With The Black Cat USS LCI Flotilla 13, by Robert F. Heath
When I agreed to give a speech for a group of World War II Navy vets shortly after Mother’s Day, the organizer of the event asked me if I wanted anything, and quite according to my usual form I asked if there were any books available to help explain the service rendered by these gentlemen the the war effort, as I expressed my own lack of knowledge as to the specific nature of their service. This was one of the two books I received, and in reading it I was reminded of some of my own studies of naval warfare in the Pacific and in logistics . Suffice it to say that in reading this book I became much more aware of the efforts of the veterans I will be speaking to, and also much more convinced that these people are precisely the sort of people I can appreciate given my own fondness for obscurity and logistics. This book even has some practical life lessons, such as the fact that one should always be very wary of a ship commander whose name is “Rammin’ Sam.” At least from this account, he earned his name–I wonder if he wrote his own side of the story, as this book is particularly fierce towards him, but I suppose that will be the subject of other investigations another day, perhaps.
The contents of this short book of 100 pages is basically a war memoir from a Californian gentleman who joined the navy and snuck in despite being color blind. The chapters of the book deal with the author’s move from student to sailor, the history of the Landing Craft Infantry (LCI) ship, training for action, a rehearsal in Guadalcanal, five chapters on the ship’s efforts in the Palaus in bombarding, delivering troops, tactical operations on Angaur, reducing resistance, patrolling and policing, the attack of a mine crew on the ship, the ship being towed to Pearl Harbor and fixed as preparations are made for the invasion of Japan, and then the end of the Pacific War and waiting to get home and get out of the military in the face of the United States’s staged demobilization, closed out by an “epilog” (sic) and bibliography. On these pages there are stories about Rammin’ Sam ramming ships, and then trying to paint his ship in bizarre forms of camouflage, about the boredom and scuttlebutt that one sees in the armed forces, hurrying up and waiting and dealing with long lapses in communication.
So, what kind of audience would appreciate this book? Well, this a book from a small independent press so it’s not expecting a large audience. But if you like thoughtful World War II memoirs about obscure aspects of service being in boats that delivered troops and equipment and supplies in amphibious warfare and supported bombardment of Japanese-held coasts, you will like this book. Are you a World War II veteran, or a veteran at all? Do you enjoy odd accounts of logistics? Then you will probably like this book. I have to give my appreciation that I was sent this enjoyably quirky book for free, because one of the things that makes life easier to deal with is enjoyably quirky books. I live a life of few pleasures, and most of those pleasures are somewhat odd–odd conversations, delightfully odd people, and odd books and music and art and culture. This book, in other words, is squarely in my wheelhouse, and a book that includes a picture of the motto of titular black cat flotilla itself, about a ship that had more than its share of bad luck, and that is written with such genuine human interest is a book that deserves all the praise that I can give to it, and probably a lot more.
 See, for example: