Do Not Thou Forget Me, by S. Richard Goss

(Todd-Perkins Publishing, 2002; 379 pp., $16.95 ­ ISBN 097185811X).

The author, the former Lt. [jg] Samuel R. Goss, USNR, stated that the book was written both as a personal memoir and as “…a glimpse into the lives of young men who answered the call of their country in the darkest hours of the mid-twentieth century.” He has succeeded in both.

Initially, I planned to give this book a detailed skim; however, after page nine, I realized that I had to go back to page one and settle in for a detailed read. His choice of the title, taken from Sir Jacob Astley’s battle prayer, “Oh Lord! Thou knowest how busy I must be this day. If I forget Thee, do not Thou forget me,” was most appropriate.

The author’s description of his early Naval Reserve training and his overview of how the V-12 Program converted midshipmen into commissioned officers gives the reader a picture of how a young man is transformed from a self-involved boy to a responsible adult. He then follows this with good word pictures on how a raw deck officer is transformed into a trained seaman and the commander of a landing craft under fire.

Along with the author’s descriptions on learning seamanship and on bringing in landing craft under the murderous fire of Iwo Jima and Okinawa invasions he also finds time to share some wartime anecdotes. The reader will enjoy the antics of a Chief Bo’sun who has his own personal jeep aboard ship and of bringing aboard and reporting to the OOD that he has a case of whiskey for the crew. Also, about a message from Admiral Nimitz to Admiral Halsey at Leyte and the shipboard antics that occur when crossing the Equator.

In addition to the grizzly details of landing troops, equipment and supplies on an invasion beach under fire, the author covers the activities of the medical contingent onboard, from life-threatening surgery to battle fatigue. His description of the use of the wardroom as an emergency surgery and the cutting of an opening in the bulkhead of the wardroom to permit bringing wounded troops directly from the landing craft into the impromptu surgery to avoid carrying them up several decks by stretcher is an example of combat ingenuity. He also offers an excerpt from the Iwo Jima invasion medical history that givers the reader an awful insight into the horrors of a Marine island invasion.

The author presents an interesting sidelight into the infighting between Army and Navy contingents of the Pacific war with the fact that General MacArthur refused to release naval resources from his “I Shall Return” Philippine campaign in time for the scheduled Iwo Jima invasion. By delaying one month, the Japanese had sufficient time to complete their defenses and drastically increase Marine casualties.

The author tells about two personal experiences he had with airplanes and submarines while waiting for the Bikini tests. He decided to take flying lessons and on his first solo flight the Good Lord was his copilot as he should have crashed twice. Although he did get aboard a submarine for a day he missed submerging, which I can tell him from personal experience is something distinctly unique.

The author offers many interesting insights into other events, such as Operation Magic Carpet and how it impacted the combat potential of the armed services; the Bikini test fiasco and how the military attempted to “spin” it as a success; and the planned invasion of Japan, with lists of anticipated lost and maimed lives, ships and aircraft.

Adding to all this are the pictures, communiqués, plans of the day, maps and poems that add to the realism of events and make the book such an interesting read.

Only two minor negative thoughts about the book: many events are repeated within and across chapters; and several sarcastic-like remarks about Operation Magic Carpet, with statements about “…the mothers of America crying for their sons to return.” Although true, they detract from the good reading experience.

The author achieved his planned goal and in doing so has given us an enjoyable reading experience.