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Desert Sailor

James W. Fitch (Author)

ISBN: 0-7414-0389-7 ©2000
Price: $18.95
Book Size: 5.5'' x 8.5'' , 343 pages
Category/Subject: BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Military

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This sailor's memoir leads from the U.S. Navy's peacetime "Pineapple Fleet" in Pearl Harbor to a secret convoy transporting the "Flying Tigers" to Asia. After the disaster at Pearl Harbor, his ship raids Japanese bases in the central Pacific. He watches Doolittle's bombers take off from the Hornet to bomb Tokyo, then proceeds to the carrier air battles of Midway and Santa Cruz. At Guadalcanal he is wounded when his ship sinks. From hospitals in New Zealand he moves to New Guinea, then to a destroyer at Okinawa, shooting at kamikazes. Post-war service in China and Japan round out his story.

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Customer Reviews

  Desert Sailor , 04/20/2007
Reviewer: Larry Nees
DESERT SAILOR By James W. Fitch Reviewed By Larry W. Nees This fascinating book begins in the summer of 1941, just before young Jim Fitch, from small town New Mexico, enlisted in the US Navy with his older brother. The reader is moved easily through the travails of a raw recruit, who always looked to big brother for answers. But, when the two separated the author takes us on a fast rite of passage from carefree young teen, to green Navy boot, and, finally, to salty sailor of the seven seas. As a crewmember of heavy cruiser, USS Northampton, part of the 1941 so-called “Pineapple Fleet,” there is a carefree Hawaiian summer followed by liberty in the land Down Under, where Aussie folks broaden small town New Mexico horizons. A stroke of fate, mishap in rough seas, prevented the young sailor’s ship from being tied up in Pearl Harbor on December 7. The day after the Japanese sneak attack USS Northampton eased into the burning harbor. Fitch’s vivid descriptions of the devastation and destruction rained on the US Fleet, are as lucid and intense as any book written on that subject since it happened almost 62 years ago. His first impression: “Pearl Harbor was wrapped in ungodly quiet ………… I remember hearing only the burbling underwater exhausts of many small craft as they worked at picking up dead sailors.” Then his poignant account: “Arizona’s tall tripod foremast was pitched forward at a crazy angle, and the boxy foretop dangled high above the drowned void which was left where her forward magazines exploded.” The next day USS Northampton went back to sea with its young crew certain they were sailing into the jaws of death as a powerful Japanese force awaited them. 2 Fitch recalls watching Jimmy Doolittle’s raiders take off to bomb Tokyo in April 1942, as Northampton escorted their aircraft carrier, USS Hornet. He takes the reader on board ship in late 1942 during the terrifying night a Japanese destroyer torpedoed Northampton in the Battle of Tassaforanga. After abandoning the mortally wounded ship, the badly burned young sailor fought for this life throughout the night, surrounded by fiery seas, until being picked up and rescued many hours later. After a period of rehabilitation he returned to sea duty on various naval vessels, the last a destroyer on terrifying picket duty around Okinawa. Its purpose was to pick off Japanese kamikaze planes or take the hit before they reached larger targets. This book is a must read for not only naval historians but anyone interested in the trials and tribulations of our young men during those darks and uncertain days of World War II. Young people today could benefit and learn about everyday sacrifices of members of the Greatest Generation, as well as events of that time which have been abandoned in many school history programs today. DESERT SAILOR is one of those fascinating “can’t-put-it-down” books. The pages seem to have wings and fly by. It gets a two-thumbs up from this corner and likewise from many who have read it.

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  One of the best... , 06/23/2008
Reviewer: Greg Taylor
I've read lots of books on WWII. This is definitely one of the best. The perspective he offeres is almost unique: He enlisted in the navy at age 17 early in 1941 and was stationed at Pearl Harbor. Thus the reader gets a feel for what the pre-war navy was like. His first ship escorted the Flying Tigers on their way to Burma [although he and his shipmates weren't aware of it at the time]. He was also present when Doolittle's Raiders launched from the carrier Hornet to bomb Japan. He was also present when the Hornet was sunk during the Battle of Santa Cruz. But don't think this book is just a list of the major battles he was in and around. It is a personal story of a sailor service his country. It records his time on a repair ship off the coast of New Guinea after the fighting had passed through. This book is very well written and insightful. It is not just for war buffs - I'd reccommend it to anyone who like a well-told, solid tale of one man's life.

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