By C. Snelling Robinson
New Softbound edition
328 pages, 9 black and white photos, with 7 maps
ISBN # 0-87338-698-1
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“This is a great book. Very detailed without being boring. It took me back to my days as a naval officer aboard ship. I’m sorry the author is no longer living. I would have like to write and tell him how much I enjoyed his book.” – William T. Hadley
“C. Snelling Robinson, 200,000 Miles Aboard the USS Cotten (Kent State University Press, 2000) The Cotten was a Fletcher-class destroyer, built in 1943 for the express purpose of protecting America’s new fleet carriers from Japanese aircraft, submarines, and surface vessels during the final years of the greatest naval war in history. Indeed, it would be this hard-hitting combination of ships — the fast carrier task forces commanded alternately by Admirals Marc Mitscher and “Slew” McCain with their supporting cast of battleships, cruisers and destroyers — that would prove decisive in the Pacific War. The carriers captured the glory, but their success was greatly facilitated by the largely unsung “small boys,” the hard-working, hard-riding destroyers. Snell Robinson’s superb account of his three years aboard one of the most ubiquitous of these destroyers is therefore a welcome new arrival among the body of literature of the savage fighting in the Central Pacific. Robinson came of age as a junior officer among the 300-member crew of USS Cotten (DD 669). He served principally as the ship’s navigator, qualified as officer-of-the-deck underway, and stood his General Quarters post in “Sky One,” the exposed gun director at the highest point in the ship. By fate, Robinson and his ship survived some of the greatest and bloodiest naval battles in history — the forcible amphibious assault landings at Tarawa, Saipan, and Iwo Jima, and the enormous fleet engagements in the Philippine Sea and Leyte Gulf. The vast scale of this sea war is reflected in the record of this one small destroyer, needle-thin with its maximum beam of 39 feet, steaming the equivalent of eight circumnavigations of the earth in its endless screening missions to protect the precious carriers. Robinson describes life aboard Cotten in its alternating monotony and terrifying action with a navigator’s attention to time and space and an honest appreciation of the strengths and weaknesses of himself and his shipmates. Few authentic veterans have ever done a better job portraying life at sea on a small man-of-war. His narrative is crisp, informative, authoritative. Robinson describes the difficulty of his gunners trying to shoot down a night-raiding Japanese bomber by aiming at the exhaust flair — “like shooting at the white tail of a running deer.” He admits his awe at observing Task Force 58, now some 95 ships strong, sortie from Majuro Atoll in the Marshalls, heading west towards Saipan. He admits his fear — everyone’s fear — at the report that the Japanese Mobile Fleet, including the two largest battleships in the world, had erupted into the Philippine Sea in search of Mitscher’s carriers. He describes how a destroyer at flank speed tends to squat by the stern; a sailor standing on the fantail would actually have to look up to see the surface of the ocean. And he informs us that the greater danger in the suicidal Japanese kamikaze attacks actually came from “friendly fire” as the entire fleet blazed away at the low-flying intruders. Nicely illustrated with maps by cartographer Mary C. Hoffman, this book is a hand-crafted jewel. I heartily recommend it to anyone interested in an unblinking account of the great sea war of the 1940s.” – Joseph H. Alexander
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