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Book Review, NRJ 64.1

February 15, 2019 12:00 PM | David Eddy (Administrator)

Shipmates: The Men of LCS 52in World War II

Gary Burns

Gary Burns’ Shipmates: The Men ofLCS 52 in World War II is an atypical monograph on the subject of naval operations in the Second World War. Burns provides background detail and emphasis on the events that led to conflict in the 1930s and 40s, in addition to focusing on the Pacific Theatre by turning a lens on the individual. The main focus of Shipmatescenters around constructing an interconnected narrative of the crewmembers of LCS 52 and their diverse yet similar backgrounds. To Burns, the men of LCS 52serve as a collective micro-history of a band of brothers who were similar amongst themselves, yet unique and often times extraordinary from other servicemen in WWII.

Shipmatesfamiliarizes readers with the Landing Craft Support (LCS) ships that were vital in the American war effort, especially in the Pacific. These ships, nick-named “Mighty Midgets,” were fitted with an arsenal of weaponry and shallow drafts to enable close encounters during the island hopping of World War II. Chapters 1 and 2 serve to give readers an introduction to Burns’ methodology and writing: seeking to understand the training and enlistment motivations of diverse individuals. The historical actors of Shipmatesinclude Lt. Harper, master navigator-turned-captain of the LCS 52, and Muscco C. Holland. Holland was a sailor with previous service on the USS Kearney, a ship that Germans attacked before the United States officially declared war. Also included is the story of Ulysses Johnson, the only African-American sailor who served on the LCS 52. Gary Burns accomplishes his thesis by placing these individuals in their own separate cultural contexts, while also paying careful attention to the similarities (such as enlistment motivations, family life, and education) that connected many of the men of the LCS 52.

Researchers should use Shipmatesto rethink their approach to dissecting and constructing individual servicemen and women during wartime. With his discussion of enlistment motivations, Burns’ flowing writing style lets readers ponder issues such as the economic difficulties resulting from the Great Depression, race relations in America and the exploitation of African American soldiers, and the importance of documenting WWII veterans via oral histories. Readers should be cautioned that some of Burns’ citations are a bit light, seeming not to fully represent the detailed narrative that Burns constructs. Despite this drawback,Shipmatesis a well written, refreshing look at wartime service in WWII. Hopefully, other researchers will learn from Burns and continue with this tradition of turning the focus toward the individual. 

  •  Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2016
  • 6” x 9”, softcover, x + 197 pages
  • Photographs, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. $39.95
  • ISBN: 9781476666877

Reviewed by Jacob Parks, East Carolina University

 

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