The Jersey Brothers by Sally Mott Freeman

Sally Mott Freeman’s The Jersey Brothers: A Missing Naval Officer in the Pacific and His Family’s Quest to Bring Him Home is a gripping tale of the bond between three brothers and how two of them do everything they possibly can to rescue the other one.

It surprised me to learn that The Jersey Brothers was Freeman’s first book. It is surprising because it is so well written and researched. Although she has a background in writing (speech writing and public relations), it is still an excellent first work.

Freeman writes in a hybrid style of history. It is well-cited, but reads like a popular history.

Despite the complex stories of the three brothers, she expertly intertwines them into an engaging, seamless story. Each of the brother’s have different experiences and yet Freeman connects them all in the search for Barton.

Fortunate for her and the reader, Freeman is the daughter of Bill. As a result, she has a wealth of primary sources (her grandmother’s letters, letters between Bill, and Benny, and other documents) to draw from for the story. The letters from her grandmother (Bill, Benny, and Barton’s mother) capture the anguish and anger of a mother trying to find out the fate of her beloved son.

The book is not only an excellent story, but also a fine tribute to the bond of brothers at war.


The Jersey Brothers Book Cover The Jersey Brothers
Sally Mott Freeman
Biography & Autobiography
Simon and Schuster
May 9, 2017

The extraordinary, real-life adventure of three brothers at the center of the most dramatic turning points of World War II and their mad race to change history—and save one of their own. They are three brothers, all Navy men, who end up coincidentally and extraordinarily at the epicenter of three of the war’s most crucial moments. Bill is picked by Roosevelt to run his first Map Room in Washington. Benny is the gunnery and anti-aircraft officer on the USS Enterprise, one of the only carriers to escape Pearl Harbor and by the end of 1942 the last one left in the Pacific to defend against the Japanese. Barton, the youngest and least distinguished of the three, is shuffled off to the Navy Supply Corps because his mother wants him out of harm’s way. But this protection plan backfires when Barton is sent to the Philippines and listed as missing-in-action after a Japanese attack. Now it is up to Bill and Benny to find and rescue him. Based on ten years of research drawn from archives around the world, interviews with fellow shipmates and POWs, and primary sources including diaries, unpublished memoirs, and letters half-forgotten in basements, The Jersey Brothers is a remarkable story of agony and triumph—from the home front to Roosevelt’s White House, and Pearl Harbor to Midway and Bataan. It is the story, written with intimate, novelistic detail, of an ordinary young man who shows extraordinary courage as the Japanese do everything short of killing him. And it is, above all, a story of brotherly love: of three men finding their loyalty to each other tested under the tortures of war—and knowing that their success or failure to save their youngest brother will shape their family forever.

About the author

Jeff Grim

Jeff Grim has been a reader all of his life. He has had a particular interest in military history, any war at any time. His fascination with military history has brought him to an interest in historical fiction where the history comes alive with fictitious heroes and villains. Recently, Jeff has become interested in historical mysteries set in various time periods.

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