cover image Unsinkable: Five Men and the Indomitable Run of the USS Plunkett

Unsinkable: Five Men and the Indomitable Run of the USS Plunkett

James Sullivan. Scribner, $30 (416p) ISBN 978-1-982147-63-1

Journalist Sullivan (Over the Moat) delivers an expansive, character-driven history of the USS Plunkett, a U.S. Navy destroyer that was “in on every invasion in Europe” during WWII and withstood a “savage” attack by German bombers at the Battle of Anzio in January 1944. Drawing on war diaries, action reports, and interviews, Sullivan tells the story through the eyes of five crew members: commander Ed Burke, gunnery officer Ken Brown, reserve officer Jack Simpson, and enlisted men Jim Feltz and John Gallagher, the author’s great-uncle. Tracking the Plunkett’s journey from its 1940 christening in New Jersey to its near-destruction at Anzio and its role in the D-Day landings at Omaha Beach (which director John Ford filmed from aboard the Plunkett), 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. (Dec.)