cover image

In the Highest Degree Tragic

The Sacrifice of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet in the East Indies during World War II

Donald M. Kehn

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Imprint: Potomac Books
Published: 08/2017
Pages: 680
Subject: History
eBook ISBN: 9781612349183


In the Highest Degree Tragic tells the heroic story of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet's sacrifice defending the Dutch East Indies from the Japanese in the first three months of the Pacific War. Donald M. Kehn Jr.'s comprehensive narrative history of the operations involving multiple ships and thousands of men dramatically depicts the chaotic nature of these battles. His research has uncovered evidence of  communications failures, vessels sinking hundreds of miles from where they had been reported lost, and entire complements of men simply disappearing off the face of the earth. Kehn notes that much of the fleet went down with guns blazing and flag flying, highlighting, where many others have failed to do so, the political and strategic reasons for the fleet's deployment to the region in the first place. In the Highest Degree Tragic rectifies the historical record, showcasing how brave yet all-too-human sailors and officers carried out their harrowing tasks. Containing rare first-person accounts and anecdotes, from the highest command echelons down to the lowest enlisted personnel, Kehn's book is the most comprehensive and exhaustive study to date of this important part of American involvement in World War II.    


Donald M. Kehn Jr. is the official historian for the USS Houston (CA-30) Survivors Association and the official historian of the Naval Order of the United States, Texas Commandery. He is the author of A Blue Sea of Blood: Deciphering the Mysterious Fate of the USS "Edsall."   


"Unsurpassed in its detailed, participant-based coverage of the ill-fated efforts of the Asiatic Fleet and its Dutch, British, and Australian allies to counter the Japanese attempt to seize Java, this vivid account stands as the authoritative work on the subject."—William H. Bartsch, author of Every Day a Nightmare: American Pursuit Pilots in the Defense of Java, 1941–1942  

"Don Kehn has produced here a first-rate history of an oft-neglected yet critical phase of that conflict. Kehn captures it vividly, drawing adroitly from both Western and Japanese sources. Excellent!"—Jonathan Parshall, coauthor of Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway