- Lucky Thirteen: D-Days in the Pacific with the U.S. Coast Guard in World War II
Ken Wiley was a seventeen-year-old kid from Itasca, Texas, when he enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1943. After basic training at the recently converted Ponce de Leon Hotel in St. Augustine, Florida, and Landing Craft School at Camp Lejuene, North Carolina, he spent the remainder of the war assigned to the Arthur Middleton (APA-25) as coxswain of LCVP 13, a "Higgins Boat" that he called "Lucky 13". Now in his eighties, he has written about the U.S. Coast Guard's role in World War II in the Pacific, from the perspective of a teenage boy.
This is much more, however, than just another World War II veteran's memoir. This is a well-written, easy to read, story of Coast Guard combat in the campaigns for the Marshall Islands, the Marianas, the Philippines, and Okinawa. The reader learns about what life was like for Coast Guardsmen serving in the Pacific Theater of World War II, as well as everything from beach combat and dangerous river expeditions to kamikazes, suicide boats, and kaitens. The text is illustrated with a number of photographs and also several live-action drawings by U.S. Coast Guard combat artist Ken Riley.
Seven months after Pearl Harbor, the Coast Guard—called upon for its knowledge of small boats—landed Marine assault troops and Navy Seabees on Guadalcanal and Tulagi in the Solomon Islands to establish an airfield. This operation marked the birth of the American amphibious force, in which Coast Guard coxswains played an integral part. History has labeled "D-Day" as 6 June 1944 in Normandy. In the Pacific Theater there were many D-Days and H-hours. LCVPs landed assault troops in more than one hundred invasions [End Page 1277] in the Pacific. These amphibious landings were among the many unheralded heroic acts during the war. Much has been written about the men going ashore but this book tells the story from the perspective of the Coast Guard coxswains driving those LCVPs. The author notes that "if a single weapon could be credited with winning the war," Dwight D. Eisenhower explained that it was the "Higgins Boat" (p. 3).
This book provides valuable information on an area of World War II known to so few. The story of the Attack Transports (APA), the LCVP, and the Coast Guard's participation in war needs to be widely told and Ken Wiley has made a significant contribution to that telling. This very-well written and organized account of D-Days in the Pacific with the U.S. Coast Guard in World War II should appeal to both scholars and the general public and should be in the library of every World War II and Coast Guard historian.
Palm Desert, California