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In the bestselling tradition of Indianapolis and In Harm’s Way comes a “captivating…gripping” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) account of the USS Plunkett—a US Navy destroyer that sustained the most harrowing attack on any Navy ship by the Germans during World War II, later made famous by John Ford and Herman Wouk. “A reflection on the nature of storytelling itself” (The Wa In the bestselling tradition of Indianapolis and In Harm’s Way comes a “captivating…gripping” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) account of the USS Plunkett—a US Navy destroyer that sustained the most harrowing attack on any Navy ship by the Germans during World War II, later made famous by John Ford and Herman Wouk. “A reflection on the nature of storytelling itself” (The Wall Street Journal), Unsinkable traces the individual journeys of five men on one ship from Casablanca in North Africa, to Sicily and Salerno in Italy and then on to Plunkett’s defining moment at Anzio, where a dozen-odd German bombers bore down on the ship in an assault so savage, so prolonged, and so deadly that one Navy commander was hard-pressed to think of another destroyer that had endured what Plunkett had. After a three-month overhaul and with a reputation rising as the “fightin’est ship” in the Navy, Plunkett (DD-431) plunged back into the war at Omaha Beach on D-Day, and again into battle during the invasion of Southern France—perhaps the only Navy ship to participate in every Allied invasion in the European theatre. Featuring five incredibly brave men—the indomitable skipper, who will receive the Navy Cross; the gunnery officer, who bucks the captain every step of the way to Anzio; a first lieutenant, who’s desperate to get off the ship and into the Pacific; a seventeen-year-old water tender, who’s trying to hold onto his hometown girl against all odds, and another water tender, who mans a 20mm gun when under aerial assault—the dramatic story of each plays out on the decks of the Plunkett as the ship’s story escalates on the stage of the Mediterranean. Based on Navy logs, war diaries, action reports, letters, journals, memoirs, and dozens of interviews with the men who were on the ship and their families, Unsinkable is a timeless evocation of young men stepping up to the defining experience of their lives. “If you were moved by Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It, by William Kent Krueger’s This Tender Land…by the values we hold dear, decency, sacrifice, steadfastness, then Unsinkable will take you to a place long dead in your soul, and flood it with light” (Doug Stanton, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Horse Soldiers).


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In the bestselling tradition of Indianapolis and In Harm’s Way comes a “captivating…gripping” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) account of the USS Plunkett—a US Navy destroyer that sustained the most harrowing attack on any Navy ship by the Germans during World War II, later made famous by John Ford and Herman Wouk. “A reflection on the nature of storytelling itself” (The Wa In the bestselling tradition of Indianapolis and In Harm’s Way comes a “captivating…gripping” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) account of the USS Plunkett—a US Navy destroyer that sustained the most harrowing attack on any Navy ship by the Germans during World War II, later made famous by John Ford and Herman Wouk. “A reflection on the nature of storytelling itself” (The Wall Street Journal), Unsinkable traces the individual journeys of five men on one ship from Casablanca in North Africa, to Sicily and Salerno in Italy and then on to Plunkett’s defining moment at Anzio, where a dozen-odd German bombers bore down on the ship in an assault so savage, so prolonged, and so deadly that one Navy commander was hard-pressed to think of another destroyer that had endured what Plunkett had. After a three-month overhaul and with a reputation rising as the “fightin’est ship” in the Navy, Plunkett (DD-431) plunged back into the war at Omaha Beach on D-Day, and again into battle during the invasion of Southern France—perhaps the only Navy ship to participate in every Allied invasion in the European theatre. Featuring five incredibly brave men—the indomitable skipper, who will receive the Navy Cross; the gunnery officer, who bucks the captain every step of the way to Anzio; a first lieutenant, who’s desperate to get off the ship and into the Pacific; a seventeen-year-old water tender, who’s trying to hold onto his hometown girl against all odds, and another water tender, who mans a 20mm gun when under aerial assault—the dramatic story of each plays out on the decks of the Plunkett as the ship’s story escalates on the stage of the Mediterranean. Based on Navy logs, war diaries, action reports, letters, journals, memoirs, and dozens of interviews with the men who were on the ship and their families, Unsinkable is a timeless evocation of young men stepping up to the defining experience of their lives. “If you were moved by Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It, by William Kent Krueger’s This Tender Land…by the values we hold dear, decency, sacrifice, steadfastness, then Unsinkable will take you to a place long dead in your soul, and flood it with light” (Doug Stanton, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Horse Soldiers).

30 review for Unsinkable: Five Men and the Indomitable Run of the USS Plunkett

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Recently I was reading my college alumni magazine and saw a review of UNSINKABLE: Five Men and the Indomitable Run of the USS Plunkett by a new to me author JAMES SULLIVAN. It struck a chord with me, as I am a big fan of WWII naval history and fiction. Most of what I had previously read in this genre dealt with the war in Pacific Theater. This book opened a relatively new door for me. The primary subject is WWII in the Mediterranean Sea venue – North Africa, Sicily and Italy. The subtitle is so Recently I was reading my college alumni magazine and saw a review of UNSINKABLE: Five Men and the Indomitable Run of the USS Plunkett by a new to me author JAMES SULLIVAN. It struck a chord with me, as I am a big fan of WWII naval history and fiction. Most of what I had previously read in this genre dealt with the war in Pacific Theater. This book opened a relatively new door for me. The primary subject is WWII in the Mediterranean Sea venue – North Africa, Sicily and Italy. The subtitle is somewhat misleading. While the book does focus on five men associated with the destroyer USS Charles Plunkett, it really introduces the reader to many more of the crew. The “Five” referred to in the title are Commander Edward Burke (the ship’s captain), Lieutenant Ken Brown (“the best gunnery officer in the Navy”), Water Tender 3rd Class (a petty officer) James Feltz, Water Tender 3rd Class John Gallagher (the author’s uncle whom he never got to meet and inspiration for the book) and First Lieutenant John Simpson. An interesting sidebar is that Burke was an All-American Football player at the Naval Academy in 1928, one of thirteen that year. These men, plus 250 others, were part of the crew of the Plunkett when it left the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1942 to take part in Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. Burke actually did not join the crew until 1943. The goal of Torch was to remove the Germans from North Africa. The tide turned in favor of the Allies at the Battle of El Alamein on the western border of Egypt. Prime Minister Winston Churchill said at that time, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” In 1943, Plunkett and her crew took part in the invasion of Sicily at Gela on the south coast and then at Palermo in the northwest part of the island. The ship also was in instrumental in the peaceful surrender of the island of Ustica several miles off the north coast of Sicily. In September 1943, the Plunkett provided artillery support for the invasion of mainland Italy at Salerno, just south of Naples. There they witnessed, firsthand, the first use of a 660-pound guided bomb called the Fritz-X. It was the largest bomb to hit a Navy ship in WWII according to the author. It landed on the USS Savannah, a cruiser, with devastating results. The Allied march to Rome was stymied at a German stronghold called Monte Cassino, a mountainous area in central Italy. Their stronghold was a historic monastery that the Allies were reluctant to bomb. In December 1943, Churchill "persuaded” the Allies to open a second front at Anzio, just south of Rome. It was there, on January 22, 1944, that the Plunkett endured 30 minutes of nonstop aerial attacks by the Luftwaffe (the German Air force). Historians have said that it was one of the most horrific attacks of a single ship in the war. Even though Plunkett was part of a large naval support team, the air attacks only came after the Plunkett. Those on board resorted to heroic efforts to save the ship. Some thought the pilots might have thought it was a cruiser not a destroyer. The author was able to interview some of the survivors of the Plunkett and their families. Any military force is only as strong as the men and women who serve in it. These men were and are heroes of the first line. No wonder they are called “The Greatest Generation”. This book gets my VERY HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION. GO! BUY! READ!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    James Sullivan has produced an extensive family history document, but not really a great naval history. It's clear from the beginning that he is going to try and tell the story of an uncle who was a sailor on the USS Plunkett, but he tries to tell the story of 4 other guys as well, and the history of the ship itself. This results in a disjointed narrative (with random chapters about the present day interspersed) that doesn't do justice to the full stories of either the men or the ship. James Bra James Sullivan has produced an extensive family history document, but not really a great naval history. It's clear from the beginning that he is going to try and tell the story of an uncle who was a sailor on the USS Plunkett, but he tries to tell the story of 4 other guys as well, and the history of the ship itself. This results in a disjointed narrative (with random chapters about the present day interspersed) that doesn't do justice to the full stories of either the men or the ship. James Bradley does a much better job of telling the life stories of a group of men in Flags of Our Fathers. There are also times in this book where Sullivan uses slang of the period without explaining what it means. Additionally, I found a few instances where Sullivan would jump from one character to another in the same paragraph, which added confusion. I do think he did a fine job describing the action that resulted in the ship being hit with a bomb. However, after that moment, it felt like he lost interest in the story (most of his characters are off the ship), and was just talking about the role the ship had to play in future actions in the most broad terms because he had to prove this ship was in all the European Theater invasions.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Robert Doyle

    Great Book! Upon finishing the book, I immediately felt compelled to write a review to help promote the quality of this book. The author, James Sullivan tells the story of the heroic crew of the WWII Destroyer, the USS Plunkett. Instead of taking literary license to write the story of the USS Plunkett, he chose to focus on his experience writing the book. He adds a personal quality to all crew members through his interviews with surviving crew members or their family members. His words are often Great Book! Upon finishing the book, I immediately felt compelled to write a review to help promote the quality of this book. The author, James Sullivan tells the story of the heroic crew of the WWII Destroyer, the USS Plunkett. Instead of taking literary license to write the story of the USS Plunkett, he chose to focus on his experience writing the book. He adds a personal quality to all crew members through his interviews with surviving crew members or their family members. His words are often the words of those closest to tell the story. The story evolves into a great tribute to all those that helped Sullivan write a wonderful tribute to a group of humble Navy Sailors that served together on the Unsinkable USS Plunkett.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jon Bradley

    Quite an interesting story about a US Navy destroyer's action in the Mediterranean during WW2. Quite an interesting story about a US Navy destroyer's action in the Mediterranean during WW2.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Steve Scott

    This is a poignant and humanizing story about the men who served on the U.S.S. Plunkett, a World War II destroyer that served in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. While the book focuses on five men, telling their story, there is a fairly large cast of characters that make their appearance in the work. The author was related to one of the men who served aboard the ship, and that curiosity led him to get into contact with some of the survivors of the Plunkett's epic twenty five minute battle with This is a poignant and humanizing story about the men who served on the U.S.S. Plunkett, a World War II destroyer that served in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. While the book focuses on five men, telling their story, there is a fairly large cast of characters that make their appearance in the work. The author was related to one of the men who served aboard the ship, and that curiosity led him to get into contact with some of the survivors of the Plunkett's epic twenty five minute battle with the Luftwaffe of the shores of Anzio.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    A fascinating story of the USS Plunkett who survived an assault by German bombers at Anzio and later took part in the D-Day invasion on Omaha Beach in Normandy and later in the invasion of Southern France-perhaps the only Navy ship to take part in every Allied invasion in the European theater. The dramatic story of the crew was top notch in the story itself.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Norma Endersby

    First let me say that I'm not a particularly big fan of military histories but I have always been interested in the sea in general, and the Navy in particular. This well-researched history - in many cases first-hand - is so deeply moving on so many levels. It would have been all too easy to get bogged down in the naval parlance and technical aspects of running a destroyer, but Sullivan makes the stories of these five men (kids really) SO personal and interesting that it never does. By turns, thei First let me say that I'm not a particularly big fan of military histories but I have always been interested in the sea in general, and the Navy in particular. This well-researched history - in many cases first-hand - is so deeply moving on so many levels. It would have been all too easy to get bogged down in the naval parlance and technical aspects of running a destroyer, but Sullivan makes the stories of these five men (kids really) SO personal and interesting that it never does. By turns, their experiences were funny, sad, exciting, breathtakingly dramatic and extremely poignant. Stunningly, none of these sailors ever considered themselves heroes, from the commander to the guy who swabbed the deck. When the moment came they all showed up in spades ... it didn't matter who you were, you did what needed to be done. The bonds they forged through adversity were friendships for life ... and sadly in some cases, death. Previously unbeknownst to most of their descendants, these stories now live on for generations to come. Thank you, James Sullivan, for ensuring they will survive.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Spectre

    James Sullivan captures the mundane and heroic acts performed by the men who served aboard the US destroyer Plunkett (DD-431) in the Atlantic and Mediterranean during World War II. He captures both the humanity and the tragedy of the Naval War following “five men and the indomitable run” of one particular ship representing the experiences of the 514 destroyers that “steamed” in WWII with 71 destroyers lost. Each WWII destroyer carried a crew complement of approximately 330 men in tight living, w James Sullivan captures the mundane and heroic acts performed by the men who served aboard the US destroyer Plunkett (DD-431) in the Atlantic and Mediterranean during World War II. He captures both the humanity and the tragedy of the Naval War following “five men and the indomitable run” of one particular ship representing the experiences of the 514 destroyers that “steamed” in WWII with 71 destroyers lost. Each WWII destroyer carried a crew complement of approximately 330 men in tight living, working, and combat spaces while enduring periods of boredom, strife, and extreme danger as they carried out the many missions of their ship. The “climax” of this story is the brutal German air attack on the Plunkett during the January 1944 allied invasion at Anzio (Italy) which is described in very graphic detail. The author’s emphasis on the contributions of these “average” yet very special men and their families in the war effort is unique and worthy of a five-star rating.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tony Taylor

    An excellent book that was written with soul not only about the officers and men of the USS Plunket, a Graves Class destroyer during WWII but also about the soul of the ship itself. As a retired naval officer myself, I commend the author for his clarity and style as well as for his research. My only complaint is with the book editors who let some significant typos go uncorrected as well as ignoring some confusing sentence structure. I hope the editors with review the book with a fine-tooth comb An excellent book that was written with soul not only about the officers and men of the USS Plunket, a Graves Class destroyer during WWII but also about the soul of the ship itself. As a retired naval officer myself, I commend the author for his clarity and style as well as for his research. My only complaint is with the book editors who let some significant typos go uncorrected as well as ignoring some confusing sentence structure. I hope the editors with review the book with a fine-tooth comb before they release another edition.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kenny Chessor

    It was very slow in it's pacing. I felt it took too much time on the men's backstory before getting into the parts of the story that were set up by the title. I think the stories were compelling, but personally it underdelivered on the big story. That being said, these men gave so much including those that gave it all for our freedoms. I salute them and Mr. Sullivan for telling and preserving their stories for all of us. Thank you! It was very slow in it's pacing. I felt it took too much time on the men's backstory before getting into the parts of the story that were set up by the title. I think the stories were compelling, but personally it underdelivered on the big story. That being said, these men gave so much including those that gave it all for our freedoms. I salute them and Mr. Sullivan for telling and preserving their stories for all of us. Thank you!

  11. 5 out of 5

    David Lowe

    Wonderfully detailed. Most WWII books are about the generals and foot soldiers. This book is unusual because it's about men on the front lines albeit the ocean. It is a great read much like: "Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors". Wonderfully detailed. Most WWII books are about the generals and foot soldiers. This book is unusual because it's about men on the front lines albeit the ocean. It is a great read much like: "Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors".

  12. 4 out of 5

    Greg Beatty

    The Plunkett was a destroyer - the quintessential ship of the American imagination. There are more imposing ships, more lethal ships, and ships that require greater courage to get underway, but none are quite as romantic or compelling. Destroyers are the ones to charge into harm’s way, in the words of one officer, like terriers attacking Great Danes. The name of the ship announces its purpose: a floating gun platform built to wreck things. The Plunkett was the only Navy ship to participate in ev The Plunkett was a destroyer - the quintessential ship of the American imagination. There are more imposing ships, more lethal ships, and ships that require greater courage to get underway, but none are quite as romantic or compelling. Destroyers are the ones to charge into harm’s way, in the words of one officer, like terriers attacking Great Danes. The name of the ship announces its purpose: a floating gun platform built to wreck things. The Plunkett was the only Navy ship to participate in every Allied invasion in the European theatre, including at Omaha Beach on D-Day. However, its defining moment was twenty-five minutes in the late afternoon on January 24, 1944, in Anzio, a coastal city thirty miles from Rome. A hornet’s nest of aerial bombers from enemy planes bore down on the ship in a savage assault. A 550-lb bomb hit the destroyer, killing fifty-three sailors, mostly young. The Plunkett endured the most vicious attack on any Navy ship during World War II, but amongst the dead was John Gallagher of Massachusetts, great uncle to the author. This record of history is told with first-hand accounts from navy logs, diaries and letters, and the author reached out to interview living veterans who had served aboard the Plunkett. This is what make this book special. The book transcends historical appreciation. Sullivan focuses on the journey of five men—a skipper, who will receive the Navy Cross; the gunnery officer, who bucks the captain every step of the way to Anzio; a first lieutenant, who’s desperate to get off the ship; a seventeen-year-old shipmate, who’s trying to hold onto his hometown girl; and another shipmate, who mans a 20mm gun. The author puts us on the ship to relive their thoughts and prayers. Sullivan heard stories as a child at family gatherings that at the time seemed “so ordinary, that the details hardly qualified as something to talk about.” Yet the stories from those backyard barbeques germinated in the author’s mind to become the genesis of this book. The final account is riveting. We get the thread of military history, but the writing is strategic in the way it moves the men’s stories forward with raw emotion. We know how the war ends, we know from the book’s title that the ship survives, but how many men? We get a first-hand account of the battles with vivid detail. Some of them are horrible. Between battles we get the jocularity of the men (pretty much everyone had a nickname: Fish Head Pierce, Beep-Beep Mangosun, Doodlebug Mead, and so on). There are unsuspecting twists too. One in particular involves a Ouija board. How many war accounts feature a Ouija board? Sullivan is not dropping a loose detail into the story. The Ouija board ratches up the emotion like a pivotal character and drives the story of the men forward. "At a Red Cross Club, the men get drawn to a table with a Ouija board, crowded with a mix of sailors and soldiers. The service men were all over the board, asking the insane questions that percolated in men just emerging from adolescence. "'Am I gonna get laid tonight?' Of course, said the Ouija board. 'Is it gonna be another man?' scattering the men in momentary laughter only to boomerang them back into the huddle with more fun stuff. "Before Jim [Feltz] knew what he was doing, he squeezed in a question, figuring the board could see into the future. He asked whether he’d survive the war. The heart-shaped planchette went to the upper right corner of the board: No. He felt blindsided by what he realized now was an asinine mistake. Why had he asked a question like that when all he really wanted out of this night was a doughnut, and maybe a couple of new jokes. He’d had enemy aircraft dive on his ship all over the Tyrrhenian Sea, himself completely exposed topside in the mid-ship repair party, and he’d never felt then what he was feeling now." Sullivan surmises: At sea, everyone was equally at peril, every officer as susceptible as the grimiest snipe. In the infantry, one bullet might work for one man, but it didn’t work that way in this kind of combat. What might get one man was a torpedo or a glide bomb, and if it got one man, it was going to get a boatload of them. If the Ouija board had come for one man, it had come for all of them. If the author can breathe life into a Ouija board, he certainly knows how to explore the character of these men. Honesty counts. By sharing their flaws, we really get to know the men. The crew loved Dutch, who could work wonders on a provisioning run to a supply depot or wheel and deal with freighters that had just topped off and were chockablock with everything. He’d stay up all night with cooks to bake bread because he wanted it done right. But he was also a tattooed hard-ass who cheated at cards and craps, who could drink himself into oblivion. While the values of the men unfold during wartime, the author can distill character down to a single sentence. Three examples in ascending order of economy: "Gallagher was a Catholic and mumbled his prayers out of a little black book he’d received as a kid at confirmation, he used to press chocolate at a mill on the southern fringe of Boston, he’d worked in a hardware store before that, and he’d throw a punch now and then." "Burke is built like a linebacker with a broad fleshy face, he looked like the kind of guy James Cagney would send for to do the heavy work." "A burly man who might have come off a Harley." Succinct descriptions reveal a vital aspect of personality: "She was direct and decisive, and you might have divined that her father had been an officer in the military." "His smile yanked up slightly to the right, tentatively, and in it there was an implicit recognition that things didn’t always turn out for the best." And here’s how to describe without an abundance of adjectives: "His arms were burned and ridden with shrapnel, as he couldn’t raise them." "He was conscious, but he needed blood. How much? More than they had." "He had a widow’s peak that was so exact it looked drawn." "The sky was sickly yellow." That’s not a color you’ll find in the Crayola box. There’s more to the story at work here than a recounting of WWII and the lessons in its wake. This is about men (and women) who prepare for war, but once in it, are hurled into situations that could not have been imagined. This book, at its heart, probes the defining questions of, What does it mean to be human in times of moral complexity? How can anyone rise from ordinary endeavors and parochial aspirations to confront decisions that carry the weight of life and death of fellow shipmates? The author is careful not to answer these questions. This is where the book involves the reader to make his or her own enquiries. The marvel of a good story is how it acts on the reader – what do we feel, and where do we feel it. The story of the Plunkett is not about testosterone, nor flag waving. Truth is revealed in the choices presented, actions taken, and literally, in the wartime letters between the men on the ship and their loved ones back at home. These letters became something to both pine for and dread. As the war wanes on, one hometown girlfriend concludes a letter, “I’ll still call you mine, but I’m not as definite on that being the truth.” There is one harrowing scene that, once read, is unshakeable from memory. It would serve as a spoiler alert to summarize it here, so I’ll just say that it involves a rescue mission of an allied ship, the Rowan. Its hull was ripped open. As water rushed in, presumably, men washed out. The men of the Plunkett retrieved the floating bodies. What follows is unforgettable.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Luanne Ollivier

    Perseverance, endurance, bravery, tenacity. All of these describe those who fought in WWII. James Sullivan's latest book is Unsinkable: Five Men and the Indomitable Run of the USS Plunkett. What first drew me to Unsinkable? The personal stories - the best tales in life are the true ones. And Sullivan has done a fantastic job bringing these five men's stories to life. Their families, homes, hopes, desires, fears, strengths and more are detailed. Sullivan has drawn from many sources such as diaries Perseverance, endurance, bravery, tenacity. All of these describe those who fought in WWII. James Sullivan's latest book is Unsinkable: Five Men and the Indomitable Run of the USS Plunkett. What first drew me to Unsinkable? The personal stories - the best tales in life are the true ones. And Sullivan has done a fantastic job bringing these five men's stories to life. Their families, homes, hopes, desires, fears, strengths and more are detailed. Sullivan has drawn from many sources such as diaries, reports, interviews and a family member. Rather than just an annotation in a dry history book, Sullivan's writing made them 'real' for me as he takes us from enlistment to war to final days. While I am familiar with the battles of WWII, I learned so much from Unsinkable. Sullivan's descriptions of the Plunkett's role is comprehensive and again, well detailed. Unsinkable takes the listener inside the battles and puts us on the destroyer. An excellent book, honoring those who fought for our freedom and the ship that carried them. The title is perfect, referring to both ship and men. I chose to listen to Unsinkable. I find listening to a book immerses me in the story. Even more so for this book. The reader was a favorite of mine - Jacques Roy. His voice is clear, easy to understand, well enunciated and pleasant to listen to with a gravelly undertone. Its calm and suits the subject matter. But, his voice does rise and fall with the emotions and actions. The speed of reading is just right, allowing the listener to take it all in.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Casey Wheeler

    The title effectively sums up the narrative of the book. The USS Plunkett was one of the most decorated destroyers of World War II serving primarily in the European theater and took part in every major invasion task force. The story is told through five men who served on the ship. The narrative is engaging and interesting with first and second person recollections of what happened aboard ship. I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in World War II and especially those with an interest The title effectively sums up the narrative of the book. The USS Plunkett was one of the most decorated destroyers of World War II serving primarily in the European theater and took part in every major invasion task force. The story is told through five men who served on the ship. The narrative is engaging and interesting with first and second person recollections of what happened aboard ship. I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in World War II and especially those with an interest to the action in the Mediterranean and D Day. I received a free Kindle copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon and my nonfiction book review blog.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    The story of the ship USS Plunkett and it and its crews part in WWII. The story follows the lives of 5 sailors who served on the Plunkett. It gives a look at their lives before and after service and well as their wartime experiences. The author has done a great job of telling the ship's story as well as the sailors. You feel like you are seeing and experiencing what they do which can be unimaginable. A great book especially since I love history. The story of the ship USS Plunkett and it and its crews part in WWII. The story follows the lives of 5 sailors who served on the Plunkett. It gives a look at their lives before and after service and well as their wartime experiences. The author has done a great job of telling the ship's story as well as the sailors. You feel like you are seeing and experiencing what they do which can be unimaginable. A great book especially since I love history.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Aneil

    Too slow, too detailed in the wrong areas, tangents that aren’t that interesting or informative. Not worth the time or money I spent on it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Charles

    Compelling Tale of War, Remembrance, and Loss In the opening pages of this book, author James Sullivan recalls family gatherings in the 1970s that brought together the aging World War II generation. “Most had gone away to World War II, which was a circumstance of personal history so ordinary in that backyard on languorous afternoons that the details hardly qualified as something to talk about…Rather than remember the horror of what they’d seen, they talked about what was funny or improbable.” This Compelling Tale of War, Remembrance, and Loss In the opening pages of this book, author James Sullivan recalls family gatherings in the 1970s that brought together the aging World War II generation. “Most had gone away to World War II, which was a circumstance of personal history so ordinary in that backyard on languorous afternoons that the details hardly qualified as something to talk about…Rather than remember the horror of what they’d seen, they talked about what was funny or improbable.” This resonated with me because I have similar boyhood memories dating to the 1950s and 1960s. “Unsinkable” is more than a conventional description of battles of a Navy destroyer, The Plunkett, which perhaps saw more combat in the European theater than any other ship — engaged off North Africa, Sicily, Salerno, Anzio, and the Normandy Coast on D-Day. We do learn about these battles in some detail, but in addition Sullivan has reached out decades later to the families of those who served on The Plunkett, featuring five men including three he was able to interview before they passed — Jim Feltz, Ken Brown, and Jack Simpson. The author found much first-hand material had been saved by daughters of the vets, who were the custodians of their fathers’ legacies. These included letters, journals, and memoirs, all of which are recorded in the book’s footnotes. And, to place such reminiscences and materials in context, Sullivan researched Navy logs, war diaries, and action reports. The story Sullivan tells is dramatic, and the first-hand accounts of battle are vivid. Although the author may have embellished the descriptions to some extent to recreate the experience of these men, the scenes of chaos, bravery, and horror are plausible and based upon extensive research. Shipmates have a special bond, notes Sullivan. “In infantry one bullet might find one man, but on a ship a torpedo or bomb could get a boatload.” And in the description of the Plunkett under attack, we are given descriptions of the brutality of battle, in which sailors were later declared “missing” because their bodies had been so destroyed by fire or explosion that they could never be recovered and identified. Onboard, the wounded and dying were ministered to by shipmates. And we have the poignant description of Jim McManus, a survivor, visiting in Fall River, Mass., the families of his crew mates killed at Anzio. Inevitably, there is the survivor’s guilt of those who narrowly missed being killed themselves. Not talking about the war was the default position of so many men who were in military service during World War II. Many unburdened themselves about nightmare experiences only as they reached old age. Altogether this is a compelling story of war, remembrance, and loss.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Charles Moore

    The literary world abounds with true-military accounts starting as far back as the Civil War. Historians have taken great pains to see that their re-telling of all those battles is the more accurate and faithful, this time. The genre blasted off to Mars many years ago with "The Longest Day" by Ryan and a whole host of Steven Ambrose books. Now it's a crowded market. One of note is "Chickamauga and Chattanooga" by John Bowers who is a native of my home town, Johnson City, Tennessee. And I would b The literary world abounds with true-military accounts starting as far back as the Civil War. Historians have taken great pains to see that their re-telling of all those battles is the more accurate and faithful, this time. The genre blasted off to Mars many years ago with "The Longest Day" by Ryan and a whole host of Steven Ambrose books. Now it's a crowded market. One of note is "Chickamauga and Chattanooga" by John Bowers who is a native of my home town, Johnson City, Tennessee. And I would be admonished to not include "Return from the River Kwai" by Joan and Clay Blair, simply because one of my uncles has a favorable light aimed on his service in WWII. Yet, I must have been in my late 30s before I heard a word about it. But not everyone who served, then or ever, would be fortunate to have some of their service record made so politely public. Most would just as soon forget the blood and gore and the boredom. We don't gloat over those many man and women who didn't make the cut. Maybe they thank their lucky stars sometimes. As a Vietnam-era old guy, I can attest there are and were a mixed bag of feelings of which no one ever writes when it comes to family war histories. We only write about the heroes. And well we should. Mr. Sullivan's family was apparently not the talkative type. He learned his grandfather's action of the Italian coast the hard way. I'm glad he did it, though, because this is very well written and equally triumphant, scary, and sad. It is what personal histories are made of and we are better for it. While the written narrative ends with the landings along western Italy, Anzio in particular, Sullivan was careful and thoughtful, to weave in his modern journey to discover as best he could with the excitement and terror of combat. There is one chapter in particular that is about as nerve-gangling as any you might read. The horrors of combat are not nice. But, he helps us, as extended family-readers, I think understand and appreciate what the surviving generations have gone through. I can speak with a bit of authority that the surprises he found can really change the way we think about the fog of war and sheer terror of violent death. I won't suggest that a reader is better off with "Unsinkable." It might help for us to know what Sullivan and his family and the other families he writes about went through. There are names in here that I wonder what effect they might have on those who knew nothing. Rather I'd suggest that if this kind of research and curiosity is your thing you might read it as a bit of a guide. All in all, I found myself rooting for these sailors, crying at their losses, worried about the folks back home, and proud of them as humans. ###

  19. 4 out of 5

    Du

    This type of history book is one that I'm all over. There's a great mix of history, activity, human element. It's really well written and it provides information on an event that isn't all that well known, so there is something new to it regardless of how well you know World War 2 history. This type of history book is one that I'm all over. There's a great mix of history, activity, human element. It's really well written and it provides information on an event that isn't all that well known, so there is something new to it regardless of how well you know World War 2 history.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    For about three-quarters of "Unsinkable" I felt like I was re-reading Martha McCallum's fine book "Unknown Valor". Both books follow the lives of World War II veterans in their pre-war years, where they were when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred, at training camp, then thrown into the meat grinder of war. Ms. McCallum told it better because hers was more personal, it was about the uncle she never knew. And because the meat grinder her uncle stepped into happened to be Iwo Jima the action was For about three-quarters of "Unsinkable" I felt like I was re-reading Martha McCallum's fine book "Unknown Valor". Both books follow the lives of World War II veterans in their pre-war years, where they were when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred, at training camp, then thrown into the meat grinder of war. Ms. McCallum told it better because hers was more personal, it was about the uncle she never knew. And because the meat grinder her uncle stepped into happened to be Iwo Jima the action was continuous. "Unsinkable" followed five sailors aboard the USS Plunkett and for the most part the reader was subjected to the same monotony that the sailors felt, swabbing the deck, manning battle stations for attacks that never materialized or providing smoke screens for other ships engaged in battle. This made for some fairly dull reading. But if you stick with it you will be amply rewarded. Although used mainly in support of landing operations on Sicily the Plunkett followed the troops up the coast as Patton freed Italian town after town from German control. It was in this support that the Plunkett was targeted by the guns of the German Luftwaffe, desperate to maintain control of the ground, air, and sea over Sicily. The segment about the air assault on the Plunkett was outstanding. The heroism of the crew and force with which they repulsed the attack was beautifully written and you could feel the confidence that permeated a crew that trained for several years for just such an attack. Particularly riveting was the part about the heroic actions of the captain on the bridge casually giving orders to swerve the ship in different directions to avoid incoming from planes and bombs coming from all directions. The battle is written so vividly you would swear you were watching it on the big screen. So I wholeheartedly recommend "Unsinkable"and hope you don't get as submerged in the on-board tedium as I did.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Marty Evans

    This is a riveting story of five men who were assigned together randomly on the Navy destroyer USS Plunkett in World War II. It was not necessarily a unique story...thousands of men volunteered for naval service as the clouds of war were gathering and served with distinction onboard ships in the Atlantic and Pacific naval campaigns. What makes this story unique is the detail the author uncovers in his research and the graceful and elegant style of writing the story. One of the five men was the a This is a riveting story of five men who were assigned together randomly on the Navy destroyer USS Plunkett in World War II. It was not necessarily a unique story...thousands of men volunteered for naval service as the clouds of war were gathering and served with distinction onboard ships in the Atlantic and Pacific naval campaigns. What makes this story unique is the detail the author uncovers in his research and the graceful and elegant style of writing the story. One of the five men was the author’s great uncle who died when the ship was attacked at Anzio. Jim Sullivan leaves no stone unturned: he has access to letters, diaries, Navy documents and reports, family stories and, most important, interviews of a couple of his great uncle’s shipmates, men now in their nineties. As the author weaves together the details and chronicles life onboard one of the Navy’s most famous ships and the personal relationships of the men, one can’t help but understand how the moniker “The Greatest Generation” came to characterize World War II veterans and how men who experienced combat while serving in destroyers were a special subset. My father was a World War II destroyer sailor who didn’t speak much about his wartime service, but when he did, it was mostly about his shipmates. Reading Sullivan’s account of the men of the Plunkett brought back memories of my father’s accounts of the good ship captains and officers and the ones lacking and of the competent and dependable shipmates and the others. For veterans (myself included), this book evoked thoughts of the meaning of “service” and stirred memories of great leaders who influenced our lives. This book is a superb case study for young men and women who aspire to lead not only in the naval setting. Unsinkable tells the story of men who did their duty and, in so doing, saved their shipmates and the ship.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Monical

    I've spent a lot of the coronavirus plague quarantine reading various accounts of World War II, maybe searching for the glue that held us together then that is so totally lacking now. This book, centered on the European Naval theater participation of a single ship, the USS Plunkett, was really moving. Maybe it is the ghost of my father, who served in the Navy during World War II and Korea? Many of the characters in this book remind me of him-- he was a real wheeler-dealer, able to pull together I've spent a lot of the coronavirus plague quarantine reading various accounts of World War II, maybe searching for the glue that held us together then that is so totally lacking now. This book, centered on the European Naval theater participation of a single ship, the USS Plunkett, was really moving. Maybe it is the ghost of my father, who served in the Navy during World War II and Korea? Many of the characters in this book remind me of him-- he was a real wheeler-dealer, able to pull together amazing deals and with a huge network of friends and acquaintances to help out. This book concentrates on just a few members of the crew, including the author's Uncle (which is where it all started for him), but paints a vivid and warming portrait of the crew and its officers.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Zeb Kantrowitz

    This is a book into what happened to his Uncle who was killed while in the Navy when the US Army landed at Anzio Beach. His Uncle John Gallagher had four brothers (three who fought in the War) but except to celebrate his memory little was ever mentioned about their experiences in the War. This wasn't unusual about these Members of the Greatest Generation, they fought, they came home and went on with their lives. Sullivan spent years going through ship archives and tracking down men who had fought This is a book into what happened to his Uncle who was killed while in the Navy when the US Army landed at Anzio Beach. His Uncle John Gallagher had four brothers (three who fought in the War) but except to celebrate his memory little was ever mentioned about their experiences in the War. This wasn't unusual about these Members of the Greatest Generation, they fought, they came home and went on with their lives. Sullivan spent years going through ship archives and tracking down men who had fought along side his Uncle. Most of the men had never spoken to their own children about the two times that their ship the Destroyer (DD-431) Plunkett was bombed or its' involvement in the five major invasions in the European Theater of Action. They brought in troops and protected the landings in North Africa, Sicily, Anzio, Normandy and Southern France. At Sicily and Anzio, they lost over fifty men each time they were attacked, but were back in action soon after Sicily and longer after Anzio where they incurred major damage. They took a real beating at Anzio and that's where Sullivan's Uncle was killed. He decided to concentrate on five men who had served on the Plunkett through most of the War. One of his other Uncles had fought on Anzio beach and actually saw the Plunkett bombed. Talking to some of these men, fifty years later, they were like my dad (who was in North Africa, Italy and South France) they were reticent to ever speak about what happened and what they saw. It's well written and without any exaggeration.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Peter Goodman

    “Unsinkable: Five men and the indomitable run of the USS Plunkett,” by James Sullivan (Scribner, 2020). This is one of the best “war at sea” books I have read. Not that there is so much new, but Sullivan’s writing, his descriptions of the vessel, the smells, sounds, confusion, is clear and visceral. Sullivan’s great-uncle Frank Gallagher always told a story about how he snuck onto his brother’s destroyer, USS Plunkett, while it was anchored off Naples. So one day Sullivan googled Plunkett, conta “Unsinkable: Five men and the indomitable run of the USS Plunkett,” by James Sullivan (Scribner, 2020). This is one of the best “war at sea” books I have read. Not that there is so much new, but Sullivan’s writing, his descriptions of the vessel, the smells, sounds, confusion, is clear and visceral. Sullivan’s great-uncle Frank Gallagher always told a story about how he snuck onto his brother’s destroyer, USS Plunkett, while it was anchored off Naples. So one day Sullivan googled Plunkett, contacts someone who served on her, and we’re off. Sullivan blends the story of the ship and five members of her crew, with modern-day stories of where they are now, if they are alive. The strength of the story lies in Sullivan’s crisp, clear descriptions of how the ship was laid out, how you climbed up and down from deck to deck, what it smelled like in the boiler room, what it sounded like in the engine room, what it felt like to be one of six men crammed into the gun director atop the bridge controlling the ship’s 5-inch guns during a frantic 25 minutes of German air attack off the Anzio beachhead. There’s more to it than that, of course, but Sullivan brings the ship and its men alive in a way no other account of the war has been able to do. https://unsinkableplunkett.com/

  25. 5 out of 5

    Colin Hinshelwood

    Well-written, emotive, thoroughly researched and fascinating, Unsinkable is a historical record of true importance. Author James Sullivan segues effortlessly between past and present, introducing the veterans and their relatives, while maintaining the pace of the war in the Mediterranean. Historains and WWII buffs will love Unsinkable. Above all, this book will be popular with anyone of a naval background. For those of us who know little of nautical terms and naval duties, Sullivan subtlety brin Well-written, emotive, thoroughly researched and fascinating, Unsinkable is a historical record of true importance. Author James Sullivan segues effortlessly between past and present, introducing the veterans and their relatives, while maintaining the pace of the war in the Mediterranean. Historains and WWII buffs will love Unsinkable. Above all, this book will be popular with anyone of a naval background. For those of us who know little of nautical terms and naval duties, Sullivan subtlety brings us on board, step by step, until by the end we feel as if we ourselves are manning the guns or rescuing shipmates.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Macke

    The best history combines the details of an event or moment in time with the personal narratives of people who were there and this book does that with the love and passion that only comes from an author who is talking about family ... as the number of citizen soldiers painfully dwindles these kind of WWII stories become more treasured and I become even more grateful and awed by their commitment and sacrifice ... cheers to the Plunkett

  27. 4 out of 5

    David Brown

    I enjoyed this story of a WW II destroyer crew in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. It is rare that you have a chance to “dive down” on an entire crew. At first, I found it somewhat annoying to go back and forth between the war a present when I felt initially that an afterword would be more seamless but than at Anzio you understand the reason for the sequence. Definitely recommend it...

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jeanne

    Unsinkable is fascinating and very well-written. It is the kind of book you don’t want to put down and you wish had several more chapters to it. The fact that Mr. Sullivan was able to speak to men who had served on Plunkett makes this book particularly engaging.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Janette

    It is great that the author put all this together. Even after reading his words, it is hard to really understand what Anzio was like. I think you had to be there. This is a great memorial to those who were.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Helen-Louise

    A great story that anyone could read and enjoy, telling the story of the great adventures and tragedies of this great ship and the men who crewed her. Especially for those who served in the Navy, or who had family who did.

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