Monday, November 16, 2015

Stephen L. Moore's "The Battle for Hell's Island"

Stephen L. Moore, a sixth-generation Texan, graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, where he studied advertising, marketing, and journalism. He is the author of multiple books on World War II and Texas history, including Pacific Payback: The Carrier Fly Boys Who Avenged Pearl Harbor at the Battle of Midway and Taming Texas, a biography of his great-great-great grandfather William T. Sadler, who was one of the first Texas Ranger captains in the 1830s.

Moore applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Battle for Hell’s Island: How a Small Band of Carrier Dive-Bombers Helped Save Guadalcanal, and reported the following:
Page 99 is a chart of Navy dive bomber crews that made a particular carrier attack and thus does not give the reader a sense of the book as a whole. A reader would be better served to flip back to the “Preface” where I outline the anger and anxiety of pilot Birney Strong. Although he has been highly decorated for valor in actions covered early in the book, he is seeking to reclaim honor and pride to a commander that has come to doubt his courage.

During August 1942, Lieutenant Strong had sighted and reported a Japanese carrier force in the Eastern Solomons. He and wingman then returned to their carrier instead of attacking. It was a decision he regretted for weeks. On the morning of October 26, 1942, he was among the pilots assembled before his stern air group commander. He expected nothing less than dead accuracy and utmost courage this day from his dive-bomber pilots.

From the “Preface”:
“If you are going to miss with your bomb,” the commander barked, “you might as well stay home and let a good pilot take your place.”

The sharp words still sizzled in Lieutenant Birney Strong’s mind as he looked at the perfect scene playing out before him. Fourteen thousand feet below on the blue Pacific surface were the distinctive flat lines of two Japanese aircraft carriers. Birney had a determined calm about him as he briefly eyed the thin white wakes streaming behind the gleaming yellow-hued flight decks far below his dive-bomber.

I couldn’t ask for a better setup, he thought. A dive-bomber pilot’s dream.
Birney Strong is but one of many determined pilots and rear seat gunners who are called upon to help save Guadalcanal in late 1942. It is an island where hellish jungles, tropical diseases, and meager rations wear down the aviators—both mentally and physically—who are called on to fly from a dusty, crushed-coral airstrip known as Henderson Field. The Japanese have aptly nicknamed Guadalcanal Jigoku no Shima—Hell’s Island.
Visit Stephen L. Moore's website.

Writers Read: Stephen L. Moore.

--Marshal Zeringue