Trial by Fire: A Novel (P. T. Deutermann WWII Novels)

Written by P. T. Deutermann
Review by Peggy Kurkowski

It is March 1945, and while WWII winds down with Germany in Europe, it still rages against Japan in the Pacific Ocean. Task Force 58 is the largest wartime armada ever assembled and begins the push toward the island of Okinawa. Included is the USS Franklin, an Essex-class aircraft carrier just recently released from dry-dock repairs after suffering a devastating kamikaze attack. It is a monster ship, carrying more than 3,600 sailors and 100 aircraft. But it only takes one Japanese “Judy” dropping out of the clouds to rain down hell itself.

Basing his tale on a true story, P.T. Deutermann turns in a pulse-pounding, authentically detailed imagining of the dive-bomb attack on the USS Franklin and its wrenching aftermath, which ultimately claimed more than 800 lives and injured hundreds more. From officers to ensigns, Deutermann creates believable, likable characters who live through a 500-pound bomb eviscerating the flight deck and exploding in a hangar deck filled with fueled-up and explosive-equipped fighter planes. From Commander George Lowry Merritt, the ship’s executive officer, to the indispensable engineers, or “snipes” as they are affectionately known, the men all pull together to lead from where they are, despite the sickening sights, smells, and sounds engulfing them. Deutermann’s own long service as a Navy captain, and later, commodore, perfectly places him to tell the story of the USS Franklin with eye-popping accuracy on all levels, from ship design to naval jargon. One suggestion: Keep an aircraft carrier schematic handy to grasp visually the detail-heavy sections of the ship’s interior.

Trial by Fire is a top-shelf WWII novel that brings to life the unbelievable heroism of the men aboard the USS Franklin. It is sure to make the reader a new P.T. Deutermann fan—this one is.