Read A Dawn Like Thunder: The True Story of Torpedo Squadron Eight by Robert J. Mrazek Online


One of the great untold stories of World War II finally comes to light in this thrilling account of Torpedo Squadron Eight and their heroic efforts in helping an outmatched U.S. fleet win critical victories at Midway and Guadalcanal. These 35 American men--many flying outmoded aircraft--changed the course of history, going on to become the war's most decorated naval air sqOne of the great untold stories of World War II finally comes to light in this thrilling account of Torpedo Squadron Eight and their heroic efforts in helping an outmatched U.S. fleet win critical victories at Midway and Guadalcanal. These 35 American men--many flying outmoded aircraft--changed the course of history, going on to become the war's most decorated naval air squadron, while suffering the heaviest losses in U.S. naval aviation history. Mrazek paints moving portraits of the men in the squadron, and exposes a shocking cover-up that cost many lives. Filled with thrilling scenes of battle, betrayal, and sacrifice, A DAWN LIKE THUNDERis destined to become a classic in the literature of World War II....

Title : A Dawn Like Thunder: The True Story of Torpedo Squadron Eight
Author :
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ISBN : 9780316021395
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 544 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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A Dawn Like Thunder: The True Story of Torpedo Squadron Eight Reviews

  • Manray9
    2019-01-29 11:24

    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.

  • Paul
    2019-01-18 11:28

    This is the story of Torpedo Squadron 8 from the USS Hornet that fought at Midway and Guadalcanal.OK, I know you’re thinking, “I saw the movie Midway, and the whole squadron died at Midway except for Ensign George S. Gay, who witnessed the whole battle from the water near the Japanese carriers after he was shot down.” Yes, and no. Half of the squadron was on the Hornet while the other half didn’t arrive in Pearl Harbor until Hornet had been deployed to the battle, and six planes – half of the contingent at Pearl Harbor – were sent to Midway Atoll to defend it. The other half (and surviving airmen from the Midway battles) would go on to fight at Guadalcanal except for Gay, who was sent stateside on a war bond tour before he returned to the Pacific with a different squadron in 1943.The best part of the book is that it reads like a novel. More than that, you get to know – from diaries and letters sent home, as well as the interviews with the living survivors and family and friends of the dead – many of the pilots and gunners from Squadron 8, and they become much more than just names on a wall; these were brave heroes that made possible the success of the dive bombers at Midway and turned the tenuous hold on Guadalcanal into the first step of “island-hopping” to Japan. More than a unit history, this squadron was at the heart of the pivotal battles that turned the tide in the Pacific Theater of World War II.Of note are the two appendices (one of which addresses the course that the Hornet planes flew that day, which has only recently been revealed to be different than the 240 degrees that was assumed by historians for many years after the war) and an epilogue that tells about the lives of those who survived the war – some who are still living. These were almost as fascinating to me as the narrative of the Squadron itself (which ends during the early months of 1943).A fantastic book – I read the last 60 pages in a single afternoon (which is a rare for me and a non-fiction book)!

  • Michael
    2019-01-28 09:23

    "A Dawn Like Thunder" is about one of my favorite historical subjects, the Battle of Midway during WWII. These are the facts as history had taught me. On 4 June 1942, just five months and change after Pearl Harbor the Japanese made an attempt to take Midway Island in a gambit to draw out and destroy the American fleet. When the Japanese fleet, including four aircraft carriers, arrived in the vicinity of Midway the United States fleet was waiting in ambush. As Japanese bombers attacked the island several Midway based aircraft, including several US Army aircraft and a detachment of six TBF Avenger torpedo planes from Torpedo Squadron 8 were sent to attack the Japanese but failed to get a single hit on the Japanese ships. The army planes returned to Midway but all of the Torpedo planes were shot down but one, a bullet ridden Avenger flown by Albert "Bert" Earnest. Meanwhile, the USS carriers Enterprise, Hornet and Yorktown launched their air groups consisting fighters, torpedo planes and dive bombers, against the massive Japanese fleet. The US torpedo planes, all obsolete slow moving TBD Devastators, found the Japanese first and, in the ensuing attacks, nearly all of the US torpedo planes, 37 of 41, from the three carriers were shot down. It was a slaughter. The USS Hornet's Torpedo Squadron 8, led by John C. Waldron, went in first and alone, without fighter protection. If there is an American "Charge of the Light Brigade" this was it. Everyone of the attacking planes of Torpedo 8 was shot down. Only one man, George Gay, who floated in the midst of the Japanese fleet, using a seat cushion from his plane to hide from the Japanese, lived to tell about it. The sacrifice of Torpedo 8 was not in vain. The Japanese commander, in the middle of arming his planes with bombs for a second attack on Midway Island, realized that the newest attack had to have come from US carriers, and ordered his own planes to switch from bombs to torpedoes. All of that live ordinance covered the decks of the Japanese carriers as the US dive bombers, unimpeded by Japanese fighters which were still wiping out the remainder of the US torpedo planes, arrived and dropped their payloads on the decks of the Japanese carriers. The resulting conflagration, increased by the explosions of Japanese bombs and torpedoes spread about the decks, sank three Japanese carriers. Later the fourth Japanese carrier and the USS Yorktown would join them on the bottom. It was the first great American victory against the Japanese and a set back for the latter from which they would never recover. It was the turning point in the war. Those were the facts but not the entire story.In "A Dawn Like Thunder" Robert J. Mrazek carefully explains what really happened to Torpedo 8. Oh, the heroism and the facts of the attack were found to be true but the facts of what had happened before that had been carefully obscured. On the morning of the battle Marc Mitscher, commander of the Hornet, had sent the Hornet's air group in the wrong direction. Stanhope Ring, commander of the air group and flying that day, refused to change the heading even when John Waldron, who was adamant that he knew where the Japanese fleet was, asked permission to change course. So, violating orders, Waldron and his nine Devastators left the formation and were therefore alone during that first attack. Ring's dive bombers left him a little later but returned to the Hornet without ever finding the battle. Ring's fighters soon left the formation, ran out of fuel and crashed in the ocean. In the end Ring flew on alone. Finally, the true extent of Waldron's heroism that day haw been revealed. I have always thought that he and his men should have gotten the Medal of Honor for their suicide attack now even more so.That is not all, however. Mrazek also wrote of what happened to Torpedo 8 after the battle. The pilots and men of the squadron who did not participate in the attack that day, plus replacements for those lost, were sent to Guadalcanal to fight on with the Cactus Air Force in that desperate campaign. During this time the squadron commander was Harold "Swede" Larsen who was bent on revenge against the Japanese. Larsen was a difficult man to serve under, two of his men actually tried to kill him at different times, and he was probably as hated by the men as much as the Japanese. That any of the men in the squadron survived Larsen AND the war is amazing. The Torpedo 8 men who flew their torpedo planes from Henderson Field, along with the mechanics and crewmen of the squadron, were shelled by Japanese battleships, fought in the line with Marines during suicidal attacks and suffered all the rigors and deprivations as everyone else who fought on Guadalcanal. Finally that part of the story is told. "A Dawn Like Thunder" should be read by every American and I can't recommend it highly enough. Get it and read it, you will be so glad you did.

  • John
    2019-01-19 13:38

    The Pacific Theater has always been my favorite theater of the war to read about. I suppose that, like so much in my life, comes from my father who was an Aviation Machinist Mate 2nd Class during the war. He worked on Hellcats and Avengers mostly. Through him I became enthralled with anything to do with the Pacific Theater, especially naval aviation. When I saw this book at the library I knew that I had to pick it up even though I was currently reading three other books at the time. I have read quite a bit on the Battle of Midway over the years so I thought that I knew most of what there was to know about the battle. It turns out that I was wrong. This book gives the background on the men who fought there, which makes the terrible losses they suffered even more poignant. What I did not realize is that the six Avengers that sortied from Midway itself were also part of the squadron. For all these years I had assumed that those Avengers were flown by Marines. I guess I should have known better since the Marines were seldom given the newest and best equipment. Nevertheless, of all the planes that sortied that day, fifteen Devastators from Hornet and six Avengers from Midway, only one plane and three men survived.Additionally, I learned about the mistakes made by Admiral Mitscher and compounded by flight leader Ring. Of all the planes in the squadron, only Waldron's torpedo bombers ever sighted the enemy that day, and that was only because he had a hunch that the heading they were given was mistaken and disobeyed orders. Mitscher's and Ring's mistakes cost the lives of not only most of the torpedo plane crews, but two of the fighter escort pilots as well.The second part of the book is about the squadron's time in the Solomons, first on board the Saratoga then on Guadalcanal. I'll admit that I had no idea that the squadron was part of the Cactus Air Force on Guadalcanal. I found this part of the book to be less compelling than the Midway part. I'm not sure what it was, but it just didn't captivate me. The thing that stood out the most about this part was how much of a prick the squadron commander, Swede Larsen really was. This book was a pretty easy and fast read. It provides some interesting insight into the men who actually did the flying and the dying. The first part of the book was, in my opinion, superior to the later part about their experiences at Guadalcanal. I am unsure of how many stars to give this one. I think I'll give it 3 stars, even though it's probably a 3.5 star book.

  • Urey Patrick
    2019-01-21 10:37

    Poignant and compelling history of Torpedo 8 based largely on personal accounts and individual stories of the men of the squadron juxtaposed against the larger events and actions of the war in the Pacific at the time. Torpedo 8 not only lost all 15 airplanes launched from the Hornet against the Japanese at Midway, it also lost five of six planes launched against the Japanese from Midway airfield itself. One man survived the Hornet strike force, two survived the Midway strike. And yet, their courage and sacrifice made the stunning victory at Midway possible.Even more compelling is the correction of long accepted versions of the Hornet strike force that was so ineffectual. Two men - Hornet CO Marc Mitscher and Air Group Commander Stanhope Ring made decisions as to where the Hornet strike force should fly that caused it to miss entirely the Japanese fleet. Torpedo 8 CO Waldron disobeyed orders and led his squadron off on its own - directly to the Japanese fleet and the squadron's date with history. To make matters worse, due to the mistakes made by Ring in the air, much of the Hornet air fore was unable to make it back to the ship - some landed at Midway - many ditched in the Pacific. The entire fighter squadron ditched - and spent several days adrift. The Hornet command falsified its records to report a false track for its strike force. As a result, rescue efforts searching for the downed fliers were sent to a location 200 miles away form the actual area that the planes went down. Some pilots died who could have been rescued.These decisions also prevented US forces from hitting all four Japanese carriers that morning - one of the four went undetected and launched a strike that sank the USS Yorktown. The version of events created by the Hornet's command has been generally accepted by historians through the years - although tellingly, not by Admiral Raymond Spruance in his battle report at the time. This book documents and corrects the historical record - and that alone makes it a must read. Following Midway, the remainder of Torpedo 8 ended up flying out of Henderson Field during the Guadalcanal campaign - and added even more glory to its history. Torpedo 8 continued to carry the war to the Japanese despite unimaginable hardships, continuous combat in the air and on the ground, personnel and equipment losses - it is an amazing story and one that is little known. Midway made Torpedo 8 famous - Guadalcanal made it unique in the annals of Navy air. The book lays it all out. Ultimately, once decommissioned following Guadalcanal, Torpedo 8 received two Presidential Unit citations and its personnel collectively are the single most decorated squadron in navy history. Torpedo 8 merits far more attention and remembrance than it has received.

  • Jeff
    2019-01-21 17:21

    This book is actually misnamed. It should be subtitled "The COMPLETE Story of Torpedo Squadron Eight". Most history buffs know about the debacle of VT-8 at the Battle of Midway, but that's usually the extent of it. This excellent book describes Torpedo 8 and its personnel before, during, and after the Battle of Midway. For example, I had no idea that VT-8 went on after Midway (no, the whole squadron was NOT wiped out there - a sizeable contingent remained in Hawaii and missed out on the battle altogether) to fight in the Guadalcanal campaign, including duty a ersatz foot soldiers. Also, the book paints "Swede" Larsen, the VT-8 commander after Midway, as a personally brave flier but as a blatantly bigoted, iracible commander who was hated by his men. It's pretty bad when, decades later, men refuse to attend a Torpedo Sqdn 8 reunion once they find out that Swede Larsen will be there!Anyway, this is a must-read book for those who want to know the full story of VT-8 from its inception to its dissolution. Highly recommended.

  • Arthur Gibson
    2019-01-31 16:29

    Excellent book with tons of historical information found on its pages as well as many of the stories and opinions of the people in the squadron. The imagery and descriptive language brings you into the cockpit of the planes of Torpedo Squadron 8. Amazing stories of near death experiences and the losses suffered during a time of uncertainty in the US. Second time reading it and I have o say, I would certainly read it a third time.

  • Gavin
    2019-01-31 15:40

    Almost like Band of Brothers, this author personalizes the heroes who changed history with sacrifice and luck. Many key facts from interviews and research create an interesting time line in our history.

  • Dana Stabenow
    2019-02-05 14:30

    Dull. Sad because there's a hell of a story here, but the writing is like there is a wall of glass between the reader and the characters. We can see their lips move but we can't really get close enough to care for them.

  • Richard Buro
    2019-02-15 10:30

    The short version first. . .During my undergraduate studies at Baylor University, I spent as much time as possible in the History Department and the Political Science Department. Any time left over, I spent the Moody Library, then the principal library on the Waco campus. In my studies there, I learned that there were certain qualities to look for when you read a “history” book. Those qualities were the following:(1) Primary sources – interviews, oral histories, and recordings made about the topic or by those who were principal characters in the events under study.(2) Secondary sources – the texts, writings, diaries, and other personal writings made by the characters during the events under study.(3) Finally and of the least value, what others have written about the subject.So following the suggestions of the historians who taught me, I am following their example as I read and reflect on the histories that I read, and if I have time enough before I leave this life, I might write one or two myself. Still and all, the current work under my reviewer’s scrutiny is a well-researched, pages of first hand conversations and interviews with the characters involved, perusal of their writings during the period of time being studies including logs, diaries, after action reports, and other document written by the actors of the story. Finally, there are several good works by other historians that need to be consulted to be sure that everything is according to Toynbee, Herodotus, Clio, or any other principal purveyor of the historical arts.And so, that is how I am approachingRobert J. Mrazek’sA Dawn Like Thunder: The True Story of Torpedo Squadron 8. The time frame is five or six months after the disastrous attack on the military installations based on the island of Oahu, in and around Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. “A date which shall live in infamy . . .” was the description that then American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt used as he addressed Congress with the express intent to ask for a declaration of war on the Empire of Japan. This was the watershed moment in our country’s history not to be matched by any other event other than those that occurred on September 11, 2001. While each of these attacks was clearly an act of war one by one country against our country, the other a faction of radical extremists using their interpretation of the Islamic faith and its Holy Book the Koran, both were sudden, unexpected, heinous, hideous, and damnable, at the very least. One led to World War II, the other led to the continuing War on Terror. Regardless of the instigation, brave young men and women were pressed into service, many by their own decision, some by conscription in the earlier period of the 1940s. And it is to that time frame, thatMr. Mrazek focuses hisA Dawn Like Thunder: The True Story of Torpedo Squadron 8. Mr. Mrazek starts with where the men of Torpedo Squadron Eight were during the time running up to what many historians have labelled as the turning point of World War II in the Pacific Theater. There are many reasons for this broad statement and some can argue for one of several positions of agreement or disagreement on the efficacy of such a statement. Regardless of what historian you read,Mr. Mrazek looks that the men, ships, and situations 1200 miles west, northwest of Pearl Harbor, at a small island grouping called Midway. It is at this particular island that the second great Pacific aircraft carrier battle would be waged. The first battle was fought a month earlier in an aircraft carrier skirmish where the combatant ships did not visually identify each other, but their planes found their opponent’s carriers and engaged them and their escort ships as well as the planes from one dogfighting with the planes of the other. Neither side declared a decisive victory, but the U.S. Navy came out marginally better tactically, and far better strategically in such a way that the Battle of the Coral Sea is considered by many a victory for the United States. The carriers were the only ships not in Pearl Harbor during the December 7th, 1941 attack, and those factors – carriers being relatively unmolested in December such that they could skirmish with their Japanese counterparts less than 5 months later, began a turning tide of naval combat tactics where the might of a country’s naval strength would be measured in the intrepid nature of a carrier task force and its indomitable air crews as they fought for the mastery of the airspace over which the carriers’ were positioned afloat. Coral Sea and Midway became the two points of contact that defined the strategic nature of aircraft carriers for the next three quarters of a century; a fact that is still in effect to the current date.Carrier tactics relied on the airplanes comprising three groups being sent in a coordinated attack against a target like a ship convoy or harbor or what have you. The three-pronged attack focused on dive bombers, torpedo bombers, and fighters. In theory, the fighters protected the bombing groups from the enemy’s fighters. The fighters were also usually divided into a group for aerial protect of their carriers and escort vessels and the group that protected their bomber mates from the enemy’s fighters. The protecting fighter group that stayed near the carriers protected their task force from being attacked by the enemy’s bombers and fighters. At Coral Sea, reconnaissance missions were able to discover the opponent’s carrier task group’s more than 100 miles away from each other, therefore; the battles were aerial in nature with the task groups never coming within visual range of the other. With radar in its infancy, there were no electronic means of detecting the task forces either from the air or the surface.One carrier mission had also provided the Americans with a source of pride when a group of B-25 Mitchell bombers were flown from the U.S.S. Hornet to strike directly at the largest city of Japan, Tokyo. Led by LTC Jimmy Doolittle, the bombers were successful in their attack illustrating that long reach attacks could be provided by both sides of the Pacific Conflict. Between the Doolittle Raid in April and the Battle of the Coral Sea in early May, both strategic victories but at varying degrees of cost for the United States, Japan was seething to take its numerical superiority in almost every department and regain the upper hand in the Pacific.Their overall attack plan was to secure several key positions around the rim of the Pacific Ocean to set up as naval bases from which to operate. These bases would be defended by Imperial Army forces, supplied by the Imperial Navy, and protected by Imperial air power. Those bases would be Midway, Rabaul, Truk, and somewhere on the island of New Guinea. The idea being that they would control the sea lanes from the United States to Australia. Between these holdings and the already secured areas in Malaysia and Indonesia, Japan would create their vaunted ideal, a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere of Influence and raw materials from almost half of the Earth. It came down to a setting for the next showdown – Midway.At Midway, Japan came with an overwhelming amount of naval force with 5 separate task forces comprised of 30 ship invasion force and its escort vessels, a “main force” of 15 vessels, and 22 ship striking force. Protecting Midway were its island garrison and associated air group of a hodge-podge of just about anything that could fly and fight, including a portion of Torpedo Squadron Eight. The rest of the American forces came in the form of two Task Forces, 16 comprised of 9 ships under Admiral Fletcher, and 17 comprised of 17 ships under Admiral Raymond Spruance. One group of the Midway air garrison included several long-range patrol planes, the amphibious PBY Catalinas. These planes were tasked with the mission to find the location of the oncoming Japanese forces. With several things working both for and against both sides, the resulting battle was a several pounding of the Midway Atoll’s two islands and its air field, several air battles between the carrier forces after they were able to find each other, despite the fact that the first attack was committed in a fashion that placed the torpedo bombers attacking without air cover, and these planes were primarily the aircraft of Torpedo Squadron Eight. In the end of the day, only one pilot survived the devastating suicide mission they tried to conduct without any attempt at coordination despite numerous requests for help. On the second day of the battle, the Japanese forces were discovered first by the PBY Catalinas, and then by the planes from the two aircraft carriers, Yorktown and Enterprise. The Hornets plane compliment was reduced due to the losses suffered from Torpedo Eight’s costly attack, prosecuted without support of any kind. By the end of the second day of operations, the Japanese lost four of the eight carriers spread between the various groups in the all-out push to capture Midway. With 50 percent of the carriers either burning hulks or sunk in the depths around Midway, the rest of the forces withdrew as the island could not be held without air support and air superiority over their island. The aircraft carriers lost would have provided half of the needed support that would allow the successful capture and holding of the island in question.Despite the losses on both sides, Midway was once again a strategic victory for the United States. While USS Hornet was lost in the battle, the remaining two carriers would provide the impetus to return to Pearl Harbor with what would amount to a rout of the Japanese by a vastly inferior force in numbers only. The pluck, resolve, and luck of the Americans won the day, and Japan never tried to get this close to the United States or Hawaii for the rest of the war.While Torpedo Squadron 8 had suffered losses at Midway, about half of the planes for the Squadron arrived at Midway from Pearl Harbor after a long journey by crews not fully comfortable with a long over the ocean flight to hit and land at a small island that was barely an air strip. They were flying the newest Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bombers with machine gun turrets and other machine guns both fore and aft manned by a crewman in the aft compartment, and the pilot shot the one in the front. This group of airmen got involved in the fight by taking their planes aloft to do what they could. They were to a man intrepid airmen and aviators in the finest tradition of the Navy.It was this contingent that returned to Pearl Harbor after Midway, and the one which formed the restored Torpedo Squadron Eight with new planes and new aviators and crew. They now called the USS Saratoga, Sister Sara, their new home as they would be next posted to the Solomon Islands, home to the infamous battleground known as Guadalcanal. It is at Henderson Field, the Guadalcanal airstrip, that Torpedo Eight would once again find one of its finer hours and numerous cases of heroism, valor, and overcoming incredible odds. Long story short, Guadalcanal was under siege for several months with several attempts to land soldiers to remove the 1st and 7th Marines from the islands where they were garrisoned in place and holding, against repeated attempts by some of the fiercest fighters in Japanese Shock Troops, and hardened veterans from the China and Malaysian campaigns from earlier in the war. It was by the strength of toe-nails digging into the dirt, mire, and jungle that these intrepid Americans fought and held attack after attack after attack. Many had malaria or dysentery, and still they fought on. They survived attacks by the heaviest battleships in the Japanese fleet. They were bombed day and night by Japanese twin engine bombers from Rabaul. The airfield was cut up with craters from all the shelling from the battleships, tanks, and artillery that it was a miracle that some of the planes could still fly being listed as zombies or Frankensteins in the notes of the crews who cannibalized three or even four planes to make one, time and time again.After several months on the island, and after fighting off overwhelming odds, the Marines and the Navy were able to repel the largest Japanese invasion of the war by destroying by naval gunfire or bombing by the “Cactus Air Force” from Henderson Field, fourteen transports carrying over 35,000 seasoned and trained shock troops from Japan. Between the intrepid exploits of the navy facing super battleships of the IJN (Imperial Japanese Navy) or the onslaught of the shock troops facing hardened and determined US Marines, attempt after attempt at landing taking outlying islands, or any other of the several tens of attempts one way or another, the pluck and luck of the Americans always came through. In the end, all attempts to take Guadalcanal were repelled with what was once again left of Torpedo Squadron Eight fighting on with M-1 Garand rifles and Colt .45 caliber pistols, and Thompson submachine guns, and even some machine guns from the cannibalized Frankensteins in the Henderson Field boneyard, they fought beside the Marines, holding fast and holding hard, never giving up, and never sounding retreat – in the greatest American military tradition of this or any war, then or since. Mr. Mrazek is a very competent and thorough historian in every possible sense of the word. He researched, interviewed, wrote spending the better part of several years gathering sources, conducting interviews, traveling all over the United States locating relatives, spouses, children, and grandchildren of the members of Torpedo Squadron Eight. There was confirmation of some findings learned early on, which were reported in detail by those who discovered the untold truth about issues during the war, and there is still controversy in those annals. Regardless,Mr. Mrazek focuses his acknowledgements to those who provided him support, interviews, and stories about those who served in Torpedo Squadron Eight in its various and sundry incarnations. It was clear that all were proud of their time in service to their country, and many had tales to tell. Surprisingly, many of them stayed in the service for months, some for years, and some for decades – finding rewarding work, abilities to serve in ways other than warfare, and in working in training up and coming sailors and officers to the American Navy of today.Recommendations – clearly five stars for historical research at the top of its game. It was a brilliant story, told by a truth historian in every fine sense of that word. It is clear that the story provided in these pages was one of heroism, sacrifice, and intrepid bravery by many of America’s Greatest Generation. Thank you to all of you who served and who came back to build the greatest county on this Earth. The accounts in this book are true and clearly devoted to military combat in hostile conditions. Those who would find these accounts hard to read, please refrain from doing so. It is hard to read and imagine what was going on while the earth was literally blowing up around you. Readers interested in this type of research, it is a gold mine and one of the best histories I have ever read and I have read quite a few.Enjoy…it is one heck of a ride.Creative Commons License follows:Review of Robert J. Mrazek's A Dawn Like Thunder: The True Story of Torpedo Squadron Eight by Richard W. Buro is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.Based on a work at beyond the scope of this license may be available at Send e-mail to .

  • Randall Russell
    2019-02-11 16:18

    I feel like the title of this book is rather misleading. I assumed (incorrectly) that it was about Torpedo Squadron Eight's participation in the Battle of Midway. It does cover that, but only for about the first 1/3 of the book. The remaining 2/3s actually focuses on the Battle of Guadalcanal. The book was pretty well written, and somewhat interesting, but I was really put off by the fact that the focus was rather different than I thought. I guess next time I should read the cover blurb a little more closely!

  • Michael
    2019-02-08 14:24

    Of the many military history books I have read about pilots and their planes, this, in my opinion, is one of the absolute best. Get to know the personalities, the strengths and the weaknesses of these men who Won World War II.

  • John E
    2019-01-23 12:39

    New info on the Battle of Midway and compelling writing. What more could you want?

  • Olivia
    2019-01-19 11:40

    Mrazek has a manner which allows accurate historical detail to come across in a readable narrative. For those who thought they knew about certain aspects of essential events of WWII, yet are unable to offer detail because their familiarity is hearsay or from a different 'Theatre' THIS book will bring alive the Pacific, Pearl Harbour and the US operations in a realistic and humane way.Thoroughly enjoyed this and other works by this author without feeling in any way at all that truth had been undermined in favour of 'the story'. Not in any way at all.

  • A. Bowdoin Van Riper
    2019-02-15 11:38

    Like the Light Brigade at Balaclava and the 7th Cavalry at the Little Big Horn, Torpedo Squadron 8 achieved immortality through a shattering defeat. On June 4, 1942, fifteen of the squadron’s planes took off from the aircraft carrier Hornet, and six more from Midway Island, to attack an oncoming Japanese fleet. Twenty of the twenty-one planes were shot down, and more than thirty-five men killed, without inflicting damage on the enemy. A Dawn Like Thunder tells the story of the doomed attack at great length and in gripping detail, but it is not solely, or even primarily, about that story. It is a book about the first year of the Pacific War—uneasy peace, the shock of Pearl Harbor, desperate defensive actions, and the beginning of an organized counter-offensive—seen through the eyes of a small group of junior officers and enlisted men. It pays careful attention to describing the experience of combat and the larger strategic tapestry of the war, but the men are always at the forefront of the story.Author Robert J. Mrazek profiles the men of Torpedo 8 with obvious respect and affection, but without sentimentality. They exhibit determination, resilience, and extraordinary courage, but also fear, boredom, anger, and jealousy. The squadron’s second commander, Harold “Swede” Larsen, is portrayed as a ferocious warrior but a terrible leader, who comes within inches—on several occasions—of being shot by his own men. Far up the chain of command, meanwhile, senior officers’ blunders repeatedly put the squadron in unnecessary peril, and set the stage for the debacle at Midway. The Second World War (“Greatest Generation” hagiography aside) was won by flawed, scruffy, imperfect human beings doing the best they could at a terrible job. A Dawn Like Thunder is a compelling look at one small group of them.

  • Betsy
    2019-01-25 15:40

    If you know anything about the Battle of Midway, it is probably about the sacrifice of the HORNET'S VT-8 in the attacks on the Japanese fleet. This book ably covers that tragedy, but it also discusses what the remaining planes of Torpedo 8 did in the aftermath. Those commanded by Lt. Commander Waldron (except for George Gay) were lost, however, the remaining planes of Squadron 8 were not present on June 4 since the seventeen pilots and their crews had missed the sailing of the HORNET.Under the command of Lt. H.H. (Swede) Larsen, the remaining crews took part in the ferocious fighting at Guadalcanal. Larsen seemed to dominate much of the second half of the book. His fierce determination to 'avenge' Waldron and his men led to conflict with his crews, who naturally wanted to survive to return home. Some of Larsen's prejudices did not help matters. Finally, when Squadron 8 was sent to be part of the Cactus Air Force on Guadalcanal, the situation became untenable when their planes were in such bad shape they couldn't be flown. Still, Larsen wouldn't give up. He persuaded the ground crew to 'make' him an Avenger out of spare parts so he could keep flying. He was a brave man, but many of his men thought him unstable so when they had had the chance to leave for Espiritu Santo, they took it. Larsen stayed until officially relieved. After rejoining his men, Torpedo Squadron 8 was disbanded although many of the men joined other squadrons after taking their well-deserved leave.This is an interesting book about sacrifice, dedication and, at times, obsession. Just reading about Swede Larsen's uncompromising attitude made me cringe. It was almost as if he would have preferred to be a part of VT-8's doomed flight on June 4, 1942.

  • Troy
    2019-01-24 14:36

    It's easy to forget, in this age of easily integrated digitally-fused data and sattelite surveillance, that not so long ago our grandfathers and great-grandfathers flew slow, piston-driven airplanes hundreds of miles out into the open blue ocean to visually locate and attack an enemy fleet of forty or more warships among islands harboring native cannibals and headhunters by lobbing lead, dumb iron bombs and unguided torpedoes at them. (It's also easy to forget that despite technological advances in surveillance and weaponry, much of naval warfare still has this needle-in-a-haystack element to it).By following the exploits of Torpedo Eight, Mrazek does an admirable job of putting a personal face on the operations of a lumbering aerial warhorse, it's pilots, gunners, and maintenance men during World War II. Written, as it is, as a factual account pulled largely from journals and After Action Reports, it's understandably thin on character development and emotion, and is sometimes very dry and matter-of-fact in its description of what surely were very dramatic and harrowing events. But for all that, it's a valuable window into the bravery of a generation that made the most of what they had in a despserate fight for freedom, far from home.It's also valuable, though unintended, support for organizations that keep the Avenger flying - unless you've actually SEEN an Avenger fly, and recognized it as a premier attack weapon of its day, it's really hard to appreciate what its pilots and crews really accomplished. Keep 'em Flying!

  • Matt
    2019-01-22 16:29

    When most people think of The Battle of Midway then invariably go to the sacrifice of VT-8 and the "sole survivor" George Gay. That is only partially true because the histories always cover the flight of six Avengers that made an earlier attack, one of those Avengers survive with two crewmembers out of three. That Avenger flight was the second half of VT-8 that missed sailing on the U.S.S. Hornet and half of the left behind group was sent to Midway. Mrazek's book tells the story of VT-8 from May 1942 to November 1942. The book is written from the human interest point of view and is well written. Just before I read this book I read AlvinKernan's awful attack minimalist history on the battle. Kernan's book is supposed to be a tribute to the sacrificed members of all the torpedo squadrons. If that is the case he has failed and Mrazek has succeeded. A Dawn Like Thunder is a well researched book, well written and doesn't pull any punches. Mrazek brings in new information and infuses the new information seamlessly into known material. To understand the conditions faced by the torpedo squadrons during Midway this is the book to read. I only hope Mrazek writes about the dive bombing squadrons next.

  • Wayne
    2019-01-21 14:47

    It was by chance hat I selected this book to read. I am most certainly glad that I did. It was a very descriptive and vivid documentary of the battles at Midway and Guadalcanal. It is an accurate and detailed account of these events as experience by Torpedo Squadron Eight. Your get to know these men by their names and background. You admire their bravery morn their loss. Although official Navy records of military awards are not maintained on a squadron by squadron basis this squadron of brave men became most likely the most highly decorated air squadron of the war. Thirty five pilots won an astounding thirty-nine Navy crosses. The enlisted men in the squadron earned more than fifty medals for bravery in action, including multiple awards of the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Silver Star, and the Air Medal. At Midway, forty-five of the forty-eight officers and men serving in Torpedo Eight were killed. At Guadalcanal, seven of the remaining squadron members were killed and another eight wounded. This is the best book I have ever read about the Midway and Guadalcanal battles that turned the tide the war. I am so glad I read it and I gave it five of five stars. This is a must read for every American of any age.

  • David Becker
    2019-02-04 16:30

    The more I read about World War II, the more I appreciate reading books about smaller parts of the war. Not all stories, for instance, have the scope of something like D-Day, but smaller parts of the War had their importance, too.This book covers a torpedo squadron that suffered horrific losses throughout the war, and yet still could have been considered successful. It contains a very different view of Guadalcanal that would be what you'd think if you were a pilot, and not a ground soldier...though their life was in danger just the same.The book also mentions places in the war I'd never heard of, and you can't find much about elsewhere. Pavuvu, for instance, figures in here, and in an important way, too...and it seems to be a footnote elsewhere.I thought getting to know the pilots in detail was a nice touch at the beginning...made all the more heartbreaking when most perish in the war, some without any explanation or search for their bodies.I think it's a must-read for people who are eager to know all they can about World War II, hence the rating. I'd give it four stars as a work of non-fiction standing alone.

  • Drew Danko
    2019-01-27 14:38

    Not being a history buff of any kind, I am woe fully ignorant of the events that shaped our military challenges in WW 2. Reading this book helped me overcome that deficit as far as the Pacific theater is concerned. I was familiar with the names such as Midway and Guadacanal, but had no idea of their significance. Now that has changed. From this incredibly well researched book, you learn about the improbable odds we were facing from the Japanese fleet, the various tactics used by both sides to win a victory, the fatal foul ups and cover ups that are an unfortunate part of war, the crudeness of torpedoe and dive bomber attacks compared to the precision of modern weapon systems, and most of all the unbelievable courage shown by these torpedo pilots as they attempted to deliver their loads under fierce anti-aircraft and enemy fighter shelling while hopefully not crashing into the sea or a comrade's plane. This book strongly reinforces in my mind that our military personnel deserve all the help and benefits they can get.

  • Sue
    2019-02-04 13:29

    This book is set in the first year of the War for the US, immediately following the attack on Pearl Harbor, and covers the experiences and in some cases mystery surrounding the lives and experiences of the men of TorPedo Squadron Eight. They were nearly wiped out to a man in the first major battle in the Pacific, at Midway, and the tattered remnants went on to help make the difference in the battle of Guadalcanal at a time when the U.S. Navy was still licking its wounds and reeling from the loss of nearly all their aircraft carriers. This book really delved into the lives of the men involved--and not just the pilots but the mechanics and flight crews as well--and the lives of their loved ones at home. It also touches on the controversy of costly mistakes made by those in command and the efforts to cover them up later. It's a great introduction if you're not familiar with this era of the war.

  • Julian Tan
    2019-01-29 10:46

    A truly fascinating and enriching account of the role played by the bomber pilots in the Battle of Midway and subsequent campaigns in Guadalcanal; which ultimately influenced the outcome of the war in the Far East. It is sobering to think that the survival odds in that particular raid on Midway was something like 1 in 15, and yet the pilots and crew would continually throw themselves into battle with the utmost of courage and disregard for their own persons.The tale of Midway is a classic - a combination of dogged tenacity, strategy, and blind, pure luck would tip the balance of the war when it could have easily gone the other way. This book masterfully retells it satisfyingly from the perspective of the pilots, but also provides an overarching perspective which shows the effects of their their contributions as well.

  • Dustin
    2019-01-20 15:19

    If ever a squadron of pilots had a story to tell about WWII, it was these guys. Torpedo Squadron 8 was present at two of the biggest, and decisive, battles in the Pacific. Those of us that are familiar with the Pacific theater are well aware that the Dauntless dive bombers almost single handedly won the battle of Midway, and were responsible for sinking four Japanese carriers. But it was Torpedo Squadron 8 that flew the first attacks, and they suffered heavily for it. They pressed on, though, and the book is a great narrative about how the survivors kept fighting, in the air and on the ground. I don't want to give any more away. It's definitely worth reading.

  • Mark Peebler
    2019-01-21 12:47

    Excellent read. One of those that I just couldn't put down, or at least didn't want to. Priding myself on knowing much about World War II, especially in the Pacific, I learned much from this book. For Instance, I never knew about the flight of TBF Avengers at Midway that struck the Japanese first with 18 men, 2 of which returned alive. The valiant infantry struggle by the remaining members of the squadron was also new to me. This story is told by a wordsmith who makes you feel like you are there in the thick of the action, while at the same time making you fear Lt. "Swede" Larson at times more than the Japanese. Highly recommended. They need to make a movie out of this one.

  • Matt
    2019-01-18 17:42

    This is one of those history books that tries to recount events as narrative, complete with dialogue, without quite going all the way to an historical fiction format. I don't happen to particularly care for that style of non-fiction writing, as it seems less direct, but if this doesn't bother you you would enjoy this book much more than I did.It's an interesting story and frustrating to see how commanders really sent men needlessly to their deaths at times. In the Battle of Midway, these torpedo bombers were basically used as sacrificial lambs to draw off the enemy while the dive bombers had the fighter escort and went in for the kill.

  • Elgin
    2019-02-11 12:21

    I love WW II history. I would not recommend this book to anyone who has not already read a good deal of war history. However, having read books on the Pacific War, Pearl Harbor, Midway, Gaudacanal, etc, this book was perfect for me. It gives an in depth look at the role of a squadron of torpedo and dive bombers at Midway and Guadacanal. As well as discussing the role of the planes and pilots, there is a good deal about the personalities of the pilots and the frustations and fears they felt.This book was a gift from my son-in-laws mother. She could not have picked a better present.

  • Bruce
    2019-02-02 11:32

    This was an informative and fun read. It is an amazing story about a torpedo squadron that fought in the Battle of Midway and at Guadalcanal. The writer does an excellent job developing the background for each of the members of the squadron, and makes the history read like an adventure novel. It is amazing what our parents and grandparents accomplished when history demanded the ultimate of them. I hope we never forget and will always appreciate what "the greatest generation" did. I highly recommend this book to others interested in the "human" story of World War II.

  • Steve
    2019-02-14 11:31

    I consider myself a student of WWII history in the pacific theater, and this book had new information and insight that I have never read before. It was a great study into the brief lives of some extraordinarily ordinary men! I have heard of many of these key figures before, but I never "really" knew much about them. A great glimpse into the personal lives of some men that gave their all for our country. I highly recommend this book.

  • David
    2019-02-17 16:39

    Great book. I have read many books about specific battles, but never one tracking a particular unit. This book tracks the squadron through the war, even detailing the lives left behind as the squad headed out to war, and going beyond the well known disaster the squad encountered at the Battle of Midway. Very interesting.