The Last Paladin

Mysterious Book Report No. 497

by John Dwaine McKenna

The Last Paladin, (St. Martin’s, $28.99, 288 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-27986-6), by P.T. Deutermann, is a superb, battle-filled World War II adventure that takes place aboard the USS Holland, a lone destroyer escort on patrol in the Solomon Islands in the western Pacific Ocean during the summer of 1944—just as the two greatest armadas of the era are assembling for what historians have called The Battle of the Philippine Sea.  It was the largest naval battle of steel warships in history, and it broke the back of the Imperial Japanese Fleet . . .

Told in alternating points-of-view between Lt. Cmdr. Mariano deTomasi and his Executive Officer, Lt. Ephraim “Eppy” Edmond Enright, the story begins just as the Holland arrives in the Solomons after hunting U-boats in the North Atlantic.  Criticized for being thirty days late, and at just 300 feet in length, boat and crew are considered nothing more than an afterthought to the 800 vessel “Big Blue Fleet” coming toward the Japanese home islands to engage a similar sized fleet from the enemy.  Rumor has it that a picket line of submarines has been established somewhere in the Philippine Sea to harass the American battle fleet and sink as many ships as possible.  The Holland is sent, all by itself, to see if the phantom submarines really exist, and if so, to engage them.  It’s pretty much a snipe hunt, or a suicide mission if the subs are actually there, because the small destroyer escort would have at least two full-size destroyers accompanying it on a normal mission.  Undaunted, the Holland sets out on patrol, trying to guess where the end of the picket line of six submarines begins and ends.  They estimate approximately 200 nautical miles between subs and set out trying to find them.  Days later, as luck would have it, a naval airplane spots a submarine on station and the location is passed on to the Holland, who steams north to engage . . . and the non-stop action begins in this fight to the death between the two implacable enemies in the vast and empty Philippine Sea.  If you like World War II battle action and shipboard operations, this is a novel not to be missed!!

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