A CALL TO COLORS
Trade Paperback United States: $14.95 Great Britain: (GBP) £11.50 Europe: €12.95
"I shall return" is General Douglas MacArthur's promise to the Filipinos. It will take 165,000 troops and 700 ships in the bloody battle of Leyte Gulf to do it.
Among them is the destroyer USS Matthew and her skipper, Commander Mike Donovan, a veteran haunted by earlier savage battles. What Donovan doesn't know is that Vice Admiral Takao Kurita of Japan has laid an ingenious trap as the Matthew heads for the treacherous waters of Leyte Gulf. But Donovan faces something even deadlier than Kurita's battleships: Explosives secretly slipped on board American ships by saboteurs are set to detonate at any time. Now the Matthew's survival hinges on the ability of Donovan and his men to dismantle a bomb in the midst of the panic and the chaos of history's greatest naval battle.
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SYNOPSIS by John J Gobbell
A-Day, 20 October 1944, is the code-name for when General Douglas MacArthur fulfills his promise of "I Shall Return" to the Filipinos. With over 400 amphibious ships, he lands 165,000 troops in Leyte Gulf to begin throwing the Japanese Army out of the Philippines. Protecting MacArthur is Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr.'s Third Fleet concentrated around sixteen attack carriers. Also, the scrappy Halsey looks for the first opportunity to deliver the killing blow to the Imperial Japanese Navy.
But Admiral Soemu Toyoda, CinC of the Imperial Japanese Navy's combined fleet, and Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita have a general idea of what MacArthur and Halsey intend. They form a brilliant plan to divert Halsey's aircraft carriers so they can send in a battle force to wipe out MacArthur's troop and supply ships.
Both sides commit more than 800 ships with the battle for Leyte Gulf becoming the largest naval battle in history.
Caught in the middle is Commander Mike Donovan, skipper of the destroyer USS Matthew. On patrol off Leyte Gulf, Donovan doesn't realize Halsey's carriers have been drawn out of the way by Toyoda's decoy force. Now it's just Donovan and seven other "tin cans" standing between Kurita's force of four battleships, nine cruisers, and twelve destroyers poised to gun down MacArthur's ships frantically unloading inside Leyte Gulf.
Worse, Donovan isn't aware he's under attack on another front. Ammunition ships are blowing up all over the Pacific at an alarming rate. The conclusion is obvious: Ships in the Leyte Gulf battle force are next. Lieutenant Commander John Sabovik of Naval intelligence is in a position to catch the saboteur and save Donovan among others. But there's a catch: Once best friends. Sabovik has vowed to kill Donovan. It's not just because both are in love with Katherine Logan, a medical intern in California. It goes back two years when both served on a jinxed cruiser off Guadalcanal.
Critical Praise / Cover Quotes
"Wonderful…a rousing dramatization of history’s greatest sea battle (of Leyte Gulf)."
"A Call to Colors is a rousing dramatization of history's greatest sea battle. Our naval veterans of the Battle of Leyte Gulf shine proudly in Gobbell's authentic reimagining of their finest hour."
- Military Book Club (May 2007)
- Armchair Interview (6 Nov 2006)
- Orange Coast Magazine (Feb 2006)
- Quarterdeck (November 2006)
A Call to Colors begins in the summer of 1944. Lieutenant Commander Mike Donovan has seen more of the war than he wants to remember. Wracked with stomach pains so intense that they double him over, Donovan has just survived the invasion of Guam aboard the USS Ridley, a destroyer hit by a Japanese bomb that took the lives of twenty-six men and the ship’s captain. He is escorting the battered ship back to the United States, where he will assume his first command—of the USS Matthew—a lifelong dream for Mike Donovan.
What the novice commander doesn’t know is that he and the Matthew are headed into turbulent waters made even more treacherous not only by the awesome power of the Japanese navy, but also by a saboteur’s handiwork: bombs set to detonate within the torpedo holds of random American ships. Donovan’s survival, and that of his men, depends on their ability to dismantle the bombs in the midst of the panic and chaos of the greatest naval battle ever fought. Leyte Gulf! Fiction. 487 pages.
The Battle of Leyte Gulf took place on October 24 and 25 in1944. Without a doubt it was the final battle in the history of the world where naval surface combatants were in actual physical sight of each other. In John J. Gobbell's A Call To Colors he takes us back to that tenuous time late in the war when most of the strategic minds within the U.S. and Japanese militaries were certain of one thing. The Japanese had lost the war. The questions that remained were, how would the remaining resources of the Japanese armed services be used. Gobbell has constructed a fictional account of an American destroyer and her crew and placed them in the unenviable location of the famous squadron of ships known to most World War II historians as Taffy 3. The under armed, outnumbered men of Taffy 3 faced the most powerful force of Japanese warships ever assembled, all centered on the super battleship Yamato. Gobbell's account of the battle concentrates on Commander Mike Donovan, Captain of the destroyer USS Matthew, taking us through the events that lead Donovan from his terrifying experiences during his first engagement with the enemy to his taking command of the Matthew. Interspersed are two side stories. The first involves the U.S. military railway and how it underwent some determined foreign sabotage. This story does deviate from the Donovan story—just when you want to know more. From a historical standpoint, the military railway story is very interesting, and Gobbell does use it to tie a lean parallel story concerning an estranged friend of Donovan's now back into his life, however the book could have stood alone without it. The second perspective is a Japanese point of view and is helpful because the Japanese simply don't write about their failures in WWII. I have no doubt this is a fictional account, but without the real thing, this is a great addition to the book.
The writing is good; and the character development is paced well. From a historical standpoint, everything appears to be in the right place. Armchair Interviews says: Anyone who likes a good historical WWII fiction can't go wrong with A Call to Colors.
History's greatest sea battle was the Battle of Leyte Gulf in World War II, which involved 165,000 troops and 700 ships. Gobbell served in the Navy as a deck officer with the Seventh Fleet in the South China Sea aboard a Fletcher class destroyer that had fought in the Leyte battle. In this, Gobbell's [sixth] novel, a Navy veteran is given his first command-a brand-new destroyer with a mostly green crew on its way to the Philippines to join a task force defending MacArthur's amphibious landings at Leyte Gulf. The Americans will sail a few slender, lightly armored, outgunned but wickedly fast destroyers into an ingenious trap laid by the remaining Japanese naval forces, including the mighty battleship Yamamoto. Gobbell knows his military history and skillfully mixes in the stories of the sailors, their friends, lovers and families. A rousing read from a Laguna Niguel-based author.
-Marilyn Hudson is co-founder of Round Table West and a member of the National Book Critics Circle.
Hooked on World War II
John J. Gobbell’s “sea tales ... will have you looking up your nearest Navy recruiter,” says highly acclaimed novelist W.E.B. Griffin. Gobbell’s stories about the United States Navy during World War II allow armchair admirals to slip back in time to the 1940s, as America fights back after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
This month, Gobbell’s new novel, A Call to Colors, introduces his new U.S. Navy hero, Commander Mike Donovan, against the backdrop of the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Pacific.
Gobbell kindly responded to questions from Quarterdeck about his writing career...
Southern Pacific AC class locomotive grinding its way through Truckee near the peak of the Sierra-Nevada grade
General Douglas A. MacArthur, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, and Admiral William D. Leahy (FDR"s chief of Staff), aboard USS Baltimore (CA 68) in Pearl Harbor
General MacArthur broadcasts his "I have returned" message to the Philippine people during a thunderstorm on A-Day The war at sea Admirals, United States Navy
Rear Admiral Clifton C. A. F. Sprague, commander task group 77.4.3 (call-sign TAFFY 3), in USS Fanshaw Bay (CVE 70) Admirals, Imperial Japanese Navy
Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita, commander, first striking force (center force), cruiser IJN Atago, Lingga Roads (Singapore)
Vice Admiral Matome Ugaki, commander, Battleship Division One, superbattleship IJN Yamato, Lingga Roads, Singapore
Vice Admiral Kiyohide Shima, commander southern force rear, heavy cruiser IJN Nachi, Beppu Bay, Japan
Vice Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa, commander northern (decoy) force, attack carrier IJN Zuikaku. Beppu Bay, Japan
USS Darter (SS 227), launching - 1943. Along with USS Dace (SS 247), she greeted Kurita's Center Force at Palawan Passage, sinking his flagship, the IJN Atago. Later that day, she ran aground and was lost on Bombay Shoal
Samar - USS Gambier Bay (CVE 73), one of TAFFY 3's six escort carriers under fire by a cruiser far right - later sunk
Samar - USS Heermann (DD 532), foreground, and USS John C. Butler (DE 339) make smoke as they charge toward Kurita's ships
Cape Engaño: Fleet carrier and Pearl Harbor veteran IJN Zuikaku (Ozawa's flagship) under attack and later sunk by aircraft from Halsey's carriers. Note dive bomber attacking at lower left.
Commander Ernest E. Evans, commanding officer, USS Johnston (DD 557); awarded medal of honor posthumously