Crossing the Line

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Crossing the Line: A Blue jacket's WWII Odyssey

This refers to the chronicles of life aboard aircraft carriers during the 2nd world war. It involves the stunning reminiscences of a young man by the name Alvin Kernan who was a young sailor with a rich historical background of war on the pacific (Kernan). Alvin had traveled wide and served in many battles and was even onboard when the ‘Hornet' when it was made to sink by torpedoes during the Santa Cruz Islands battle. The work of Alvin has received recommendations from far wide spheres. Sir John Keegan describes the work of Alvin as the most fascinating naval memoirs that have been published. The Kirkus Reviews describe it as a sincere narrative of collective bravery.


The story in the book will be described using the editorial reviews of different people and companies. According to the review, Alvin Kernan is described as to have lost prospects in his indigenous homeland of Wyoming due to poverty enrolls in the United States Navy around the spring time in the year 1941. He was given the responsibility of a sailor. As a seaman on the U.S.S. Enterprise, he experienced the demolition and smelled the fires still smoldering as the aircraft hauler returned to Pearl Harbor from drills of the day after Japan's shocker attack. Little did he know that years later during the 2nd world war he would experience and see the same happen at the Japanese harbors. Kernan had some excellent adventures in between the battle time and some of them are recollected in the book ‘crossing the lines'. This reflective autobiography is absolutely self-effacing in providing and engaging views and ideas of common Americans at war. Alvin describes the actual feelings of the sailors on board the convoy during ferocious combats as well as during sparkling leisure times.

The publishers weekly describe the autobiography as unpretentious and also as a significant contribution towards preservation of history for al those who were involved in the U.S. armed forces during the 2nd World War. Alvin is described to have joined the forces (navy) in the 1940s when he was only 17 years old. He was poor and their was depression in his town of Wyoming. Since he was a seaman, his space in the navy was limited to the aircraft carriers amongst them the Lexington, escort carrier Sewanee, and the Hornet. Lexington was among the first carriers to get involved in night fights. To Alvin the ship-board routines and the boot camp normally criticized army routines did not matter to him and it actually made sense to him more so in combat. This is evident by the amount of pride he describes these routines with.

The booklist describes Alvin as a poor ranch boy who left Wyoming due to these devastating conditions. On being recruited in the U.S. navy, he began his missions aboard the Enterprise, the day Pearl Harbor was attacked and wound up the missions aboard an Escort carrier after the war with Japan. During his war days, he was being employed as an aerial gunner and even abandoned the sinking U.S.S hornet. There was however other instances when the adventures were great like the shore patrol duties, winning a grubstake for college as well as visiting prostitutes. This was however mainly after the war. Kernan is also described as having distinguished academic character and career at Yale and Princeton universities. However these stints do not make him to struggle for profundities and as a result his collection is presented brilliantly and legible.

Kirkus review describes Kernan as a senior advisor of humanities bat the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. In his memoir, Kernan leaves a shadows and tribulations of the Wyoming Mountains to join the Navy. He finds himself aboard the Enterprise outside Pearl Harbor on his first mission on 7th December 1941.kernan saw the Doolittle's bombers fly off to Tokyo. He was also aboard the Hornet during its sinking after being overwhelmed by Japanese firepower. He was also outside Pearl Harbor during the V - J Day and had a sea-level view of the critical battle at Midway. Alvin rose through the ranks very first. From an ordinance man to an aerial gunner and then to a Chief petty officer only at the age of 22 years at which time he was discharged at t6he end of war.

The story focuses on the supremacy of the torpedoes labeled “made in Japan” that sank the Hornet. It also expounds on the ratio of tracers to armor-piercing ammunition. The story also describes the epic moments of shore leaves and indulgence with women. It illustrates tedium and terror as well as ultimate random death. It is rounded on an emblematic story of one of the sailors that leaves a mark in the memories of every sailor at war half a century ago. It pictures the comradeship then irrespective of who the survivors were. Kernan illustrates his memories of ever sailing underneath the Golden Gate Bridge while undertaking a mission to the Pacific. He talks of his eyes moving around from face to face of the men who seem as alive to him as they were then but their bones are washing out in the deep seas trapped in the plane wreckage somewhere between Taiwan and Okinawa. This is a quiet book with no regard to techno-heroism. It is based on honesty, joint coverage, reminiscent, well-written and well presented.

Of particular interest is the night of 27th November 1943; the first combat test of the plan was executed. This was after an earlier mission did not contact or hit the Japanese. The night fighters were nicknamed ‘Black Panthers' had two sections to carry three planes. The planes carried were an Avenger and two Hellcats.


The story of crossing the line is more emotional than heroic. It outlines the reasons which prompted the U.S. to go to war with Japan. It also illustrates the sad demise of some of the soldiers during the war. It indicates a writer full of pain but at the same time confidence, compassion and love for his country. It also describes the strong and weak sides of the United States in going to war with Japan. This book is a classic coming-of-age history. It achieves the rarest of possible right tone for flash back on one self at an earlier life. John Lehman recalls that Alvin has written eight other books and jokes of reading them.


Kernan, A.B. (2007). Crossing the Line: A Bluejacket's Odyssey in World War II. Atlanta: Yale University Press.