On November 19, 1943, the submarine USS Sculpin, under attack by the Japanese, slid below the waves for the last time in what would become one of the most remarkable stories in U.S. Naval history. Not only did several crewmembers survive the sinking — an extremely rare event in World War II submarine warfare — but several were aboard a Japanese aircraft carrier enroute to a POW camp when it was in turn torpedoed and sunk by the Sculpin’s sister ship, the USS Sailfish.
At the end of World War II, several unlikely survivors would tell a tale of endurance against these amazing reversals of fortune. For one officer in particular, who knew that being captured could have meant losing the war for the allies, his struggle was not in surviving, but in sealing his own fate in a heartbreaking act of heroism which culminated in the nation’s highest tribute, the Medal of Honor.
Sculpin Lt. Commander John Phillip Cromwell was one of the few who knew that American Naval Intelligence had succeeded in cracking Japan’s top-secret codes. Cromwell also knew that if the Japanese confirmed this by torturing him, it would force Naval Intelligence to change their encryption, which would potentially change the course of the war. This is Cromwell’s story as well.
The incredible interconnection of the Sculpin and the Sailfish has been thoroughly researched by Jonathan McCullough. Through access to the few living survivors, scores of oral histories, never-before translated Japanese war documents, and interviews with Navy veterans, McCullough delivers a gripping and, intimate account for the reader.
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