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Posted on May 29, 2013 in Books and Movies

Veterans Tell Their Stories in ‘War Stories: The Pacific, Volume Two: The Solomons to Saipan’

By Armchair General

On January 29, 1943, heavy cruiser USS Chicago was part of Cruiser Division 12 off Rennell Island near Guadalcanal when 31 Japanese land-based Betty bombers appeared in the early evening sky. The first strike did no damage, but then …

The Bettys returned at 1931 and attacked in the dark dropping flares and float lights. A stricken Japanese plane dropped flaming gasoline across Chicago‘s bow, lighting up the target for other attackers. The ship was struck by two torpedoes in rapid succession on the starboard side.


Charles Goldsmith—appropriately, a native of the city of Chicago—was a loader in the ship’s turret. He describes what happened next.

“We went to our battle stations, of course. In the distance there were torpedo planes and you could see them dropping their torpedoes. And the first torpedo (to hit Chicago) knocked the whole ship out. The engine was dead, so we were ordered to evacuate our battle station …

“I saw planes dropping torpedoes. They dropped three at one time and knocked me to the deck, but that was a deathblow. And as a result, word of  mouth, I heard from different people to ‘Abandon ship’ because the ship was sinking at the fantail, the back of the ship first. It was very low in the water. And I noticed, particularly when I took off my shoes, that there were many shoes on the deck. My two shoes joined them.”

Publisher Eric Weider, left, and author Jay Wertz. Click to enlarge.Goldsmith’s account is among the many first-hand stories from Pacific War veterans in War Stories: The Pacific, Volume Two: The Solomons to Saipan. It joins Pearl Harbor to Guadalcanal and D-Day: The Campaign Across France as the third in the War Stories series from Weider History Publications, edited by Armchair General magazine’s own editor in chief, Col. (RET) Jerry Morelock, Ph. D., who said of the latest in entry in the series, “Author Jay Wertz has again created a masterful melding of his superbly written historical narrative and the riveting veterans’ accounts told by the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who made the history recounted in this book. This new, third volume of War Stories is just as exciting, compelling and visually stunning as the first two award-winning volumes.”

Jay Wertz  is no stranger to Armchair General Website visitors, having written several articles and reviews of military-themed television programs for the site.

Marines wade ashore at Cape Gloucester. Click to enlarge.He expressed his feelings about The Solomons to Saipan by saying, “As I returned to the manuscript of this book for final proofreading of the quoted contributions of 100 veterans, I was again enthralled by the richness of their experiences and the bravery of their actions. There is no substitute for these eyewitness accounts which also make for great reading.”

Those accounts, which are woven into a narrative that gives them context and often accompanied by unique maps like the one above, are from those who served in a theater that stretched from Alaska to Australia. Most are taken from interviews conducted by Wertz himself. Others are drawn from previously published sources and from archives and include veterans from the U.S. and its allies and those of Japan.

Click here to see more pages and read more veterans’ stories from War Stories: The Pacific, Volume Two.

Click on the titles for additional information on War Stories: The Pacific, Volume Two: The Solomons to Saipan, War Stories: The Pacific, Volume One: Pearl Harbor to Guadalcanal or the first War Stories book that covers the war in Europe, War Stories: D-Day, the Campaign Across France (a Silver Medal winner in the 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards for the History–World category; Pritzker Military Library made it recommended reading on the D-Day anniversary, 2013).