Monday, November 26, 2007

Best foot forward

I am reading Thomas J. Cutler's The Battle of Leyte Gulf, currently out of print. This late WWII naval battle doesn't receive a lot of attention but Cutler's account is a nice mix of historical analysis and battle action.

I have just finished his account of the bombing of and ultimately the sinking of the USS Princeton, an aircraft carrier. The Princeton was commanded by Captain William H. Buracker. Also aboard was Captain John M. Hoskins, who was scheduled to succeed Buracker in command of the Princeton within the next couple of weeks.

In the course of the engagement, 108 sailors lost their lives and 190 were wounded, including Captain Hoskins who lost a foot. There is a post script to the story.

"Captain Hoskins had, of course, missed his chance - by a frustratingly few days - to command USS Princeton. And he had lost a foot. But John Hoskins was not the kind of man to be easily deterred. He was eventually fitted with an artificial foot and was expected, under the circumstances, to accept diability retirement as his lot. There had not been a 'peg leg' captain in the Navy since the days when sail yielded to steam. But Hoskins petitioned the Navy to allow him to remain on active duty, and, when it was decided that one of the newly built aircraft carriers was to be named Princeton, Hoskins applied for her command. He insisted that he was 'one foot ahead of the other applicants' and argued that he was better qualified for the assignment because, in a middle-of-the-night emergency, he could get to his battle station more rapidly than anyone else since he would already be wearing a sock and a shoe. His arguments may not have been convincing, but his spirit certainly was. John Hoskins was given command of the new USS Princeton."

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