An Ocean of Courage and Fear by Jerry Borrowman

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Book Review of An Ocean of Courage and Fear by Jerry Borrowman

This year marks the 80th anniversary of D-Day, which we remembered a few weeks ago. The Library of Congress website states: 

June 6th, 1944: More than 150,000 Allied troops land on the beaches of Normandy, France, as part of the largest seaborne invasion in history. Known as “D-Day,” the name and date loom large in the memory of World War II—perhaps second only to December 7th, 1941. These two dates stand on opposite ends of American involvement in the war, and their meaning could not be more different. D-Day put the Allies on a decisive path toward victory. Beginning with the Normandy beaches, they pushed back against Axis forces until Germany was forced to surrender less than a year later. Their achievements were not accomplished without tremendous sacrifice, however, as the Normandy invasion resulted in over 6,000 American casualties. 

I want to give thanks to those who sacrificed everything to fight against evil and to protect our freedoms. We need to remember! We cannot forget the sacrifices made to protect freedom here and around the world.  

An Ocean of Courage and Fear by Jerry Borrowman is an excellent book to read in memory of those who fought on the beaches of Normandy in 1944. This book does not mention D-Day because the USS Salt Lake City did not participate in that battle, but it did participate in many other major battles in WWII. 




Based on survivor accounts, this gripping novel opens days after the attack on Pearl Harbor and details three years of sea battles that spanned between Hawaii and the shores of Okinawa with the crew of one of the most decorated ships of the Pacific War. 

Onboard the heavy cruiser USS Salt Lake City, Lieutenant Commander Justin Collier was 230 miles west of Pearl Harbor accompanying the USS Enterprise on a secret mission when Japan attacked the United States. Upon his return to Honolulu, the gravity of the war begins to change him, as does every subsequent mission, including a rare beach landing with an Army infantry division. He fears his wounds of war, both physical and mental, will be incurable. 

Meanwhile, on the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor, hundreds of wounded men lay scattered in cots and stretchers in and around the naval hospital, and volunteer nurse Heidi Collier feels overwhelmed by the number of casualties. She had watched the bombing by Japanese planes as she huddled with her two children in front of their home, hoping that her husband aboard the USS Salt Lake City was safe wherever he was. In her prayers, she feels he is still alive. 

Lieutenant Riley Bracken feels the sudden g-force of his catapult-launched observation floatplane with each harrowing mission. Alerting the USS Salt Lake City of enemy ships gives him purpose, which is why no one can know about his recent bouts of vertigo. He can’t risk losing what he loves most. 

Fifteen-year-old Al Jowdy lied about his age in order to join the Navy. Whatever he believed Navy life would be was shot out of the water—twice—when his ships were torpedoed. Now aboard the Salt Lake City, he fears his luck may have run out. 

An Ocean of Courage and Fear reveals the harrowing, never-before-told events that surrounded the crew of the USS Salt Lake City as they endure all the major action in the Pacific War. 

My Book Review:

Although I grew up in the outskirts of Salt Lake City, I had not heard of the USS Salt Lake City until I read this book. Crazy! It should have been common knowledge! Thankfully, Jerry Borrowman has rectified that situation and I now know a lot about the role the USS Salt Lake City played in WWII.  

An Ocean of Courage and Fear is a novel based on the lives and experiences of two of the men that served on the USS Salt Lake City. Al Jowdy lied on his application and entered the war when he was just 15 years old. He served as a Gunner’s mate. Sandy Oppenheimer served as a storekeeper on the ship. In his author’s notes, Borrowman says, “While the settings for these scenes are based on Al’s and Sandy’s actual experiences in the war, such as their duty assignments and battle stations, the dialogue is invented to support the storyline.” 

Many of the characters in the book were real people who served on the ship, but there are also fictional characters added to enhance the storyline. I loved the characters in the story! They brought the story and the history to life! Each character is well developed, real, and seems authentic. I cannot get over Al enlisting at 15 years old!! I have a 15-year-old, and I cannot imagine her leaving to go fight a war right now! Seriously. I’m scared for her to drive a car, let alone enlist in the Navy to fight in a world war! 

Although I have read many books about WWII, there were battles and theaters in An Ocean of Courage and Fear that I had never heard of. I learned so much! It was interesting learning about the ship and what it takes to run a ship like that. The USS Salt Lake City was a heavy cruiser and it helped support the aircraft carriers. Being on a ship like that, shooting the guns, and being shot at would definitely scare me!  

One thing I found compelling was learning how the scout planes on the heavy cruisers took off and landed. They shot out of a big slingshot on the ship in order to take off. Crazy, right? When they landed, they didn’t land on the ship like they do on aircraft carriers; they would land in the water and a big crane would pick them up and put them back onboard. 

I enjoyed reading An Ocean of Courage and Fear by Jerry Borrowman. He did a great job of bringing the story to life for me (an average reader—not specializing in ships or the Navy). I thought it might be boring, but I found the story compelling and I loved the characters. If you’re looking for a historical fiction/WWII book with a different angle, this is the book for you! 

PG-13+ Rating

Content Rating: PG-13+

  • Profanity: None
  • Intimacy: None (Brief Kissing)
  • Violence: High (Several deaths, burn victims, explosions, wartime violence) 

Age Recommendation: 16+

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

Click HERE if you’d like to purchase An Ocean of Courage and Fear by Jerry Borrowman.


Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

Why We Fought by Jerry Borrowman  Catastrophes and Heroes by Jerry Borrowman Invisible Heroes of WWII by Jerry Borrowman
Disclosure: I received a free book for my honest review.

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