By the end of the book, what begins as family lore (Gallagher was Sullivan’s great-uncle) has broadened and deepened, rippled outward to reflect our national story. Accounts of self-sacrifice and devotion to duty, especially those rendered with humility, have lately been in short supply, and we need them … worth the wait … The result is poetry and pathos … The book is a feast of details large and small … In the hands of a less capable writer, such a flood of information might overwhelm the reader. But like a water tender regulating the flow of steam that powers his ship’s screws, Sullivan releases these details so artfully that by the time Plunkett reaches Anzio, he has positioned us to recognize the implications of each new threat to the ship. Indeed, the sailors’ 25 crucial minutes at Anzio unfold with cinematic clarity … Sullivan is a journalist, and Unsinkable is marked by scrupulous fidelity to fact. Measured from his earliest recorded interviews with a great-uncle, Sullivan has been gathering background for this book for more than 20 years … the men in Unsinkable show us what it means to be larger than life.
… stirring … Certain stories we need to tell regardless of their size. One of Mr. Sullivan’s achievements is to remind us why. Unsinkable, a fine narrative in its own right, is also a reflection on the nature of storytelling itself, as well as a valuable and entertaining contribution to the record. It is good to learn the history of the American destroyer, with its origins in the response to the torpedo warfare that began on the Roanoke River in 1864, or to learn how the depth-charges and sonar worked on a vessel of the Gleaves class 80 years later. To make such details compelling reading is an accomplishment. More significantly, Mr. Sullivan takes pains to illuminate and honor a lost world.
… the story of the Plunkett is really the story of its crew, and in this respect, Sullivan’s writing stands out … Their tales and others are told with humor and compassion. And it is both enlightening and disappointing when Sullivan reveals that many U.S. leaders, such as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, believed at the outset of the war that the young men they were sending into battle had been ‘mollycoddled’ at home … Sullivan deftly moves his narrative from place to place and time to time … Reading Sullivan’s fine book makes their greatness easy to understand. But, sadly, the members of this generation are leaving us. We must do everything we can to honor and remember them. Buying and reading this book is a good way to start.
… captivating … diligent combing of archives, journals, and ship’s logs. The result is a vivid portrait of the sailors, wives, girlfriends, and families and their world, in which the Plunkett’s battles often seem like interludes … Sullivan delivers a gripping account of what followed as the men fought the fires, rescued survivors, retrieved bodies and body parts, and limped into harbor … Sullivan has done his homework, and readers will enjoy his generous digressions into biography, courtship, shore-leave horseplay, shipboard politics, and a postwar summary … An outstanding addition to the still-active genre of WWII histories focusing on a single unit, ship, or bomber.
Sullivan interviewed some of the surviving crew in their later years, and their recollections add immediacy to his description of life aboard the ship and the amazing survival of the Plunkett from direct bomb hits. In great detail, Sullivan recreates the heat and chaos of the crew’s epic struggles to keep the Plunkett afloat, fighting onboard fires and preventing detonation of depth charges and ammunition as the ship burned. Readers, especially those with command of naval terminology, can virtually become part of the crew’s frenzied reeling as they aided their injured, dying, and dead comrades and kept the Plunkett seaworthy.
… an expansive, character-driven history … Sullivan packs the narrative with colorful character sketches and detailed descriptions of the ship’s inner workings, from the upper decks to the engine rooms. He also recounts visits to interview surviving sailors, now in their 90s, and relates the outsize impact of destroyers on the Allied war effort. The book culminates in a dramatic account of the attack at Anzio, Italy, when the Plunkett was hit by a 550-pound bomb and lost more than 50 men. Suffused with evocative language and intimate portraits of life in the U.S. Navy, this is a WWII history to savor.
The focus is as much a narrative of the ship’s crew and their recollections as it is the story of the ship and its active wartime career. Included are solid recounts of sailors’ lives on the ship, based on interviews and diary records. An appendix lists those who were killed in action at Anzio and others who were missing in action … An accessible maritime history for libraries with extensive World War II collections.