On Books: Previewing a New Graphic Novel’s Take on James D. Hornfischer’s 2004 Classic ‘The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors’

(C) 2021 Dead Reckoning/Naval Institute Press

Hi there, Dear Reader. It’s early afternoon here in Fish Hawk, Florida on Sunday, November 7, 2021. It is a cool late autumn day. Currently, the temperature is 68˚F (20˚C) under sunny skies. With humidity at 76% and the wind blowing from the north-northwest at 11 MPH (18 KM/H), the wind-chill factor is 67˚F (20˚C) . Today’s forecast calls for sunny skies and a high of 70˚F (21˚C). Tonight, skies will be clear and the low will be 49˚F (10˚C).

Today I received another of my Amazon pre-orders. No, not a movie – the only movie I’m expecting in November is the Blu-ray edition of Ragtime (1981), Milos Forman’s adaptation of E.L. Doctorow’s 1976 historical novel about racial and class tensions set in turn-of-the-century New York City.

This package, which I was expecting to arrive on the 16th, contains The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story Of The U.S. Navy’s Finest Hour, a hardcover edition of a new graphic novel based on the late James D. Hornfischer’s 2004 non-fiction account of the Battle of Samar.

Adapted by Doug Murray with drawings by Steven Sanders, colors by Matt Soffe, and lettering by Rob Steen, tells the incredible-but-true story of how a small force of American escort carriers, destroyers, and destroyer escorts – 13 ships in total – fought a courageous defensive battle against a powerful Japanese force of 23 warships that included four battleships, six heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and 11 destroyers.

(C) 2021 Dead Reckoning/Naval Institute Press

Per the book’s description on publisher Dead Reckoning’s website:

Adapted from the naval history classic and New York Times bestseller, The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors pieces together the action of the Battle off Samar, bringing to life a riveting story of heroism against daunting odds, duty, and sacrifice in a way never seen before.

In October 1944, Allied forces began landing on the Philippine island of Leyte. Quickly assessing the threat of the Allied invasion, the Japanese navy sought to counterattack. But with the island protected by the full strength of Admiral William F. Halsey’s Third Fleet, a direct attack was nearly impossible. Undeterred, the Japanese Admiralty deployed their forces, engaging the Third Fleet and retreating in a manner that drew the fleet into a hot pursuit. However, Admiral Halsey had been deceived, and the Japanese plan had taken his fleet out of position to defend the American beachhead. With the northern route to Leyte open and unguarded, the Japanese Center Force—a fleet led by the battleship Yamato, the largest and most powerful battleship ever constructed—seemingly had a clear path to the landing beaches on Leyte. Only one thing stood between the Japanese forces and the vulnerable objective.

Taffy 3, a small task unit from the Seventh Fleet was made up of destroyers, destroyer escorts, and escort aircraft carriers; thirteen ships with little firepower and even less armor. On the morning of October 25, 1944, Taffy 3 suddenly became the only obstacle between the Allied landings and the Japanese Center Force. Hopelessly outmanned and outgunned, Taffy 3 plunged into battle. The ensuing action, known as the Battle off Samar, became one of the greatest last stands in naval history.

At 200 pages, the slim hardcover volume focuses mainly on the Battle of Samar, which is one of the four separate engagements that make up the larger Battle of Leyte Gulf; the other three were the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, the Battle of Surigao Strait, and the aptly named Battle of Cape Engaño. Doug Murray, the writer of the adaptation, covers those air-and-sea battles as part of the narrative, but like Hornfischer, his main story is about those small “jeep carriers” and their retinue of escorts and their David-versus-Goliath, no holds barred efforts to shield the American invasion force on the beaches of Leyte from a formidable threat posed by the 23 Imperial Japanese Navy warships of Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita’s Central Force.

(C) 2004, 2005 Bantam Books

I have the paperback edition of Hornfischer’s 2004 book; it is one of the last books I ordered when I still lived in what was briefly my townhouse in South Florida. Like Neptune’s Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal, The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors is one of my favorite books by this talented and widely respected naval historian, who sadly died of cancer this summer at age 55.

James D. Hornfischer (1965-2021) in 2018. Photo Credit: Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 4.0.

I am looking forward to reading this graphic novel adaptation by Dead Reckoning, an imprint of the famed Naval Institute Press based in Annapolis, Maryland. So keep your eyes peeled for a review in A Certain Point of View, Too.  

Source: Dead Reckoning, The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story of the U.S. Navy’s Finest Hour

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

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