“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Using journals and letters, rare historical documents,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. Download and start listening now!