In the tradition of Indianapolis and In Harm’s Way comes a new account of the USS Plunkett—a US Navy destroyer that sustained the most harrowing attack on any Navy ship by the Germans during World War II, that gave as good as it got, and that was later made famous by John Ford and Herman Wouk.
By the end of the book, what begins as family lore (Gallagher was Sullivan’s great-uncle) has broadened and deepened, rippled outward to reflect our national story. Accounts of self-sacrifice and devotion to duty, especially those rendered with humility, have lately been in short supply, and we need them ... worth the wait ... The result is poetry and pathos ... The book is a feast of details large and small ... In the hands of a less capable writer, such a flood of information might overwhelm the reader. But like a water tender regulating the flow of steam that powers his ship’s screws, Sullivan releases these details so artfully that by the time Plunkett reaches Anzio, he has positioned us to recognize the implications of each new threat to the ship. Indeed, the sailors’ 25 crucial minutes at Anzio unfold with cinematic clarity ... Sullivan is a journalist, and Unsinkable is marked by scrupulous fidelity to fact. Measured from his earliest recorded interviews with a great-uncle, Sullivan has been gathering background for this book for more than 20 years ... the men in Unsinkable show us what it means to be larger than life.
... stirring ... Certain stories we need to tell regardless of their size. One of Mr. Sullivan’s achievements is to remind us why. Unsinkable, a fine narrative in its own right, is also a reflection on the nature of storytelling itself, as well as a valuable and entertaining contribution to the record. It is good to learn the history of the American destroyer, with its origins in the response to the torpedo warfare that began on the Roanoke River in 1864, or to learn how the depth-charges and sonar worked on a vessel of the Gleaves class 80 years later. To make such details compelling reading is an accomplishment. More significantly, Mr. Sullivan takes pains to illuminate and honor a lost world.
... the story of the Plunkett is really the story of its crew, and in this respect, Sullivan’s writing stands out ... Their tales and others are told with humor and compassion. And it is both enlightening and disappointing when Sullivan reveals that many U.S. leaders, such as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, believed at the outset of the war that the young men they were sending into battle had been 'mollycoddled' at home ... Sullivan deftly moves his narrative from place to place and time to time ... Reading Sullivan’s fine book makes their greatness easy to understand. But, sadly, the members of this generation are leaving us. We must do everything we can to honor and remember them. Buying and reading this book is a good way to start.