Ship of Ghosts by James D. Hornfischer
The Story of the USS Houston, FDR's Legendary Lost Cruiser, and the Epic Saga of Her Survivors

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 2 Critic Reviews

Ship of Ghosts is a compelling book for anyone intrigued by harrowing tales of courage and the irrepressible will to survive.
-USA Today



BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from James D. Hornfischer's Neptune's Inferno.

"Son, we’re going to Hell."

The navigator of the USS Houston confided these prophetic words to a young officer as he and his captain charted a course into U.S. naval legend. Renowned as FDR’s favorite warship, the cruiser USS Houston was a prize target trapped in the far Pacific after Pearl Harbor. Without hope of reinforcement, her crew faced a superior Japanese force ruthlessly committed to total conquest. It wasn’t a fair fight, but the men of the Houston would wage it to the death.

Hornfischer brings to life the awesome terror of nighttime naval battles that turned decks into strobe-lit slaughterhouses, the deadly rain of fire from Japanese bombers, and the almost superhuman effort of the crew as they miraculously escaped disaster again and again–until their luck ran out during a daring action in Sunda Strait. There, hopelessly outnumbered, the Houston was finally sunk and its survivors taken prisoner. For more than three years their fate would be a mystery to families waiting at home.

In the brutal privation of jungle POW camps dubiously immortalized in such films as The Bridge on the River Kwai, the war continued for the men of the Houston—a life-and-death struggle to survive forced labor, starvation, disease, and psychological torture. Here is the gritty, unvarnished story of the infamous Burma–Thailand Death Railway glamorized by Hollywood, but which in reality mercilessly reduced men to little more than animals, who fought back against their dehumanization with dignity, ingenuity, sabotage, will–power—and the undying faith that their country would prevail.

Using journals and letters, rare historical documents, including testimony from postwar Japanese war crimes tribunals, and the eyewitness accounts of Houston’s survivors, James Hornfischer has crafted an account of human valor so riveting and awe-inspiring, it’s easy to forget that every single word is true.

About James D. Hornfischer

See more books from this Author
James D. Hornfischer is a writer, literary agent, and former book editor. He is the author of The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors and Ship of Ghosts, both widely acclaimed accounts of the U.S. Navy during World War II in the Pacific.
Published March 25, 2009 by Bantam. 544 pages
Genres: History, Travel, War, Education & Reference. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
Peak Rank on Jul 27 2014
Weeks as Bestseller
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for Ship of Ghosts
All: 2 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 0


Above average
on May 20 2010

The multiple points-of-view presented here occasionally become confusing, but when the survivors arrive at the jungle prison, the author ties the separate threads into a gripping narrative. Harrowing and frank, this story of a gritty band of men...reflects the triumph of will over adversity.

Read Full Review of Ship of Ghosts: The Story of ... | See more reviews from Kirkus

USA Today

Reviewed by Don Oldenburg on Dec 13 2006

Ship of Ghosts is a compelling book for anyone intrigued by harrowing tales of courage and the irrepressible will to survive.

Read Full Review of Ship of Ghosts: The Story of ...

Reader Rating for Ship of Ghosts

An aggregated and normalized score based on 286 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes

Rate this book!

Add Review