A Dawn Like Thunder: The True Story Of Torpedo Squadron Eight

  • ISBN13: 9780316021395
  • Condition: New
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  • Manufacturer: Little, Brown And Company
One of the great untold stories of World War II finally comes to light in this thrilling account of Torpedo Squadron Eight and their heroic efforts in helping an outmatched U.S. fleet win critical victories at Midway and Guadalcanal. These 35 American men--many flying outmoded aircraft--changed the course of history, going on to become the war's most decorated naval air squadron, while suffering the heaviest losses in U.S. naval aviation history.
Mrazek paints moving portraits of the men in the squadron, and exposes a shocking cover-up that cost many lives. Filled with thrilling scenes of battle, betrayal, and sacrifice, A DAWN LIKE THUNDER is destined to become a classic in the literature of World War II.

Customer Reviews

The VT-8 Story You've Never Known, December 23, 2008
By R. W. Russell "midway42.org"

Author Robert Mrazek's first non-fiction volume is a winner. It's the story of the men of Torpedo Squadron Eight (VT-8) during World War II like you've never seen it before. Mrazek went over the top in tracking down all of the squadron's remaining members and recording their reminisces about Midway and Guadalcanal to the fullest extent one could imagine. We've long read of the gallantry of the USS Hornet's VT-8 aircrews at Midway and how their sacrifice was a vital factor in the "incredible victory," but this book goes well beyond the familiar Midway story. It gives the reader insight not previously seen on the men involved, including the good as well as the bad.

About half of the book focuses on that part of VT-8's history that is seldom remembered: their participation in the Solomons campaign. Although the tragedy of the Hornet's VT-8 aircrews at Midway could hardly have been worse, it was over with in less than an hour, while on Guadalcanal the squadron's detachment there endured months of brutal attrition during the long Japanese campaign to retake the island.

But the book isn't primarily about wartime history; instead it tells of the men who lived VT-8's portion of that history. There are new revelations about their celebrated commander, John Waldron, plus the aircrews that died with him at Midway. But as expected, there is a great deal more about those who went on to Guadalcanal, including the new commanding officer, Lt. Harold "Swede" Larsen. It turns out that Larsen was an insufferable martinet, as miserable a leader of men as anyone who ever disgraced a leader's uniform. At the other extreme, there are ample tales of the honorable service of the pilots and enlisted men who helped make VT-8's legacy despite the excesses of their skipper.

The book does have several factual errors that readers well-versed in this subject matter will spot, like referring to Japanese "Betty" bombers as carrier aircraft. But none of those detract from the book's essential value, which is a superb telling of the VT-8 story like it's never been told before. Highly recommended.

One of the best WW2 books I have ever read, December 8, 2008
By PeterB "PeterB"

I am a passionate student of WW2 history and have read many accounts of the war in the Pacific over the past 30 years. This is by far the most compelling account I have encountered of two of the most pivotal battles of the war. More remarkably, it's an amazing account of some true American heroes and, sadly, some who were not so heroic. I know it sounds corny, but I really felt I was in the cockpit with these pilots and couldn't believe what they did to support each other and the troops on the ground. I was humbled by their courage and much more affected by their individual stories than I expected. I don't want to ruin the story for you, so suffice it to say I am sure you won't forget many of the individual stories told in this book.

This book was given to me as a gift and I have already given it to several others who ended up confirming my own reaction. This is a must read if you are interested in any aspect of the War in the Pacific or the reality of what it was like to fly on impossible missions. I wasn't able to put it down...

They Sacrificed Themselves So Others Might Survive, December 24, 2008
By Jeffrey T. Munson

Author Robert J. Mrazek has written a compelling and informative read about a heroic squadron of pilots who sacrificed themselves against vastly superior odds. This is the story of Torpedo Squadron Eight and their unselfish contribution to the defeat of Japan in the early stages of the Pacific war.

During the pivotal Battle of Midway in June, 1942, this brave group of men, flying obsolete aircraft, nevertheless fearlessly attacked the Japanese carrier striking force. Forty-five of the forty-eight men in the squadron were killed that day. But, they cleared the way for the Dauntless dive bombers by bringing the Japanese fighters down so low that they couldn't react once the dive bombers started their dives. The end result was the loss of four Japanese carriers, and the turning of the tide inexorably toward Japan for the rest of the war.

After the battle of Midway, torpedo eight was based on the American carrier USS Saratoga. From here, the new pilots participated in many attacks against the Japanese fleet during the Battle of Guadalcanal. After the Saratoga suffered a torpedo hit and was forced to withdraw, the men of torpedo eight became part of the Cactus Air Force based on Guadalcanal. During their time on Guadalcanal, torpedo eight pilots helped sink numerous enemy ships, including 2 battleships, a light carrier, and several cruisers and destroyers. After Guadalcanal, the squadron was disbanded and its pilots were assigned to new squadrons.

This is an excellent book. The author does a fine job of introducing the reader to some of the pilots in the squadron. He also describes in great detail the heroic sacrifice these men made at the Battle of Midway and the sweet revenge they were able to extract at Guadalcanal. I've read many works of naval history, and I would rate this book as one of the best I've read.

I give this fine book my highest recommendation. The action is non-stop, and the author does a fine job of detailing America's first two offensives in the Pacific war. This book is a must-read for naval history fans.

The Exciting Story of an Important WWII Battle, January 9, 2009
By John B. Northrop

A Dawn Like Thunder - Torpedo Squadron 8 - the Battle of Midway is a very
interesting, well written and thoroughly researched book about a turning point of the Pacific War on 4 June 1942, the destruction of much of the
Japanese fleet by this Squadron of skilled fliers, fliers who gave their
lives to accomplish this feat. Bob Mrazek brings these men back to life by quoting from their diaries and letters and what their commanding officers wrote about them. You really feel you are getting to know these heroes and their families too. You also get a look at the skill of Admiral Nimitz and his team in their planning and their strategy to fight the Pafific War. WWII

One of the best ever unit histories of WWII!, January 4, 2009
By Timothy L. Raab "Tim Raab"

I read this book like an action-adventure novel--straight thru with no chaser. Torpedo Squadron Eight epitomized all that was good about the struggle America undertook in the most righteous of wars. Robert Mzarek executed a great job of research and the pilots and ground crew of the squadron came very alive and I feel I am better now that I know them. One always wonders what one would do when confronted with a challenge like they had and Mr. Mzarek's history serves as a humbling example of how you should act and follow through on serving your country. The book is very well written and ranks in my library of all histories as one of the most stirring and emotional in the bunch. I literally could not put it down and it left me emotional and reflective, but most of all proud, which I think all histories like this should do. Buy the book and learn about this group of men, officers and enlisted, and the battle of Midway and Guadalcanal, and it will be a very worthwhile investment. Outstanding book!

Awesome read..., January 1, 2009
By Robert H. Irving

This book was given to me as a Christmas present. Fantastic selection! The author speaks the language of the naval aviator and expertly reveals the multiple personalities that make up a combat squadron. Those who have flown missions in any conflict will appreciate the detail. All will understand the incredible sacrifice of a small group of men. Very, very good read.

A History Like Thunder, January 13, 2009
By Sacramento Book Review "Sacramento Book Review"

Torpedo Squadron Eight was the most decorated navel air squadron in World War II and, probably not coincidentally, also suffered the greatest losses. /A Dawn Like Thunder/ is their history, from the dramatic battle of Midway where, while flying outdated aircraft, they forced the Japanese fighters to chase them so low to the sea that the U.S. dive bombers were able to attack the Japanese aircraft carriers almost unopposed, sinking four. Torpedo Squadron Eight lost most of their pilots that day, but their heroic efforts allowed the American fleet to win against an overwhelming Japanese force. After that, they were assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga, and after the Saratoga was damaged, moved to the air base on Guadalcanal. The battle of Midway was the turning point against the Japanese in the Pacific campaign, and these pilots were critical to that end. Their performance in the Battle of Guadalcanal was also influential, and Mrazek tells their story with passion, and provides a follow up to the lives of the survivors, whose many interviews helped tell this story.

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