‘The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors’ Is Adapted Into a Graphic Novel

Comic Books Entertainment Reviews

James D. Hornfisher’s historical book, The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors, was first published in 2004. It provided a riveting account of an action during the Battle of Leyte Gulf during World War II. Considered one of the most compelling works of naval history ever published, the narrative was based on interviews with veterans as well as declassified government and military documents. This story has been adapted into an engaging graphic novel.

What Is The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors?

The graphic novel The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors tells the story of Taffy 3, a small task unit of the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet in October of 1944. This force consisted of only 13 ships and included destroyers, destroyer escorts, and escort carriers. With little firepower or armor, it faced a much larger and more powerful force of the Imperial Japanese Navy, which included the battleship Yamato, one of two of the largest battleships that ever sailed. Hornfischer’s original book has been adapted by Doug Murray, with illustrations by Steven Sanders. The graphic novel was colored by Matt Soffe, and lettered by Rob Steen. The book is published by Dead Reckoning, an imprint of the Naval Institute Press. It is available in a hardcover edition, which can be purchased at your local bookstore, as well as several online sellers including Amazon. A Kindle digital version is also available. The suggested retail price for both editions is $29.95. 

The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors portrays the heroism of the American sailors who fought and sacrificed to protect their fellow countrymen. As the Allied forces began landing on the Philippine island of Leyte, Admiral “Bull” Halsey and his Third Fleet were engaged and then lured away by a Japanese naval force. This left the northern route to landing beaches unguarded. This was part of the Japanese plan. Their center force consisting of four battleships, including the Yamato, 6 heavy cruisers, 2 light cruisers, and 11 destroyers. All that stood between this force and the landing beaches was Taffy 3.

An American bomber attacks an enemy ship. Image courtesy of Dead Reckoning.

Why Should You Read The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors?

Murry does an incredible job taking a historical narrative and adapting it into a graphic novel. Since he could not include every detail from the original, he had to select key points and scenes that could still tell the story with the help of illustrations, dialogue, and narration. Speaking of illustrations, the artwork is great. As a history major with an emphasis on military history, I am impressed with the details of the ships and aircraft. In fact, I was impressed that the images show different colors or smoke trailing the shells of the ships. Since most images from the period are black and white, few people realize that the Japanese used different colors in their gunpowder so ships could tell where each ship’s shells were falling. It is little details such as this that really make this work stand out as more than just a story but a historical lesson. 

When it comes to World War II, there are a handful of battles on which popular media tend to focus. The few battles in the Pacific covered are usually limited to Pearl Harbor, Midway, and the dropping of the atomic bombs. Therefore it is refreshing to have relatively small naval action brought to light in a graphic novel. The Battle off Samar is an amazing tale of sailors and aviators who sacrificed themselves to save the soldiers on the beaches of Leyte and on the transports offshore. In fact, half of all of the Americans killed at Leyte Gulf were at this battle. The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors is a great graphic novel. I have always been impressed with the graphic novels published by Dead Reckoning and this is my favorite one so far. I highly recommend The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors.

The Japanese battleship Yamato fires its massive 18-inch guns. Image courtesy of Dead Reckoning.

Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this book for review purposes.

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