after Midway it was decided to convert the hull of a planned third Yamato class battleship into an aircraft carrier. At 872 feet long, it was the largest carrier ever built until the USS Forestal entered service with the USN 10 years after the war ended. On the night of 28 November 1944, while on its maiden voyage with an untrained crew and without having her watertight doors tested, she was spotted by the USS Archerfish under Cpt. Enright. He fired 6 torpedoes, with 4 hits. At 10:57 the next morning the carrier sank with the loss of 1435 sailors.

    The Good:
    • Well-rounded book. Details both the Japanese and American perspectives very well.
    • Many interviews with Japanese involved with the ship.
    • Enright does not portray himself as the hero: he is very frank, and not afraid to criticise himself. In 1943 he resigned his command of USS Dace when he felt he failed to command her effectively. He eventually received command of the Archerfish after a period shore duty on Midway. His narrative is like a story of redemption (with a lot of personal reflection), and he makes it clear that he is an average man who is far from perfect.

    The Bad:
    • Its been a while since I read it, but I honestly can't remember anything "bad" about the book. Depending on your style, Enright's personal narrative could become tiring, but I think it adds depth to the story. Also, note that this isn't a "academic" text -- the style is much more liberal than (for example) Cornelius Ryan or Max Hasting's works. It reads more like a novel.

    Other Notes:
    • Details on Shinano's construction phase are light, but given the amount of secrecy that shrouded the program (Japanese officials threatened workers with death if they spoke openly about the ship), this isn't surprising.
    • The book has details about the sinking of the Shinano that are questionable -- particularly conversations between a damage control officer and her commander (Admiral Abe). Both were killed in the sinking -- the damage control officer trapped below decks, and Abe voluntarily going down with his ship. I don't know how these conversations would have left the ship. There were survivors, including a bridge officer if I recall correctly, so I suppose one of them could have relayed this to the author.

    Result: This is another book I highly recommend. The story is quite interesting, well-written and sheds light on an obscure moment from WW2. Its a quick read (I read it in one night), and keeps you hooked until the end.
     

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