John Wukovits, author of Tin Can Titans - 2018 RADM Samuel Eliot Morison Award for Naval Literature


Tin Can Titans: The Heroic Men and Ships of World War II's Most Decorated Navy Destroyer Squadron

by John Wukovits

Winner of the 2018 RADM Samuel Eliot Morison Award for Naval Literature, John Wukovits will be received by the New York Commandery and speak at the Annual Book Award dinner in New York City on Monday evening, 5 November 2018.

This distinguished writing prize is given to an American author “who by his published writings has made a substantial contribution to the preservation of the history and traditions of the United States Sea Services – the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and U.S. Flag Merchant Marine.”


On August 29, 1945, the United States Fleet entered Tokyo Bay to accept the Japanese surrender after almost four years of war. While Admiral William Halsey could have selected his flagship, USS Missouri, to lead the victorious ships during the surrender ceremony, he granted that honor to a trio of destroyers—O’Bannon, Nicholas, and Taylor. Though far smaller than the majestic Missouri, the three vessels were part of Destroyer Squadron 21 (Desron 21), the most acclaimed destroyer squadron of the war.

In Tin Can Titans: The Heroic Men and Ships of World War II’s Most Decorated Navy Destroyer Squadron, John Wukovits tells the story of Desron 21 and the officers and sailors who earned the squadron its glory. From the battle of Guadalcanal to the conflicts of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, the crews of Desron 21 sunk or helped sink ten submarines and several surface vessels, shot down dozens of aircraft, and rescued more than eighteen hundred sailors and downed airmen. During these missions, 372 crewmembers were killed and many more were wounded. Of the twelve destroyers, only three survived the bombing raids and the torpedo and kamikaze attacks.

Gathering information from diaries and letters of crew members and personal interviews with Desron 21 survivors, Wukovits introduces us to several members of the destroyer squadron, like Commander Donald MacDonald, a Pennsylvania native who led O’Bannon through years of almost constant naval warfare and never hesitated to rescue the crews of sunken ships, even when it meant placing his destroyer between the damaged ships and direct fire; Lieutenant Hugh B. Miller, a former University of Alabama quarterback who used the determination he acquired on the football field to help his crewmembers escape a sinking ship and lead them to safety in spite of his severe internal injuries; and Dr. Dow H. Ransom Jr., a ship’s doctor from California who ran on deck during a mine explosion to attend to the wounded, and stayed up for thirty consecutive hours to treat them. Through the eyes of these men, Tin Can Titans tells the naval side of the Pacific war, and the countless battles, patrols, and escort missions that were crucial to the United States victory against Japan.



John Wukovits has been researching and writing about World War II for more than twenty years, focusing mainly on the Pacific theater. His books include Tin Can Titans (Da Capo 2017), Hell from the Heavens (Da Capo 2015), For Crew and Country (St. Martin’s 2013), Admiral ‘Bull’ Halsey: The Life and Wars of the U.S. Navy’s Most Controversial Commander (Palgrave 2010), American Commando (NAL/Caliber 2009), One Square Mile of Hell (NAL/Caliber 2006), Devotion to Duty (Naval Institute Press), Pacific Alamo: The Battle for Wake Island (NAL/Caliber 2004), and Eisenhower (Palgrave), part of Gen. Wesley K. Clark’s Great Generals series. His writing has appeared in more than twenty-five magazines, including WWII History, Military Heritage, Naval History, and American History.

Reviews for Tin Can Titans: The Heroic Men and Ships of World War II's Most Decorated Navy Destroyer Squadron

"John Wukovits has all the skills of a great naval historian, and he shows them in this rousing tale of destroyer warfare in the Pacific during World War II. He understands the tactics and strategy--and shows the resourcefulness and gallantry--of officers and men in harm's way."
--Evan Thomas, bestselling author of Sea of Thunder

“John Wukovits's Tin Can Titans sets sail into the vast Pacific aboard the fightingest of warships, whose rolling decks and fiery guns were manned by the bravest of sailors as they fought in World War II's largest sea battles in the world's biggest ocean. A stirring story of the generation that went to war to save mankind."
--Bruce Henderson, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Sons and Soldiers and Rescue at Los Banos

"John Wukovits is probably our best living chronicler of the war at sea. No one else writes with the immediacy that he does, or captures the intensity and the courage of those who fought in 'tin cans' in quite the same way. Tin Can Titans could very well be his masterpiece."
--Flint Whitlock, Editor, WWII Quarterly magazine

Ordering info: Amazon

-- submitted by William H Schmidt