Book Review: Tales From a Tin Can

Author: Olson, Michael Keith

Publisher: Zenith Press, 2010

336 pages

The USS Dale served important roles during the Second World War. Not only did the ship emerge unscathed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but the USS Dale also managed to span the entire Pacific War without a single crewman lost to enemy fire. Olson's book, an oral history drawn largely from interviews with former crew members of the USS Dale, is a fascinating look at World War II as seen from the decks of a single naval vessel.

The USS Dale, originally commissioned in 1935, was a 1500-ton Farragut-class destroyer that at various times screened aircraft carriers, troop transports, and fire support ships in the Pacific theater. The vessel took part in a number of important campaigns during the war, including missions during the Guadalcanal, Aleutian Islands, Marianas, Philippines, and Okinawa campaigns.

Tales From a Tin Can follows a chronological approach in the narrative, and the major battles at which the vessel took part are peppered with quotes from its former sailors. The book also includes a lengthy section of previously unpublished photographs, many of which came from the personal collections of sailors who served on the USS Dale. One of the passages that caught my eye was from a sailor who described an innovative way to break the monotony while on the ship:
I had talked the mess gang into giving me the juice from some canned cherries. I poured a bunch of it into a five-gallon jerry can and then added some water and sugar. After it fermented into a tolerable cherry wine, I poured it into smaller containers, took it to the ship's movie, and passed it around.
Olson's book is highly recommended for scholars interested in the military history of the U.S. Navy in the Second World War. The book is also accessible enough for the general public provided readers have at least a working knowledge of the major events of the Pacific theater. The interviews with former crew members - coupled with entries from the ship's log and commentary from the author - make for a revealing look at the war from the perspective of the sailors who served on the USS Dale.