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The War Below: The Story of Three Submarines That Battled Japanby James Scott
Synopses & Reviews
The War Below is the riveting story of the submarine force that helped win World War II in the Pacific by ravaging Japan’s merchant fleet and destroying the nation’s economy.
Focusing on the unique stories of three of the war’s top submarines — Silversides, Drum, and Tang — James Scott takes readers beneath the waves to experience the determination, heroism, and tragedy that defined the submarine service. From the thrill of a torpedo hit on a loaded freighter to the terror of depth charge attacks that shattered gauges and sprang leaks, The War Below vividly re-creates the camaraderie, exhilaration, and fear of the brave volunteers who took the fight to the enemy’s coastline. Scott recounts incredible feats of courage — from an emergency appendectomy performed with kitchen utensils to the desperate struggle of sailors to escape from a flooded submarine trapped on the bottom — as well as moments of unimaginable tragedy, including an attack on an unmarked enemy freighter carrying 1,800 American prisoners of war.
The casualty rate among submariners topped that of all other military branches. The war claimed almost one out of every five subs — and a submarine crewman was six times more likely to die than a sailor onboard a surface ship. But the submarine service accomplished its mission; Silversides, Drum, and Tang sank a combined sixty-two freighters, tankers, and transports. So ravaged from the loss of precious supplies due to the destruction of the nation’s merchant fleet were the Japanese that by the war’s end hungry civilians ate sawdust while warships lay at anchor due to lack of fuel and pilots resorted to suicidal kamikaze missions. In retaliation, the Japanese often beat, tortured, and starved captured submariners in the atrocious prisoner of war camps.
Based on more than 100 interviews with submarine veterans and thousands of pages of previously unpublished letters and diaries, The War Below will let readers experience the battle for the Pacific as never before.
“This is the most absorbing narrative of submarine warfare that I’ve read in years. The research is so deep, and the writing so vivid, I could practically feel the vast ocean closing over me as these three boats ranged the Pacific looking for the kill.” James D. Hornfischer, author of Neptune & rsquo;s Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal and The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors
“Beautifully researched and masterfully told, James Scott’s book is an enthralling and important addition to the story of undersea warfare.” Alex Kershaw, New York Times bestselling author of Escape from the Deep and The Liberator
“Meticulously researched and vividly written, Scott transports us convincingly to the wardroom of the Silversides, the bridge of the Tang, the torpedo room of the Drum. If you want to know what it was like to fight in a U.S. submarine during World War II, this is your book.” Jonathan Parshall, co-author Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway
“James Scott brilliantly captures the intensity of submarine combat with his pulse-racing narrative about three famous boats of the Pacific Fleet. You’ll need a towel to wipe the perspiration from your brow.” Bruce Gamble, author of Fortress Rabaul and Black Sheep One
“James Scott has crafted a superb tale about a group of young Americans who went unflinchingly to war with the odds very much against them — a tale that won't (and shouldn't) be forgotten.” Flint Whitlock, author of The Depths of Courage: American Submariners at War with Japan, 1941-1945
“The War Below is a cut above....This fast-paced book will be a welcomed addition to the personal libraries of even the most well-read students of submarine warfare.” Stephen L. Moore, author of Battle Surface! and Presumed Lost
“In the seven decades since WW II, U.S. Navy submarines’ primary mission has been passive, as a nuclear deterrent. But within living memory ‘the silent service’ waged a genuine war against a formidable enemy in the world’s greatest ocean. The War Below provides an intensely personal look inside the pressure hulls of three Pacific Fleet submarines that established historic records against the Japanese Empire. The epic war patrols of USS Silversides, Drum, and Tang provide gripping reading and serve as a memorial to the lost boats and crews ‘still on patrol.’” Barrett Tillman, author of Whirlwind and Enterprise
“Scott places the reader inside the boats for an understanding of the humor, the self-control, the ingenuity, the tenacity and self-sacrifice of submarine sailors at war....The world of vignettes that he sprinkles throughout The War Below makes his book hard to put down, it’s a gripping tale that spans half the globe.” Carl Lavo, author of Back from the Deep and The Galloping Ghost
“Gripping....Readers may find it difficult to resist the tension, drama and fireworks of this underappreciated but dazzlingly destructive American weapon of WWII.” Kirkus Reviews
The riveting story of the submarine force that helped win World War II by ravaging Japan’s merchant fleet and destroying its economy.
The War Below is a dramatic account of extraordinary heroism, ingenuity, and perseverance — and the vital role American submarines played in winning the Pacific war. Focusing on the unique stories of the submarines Silversides, Drum, and Tang — and the men who skippered and crewed them — James Scott takes readers beneath the waves to experience the thrill of a direct hit on a merchant ship and the terror of depth charge attacks. It’s a story filled with incredible feats of courage, including an emergency appendectomy performed with spoons by an inexperienced medic and the desperate struggle of sailors to escape from a flooded submarine stuck on the bottom, as well as tragic moments such as American submarines sinking an unmarked enemy ship carrying some 1,800 American POWs.
The casualty rate among submariners topped that of all military branches, a staggering six times higher than the surface Navy. The war claimed almost one out of every five boats. But Japan was so ravaged by the loss of precious fuel and supplies that by war’s end, Japanese warships lay at anchor while hungry civilians ate sawdust. Scott paints an unforgettable picture of the dangerous life submariners endured, including the atrocious prison camps where the Japanese beat, tortured, and starved captured Allied troops. Based on more than 100 interviews with submarine veterans and a review of more than 3,000 pages of previously unpublished letters, diaries, and personal writings, readers of The War Below will experience the Pacific War as never before.
About the Author
James Scott is a former investigative reporter with The Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina, where he was named Journalist of the Year in 2003 by the South Carolina Press Association. A 2007 Nieman Fellow for Journalism at Harvard University, Scott is the author of The Attack on the Liberty, which won the Samuel Eliot Morison Award. He lives in Charleston, South Carolina.
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