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SMC Speaker John Wukovits

At the Senior Men’s Club July 24th Tuesday Luncheon, we were privileged to hear from John Wukovits and his report on the ten books he has written regarding the Second World War. John Wukovits attended Sacred Heart Seminary and was a language and arts teacher. He is a renowned author and biography writer and a WWII Pacific Theatre historian. He has authored ten books including one on General Eisenhower. His book: “Tin Can Titans“, a book depicting the most decorated Navy Destroyer Squadron and the heroic men and ships of WW II. Coming in August 2018 from the Notre Dame Press is his book “Soldiers of a Different Cloth” telling the amazing stories of Notre Dame heroic Chaplains who served in every theatre and ships of operations in World War II.

John’s book “Hell from the Heavens” Mel Gibson has signed on to direct the film adaption of this book. In this book “Hell from the Heavens”, the author makes the ordeal of the Laffey and her crew a story for the ages. Using scores of personal interviews with survivors, the memoirs of crew members, and the sailors’ wartime correspondence, historians, our author John Wukovits breathes life into the story of this nearly forgotten historical event. The US Navy described the kamikaze attack on the Laffey “as one of the great sea epics of the second world war.”

“Looking toward the heavens, the destroyer crew saw what seemed to be the entire Japanese Air Force assembled directly above. Hell was about to be unleashed on them in the largest single-ship kamikaze attack of World War II.” 



On April 16, 1945, the crewmen of the USS Laffey were battle hardened and prepared. They had engaged in combat off the Normandy coast in June 1944. They had been involved in three prior assaults of enemy positions in the Pacific-at Lete and Lingayen in the Philippines and at Iwo Jima. They had seen kamikazes purposely crash into other destroyers and cruisers in their unit and had seen firsthand the bloody results of those crazed tactics. But nothing could have prepared the crew for this moment, an 80 minute ordeal, in which the single small ship was targeted by no fewer than twenty-two Japanese suicide aircraft.

By the time the unprecedented attack on the Laffey was finished, thirty-two sailors lay dead, more than seventy were wounded, and the ship was grievously damaged. Although she lay shrouded in smoke and fire for hours, the Laffey somehow survived, and the gutted American warship limped from the Okinawa’s shore for home, where the ship and crew would be feted as heroes.

If you missed this luncheon, you missed hearing a WW II military expert and one of the leading historians of WW II give his report on a few of his ten books depicting the leadership, discipline that showed the love, worries, heartsick and heroic drama of this 2nd World War historical era. Come to future lunches to hear other entertaining speakers.

Reported by George Arsenault

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