Tin Cans and Greyhounds

Title: Tin Cans and Greyhounds: The Destroyers that Won Two World Wars
Published by: Regnery History
Release Date: February 12, 2019
Pages: 308
ISBN13: 978-1-62157-647-1
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For men on destroyer-class warships during World War I and World War II, battles were waged “against overwhelming odds from which survival could not be expected.” Those were the words Lieutenant Commander Robert Copeland calmly told his crew as their tiny, unarmored destroyer escort rushed toward giant, armored Japanese battleships at the Battle off Samar on October 25, 1944.

This action-packed narrative history of destroyer-class ships brings readers inside the half-inch-thick hulls to meet the men who fired the ships' guns, torpedoes, hedgehogs, and depth charges. Nicknamed "tin cans" or "greyhounds," destroyers were fast escort and attack ships that proved indispensable to America's military victories. Beginning with destroyers' first incarnation as torpedo boats in 1874 and ending with World War II, author Clint Johnson shares the riveting stories of the Destroyer Men who fought from inside a "tin can"—risking death by cannons, bombs, torpedoes, fire, and drowning.


"Civil War historian Johnson turns his attention to naval warfare in this enjoyable history of destroyer class warships, which formed the backbone of most 20th-century navies and made immense contributions to victory in WWI and WWII. Drawing primarily on secondary sources, Johnson recounts memorable sea battles in which destroyers played prominent roles... a well-written and nontechnical introduction to the subject for readers unfamiliar with naval operations in WWII and in general."
Publishers Weekly

“Clint Johnson fills a glaring gap in naval nonfiction by bringing us a narrative history of destroyers that is both comprehensive and an enjoyable read. Johnson at last gives the lowly “tin can” its due through both stories of individual ships and their battles, and by giving us an overview in detail not found elsewhere. Tin Cans & Greyhounds is a must for the shelf of any student of twentieth century naval history.”
— BILL YENNE, author of Panic on the Pacific: How America Prepared for the West Coast Invasion

“Crammed with new insights, surprising facts, and shell-scarred battle stories delivered in a crisp style, Tin Cans & Greyhounds opens up a too-long neglected panorama of American naval history. Johnson persuasively shows us the pivotal role that destroyers played in the Second World War.”
— FERGUS BORDEWICH, author of The First Congress: How James Madison, George Washington, and a Group of Extraordinary Men Invented the Government

“Drawing on some 143 published sources, online depositories, after action reports and ship logs stored at the National Archives, Clint Johnson makes the case that the most important ship to sail the seas in World War II was the naval destroyer. Tin Cans & Greyhounds traces the development of the destroyer from 1874 through the end of World War II in encyclopedic detail, with a focus on the ships of Great Britain, Germany, United States, and Japan.”
— BRAYTON HARRIS, author of Admiral Nimitz: Commander of the Pacific Ocean Theater

“Seasoned author and historian Clint Johnson has scored another hit with Tin Cans & Greyhounds. By surveying destroyers from the principal powers of both world wars, Johnson has uniquely captured an often-overlooked chapter in military and naval history; and a critically important one.”
— ROD GRAGG, author of From Foxholes and Flight Decks: Letters Home from World War II


(Excerpt From Chapter 7)

A look at the number of battles in which each class of ships was engaged during the Pacific war might indicate the Japanese targeted the wrong classes of war ships at Pearl Harbor.

Any American ship that fired on an enemy, or who was fired on by the enemy, was awarded a battle star by the Navy as a means of boosting morale.

Counting only the battleships that went back into service after Pearl Harbor, they earned 41 battle stars during the rest of the war. Most of those were for naval bombardments of islands. Only two battles, Guadalcanal on November 15, 1942, and Leyte Gulf on October 25, 1944, pitted American battleships against other Japanese battleships. Though USS South Dakota (BB-57) was heavily damaged at Guadalcanal in 1942, no American battleship was sunk during the war after Pearl Harbor.

All the cruisers at Pearl Harbor continued fighting in the war, accumulating 81 battle stars with only the USS Helena (CL50), being sunk in battle at the Battle of Kula Gulf in July 1943.

Instead of targeting the bigger ships, the Japanese might have survived longer if they had gone after the tin cans.

Of the 30 destroyers at Pearl Harbor during the attack, 28 would continue to fight in the war, accumulating 257 battle stars, including many ship-to-ship battles as well as shore bombardment and aerial battles against kamikazes late in the war. The 15 destroyers away from Pearl Harbor on the day of the attack escorting the carriers Lexington and Enterprise would participate in battles that would win them 105 battle stars. The six Clemson class destroyers converted to minesweepers and seaplane tenders present at Pearl Harbor during the attack would win 23 battle stars. The nine Wickes and Clemson class destroyers converted to mine sweepers that were based at Pearl Harbor but at sea on the day of the attack would win 53 battle stars. Even the old Sampson class USS Allen (DD-66), commissioned in 1917, and which would remain unconverted, would win a battle star that day and would continue her service as a convoy escort for the rest of the war. At the end of the war, she was the longest-serving destroyer in the U.S. Navy with nearly 30 years of service.

The 55 Pearl Harbor-based destroyers, counting those that had been converted to mine sweepers and seaplane tenders, would win 438 battle stars over the rest of the war. The American battleships considered so important to the Japanese would win 41 battle stars.