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On 7th December 1941, even as Japanese carrier-launched aircraft were winging their way toward Pearl Harbor, a small American cargo ship chartered by the US Army reported it was being attacked by a submarine about halfway between Seattle and Honolulu. After that one cryptic message the humble lumber carrier Cynthia Olson and her crew vanished without a trace, their disappearance all but forgotten as the mighty warships of the US Pacific Fleet burned.

Though long relegated to footnote status in Pacific War histories, the story of Cynthia Olson’s mid-ocean encounter with the Japanese submarine I-26 is both a classic high-seas drama and one of the most enduring mysteries of the Second World War. Did Commander Minoru Yokota of I-26 disregard orders and sink the freighter before the attack on Pearl Harbor began, running the risk of alerting the Americans to the impending assault? Did master mariner Berthel Carlsen and his 34-man crew survive their vessel’s sinking only to drift away into the vast Pacific, or were they machine gunned in their lifeboats at the orders of Yokota, who after the war became a devout Christian? Was Cynthia Olson the first American casualty of the Pacific War, and could her SOS have changed the course of history?

Based on years of research, Voyage to Oblivion explores both the military and human aspects of the Cynthia Olson story, bringing to life a complex tale of courage, tenacity, hubris and arrogance in the opening hours of America’s war in the Pacific.

  • AUTHOR: Harding, S
  • FORMAT: 256pp 34 Bw 234x156 Pb
  • Code: 11954

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