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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Book Review: All the Gallant Men

I'd read an article about Donald Stratton's memoir All the Gallant Men in an article online and put it on my Amazon list for "later." My sister and brother-in-law were kind enough to pick the book up for me for Christmas, and I must say that the book lived up to the strong reviews and press it received. Donald Stratton is currently in his mid-90s, and is one of only a handful of living survivors of the attack on the USS Arizona on December 7, 1941 during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Born and raised in rural Nebraska, Stratton paints a rare and absolutely unflinching portrait of life during the Depression and the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. He is brutally honest about the hardships faced by his family and the rest of the state on a daily basis. Levels of deprivation thankfully rare today in the United States, but which were all too typical then. Yet these same hardships seem to foster a sense of perseverance in Stratton and many of his generation preparing them for the horrors ahead.

Source: Wikipedia

Stratton's sense of pride when being assigned to the Arizona is palpable. His thoughtful and heartfelt characterizations of his fellow crewmen help you understand these men not mere statistics or caricatures in some Hollywood movie, but real people who had real dreams, goals, and aspirations which were in far too many cases cut brutally short.

The author's anger also comes through. Anger at the Japanese for conducting the raid. Anger at his superiors for failing to take adequate precautions when Japanese intentions were clear. Anger which has clearly not faded with the passage of time. Anger that all of the lessons were not learned, and history can, and has, repeated itself.

Source: Wikipedia

All the Gallant Men offers the reader the chance to hear the voice of one of the few surviving Pearl Harbor veterans. It offers a exceptionally candid portrait of the time and his own journey through the attack, recovery, discharge, and then re-enlistment in 1944 and service at the end of the war on a destroyer. Stratton pays little attention to his own actions, focusing instead on those who helped him survive, and the comrades who didn't make it back.

I strongly recommend this book for anyone interested in the history of World War II, or even anyone interested in American History because the two are inexorably entwined in this account. It's not a long read or a difficult read, but it is above all else an honest read. The author's voice is clear throughout, and it provides a deeper understanding of the era from the point of view of an average sailor thrust into extraordinary circumstances.

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