Unsinkable: Five Men and the Indomitable Run of the USS Plunkett
Authored by James Sullivan, Narrated by Jacques Roy
Audiobook, 10 hours and 9 minutes
Published by Simon and Shuster Audio
USS Plunkett (DD-431) was a Gleaves-class destroyer which was commissioned five months before the Pearl Harbor attack brought America into the Second World War. Assigned to the Atlantic Fleet, she participated in the Torch landings in North Africa, the Invasion of Sicily, and the Anzio landings. Off Anzio she came under sustained attacks from German aircraft, and was eventually hit by a 550-pound bomb which killed 51 of her crew. After repairs Stateside, she rejoined the Fleet in time for the Normandy landings, the shelling of Cherbourg, and the invasion of Southern France. She was on her way to the Pacific when the war ended.
This book tells the story of Plunkett from the perspectives of five members of her crew. There are basically three threads to each story – the home front before and during the war which gives the men’s civilian backgrounds as well as those of their families; the wartime experiences and shipboard operations; and finally the author’s visits with the men and their families many years later to gather information for the book. I found all three perspectives interesting for different reasons, but jumping between the five men and three timelines strained the continuity of the story.
The book is at its strongest when describing the wartime exploits of the Plunkett. Her story is one version of the naval war in the European theater. I have read that she may have been the only Allied ship to have participated in all the major landings in Europe. Destroyers were the workhorses of the Navy, and she certainly was in the thick of things. There is a definite bifurcation in the book, events before the bomb hit off Anzio are covered in great detail, later landings are given only a cursory treatment to close out the story. I would definitely like to hear the fine points of her participation in the D-Day landings, Cherbourg, and Southern France, but they are missing.
Still this is an interesting tale of ships and the sea, and there is much which will be familiar to Navy veterans. Recommended for anyone interest in naval history.