Crossing the Line: A Bluejacket’s World War II Odyssey
Contributor: David Stubblebine
Review Date: 3 Mar 2012
This book was recommended as a good book about daily life on aircraft carriers in World War II. Since this was right up my alley of interest, I bought the book solely on this one recommendation.
The author, Alvin Kernan, is a respected academic in Shakespearian literature so he writes in a well developed yet readable style. His background before entering college, however, was decidedly more ordinary. He was raised in rural Wyoming during the Depression and to improve his lot, he joined the Navy in March of 1941 at age 17. He went on to serve in the Pacific at several key moments from Pearl Harbor through Japan’s surrender. Long after the war, he began writing a story of his Navy days for the benefit of his family but friends and colleagues suggested that he make his work available to a wider audience. This book is the product of those efforts.
The book is naturally written in Kernan’s first person and reads very well for just what it is - a man telling his own story. He tells his story in very frank and honest terms and appears to gloss over very little. He tells of his duties as an aviation ordinanceman aboard carriers with a front row seat to many milestone events throughout the war; Pearl Harbor the day after the attack, Doolittle’s launch from the Hornet, Midway, the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands where he survived his ship being sunk, Tarawa, Kwajalein, Okinawa, and war’s end. His enlistment also included leaves and training periods that are described just as thoroughly since they were part of his overall experience.
Kernan managed to tell all this without it sounding like a war diary or travelogue by including his feelings as horrendous events were going on around him. As a 20 year old fresh off the ranch, he told about how his wartime experiences added to his own growth. I felt like the book took me back in time where I could look over Kernan’s shoulder as he was doing his best to learn and to grow and to survive the war. The book was easy to obtain and would be a worthy addition to anyone’s WWII library. I am very glad I picked it up.
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945