Days of Steel Rain: The Epic Story of a WWII Vengeance Ship in the Year of the Kamikaze

Hachette. May 2021. 400p. ISBN 9780316451109. $32. HIST
Carrier-based combat dominated the Second World War’s Pacific theater. To protect carriers, naval forces employed a variety of surface ships with anti-aircraft defenses. The largest of these were cruisers, among them the USS Astoria. In this debut, Jones traces the ship’s history, from its construction in Philadelphia and initial trial runs, to its participation in naval operations and its eventual decommissioning. Based largely on interviews and personal recollections, this book prominently features individual crew members’ stories, in which combat roles are depicted, as well as other aspects of a seaman’s life, like boredom during downtime. The reader gets a sense of the terror of facing down attacking aircraft, some employing kamikaze tactics. Friendly fire was a constant threat during combat. “Flak” from other ships’ anti-aircraft guns actually rained down and caused many American casualties, hence the book’s title. The author’s attempt to tell the personal stories of so many figures can result in over-attention to minor details. The book concludes with a statement about “battle fatigue,” known today as PTSD, and brief summaries of certain crew members’ postwar lives.
VERDICT A decent snapshot of a cruiser in the Pacific. It should appeal to readers interested in U.S. navy life on a World War II ship.
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