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Escape from Java (ePub)

The Extraordinary World War II Story of the USS Marblehead

Maritime > Naval Military WWII > Battles & Campaigns > Japan & the Pacific Front WWII > Naval Warfare WWII

By John J Domagalski
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
File Size: 3.6 MB (.epub)
ISBN: 9781526784421
Published: 30th March 2022


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The old light cruiser Marblehead was living out her final years of naval service as a member of the United States Asiatic Fleet in 1941. The small group of mostly antiquated ships based in the Philippines sailed the waters of East Asia to show the American flag in places like China, Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore. The sudden eruption of World War II in the Pacific put the warship on the front lines of the conflict as Imperial Japan unleased a series of devastating attacks across the region.

On the morning of February 4, 1942, the warship was surprised by Japanese planes northeast of Java. Two large bombs slammed into Marblehead causing fires, casualties, and knocking out her steering gear. A third bomb exploded close by underwater. The near miss ripped a large gash into her hull allowing a torrent of water to rush inside the ship.

Escape from Java takes the reader all throughout the ship as the story unfolds – next to gunners toiling to keep their guns firing, with medical staff tending to the wounded, and alongside damage control sailors working in flooded compartments. The damage was critical, so much so the Japanese radioed they had sunk the ship. In fact, through courage, sacrifice, and super-human effort, Marblehead would successfully make a harrowing 13,000 mile journey back to the US.

"Domagalski writes well. The text flows and is augmented by a photograph section showing Marblehead both at sea and under repairs, photos of the main characters, and several valuable maps which illustrate the combat theatre as well as Marblehead’s journey. Escape from Java is detailed enough that it will remain a good, brief, reference work on the early Pacific War as well as a good read about a stubborn, tough ship and its equally stubborn, tough, and courageous crew."

The Northern Mariner/Le marin du nord, Vol. 33, No. 2 (Summer/Été 2023) - the Canadian Nautical Research Society

Wardrooms and chiefs’ messes would enjoy reading and discussing this book, as it holds both historical and contemporary significance.

Sailors need exposure to their heroic Navy forebears who overcame great adversities in the early days of the Pacific War. Given the importance of the Seventh Fleet in today’s context, this book also provides an excellent overview of the nations of Southeast Asia and Oceania, with insight into their geopolitical histories, resources, and cultures.

Naval War College Review

Domagalski chose his subject matter well. He is to be commended for bringing the Marblehead back to life.

Read full review here

Naval History

"This work emphasizes the impact of land-based air
power affecting naval operations. It is recommended for
anyone interested in the early days of World War II in the
southwest Pacific, the challenges of coalition warfare, or both."

Air & Space Power History, Autumn 2022

...paints an engrossing tale of an obsolescent ship’s survival amid great odds set against the brutal early fighting of the Pacific War. This book will appeal to a wide audience not only as high wartime adventure but simply as a story of gritty perseverance when the odds are heavily against.

The Naval Historical Foundation, July 2022

"All in all, Escape from Java is a must summer read."


The book is well illustrated on glossy paper running to 256 pages with a good index ,bibliography and comprehensive end notes. JJ Domagalaski has produced a detailed work to appeal to naval historians and the generalist reader, This follows several other naval works and the experience shows in his competent and thorough writing.

Read the full review here

ARRSE (Army Rumour Service)

A fascinating account of the amazing last days of USS Marblehead....

Books Monthly

The USS Marblehead was an old four funnel light cruiser, based in the Philippines, with equally antiquated ships,
which formed the United States Asiatic Fleet. In his well-researched book, the author, John J Domagalski, describes
the air-raid, which caught the ship in the open seas off the coast of Java in February 1942. Badly damaged, with water rushing in, the author tells the story of individual members of the crew desperate attempts to keep the ship afloat.
While docked in Java for repairs, the wounded were put ashore. When the Marblehead sailed, the casualties remained in Java with the ships doctor. The story of their escape is worthy of telling as a separate story. Pursued by the Japanese, the ship's doctor brought casualties to Tjilatjap, a seaport packed with Dutch, British, and American servicemen searching for berths to Australia. The ships doctor thumbed a lift for wounded, with a British Artillery (Welsh) battery from Chester, to Tjillatjap: where the doctor broke-up his party, finding berths on various ships including a submarine.

Having been reported sunk, the ship's escape took her across the Indian and Atlantic Oceans to New York. A thrilling story, well researched book with end notes. A page turner.

Richard Gough - Historian, writer, author of the Escape from Singapore, The jungle was Red, Outpost of the Empire, SOE Singapore 1941-42. Waiting publication Tony Poe, CIA Paramilitary in SE Asia.

About John J Domagalski

John J. Domagalski (www.pacificwarauthor.com) is the author of several books about World War II in the Pacific. Under a Blood Red Sun: The Remarkable Story of PT Boats in the Philippines and the Rescue of General MacArthur tells the story a group of American sailors trapped in the Philippines during the early days of the Pacific War. Into the Dark Water: The Story of Three Officers and PT-109  uses the stories of three young naval officers to tell the World War II saga of the warship made famous by John F. Kennedy.
His fascination with history began at a young age by building model ships and reading books about World War II. The interest eventually grew into research and writing. He has interviewed dozens of World War II veterans. Domagalski is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and lives near Chicago.

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