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Reviewed by Anthony Tully

"A Blue Sea of Blood: Deciphering the Mysterious Fate of USS EDSALL "

by Don Kehn

Hardcover, pages
Published by Zenith Press
ISBN: 978-0-7603-3353-2

I have no hesitation recommending this one, as it proved as much the proverbial "page-turner" as any novel in some of the settings, events, and mysterious "who-done-it" suspense. I read it in one sitting, and twice more since.

On 28 February 1942, a group of three U.S. vessels that had been involved in the recovery from the disastrous fiasco and sinking of the USS LANGLEY split off from each other, heading in different directions several hundred miles south of the island of Java. One of them, the venerable flushdeck destroyer USS EDSALL (DD-219) would never be seen or heard from again by U.S. forces. However, the following afternoon a fleeing Dutch merchant vessel copied radio signals from an American destroyer in the Indian Ocean saying she had been surprised by two Japanese battleships...These were the final communications ever received from EDSALL before she and her valiant crew were "promoted to glory."

How this veteran ship and her spirited crew found themselves there, and what happened to them that day and afterwards, is told in a new book entitled A BLUE SEA OF BLOOD, published by Zenith Press. For any and all intrigued by naval mysteries, or fascinated by one of the more obscure campaigns of the Pacific War, this work includes much never-before-seen information, rare photos, and firsthand accounts. It is also a tribute to 185 U.S. officers, sailors, and AAF personnel lost in one of the war's most ill-conceived missions, and provides the first accurate reconstruction of those events after 67 years of half-truths, fabrications, and errors.

One of the book's strengths is the events are placed in their context, and even the pre-war career of EDSALL touched upon with the right combination of fascinating anecdotes and illuminating political facts. This introduction reveals surprising involvement in one of history's great overlooked tragedies, and nearly as dramatic as those fateful days of 1942 when EDSALL met her end. Also found are interesting insights of the Clemson-class destroyer, and details that will come into play in EDSALL's final action. No less interesting is the attention paid to the Japanese invasion operations at Celebes and the setting of the stage of what is to come.

Of course one of the greatest surprises of the book, which will not reveal here, is what you learn about EDSALL's mysterious final action south of Tjilatjap on 1 March 1942. This may surprise since no EDSALL crew survived to return to the States to speak of it, and learning how and why these details came to light proves as engrossing a story as the destroyer's last action itself. Kehn's detective work takes the reader from the swells of the Indian Ocean south of Java through the bureucracies of the U.S. Navy Department to the jungles and political turmoils of the Netherlands East Indies. It is a drama that takes hold of you and there is something of interest for all students of history.

I have had the pleasure of meeting Don in person, and coresponding with him on matters of the ABDA & U.S. Asiatic Fleet and the IJN and wish to call special attention to this new and enhancing addition to the saga of the Pacific War, and especially to the heroic annals of the U.S. Navy.

- Anthony Tully, author of Battle of Surigao Strait and co-author of Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway.
- March 2009

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