The Castaway's War

One Man's Battle against Imperial Japan


By Stephen Harding

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Shipwrecked on a South Pacific island, a young US Navy lieutenant waged a one-man war against the Japanese

In the early hours of July 5, 1943, the destroyer USS Strong was hit by a Japanese torpedo. The powerful weapon broke the destroyer’s back, killed dozens of sailors, and sparked raging fires. While accompanying ships were able to take off most of Strong’s surviving crewmembers, scores went into the ocean as the once-proud warship sank beneath the waves–and a young officer’s harrowing story of survival began.

Lieutenant Hugh Barr Miller, a pre-war football star at the University of Alabama, went into the water as the vessel sank. Severely injured, Miller and several others survived three days at sea and eventually landed on a Japanese-occupied island. The survivors found fresh water and a few coconuts, but Miller, suffering from internal injuries and believing he was on the verge of death, ordered the others to go on without him. They reluctantly did do, believing, as Miller did, that he would be dead within hours.

But Miller didn’t die, and his health improved enough for him to begin searching for food. He also found the enemy–Japanese forces patrolling the island. Miller was determined to survive, and so launched a one-man war against the island’s occupiers.

Based on official American and Japanese histories, personal memoirs, and the author’s exclusive interviews with many of the story’s key participants, The Castaway’s War is a rousing story of naval combat, bravery, and determination.




AS WITH MANY OF THE YOUNG MEN OF HIS GENERATION WHO EVENTUALLY went in harm’s way aboard ships of the U.S. Navy, Hugh Barr Miller Jr. spent most of his early life far from the sea.1

Born on January 19, 1910, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, he was the second son of Hugh Barr Miller and Bertha (Lewis) Miller, both of whom came from families long considered part of the “southern aristocracy.” Hugh’s paternal grandfather, Robert N. Miller, was a well-known lawyer, district attorney, and onetime president of the Mississippi Bar Association. He also owned a plantation in Center Point, some eight miles outside Hazlehurst in Mississippi’s Copiah County. Robert’s son, the first Hugh Barr Miller, was born on January 7, 1879, in Hazlehurst. The young man grew up with all the benefits his well-to-do parents could provide, though his formal education was leavened by plenty of time spent in the outdoors, riding, camping, and prowling the plantation’s extensive grounds with fishing rod and shotgun.

The first Hugh Miller—known to the family as H. B.—graduated from the University of Mississippi’s School of Law in 1903 and initially joined his father’s practice in Hazlehurst. He eventually hung out his own shingle and also entered state politics, representing Copiah County for several terms in the Mississippi Legislature.

Within weeks of his graduation from law school, H. B. also got married, a union of two fine old aristocratic southern families. His bride was the former Bertha Boykin Lewis, born in Tuscaloosa in 1878. The new Mrs. Miller was one of seven daughters of Colonel Burwell Lewis, a Confederate veteran of the Civil War, a postwar member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and from 1880 to 1885 the president of the University of Alabama as well as a professor of constitutional and international law. Bertha spent her early years in the president’s mansion at the school, a building the Lewis family considered something of an ancestral seat.

Bertha’s maternal grandfather, Dr. Landon C. Garland, had been president of the university before and during the Civil War. Following her father’s death in 1885, Bertha went to live with her grandparents in Nashville, Tennessee, where Dr. Garland was now chancellor of Vanderbilt University. Upon reaching eighteen, she returned to Tuscaloosa and enrolled in the university, graduating with an AB degree in art—an accomplishment that years later she would follow with a master’s degree in the same subject from Columbia University. How and when she met H. B. is unclear, but the young people obviously hit it off and became engaged in 1902. After the wedding the following year, they settled in Hazlehurst, where H. B. went back to his father’s law firm and Bertha set about creating a home. Their first son, Robert Burwell Miller, was born in 1905, followed by Hugh Jr.—as he was always referred to by his immediate family—five years later.

ROBERT AND HUGH JR. BOTH GREW UP ON THE CENTER POINT plantation, and, not surprisingly, their father ensured that the boys’ formal schooling was supplemented by the same sorts of outdoor activities that he had enjoyed as a young man. H. B. introduced Robert and Hugh Jr. to firearms at a relatively early age, schooling them in gun safety with unloaded weapons until he was sure they could handle the shotguns and hunting rifles responsibly. He then went on to teach them the secrets of successful wing shooting—being able to lead a fast-flying duck or quail accurately enough to bring it down before it sped out of range—and how to take a deer with a single well-placed shot from a high-powered rifle.

As keen as H. B. was to introduce his sons to the “manly pursuits” of nature, his very busy professional life meant that most of the boys’ outdoors education was undertaken by a trusted and respected family retainer, an elderly black farmhand named James Michael. Uncle Jim, as he was known, was a tall and courtly man with a crown of white hair. While he had helped introduce Robert to hunting and fishing, it was Hugh Jr. who received the full benefit of his deep knowledge of, and experience in, the great outdoors. The classroom in which Uncle Jim schooled H. B.’s second son was the acres of dense, swampy woodland that made up much of the Center Point plantation.

Young Hugh’s informal education began at eight years old, when his parents gave their permission for Uncle Jim to take the boy into the great outdoors.2 The curriculum was nothing if not comprehensive, for Hugh learned to distinguish the various sounds of the forest, how to track, how to move silently, and how to make himself completely at home in the outdoors.

Uncle Jim’s lessons were taught during frequent woodland forays, many of which started right after school on Friday. Despite the occasional misadventure, the time Hugh spent in the woods with Uncle Jim taught the boy, as he later remembered, “everything there was to know about the woods, and how to get along in them.”3 They were lessons that years later would literally save his life.

A CHILDHOOD SPENT RIDING, CAMPING, HUNTING, AND DOING THE strenuous and “character-building” chores his parents assigned to him ensured that Hugh Miller grew into a sturdy and self-reliant teenager. By the time he reached fourteen, he was sinewy and athletic, and during his four high school years he played on each of the institution’s organized sports teams. Hugh’s first love was football. At first glance, it seems an odd choice, for he never topped five foot seven and until well into middle age rarely weighed more than 140 pounds. But he excelled as a placekicker—he set several school records that stood well into the 1950s—and could hold his own as a running back.

Football became a key aspect of Hugh’s college years. When in September 1928 he entered the University of Alabama, he immediately tried out for the “Crimson Tide,” the school’s highly regarded team. He was initially assigned to the seventh string, but through determination and because of his capabilities as both a running back and a placekicker he made the varsity squad before the end of his freshman year. It was at that point that Hugh came under the tutelage of Wallace Wade, Alabama’s head football coach and a man who was to have a profound and lifelong influence on Hugh.

Himself a college football star, at Alabama Wade turned what had been a relatively mediocre team into a football powerhouse. That metamorphosis was revealed to the nation as a whole on January 1, 1926, when Alabama went to the Rose Bowl for the first time and beat the vaunted and overwhelmingly favored University of Washington Huskies 20–19. The upset victory in Pasadena—gained in large part through two scoring runs and a spectacular and game-saving last-minute tackle by halfback Johnny Mack Brown—gave Alabama its first national title and helped bring southern teams into the mainstream of American college football.4

The Crimson Tide’s transformation into a football force to be reckoned with was almost entirely the result of Wade’s rigorous and uncompromising coaching style. He was a perfectionist, and he demanded that his players take the game as seriously as he did. Wade enforced an almost military discipline that required his players to give their maximum effort at all times. Hugh Miller later recalled the famed coach as “a terrific task master, a hard driver who had only the sharpest sarcasm for complainers, whiners [and] loafers.”5

But the real secret to Wade’s coaching success was his ability to motivate his players. Even as he was driving them hard, asking the most from each and every man on the team, he was imbuing them with an indomitable spirit built on both a belief in their own abilities and the conviction that they could accomplish anything they set out to do. He was firmly convinced that a man who would not be defeated could not be defeated, and he passed that conviction on to the young men he coached. It was a mantra that held special meaning for Hugh, whose single-minded determination to excel as a running back despite his stature quickly caught Wade’s attention. The older man took a special interest in Hugh, sharpening his already considerable skills as a placekicker and turning him into a ruthlessly efficient tackler—though, as Hugh later jokingly recalled, Wade “damn near killed me in the process.”6

The training and motivation paid off, for in 1930 the Tide was invited to return to the Rose Bowl. The game, played on January 1, 1931, against the Washington State Cougars, was Wade’s last for Alabama—he had already accepted an offer to become head coach at Duke University in North Carolina and would leave at the end of the 1930 season. The looming departure of their coach did nothing to dampen the determination of the Tide players, however, for soon after they took to the rain-dampened field before some seventy thousand spectators in Pasadena they began what would ultimately become an unstoppable assault on the clearly overwhelmed Cougars. With Hugh participating in several plays as a guard, Alabama dominated Washington 24–0.7

The Rose Bowl game was not just Wade’s last hurrah for the University of Alabama but also Hugh’s final game. As dedicated as the young man was to football, he also had other interests. On the one hand, he was a full-time student, and to achieve the grades both he and his family expected him to meant that he had to make a choice—his studies or the game he loved. Given his family’s history, social standing, and tradition of public service, it was perhaps inevitable that he would choose the books over the gridiron.

But there was also another distraction in Hugh’s life. Soon after starting at Alabama, he’d met Anne Elizabeth Gayden, the well-to-do daughter of an eminent Mississippi physician, Dr. Hugh Dixon Gayden, who had died in France while serving in the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I. Anne had been raised by her mother, Anne McComb Gayden, in Leland, Mississippi, and despite the tragic loss of her husband the widow had ensured that her daughter grew up as a proper southern belle.

That was exactly the sort of woman Hugh’s upbringing had taught him to seek as a prospective mate, and what apparently began as a casual acquaintance following a chance meeting in class soon blossomed into something much more. The two were married in a lavish Tuscaloosa ceremony on November 29, 1930, after which they set up housekeeping in a small off-campus apartment. With the help of twenty-year-old Hugh’s parents, the couple was able to pay eighteen-year-old Anne’s train fare from Alabama to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl game, and she cheered from the stands as the Crimson Tide rolled to victory.8

Having ended his college football career on a high note, Hugh devoted himself to both his studies and his young bride. Hugh received his AB degree in May 1931 and graduated from the University of Alabama’s College of Law two years later. He and a now-pregnant Anne moved to Greenville, Mississippi—near where the young woman had grown up and where her mother still lived—where Hugh had been offered a position as an associate attorney with the prestigious law firm Percy & Farish.9 The young couple had hardly settled into their new surroundings when their son, Hugh Barr Miller III, was born on August 20, 1933.

During Hugh’s first year at Percy & Farish, the former football star displayed the same determination he’d shown on the field, putting his full effort and attention into even the most mundane assignments. His attitude and work ethic helped him move up the office pecking order, and by 1935 he’d amply demonstrated his skills as a litigator.

In the decade following his graduation from law school, Hugh’s legal career seems to have moved from success to success, but the same period unfortunately saw a marked decline in the state of his marriage. He and Anne drifted steadily apart, and in August 1940 they officially separated. Hugh moved to Gainesville, Florida, and found a position with one of the city’s law firms. At some point after his arrival in the city, he met and began a relationship with Frances Lee Nipper, a young woman eight years his junior.

Born in Alabama on November 13, 1918, Frances was the oldest of six children of Cicero and Emma (Southerland) Nipper and moved with her family to Gainesville soon after her birth. By all accounts a responsible, caring, and attractive young woman, Frances obviously captivated Hugh, who asked her to marry him when that became possible. On August 28, 1941, Anne filed for divorce in Greenville, seeking both alimony and permanent custody of their now eight-year-old son. Hugh did not contest the action and agreed in full to Anne’s requests, and the final decree of divorce was granted by the Washington County, Mississippi, Chancery Court on October 7, 1941.10 Just over a month later, on November 27, Hugh and Frances were married in Key West—where Hugh had started a new job barely a month before.

Hugh Barr Miller, former attorney, was now Ensign H. B. Miller, U.S. Naval Reserve.

BY THE TIME HUGH AND ANNE DECIDED TO GO THEIR SEPARATE ways in the summer of 1940, war had been raging in Europe for almost a year. Like many of his fellow citizens, Hugh was convinced, as he later recalled, that the United States was already “unofficially in the war and would get into it officially at any time.”11 President Franklin Roosevelt’s September 1940 signing into law of the Selective Service and Training Act made it clear that Hugh—like millions of the country’s other able-bodied men—could look forward to being drafted into military service sooner rather than later. While Hugh was a patriotic and proud American who wanted to do his part in what was obviously soon to be a national war effort, he didn’t particularly relish the idea of ending up as an infantryman. He therefore began exploring other possibilities, and his research led him to the Navy.

As America geared up for war, all of the military services were in desperate need of officers. This need was particularly pressing for the Navy, given that its existing officer corps was already being stretched thin and the traditional source for new commissioned officers—the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland—graduated fewer than one thousand new ensigns a year.12 Moreover, the Navy’s college-based Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC)—authorized by Congress in 1925—had developed slowly and by December 1939 was active on only nine campuses. To a greater extent than the Army, the Navy required officers with advanced skills—individuals with college degrees and professional expertise in engineering, in particular, but also in medicine, science, and law. One way to procure qualified persons was to provide for the direct commissioning of university graduates into the Naval Reserve, and after the September 1939 outbreak of war in Europe what had previously been a fairly low-key program was so inundated with applications from young college men around the country that boxes overflowing with the completed forms were stacked in the halls of the Navy’s Bureau of Personnel (BuPers) by the thousands.13

Hugh’s first step in obtaining a direct commission into the Naval Reserve was to apply through the commandant of the Seventh Naval District in Gainesville. In his cover letter, dated June 23, 1941, he called attention to both his sports background and his legal training as foundations for his leadership abilities.14 Attached to Hugh’s application were letters of recommendation, the most impressive—and prescient—of which came from Wallace Wade, who closed his very positive character reference by saying that Hugh was a young man with “plenty of fortitude” who could “take care of himself in any circumstances.” The commandant of the Seventh Naval District was apparently appropriately impressed by Hugh’s qualifications, for he forwarded the application to Washington with his recommendation that it be approved.

The packet of forms was obviously not one of those that ended up stacked in an endless corridor at BuPers, for Hugh’s application was received, reviewed, and approved in less than ninety days. Hugh was notified of his acceptance in mid-September, and on the twenty-ninth he was commissioned in a brief ceremony in Miami, his wife at his side. The man born far from the sea was now officially an officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve.15

In his initial application for a commission, Hugh had said he didn’t care where he was stationed, but it must have come as a pleasant surprise that his initial duty station was in Florida. After taking a few weeks to settle his business affairs, Hugh reported to Key West in mid-October to take up his new position as an aide to Captain Russell S. Crenshaw, assistant commandant of the Seventh Naval District. The long-serving and very well-respected officer proved to be an ideal mentor for Hugh. Crenshaw took the younger officer under his wing, introducing him to the Navy way of doing things and providing a master class in the subtleties of command. In return, Hugh brought his professional expertise to bear, advising Crenshaw on legal questions concerning the Navy’s expansion of its facilities in and around Key West.

The workload for both Hugh and his superior increased dramatically following Japan’s December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor and other military facilities on Oahu. On February 1, 1942, the headquarters of the commandant of the Seventh Naval District was moved from the Charleston, South Carolina, Navy Yard to Key West, and Crenshaw was elevated from assistant to acting district commandant. Days later, Crenshaw was tapped to also command the Gulf Sea Frontier, the Key West–based organization created to patrol the waters off Florida, the Gulf Coast states, the Bahamas, and Cuba.

The threat of enemy activity within the Gulf Sea Frontier’s area of responsibility was very real. German submarines had been active off the East Coast of the United States even before Pearl Harbor and had damaged several American merchant vessels and in October 1941 sank the destroyer USS Reuben James as it was escorting a Britain-bound convoy. America’s December 8 declaration of war against the Axis resulted in the arrival off Florida of several German and Italian submarines, and on February 19, 1942, the tanker Pan Massachusetts had the dubious distinction of being the first U.S.-flagged vessel to be sunk by enemy action in the Gulf Sea Frontier when it was torpedoed by U-128 off Cape Canaveral. Four days later, the sub sank the tanker Cities Service Empire thirty miles east of Cocoa Beach, almost at the same time U-504 was sinking another tanker, the Republic, some eighty miles to the southeast.16

While Hugh later recalled his time in Key West as interesting and personally rewarding, America’s entry into the war and the string of enemy submarine attacks that followed within sight of the Florida coast convinced him that he wanted to take a more active role in the conflict. He put in his first request for sea duty within days of Pearl Harbor, seeking assignment to a destroyer because he’d spent one or two days at sea aboard the World War I–era training vessels home-ported in Key West. That request—and the several that followed it—was denied because Hugh had never had any sort of training that would qualify him for a sea billet and, as one senior officer commented, there wasn’t much need for lawyers on destroyers. Hugh’s quest to “get into the fight” seemed to be going nowhere fast when, sometime in the early spring of 1942, a chance meeting with a senior officer set in motion a chain of events that would ultimately help “the lawyer” go to sea.

Boston-born Lieutenant Commander Joseph H. Wellings, known to friends and family as Gus, had enjoyed an interesting and varied career since graduating from the Naval Academy in 1925. He’d spent time afloat on the battleships Utah, Florida, and California and the destroyers King and Tillman; was a Navy ROTC instructor at Harvard for two years; and had served as aide and flag lieutenant to Vice Admiral William D. Leahy. From July 1940 to June 1941, he had been an assistant naval attaché at the U.S. Embassy in London, tasked with studying the Royal Navy’s fleet operations and tactics. Following his return to the United States, Wellings was temporarily assigned to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations to help develop doctrine for antisubmarine operations. It was in this role that he visited Key West—home to, among other commands, the Navy’s Fleet Sonar School—in the spring of 1942.17

During the several days that Wellings spent in Key West, he called on Crenshaw, commander of the Gulf Sea Frontier, and was at some point introduced to Hugh. In the course of conversation, Wellings mentioned to the younger officer that the antisubmarine doctrine assignment was only temporary; in June Wellings was scheduled to take command of a Fletcher-class destroyer then under construction at Maine’s Bath Iron Works (BIW). Seeing a chance to get himself to sea despite his lack of formal naval training, Hugh told Wellings of his predicament and asked if there was any way he might join the crew of the new vessel. He promised he would do whatever it might take to turn himself into a qualified shipboard officer and was apparently quite convincing, for Wellings agreed to ask BuPers to transfer Hugh to the crew then forming in Maine. As Hugh himself later recalled, he and Wellings “had a terrible time” convincing BuPers to authorize the transfer, though the two officers—with an additional endorsement by Crenshaw—finally succeeded through “sheer persistency.”18 In late April Hugh received orders assigning him to Bath Iron Works as part of the precommissioning crew of DD-467, the soon-to-be-launched USS Strong.

Hugh’s orders directed him to report to his new duty station no later than May 1, but authorized him several days of “leave en route.” After wrapping up a few loose ends in Key West, he and Frances drove first to Gainesville for a brief reunion with her mother and sisters and then headed to Hazlehurst to see Hugh’s family. After that, he and Frances made the fourteen-hundred-mile railway journey from southwestern Mississippi to the coast of central Maine; they had decided that she would accompany him and stay in Bath until the ship was ready for sea. At that point, the young Mrs. Miller would head south, to stay either with her mother or with Hugh’s.

For Hugh, at least, some of the sadness of the imminent parting eased on May 1. Having signed in at the temporary building that served as the administration office for Navy personnel assigned to the Bath shipyard, he walked the several hundred yards to the slipways that fed into the tidal waters of the swift-flowing Kennebec River. There, impossibly elegant of line despite being high and dry, sat the vessel that would carry him to war and—though he didn’t yet know it—launch him on the most challenging and dangerous adventure of his young life.



THE VESSEL THAT WOULD EVENTUALLY CARRY HUGH MILLER TO THE SOUTH Pacific bore the Bath Iron Works hull number 193, and its construction had been officially authorized some twenty-two months before the young officer’s first sight of it.

On July 1, 1940, William S. “Pete” Newell, president of BIW—as the Maine firm was universally referred to in shipbuilding circles—had traveled to Washington, D.C., to sign a contract his company had worked diligently to obtain. The agreement covered the construction of six 2,100-ton Fletcher-class destroyers and had a value of nearly $41 million.1 BIW was more than qualified to produce the new vessels; the company had been building ships on the Kennebec River since the 1880s and had launched a World War I battleship, Coast Guard cutters, and a variety of yachts, passenger steamers, freighters, and other commercial vessels. More important, beginning in 1909 the company had built several varieties of destroyer for the Navy, and even as Newell entrained for Washington in that eventful summer of 1940 BIW was already constructing examples of the 1,630-ton Gleaves class.

BIW was one of the smallest of only six private shipbuilding companies to have survived the Great Depression, and it stood to lose orders to the larger concerns as the Navy geared up for war.2 As early as 1937 Newell had begun the expansion process, and in the early summer of 1940—before the signing of the Fletcher-class contract—the U.S. government stepped in to help. A telegram from Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox informed Newell that Congress had authorized the reimbursement of private companies for funds spent to enlarge facilities vital to the national defense. Knox directed Newell to “take immediate steps to expand your facilities with the view to greatly enlarged shipbuilding program.” And, to underscore the urgency of that program, Knox pointed out that “speed is of the essence.”3

Newell’s foresight in acquiring lands adjacent to the existing shipyard and beginning the construction of new facilities—including additional slipways, matériel storage yards, and a steel fabrication plant4—was quickly vindicated. The expansion gave BIW the ability to have eight vessels under construction at the same time and allowed the firm to begin work on the Fletcher-class destroyers well before most of the other private and Navy-owned yards that ultimately received contracts.5 The keels of the first two ships, BIW hull numbers 190 and 191—the future USS Nicholas and USS O’Bannon—were laid on adjoining slipways on March 3, 1941. The second pair, Chevalier and Strong, was started—also on adjacent slipways—on April 30 and the final ships of the initial order, Taylor and De Haven, in August and September, respectively. The six destroyers were the first of an eventual 31 BIW-built Fletchers, the largest number constructed by any of the eleven private and government-owned shipyards that ultimately produced the 175 ships of the class.

While BIW was ahead of the game in terms of being able to start construction of its Fletcher


  • “In The Castaway's War, noted author Stephen Harding brings to life an epic tale of one man triumphing over the elements, fear, privation, and the Japanese. In stirring prose, Harding relates the saga of naval Lieutenant Hugh Barr Miller, a World War II Robinson Crusoe whose amazing exploits while stranded on a Japanese-controlled island seem ripped from fiction. His tale, ably brought to life through Harding's skillful prose, shines as an example of what one person can achieve.”—John Wukovits, author of Hell from the Heavens and For Crew and Country

    Kirkus Reviews, 3/1/16
    “A suspenseful recounting of the torpedoing of the USS Strong in the South Pacific in July 1943 and one soldier's subsequent eluding of capture on the Japanese-held Solomon Islands. An author who knows how to tell an exciting war story…Harding builds the suspense with intricate detail—and refreshingly, without, phony dialogue…An amazing journey through adversity and desperation.”
  • “Stephen Harding has done it again! He has somehow found a truly extraordinary story from World War II that has all the elements of a Hollywood thriller or adventure movie, and yet is true in every regard. We're all familiar with the stories of sole Japanese who stayed in obscure island jungles fighting on after the peace, but here is its exact mirror image: an American who fought on during wartime on an island from which he had no hope of escape. Unbroken meets The Sands of Iwo Jima.”—Andrew Roberts, author of Napoleon and The Storm of War

    “Stephen Harding pulls back the jungle canopy on Arundel Island to uncover a riveting story of courage and resilience from World War II. The Castaway's War weaves together meticulous research and gripping storytelling to bring alive a story that transcends the war. At its heart, this is a book about finding the inner strength to battle on.”—Brian Murphy, author of 81 Days below Zero
  • Advance praise for The Castaway's War

    “Stephen Harding is the best kind of war historian: clear, fact-based, precise, careful to avoid hype and tall tales—but also sensitive to the intensely human drama of men struggling to maintain their existence and sanity—and even dignity—under the most dire and extreme circumstances. In Lieutenant Hugh Barr Miller, Harding has found a character for the ages and told a gripping story of survival and quiet heroism.”—Evan Thomas, author of John Paul Jones and Sea of Thunder

    “Stephen Harding is an extraordinary historian, has somehow found a virtually unknown story about World War II, then told that story with such detail and precision that it comes alive—and is impossible to put down. The Castaway's War reads like a thriller, proving again that true history has a punch that few novelists ever achieve.”—Alan Furst, bestselling author of Dark Star and Night Soldiers
  • InfoDad blog, 6/2/16
    The Castaway's War is a sort of Robinson Crusoe tale with espionage and bullets.”

    Collected Miscellany, 6/20/16
    “Harding brings the story to life with his excellent prose.”

    Masculine Books, 6/29/16
    “[An] informative book…Harding does history a service by doing a tremendous amount of research to unveil this tale for today's readers…He is clearly a scholar who digs deep when learning about a subject…Gripping…Provides vivid accounts of battle…It really captures what it was like to stare death in the face day after day…If you're a fan of military history, then you must add this book to your collection.”

    World War II Magazine, September/October 2016
    “Exhaustively researched, scrupulously footnoted, and carefully written…Gripping.”

    Washington Independent Review of Books, 8/9/16
    “A heart-pounding history of tragedy at sea…From the first chapter, Harding's extensive knowledge of ships and navy life materializes in detailed descriptions sure to trigger memories for veterans or engage an eager hobbyist…A pulse-pounding tribute to a highly decorated veteran whose story has finally been told for a wider audience.”
  • San Antonio Express-News, 3/13/16
    “A fascinating account of a sailor's determination to survive in the face of wartime adversity…A captivating look into one man's will to not only live, but to also deliver critical information regarding enemy movement in the area…The book grabs the reader in a stronghold…Harding, a journalist specializing in military affairs, has transformed himself into a master storyteller who has given World War II readers a book they will find difficult to put down until the final page.”

    Booklist, 5/1/16
    “Harding, an experienced author of military history, balances detail with content…A superb work with interesting historical propinquity.”

    New York Journal of Books, 5/2/16
    “Although this is an essentially obscure World War II event, it needs telling, if for no other reason than to demonstrate to the generations that have followed that of the ‘greatest' the sacrifices were made by those who survived as well as those who paid the ultimate price…All of their stories need to be told, and this is one that needs to be read.”

    Portland Book Review, 5/17/16
    “The story is well told with a structure that allows easy understanding of the events leading to the episode as well as what followed. It allows one to appreciate what Lt. Miller experienced and how he sustained himself.”
  • "Hugh Barr Miller's genuine heroism, combined with Stephen Harding's easily readable style, make this a first-class war story."
    Internet Review of Books

On Sale
May 3, 2016
Page Count
320 pages
Da Capo Press

Stephen Harding

About the Author

Stephen Harding is the author of nine books, including the New York Times bestseller The Last Battle, which is in production as a major motion picture, and The Castaway's War, optioned as a major motion picture. He is currently the editor-in-chief of Military History magazine and lives in Northern Virginia.

Learn more about this author