It was 59 years ago that a group of U.S. Navy escort carriers, destroyer escorts, and destroyers took on the biggest and baddest of the Japanese fleet off the Philippine island of Samar in a pivotal World War II battle, but Austin writer James D. Hornfischer’s retelling— The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors (Bantam)—reads as fresh as tomorrow’s headlines. The American “tin cans” (so called because of their thin, ineffective armor) were outnumbered 23 to 13 and physically dwarfed by the enemy battleships—the largest warships of the era. But the tiny flotilla inflicted massive damage (suffering its own horrific casualties in the process) and turned back the Japanese fleet to effectively change the course of the war. Hornfischer’s captivating narrative uses previously classified documents to reconstruct the epic battle and eyewitness accounts to bring the officers and sailors to life.

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