Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Riding on Luck: Saga of the USS Lang (DD-399)

Author : Rex A. Knight
ISBN : 1555715516
Hellgate Press of Oregon has identified a niche market for works of military history that would often be passed up by major publishers. Such is the case with Riding on Luck.
They called her the "Lucky Lang." Commissioned 30 March 1939, she ranged from Nova Scotia to the Caribbean, from Scotland to the Mediterranean, before traversing the Panama Canal to engage the enemy in the Pacific at Guadalcanal, New Georgia, Kwajalein, Saipan, Leyte, and Okinawa. She wreaked havoc along the "Tokyo Express" route and helped decimate Japanese air power. Though heavily involved in nearly every major campaign of the war in the Pacific, the destroyer USS Lang survived it all with hardly a scratch. She lost but three men and not a single surviving member of her roster rolls received the slightest enemy inflicted wound. No other U.S. Naval warship could boast such a record, over such an extended time, involving an equal number of actions. Even the sum of her hull numbers-399-adds up to 21, a lucky number to be sure. Riding On Luck is the story of how the "luckiest ship in the Navy" served crew and country through some of the fiercest and best-known battles of WWII.
For more than a decade, Rex Knight has been researching and writing WWII history, specializing in the Pacific Theater. He has visited and photographed many battle sites, including sunken WWII vessels, and been named the Lang's official biographer and honorary crewmember. Completion of this history is the high point of what he calls "a wonderful and unforgettable association" with the family of Lang veterans and their spouses. Rex is a regular contributor to World War II Magazine.
Knight, while not a professional historian, clearly enjoys writing on his topics. His writing style is clear and of fluid nature. However the manuscript suffers from a lack of proof-reading; which often annoys the reader. Two examples early in the text that are not repeated are the terms "warshipping" and "duel purpose" instead of the correct dual purpose.
The book also suffers a little from weak research by misidentifying HMS Charybdis as a destroyer instead of a cruiser, stating that USS Nevada was sunk at Pearl Harbor when she was not and claiming USS Farragut (DD 348) was fitted with a MK-37 director. In addition, Knight has missed the most important feature visible in the cover photo of USS Lang by missing the wheel chair ramp visible on the starboard side for the use of Franklin D Roosevelt during one of the two instances when he traveled on this ship.
I commend Mr Knight for his work in this effort and Hellgate for publishing it. With sharper research and editing, a next effort from this duo should be a fine read. (DS)

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