Edge of Valor by John Gobbell

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MWSA Review
The story begins on 9 August 1945, a date marking the end of the Japanese Empire and the end of WWII. USS Maxwell (DD 525), flagship of Destroyer Squadron 77 is part of a group of cruisers and destroyers protecting the battleship Iowa, which, after a day of shelling Hitachi, Japan, is withdrawing to the east. What is so important about the date? At 1102 hours Nagasaki, Japan was destroyed by the United States’ second atomic bomb, and Japan was forced to face defeat — but terms of surrender take time to arrange, providing ample opportunities for mischief and intrigue by our ally Joseph Stalin et. al.

As the sun sets on this fateful day, Commander Todd Ingram, the exhausted captain of the Maxwell, and Captain Jeremiah T. (Boom Boom) Landa, the squadron’s commodore, are standing n Maxwell’s bridge watching the sunset. Word of the second atomic bomb has reached the fleet, and everyone is wondering if the war is finally over. 

Joseph Stalin knew Japan has to surrender, and he makes a last minute grab for a piece of the Empire’s pie.

Maxwell’s executive officer, Lieutenant Commander Eldon (Tubby) White, enters the bridge with a message. The Soviet Union has declared war on Japan, invaded Mongolia, and plans to occupy one of the main Japanese islands.

The author weaves a complex tale encompassing the remainder of 1945, starting with events leading up to Japan’s formal surrender. A surrender opposed by elements of the Japanese military because surrendering violated the code of bushido. After the formal surrender, Ingram is sent on a top secret mission without being told its real purpose, and finds himself a pawn in a game between the NKVD and the OSS, with guidance (misguidance?) provided by the State Department. During the mission and afterwards, he encounters Soviet duplicity. In addition to naval action, the tale includes a double agent, two love stories, and lots of intrigue. 

Edge of Valor is a story built around real events and historical facts — Japanese Unit 731 for example. 

Interplay between characters is reminiscent of books authored by W.E.B. Griffin.

Edge of Valor is the fifth novel in the Todd Ingram series, which presents the author with a dilemma—how much of the story already told must be retold? In the case of Edge of Valor, the author thankfully provided a list of names and titles at the front of the book. A list I found very helpful.

This is an excellent, accurate, well-written and plotted historical novel. I highly recommend Edge of Valor.

Reviewed by: Lee Boyland (2015)


Author's Synopsis

EDGE OF VALOR is the fifth thriller by John J. Gobbell featuring the World War II exploits of Cdr. Todd Ingram, commanding officer of the destroyer USS Maxwell (DD 525) who saves his ship when it is hit by a kamikaze off Okinawa. For repairs, they pull into Kerama Rhetto, Okinawa, where they receive news of the war’s end. 

Ingram expects to be shipped home like the rest of his crew but instead receives orders to fly to Manila, where he is met by Brig. Gen. Otis Dewitt, an Army buddy from his days on Corregidor who is now intelligence aide to Gen. Richard K. Sutherland, chief of staff to General MacArthur. On Ingram’s C-54 are sixteen Japanese senior military and civilian diplomats who meet with Sutherland to discuss formal surrender arrangements. Two days later the terms are settled and Ingram is working with one of the Japanese delegates to ensure that mines laid in Tokyo Bay are neutralized, allowing for safe passage of more than two hundred Allied ships.

While Ingram is promised that he can attend the surrender ceremony on board the USS Missouri (BB 63), DeWitt, in concert with the State Department, has an ulterior motive and sends Ingram to Karafuto (Sakhalin Island, according to Soviet maps) to defuse a Soviet attack on Hokkaido, the northernmost home island of Japan. Ingram’s old adversary, Edward Dezhnev, is the brigade commander responsible for laying siege to a Japanese holdout garrison in Toro, a natural jumping-off place for an attack on Hokkaido.

Also in Toro, DeWitt explains, is Walter Boring, a Red Cross representative holding two crates of overwhelming photographic evidence of Japan’s experiments on live human beings in China. Ingram is expected to return with those crates, but how can he when Boring is being protected by the Japanese garrison in Toro, where Dezhnev and his troops stand ready to overpower them at any moment?

As his shipmates prepare to return to their loved ones, Ingram’s war continues. Three weeks earlier he had been fighting the Japanese, and the Russians were supposed to be friends. Now he doesn’t know whom to trust.