As one who has long been interested in the December 1941 withdrawal of the units of the Asiatic Fleet from various places in the Philippine Islands to points south and west, particularly USS Gold Star and USS Lanikai, I clicked immediately on the link provided. Stephen Harding’s “The Little Navy Ship That Sailed 3,000 Miles to Escape the Japanese” is well researched for the most part, nicely detailed and written, and a fun read. I’m afraid that’s where my approbation ends. First of all, Mr. Harding is the editor of Military History magazine, so the reader has every expectation that he brings to his writing knowledge, experience, and intuition—all essential elements whether one is writing a book or a short piece. There are, however, some areas where Harding’s account in the Daily Beast falls short.
• The author implies that Lanikai sailed blithely out of Manila Bay at the whim of her commanding officer, Lieut. Kemp Tolley, USN. Not so, it took the combined silver tongues of Tolley and his highest ranking passenger to secure permission for Lanikai to undertake this long and hazardous voyage. Moreover, their entreaty did not succeed the first time around. Much persuasion needed to be brought to bear to make Lanikai’s exit from Manila Bay possible.
• Whereas the author does correctly mention that when Lanikai sailed, she had passengers aboard, including commissioned officers, he names none of them. The passenger of highest rank was Lieut. Cmdr. Charles Adair, the former flag lieutenant to Adm. Thomas Hart, commanding the U.S. Asiatic Fleet. Adair had no authority over Tolley in the legitimate chain of command, and thus had to defer to Tolley as the commanding officer of USS Lanikai. Nonetheless, this is an essential point to bring forth. Perhaps less essentially, Adair would briefly succeed Tolley as the officer commanding Lanikai, before she passed into the hands of the Royal Australian Navy.
• The author alludes to Tolley’s real concern about potentially unfriendly shores during those times when he put into secluded places among the islands to hide during daylight hours. Not only could these shores have been unfriendly in regard to the people there, but also because offshore breezes might have enabled Anopheles mosquitos to reach Lanikai, bringing malaria to those aboard her. In his book, Cruise of the Lanikai, Tolley mentions his great concern about that possibility.
• The author claims that Lanikai bore two .30cal. Lewis guns and a 3-inch QF deck gun. Many sources reveal that she was hastily armed with one or two Lewis guns, one .50cal AA machine gun, and a 3-pounder (47mm) deck gun. Lanikai was an 89-foot, 340-ton, two-masted schooner built to commercial design. Absent heavy reinforcement, the recoil energy of a 3-inch (76mm) gun would have torn out the deck of such a small sailing vessel. Mr. Harding should have knowed better.
Then there are two embarrassing misspellings:
• The Yangtze River gunboat Tutuila—he writes Tutulia—the namesake of the main U.S. island in the Samoan Archipeligo.
• The Western Australia port of Fremantle—he writes Freemantle, twice—the latter despite his inclusion of a map that shows Fremantle.
Whereas a short piece cannot include every detail, some of these points must be seen as serious omissions. The armament and spelling errors were entirely avoidable. One expects more from the editor of a military history periodical.
|This message has been edited by Visje1981 on Jul 31, 2016 9:29 PM|