The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story of the U.S. Navy’s Finest Hour Graphic Novel Review

From James D. Hornfischer, Doug Murray (Adapter), Steven Sanders (Illustrator), Matt Soffe (Color Artist), Rob Steen (Letterer). Published by Dead Reckoning.

This graphic novel is adapted from the best selling book. 

This comic tells the story of the battle off Samar in October 1944. A small group of American escorts and carriers were out of their league against a more powerful Japanese navy. This battle, which was part of the battle of Leyete Gulf, saw the American ships barely win against the Japanese fleet including the biggest battleship of its day, the Yamato. Those already deep into World War II lore will love the details that are brought to life from this less known but important battle. The destroyer Taffy 3 is the star of the story and the moxie and sacrifices that were needed to keep the ship afloat and for a minute at a time until the next problem are extraordinary. Despite knowing how the battle will end, the tension never takes a break. Torpedos, cannons, planes, and explosions abound in every direction and only some combination of luck and fate are keeping these sailors alive. 

For history neophytes like myself, every page of this book was riveting. I had heard of Yamato through the classic anime and it’s legacy but I never knew the story. The largest battleship ever and an example of strength, power, and technology. This art conveys aura and fear yet a determination to win, and if not win at least try until your dying breath. 

The book also does an amazing job of showing the strategy and near infinite variables which are involved for maritime battles. My ignorance is showing but I honestly thought ships just blasted the hell out of each other until one sank. This book shows the maneuvering, the timing, the logistics of these fights. Which weapons to use and when to use them. Factoring in your speed and the speed of the other boat and where the two shall meet. Or sadly at times, knowing your vessel will never arrive in time to help. 

Don’t become too attached to anyone in the book, but readers should become attached to the entire generation. Individual actions and smaller battles are all necessary to win the war. Stories like this that spotlight battles honor the sacrifices of every sailor and soldier. Comics like these will help to educate those who don’t read history books. 

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