The Lady Gangster is a quick and fascinating read. Del Staecker does an excellent job framing the story of his father's service aboard an armed transport ship during the Second World War. Officially named the USS Fuller, the ship is better known by her apt nickname, Lady Gangster, a name christened by her crew, made up almost entirely of fellow Chicagoans.
In addition to being an accounting of his father's service, Lady Gangster is also a heartwarming story of a rapprochement between father and son. A long road trip and a broken radio result in hours of conversation and an outpouring of memories. For the first time, the young son listens to his father's vivid and detailed recounting of his harrowing experiences serving with the Navy in the Pacific Theater. Through his writing, Staecker transports the reader from inside that car where he listens intently to his father's story, to the various locations were his father served. Staecker intersperses his father's reminiscences with just the right amount of family background, comments, clarifications and explanations of wartime history to keep the reader up-to-speed with the historical setting and maritime terminology.
The book is well written and includes useful maps, which help orient the reader to the action and keep up with the unbelievably savage fighting and island-hopping through places with names like Guadalcanal, Tinian, "the Slot," Saipan, and Okinawa. The book also includes several photographs that help personalize the story and make the action that much more realistic.
With dignity and grace, Staecker pays homage to both his father's unheralded service during the war and the equally unheralded service of a proud and effective ship, along with her officers and crew. Well done!
Reviewed by: John Cathcart (2009)
The true story of WWII's most amazing ship and her unique crew of 327 reservists from Chicago.
In a seamless blend of oral history, narrative, biography, autobiography, journal entries, ships logs, action reports, newspaper articles, illustrations, photos, and even two poems - the Lady Gangster's tale explains how the "Chicago Boys" transformed from raw naval recruits into veteran "Salts."
From the North Atlantic through nine invasions in the Pacific the crew of the USS Fuller heroically earned for their Lady the title of "Queen of Attack Transports."