The Twilight Warriors, winner of the 2011 Samuel Eliot Morison Award for Naval Literature, is the engrossing, page-turning saga of a tightly knit band of naval aviators who are thrust into the final—and most brutal—battle of the Pacific war: Okinawa.
April 1945. The end of World War II finally appears to be nearing. The Third Reich is collapsing in Europe, and the Americans are overpowering the once-mighty Japanese Empire in the Pacific. For a group of young pilots trained in the twilight of the war, the greatest worry is that it will end before they have a chance to face the enemy. They call themselves Tail End Charlies. They fly at the tail end of formations, stand at the tail end of chow lines, and now they are catching the tail end of the war. What they don’t know is that they will be key players in the bloodiest and most difficult of naval battles—not only of World War II but in all of American history.
The Twilight Warriors relives the drama of the world’s last great naval campaign. From the cockpit of a Corsair fighter we gaze down at the Japanese task force racing to destroy the American amphibious force at Okinawa. Through the eyes of the men on the destroyers assigned to picket ship duty, we experience the terror as wave after wave of kamikazes crash into their ships. Standing on the deck of the legendary superbattleship Yamato, we watch Japan’s last hope for victory die in a tableau of gunfire and explosions.
Among the Tail End Charlies are men such as a twenty-two-year-old former art student who grows to manhood on the day of his first mission over Japan and his best friend, a ladies’ man and intrepid fighter pilot whose life abruptly changes when his Corsair goes down off the enemy shore. Another is a young Texan lieutenant who volunteers for the most dangerous flying job in the fleet—intercepting kamikazes at night over the blackened Pacific. Their leader is a charismatic officer who rises to greatness in the crucible of Okinawa. Directing the vast armada of sea, air, and land forces is a cast of brilliant and flawed commanders—from the imperturbable admiral and master of carrier warfare to the controversial soldier assigned to command the land forces.
The fate of the Americans at Okinawa is intertwined with the lives of the “young gods”— the honor-bound Japanese airmen who swarm like killer bees toward the U.S. ships. The kamikazes are dispatched on their deadly one-way missions by a classic samurai warrior who vows that he will follow them to a warrior’s grave.
The ferocity of the Okinawa fighting stuns the world. Before it ends, the long battle will cost more American lives, ships, and aircraft than any naval engagement in U.S. history. More than simply the account of a historic battle, The Twilight Warriors brings to life the human side of an epic conflict. It is the story of young Americans at war in the air and on the sea—and of their enigmatic, fanatically courageous enemy.
From the Hardcover edition.
About Robert Gandt
ROBERT GANDT is a former naval officer and aviator, international airline captain, and a prolific military and aviation writer. He is the author of thirteen books, including the novels The Killing Sky and Black Star Rising and the definitive work on modern naval aviation, Bogeys and Bandits. His screen credits include the television series Pensacola: Wings of Gold. He and his wife Anne live with their airplanes in Spruce Creek, a flying community in Daytona Beach, FL. You may visit his web site at www. Gandt.com.
"Military historian and novelist Gandt (Black Star Rising, 2007, etc.) chronicles the epic Battle of Okinawa.
In the spring of 1945, as the Red Army approached Berlin, a ferocious land, sea and air battle raged in the Pacific, a dress rehearsal, many thought, for the upcoming invasion of Japan. The author credits the idea of bypassing the heavily fortified island of Formosa and seizing Okinawa to the brainy Adm. Raymond Spruance. Snapshots of Spruance, Marc Mitscher, Chester Nimitz, Ernest King, Morton Deyo and Arleigh Burke, towering names in American naval history, dot these pages, complemented by similar sharp takes on the Japanese high command defending the island. The heart of Gandt’s story, though, is the tale of the young aviators, the Tail End Charlies on the American side, fearful they’d never get into action, and the Japanese Thunder Gods, the kamikaze force whose suicide missions testified simultaneously to Japan’s will and her desperation. By no means comprehensive—Gandt checks in only periodically with the halting advance of Simon Buckner’s 10th Army—the narrative, nevertheless, consistently enlightens on numerous battle-related issues and incidents: the rivalry between the black shoe (seagoing) and the brown shoe (aviation) navy; how the Japanese consistently overestimated the destruction caused by the kamikaze missions; the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Buckner and famed correspondent Ernie Pyle; the peculiar susceptibility of the wooden-decked U.S. carriers to kamikaze attack; the sinking of the mighty battleship Yamato; the exploits of American ace Al Lerch, who shot down seven planes in a single mission; the strength of the USS Laffey, still afloat after six kamikaze crashes. The appalling price in lives lost, men wounded, ships sunk and aircraft destroyed made Okinawa “the costliest naval engagement in U.S. history.” Three months later the atomic bomb would fall on Hiroshima.
A fine popular account of history’s last great sea battle." -- Kirkus
“Written in a wonderful bold style, with pathos, humor, tragedy, and gripping suspense, Twilight Warriors captures the life and death struggle of sailors and airmen fighting the last great Pacific battle of World War II... A riveting masterpiece, a powerful tribute to all those sailors and pilots who went in harm's way. Five stars!" --Stephen Coonts, author of Flight of the Intruder
“This extremely well written history of the Battle of Okinawa is unusual in that it is perfect for both beginning students and for experts. It is a book that will leave you with unforgettable memories of the heroes who fought—on both sides—in the Okinawan twilight.” --Walter J. Boyne, former director of the National Air and Space Museum, author of The Wild Blue.
“Using the actual flying experience of the pilots of VBF-10 for center stage, Gandt broadens the scope of "The Twilight Warriors" by melding in Japanese air and sea operations with US operations to give us a complete view of the last big battle in the Pacific campaign. The detailed look at the personalities of American and Japanese warriors adds great insight into decisions made, both good and bad. It is both an informative and compelling read.” --Dave North, Editor-in-Chief, Aviation Week & Space Technology (ret), USS Intrepid pilot
From the Hardcover edition.