Reviews for Tin Cans and Greyhounds:
“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.”
“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
From Amazon readers:
5 Stars: Some volumes of military history attempt to present comprehensive studies of a particular facet of history, filled with an array of detailed accounts found nowhere else. Others present solid summaries of particular subjects, being intended as a primer or introduction.
Clint Johnson’s recent work, Tin Cans & Greyhounds, is something of a synthesis of the two styles noted above. Although the book falls more logically into the latter category—introducing readers to a vast subject that could fill any number of volumes—with the limited scope of the subject matter at hand, Johnson allows for a more detailed view of destroyer operations through the end of World War II.
It will surprise some readers to learn that destroyer design and technology predated the 20th Century by several decades, and that Great Britain was at the forefront of such development. The United States (as did Germany) lagged behind Great Britain in this respect. America did not begin to catch up until well into the first decades of the last century. British influence on the Japanese Navy was considerable, and the acquisition of several destroyers of British construction probably influenced the Japanese Navy regarding its destroyer strategy and tactics in war plans subsequent to World War I.
Johnson points out that, during the Great War, destroyers had less of an impact on the larger sea battles but far more influence on anti-submarine warfare and escorting of convoys. He relates many accounts concerning those critical duties that greatly influenced the outcome of the war.
Although Johnson chronicles incidents and actions too numerous to recount in a review, they include the Honda Point disaster of 8 September 1923, in which the U. S. Navy lost seven destroyers on the rocky coast of California. He also documents the build-up of America’s modern destroyer force during the decade of the 1930s and the transfer of fifty obsolete Wickes-class destroyers to Great Britain under the Lend-Lease program, although Johnson points out that the results of the transfer were less than an unqualified success.
Fittingly, following the sinking of the Reuben James (DD-245) in October of 1941, coverage of the exploits of the Ward (DD-139) and her crew off the entrance channel to Pearl Harbor begins Johnson’s coverage of World War II, by year and by theater. At different stages in the text, Johnson details the characteristics of German and Japanese destroyers and their influence on operations in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. He covers destroyer operations of the American Asiatic Fleet early in the war, the advent of the U. S. Navy’s Fletcher-class, and operations that led to Allied victories in both theaters.
The bibliography is a valuable resource by itself, and provides a solid reading list for those wishing to delve deeper into the details of naval architecture and operations. Perhaps Johnson was the victim of his own modesty when he failed to note his primary sources, as his end notes made it clear that he did indeed consult numerous after action reports and deck logs.
The selection of the forty-six photographs, though weighted heavily toward the United States Navy, is excellent. One unfortunate aspect of the book design is that the illustrations should have been expanded to fit the width of the pages, an accommodation that would have enhanced the visual appeal of the book.
Johnson included an appendix wherein he noted the location of the six destroyer ship museums in the United States.
Tin Cans & Greyhounds contains a wealth of detail and is a wonderful resource and stepping off point for those wishing to study the history of destroyer warfare in greater detail. As such, this work is of great value indeed. Doubtless, the fascinating accounts, observations, and insights in this book will spur further interest in naval history. This work is an excellent reference that is well suited for inclusion on any bookshelf devoted to naval history.
5 Stars – As Clint Johnson’s new book, “Tin Cans and Greyhounds: The Destroyers That Won Two World Wars”, lays out neatly and with passion, the evolution from new weapon to new ship type was rapid by the standards of any of the world’s navies.
The Twentieth Century was but half spent when newer weapons arrived on the scene: atom bomb, yes, but also the weapon growing from the fusion of rocketry and radio technology—the guided missile. In response, the world’s navies have developed a number of new ship types. There has been a reluctance to drop the name “destroyer” when clearly none of these new ship types are anything like.
“Tin Cans and Greyhounds” underscores that in two world wars, destroyers—and destroyer men—went into harm’s way, not gladly, not always willingly, but because they had the capability and it was their duty. A hard piece of this to swallow: destroyers and destroyer men were expendable . . . and must be in the future if the concept “destroyer” is to have meaning.
Now that’s my take, one who has served on the real thing, a Fletcher-class destroyer, USS Nicholas (DD-449), a ship whose storied history epitomizes the type. (The photograph on the cover of “Tin Cans and Greyhounds” is that ship, the first Fletcher destroyer in the water, the first commissioned and the first into the South Pacific, distinctions those of us lucky enough to have served aboard are mighty proud of.)
For what it’s worth, my copy of Clint’s book is highlighted in pink throughout, now one of 200+ naval and regional histories in my personal collection supporting my own project, Sisters in War, Sisters in Peace, the closely-linked stories of USS Nicholas (DD-449) and USS O’Bannon (DD-450).
DASH Controller and Gunnery Officer, 1967-69
February 12, 2019
April 7, 2019