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Today the appellation “hero” is thrown about frivolously. Not every person who encounters disappointment or personal trials in their life is a hero. The naval aviators of Torpedo Squadron 8, celebrated by Robert J. Mrazek in A Dawn Like Thunder, were heroes. These young men, with much to live for, sold their lives dearly to blunt Japanese aggression against the U.S. in the early months of World War II. Mrazek tells their story vividly and with a raw power that gives them life anew. As Frank Deford wrote on the dust jacket, the tale of Torpedo Squadron 8 at Midway and Guadalcanal is “wonderfully uplifting.”Mrazek is to be commended for not simply retelling a World War II story. His research exposed two illuminating aspects of the Battle of Midway. Appendix 1 of A Dawn Like Thunder details the personal quest of Bowen P. Weisheit, a lawyer from Maryland, who was an expert in the science of celestial navigation. Mr. Weisheit studied the After Action Report of the Midway battle and compared that report with unofficial data and fifty hours of interviews he conducted with survivors. His conclusion: the official After Action Report and its map were irreconcilable with the flight courses actually followed on the day of battle. The official map was false. Why? Senior officers in the navy are very much politicians and bureaucrats. The fact that an After Action Report may be “cooked” to cover embarrassing decisions which may reflect poorly on senior leaders is not inconceivable. Apparently, this is exactly what happened after Midway. Senior officers did not want the official record to bear witness to the deaths of so many young men as a result of incompetence and faulty decision-making by their leaders. The men of Torpedo Squadron 8 may not have died if they were not sent off in the wrong direction. Squadron commander John Waldron knew this, but was unsuccessful in convincing his superiors to alter their orders. Much credit is due to Mr. Weisheit and Admiral Thomas Moorer for formally correcting the historical record.Mrazek also contributed to the history of Torpedo Squadron 8 and the Midway battle by providing a complete account of the efforts of the squadron detachment based on Midway Island under the command of Lieutenant Langdon Fieberling. Not all of Torpedo Squadron 8’s aircraft sortied against the Japanese fleet from aboard USS HORNET. The Midway detachment played their part and deserve full recognition too. In his novel War and Remembrance, Herman Wouk paused the narrative to catalogue the names of the men of Torpedo Squadron 8 in the style of Homer’s Iliad. It was an honor well merited. I recommend A Dawn Like Thunder to any reader interested in one of the more stirring chapters of the history of the U.S. Navy. It is solid Four Star material.

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