Book Discussion with Author
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Thursday, March 14, 2013
701 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Naval Heritage Center
The early morning hours of July 6, 1943, found the USS Helena off the Solomon Islands in what would later be known as the Battle of Kula Gulf. But the ship’s participation in the battle came to a swift end when three Japanese torpedoes suddenly struck. One hundred and sixty-eight sailors went down with the ship, many never surviving the initial torpedo hits. As the last of the Helena disappeared below the ocean’s surface, the remaining crewmen’s struggle for survival had only just begun.
Sunk in Kula Gulf tells the epic story of the Helena’s survivors. Two destroyers plucked more than seven hundred from the sea in a night rescue operation as the battle continued to rage. A second group of eighty-eight sailors —clustered into three lifeboats—made it to a nearby island and was rescued the next day. A third group of survivors, spread over a wide area, was missed entirely. Clinging to life rafts or debris, the weary men were pushed away from the area of the sinking by a strong current. After enduring days at sea under the hot tropical sun, they finally found land. It was, however, the Japanese-held island of Vella Lavella and deep behind the front lines. The survivors organized and disappeared into the island’s interior jungle. Living a meager existence, the group evaded the Japanese for eight days until the Marines and U.S. Navy evacuated the shipwrecked sailors in a daring rescue operation.
Using a wide variety of sources, including previously unpublished firsthand accounts, John J. Domagalski brings to life this amazing, little-known story from World War II.
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