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Download Ship of Ghosts: The Story of the USS Houston, FDR's Legendary Lost Cruiser, and the Epic Saga of of Her Survivors Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample Ship of Ghosts: The Story of the USS Houston, FDRs Legendary Lost Cruiser, and the Epic Saga of of Her Survivors Audiobook, by James D. Hornfischer Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (449 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: James D. Hornfischer Narrator: Marc Cashman Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: November 2006 ISBN: 9781415931349
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“Son, we’re going to hell.”

The navigator of the USS Houston confided these prophetic words to a young officer as he and his captain charted a course into U.S. naval legend. Renowned as FDR’s favorite warship, the cruiser USS Houston was a prize target trapped in the far Pacific after Pearl Harbor. Without hope of reinforcement, her crew faced a superior Japanese force ruthlessly committed to total conquest. It wasn’t a fair fight, but the men of the Houston would wage it to the death.

Hornfischer brings to life the awesome terror of nighttime naval battles that turned decks into strobe-lit slaughterhouses, the deadly rain of fire from Japanese bombers, and the almost superhuman effort of the crew as they miraculously escaped disaster again and again–until their luck ran out during a daring action in Sunda Strait. There, hopelessly outnumbered, the Houston was finally sunk and its survivors taken prisoner. For more than three years their fate would be a mystery to families waiting at home.

In the brutal privation of jungle POW camps dubiously immortalized in such films as The Bridge on the River Kwai, the war continued for the men of the Houston—a life-and-death struggle to survive forced labor, starvation, disease, and psychological torture. Here is the gritty, unvarnished story of the infamous Burma–Thailand Death Railway glamorized by Hollywood, but which in reality mercilessly reduced men to little more than animals, who fought back against their dehumanization with dignity, ingenuity, sabotage, will–power—and the undying faith that their country would prevail.

Using journals and letters, rare historical documents, including testimony from postwar Japanese war crimes tribunals, and the eyewitness accounts of Houston’s survivors, James Hornfischer has crafted an account of human valor so riveting and awe-inspiring, it’s easy to forget that every single word is true.

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Quotes & Awards

  • What kind of yarn is Ship of Ghosts? Put Stephen Ambrose aboard the cruiser once known as ‘the Galloping Ghost of the Java Coast.’ Next, bring Patrick O’Brien for nautical detail and high seas drama. Then factor in Joseph Conrad for tales of men under stress in exotic climes…. Naval history of the highest order. Metrowest [Boston] Daily News
  • “Hornfischer has painted a compelling picture of one of the most gallant ships and one of the grimmest campaigns in American naval history. He has a positive genius for depicting the surface-warfare sailor in a tight spot. May he write long and give them more memorials. Booklist, starred review
  • “With vivid and visceral descriptions of the chaos and valor onboard the doomed Houston…the author penetrates the thoughts and fears of adrenaline-pumped sailors in the heat of combat…. Hornfischer masterfully shapes the narrative…. breathing life into an unforgettable epic of human endurance. USA Today
  •  “Hornfischer is quickly establishing himself as doing for the Navy what popular historian Stephen Ambrose did for the Army…. So great is the drama of the Houston and its survivors that this story seems to tell itself. Rocky Mountain News
  • Recounts perhaps the most devastating untold saga of World War II in piercing detail. Donovan Webster, author of The Burma Road
  • Masterly…[the] description of the huge and terrifying naval engagements are as overwhelming a stretch of historical writing as I have ever come across…. Beautifully written and heartgripping. Adam Nicolson, author of God’s Secretaries
  • Hornfischer has done it again. His narrative is fine-tuned and always compelling but where he truly excels is in his evocative, often lyrical descriptions of combat at sea. Those who enjoyed his previous best-seller will love Ship of Ghosts—military history at its finest. Alex Kershaw, author of The Bedford Boys and The Few
  • Hornfischer has produced another meticulously researched naval history page-turner in Ship of Ghosts. He manages to fuse powerful human stories into the great flow of historical events with a singular story-telling talent. John F. Lehman, former Secretary of the Navy, author of On Seas of Glory
  • On sea and on land, these intrepid sailors endured enough for a thousand lifetimes. In this riveting account, Hornfischer carefully reconstructs a story none of us should be allowed to forget. Hampton Sides, author of Blood and Thunder and Ghost Soldiers
  • Ship of Ghosts would be an unforgettable book if only for its brilliantly wrought account of the massive, chaotic sea battle that destroyed the USS Houston. But that is only the beginning of a story that grows more harrowing with every chapter, and that finally leaves the reader amazed at what human beings are capable of achieving and enduring. Stephen Harrigan, author of Challenger Park and The Gates of the Alamo

Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Annmbray | 2/15/2014

    " Nothing new here! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 John | 2/10/2014

    " An important and compelling story, just not written well. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michael | 2/4/2014

    " I only read the first half. The part until they get captured. It was really cool. It talks about the history of the ship and the fleet it was with. Very interesting. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Joe Folan | 1/25/2014

    " great story of courage. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Thomas Ptacek | 1/6/2014

    " A lot of random things tacked on to a genuinely riveting story about the brutal construction of the Burma-Thai railroad. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Medic 1181 | 12/29/2013

    " So far a great book in honor and memory of the Sailors of the USS Houston and all the endured in POW camps through out the South Pacific. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Robert Place | 12/25/2013

    " How anyone could survive such a hell is a testament to the strength of human endurance. One just did not want to be captured by the Japanese during the war. The many that did are true heroes! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Janette | 11/23/2013

    " One of the best books about WWII I've read. Very well written. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Wendy Krizmanic | 11/16/2013

    " Great account of the USS Houston during WWII "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ron | 10/16/2013

    " Pretty intense. It's about the men who built the bridge made famous in The Bridge Over the River Kwai. Great for WWII nuts but there are other more engaging reads for the casual military history reader. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Katherine | 9/16/2013

    " Learned many things about WWII that I did not know. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Wes | 8/25/2013

    " A tremendous account of the price that was paid for our freedom! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Greg | 6/28/2013

    " An amazing story of courage and survival. Fans of WWII will eat this up. Epic saga is right! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Shawn | 5/30/2012

    " Slow read but pretty good "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mike Griffin | 4/30/2012

    " To read this book is a life changing experience. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sean | 2/20/2012

    " Some of the greatest men that I have gotten to know if my life. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michelle | 1/19/2012

    " A powerful and well written book on the Pacific theater during WWII. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Zach | 7/27/2011

    " Not really an uplifting story but certainly a tale of terrible things that humans do to each other during war. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 David Eppenstein | 4/18/2011

    " If you ever read "Bridge on the River Kwai" or saw the movie this book will tell you the back story about the Americans that endured that hell. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jocelyn | 4/11/2011

    " Not typically my type of book, but an excellent account of the ship my grandfather was on during WWII. Unfortunately, the author did not write about the Chinese sailors on the USS Houston, but it is a well written book nonetheless. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sean | 9/23/2010

    " Some of the greatest men that I have gotten to know if my life. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Wendy | 4/13/2010

    " Great account of the USS Houston during WWII "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Janette | 5/23/2009

    " One of the best books about WWII I've read. Very well written. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Katherine | 9/30/2008

    " Learned many things about WWII that I did not know. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Greg | 9/2/2008

    " An amazing story of courage and survival. Fans of WWII will eat this up. Epic saga is right! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Medic | 6/5/2008

    " So far a great book in honor and memory of the Sailors of the USS Houston and all the endured in POW camps through out the South Pacific. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Zach | 6/5/2008

    " Not really an uplifting story but certainly a tale of terrible things that humans do to each other during war. "

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About the Author
Author James D. Hornfischer

James D. Hornfischer is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Neptune’s Inferno, Ship of Ghosts, and The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors, winner of the Samuel Eliot Morison Award, and others. A native of Massachusetts and a graduate of Colgate University and the University of Texas School of Law, he lives in Austin, Texas.

About the Narrator

Marc Cashman is a three-time winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award for audiobook narration. His voice has also been heard locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally on radio, television, film, documentaries, radio plays, and video games.