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By Dan DeNeve and Maggie Villalobos with the Dana Point Library
I promise we will not always recommend history books. While it is a favorite of mine and Dan, the library does have something for everyone and so will this article. This month, we wanted to focus not only on Pearl Harbor, but overcoming when the odds are stacked against you.
The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin is a dramatic story of the 50 black sailors that, after a massive explosion, refused to work until conditions were improved. These sailors served in a segregated Navy where they loaded bombs and ammunition without training while white officers placed bets on how fast their units could load. On July 17, 1944, a massive explosion destroyed Port Chicago and killed 320 servicemen. After being relocated, more than 200 refused to load bombs until working conditions were safer. They called it justice, but their white officers and higher commanders in the Navy called it mutiny. Sheinkin goes through the events leading up to the explosion and to where the Port Chicago 50 was at the time of publication. This book would be appropriate for middle school students and older. While Dana Point does not have a copy on shelf, we can have it sent here.
Another fight for justice during World War II is told in Left for Dead: A Young Man’s Search for Justice for the USS Indianapolis by Pete Nelson. Inspired by a scene in Jaws, Hunter Scott (11 years old at the time) researches the sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the possibly wrongful court-martial of Captain McVay. Nelson goes into more depth than Scott’s history project, but it is still appropriate for a middle schooler. The sinking of the USS Indianapolis was a tragic disaster and how the Navy treated Captain McVay was an injustice as well. Both Scott and Nelson try to bring the truth to light in this book. We can easily have this book sent from a nearby branch for you.
Much has been written recently about WW II since last month marked the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. One such title that I highly recommend is A Matter of Honor: Pearl Harbor: Betrayal, Blame, and a Family’s Quest for Justice by Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan. The book is a fast read and gets to the heart of the matter quickly: how much did Admiral Kimmel and General Short know and, based on that knowledge, how prepared for attack were they? The authors provide ample evidence that Washington, D.C. knew more than was passed on to Kimmel and Short. Furthermore, both men were not given enough tools to provide adequately for the defense of the fleet on that fateful day. After the attack, the authors build the case that Kimmel was not negligent, nor derelict in his duties as Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet. While the authors do not make the case for it, there is a faint hint in their mountain of evidence in support of Kimmel that while Roosevelt did not know of an eminent attack, he might have been trying to subtly provoke the Japanese into a war. Finally, we learn that Kimmel’s children and grandchildren have continued the fight to clear the admiral’s name and restore his four-star admiral rank. He retired a two-star admiral after Pearl Harbor. The Dana Point Library owns a copy of this book.
The Seaside Book Club, meets every fourth Monday of the month from 10:30-11:30 a.m. All are welcome. We will be discussing In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez. For a list of future featured titles, call the library at 949.496.5517.
For more information about upcoming events across the Orange County Public Libraries system, visit www.ocpl.org. The site also provides access to online research tools, digital magazines, PDF copies of historical sheet music, ebooks, eaudiobooks, jobseeker resources and more.