¶ … War Below, James Scott offers insight into the roles American submarines played on the Pacific front during World War Two. Focusing especially on the ways only three submarines (Silversides, Drum, and Tang) were used to sabotage Japan, Scott uses a narrative writing style replete with anecdotes derived from face-to-face interviews and the memoirs of the survivors of these missions. The War Below is divided into 22 chapters, but also includes an epilogue as well as photographs. Because of its gripping narrative format, many readers will find The War Below captivating even without having prior military background. However, military historians and military strategists will find The War Below to be a helpful addition to their libraries.
The USS Silversides, USS Drum, and USS Tang operated independently of one another, but each remained dedicated to thwarting the Japanese. These were only three of almost two hundred American submarines that had begun to bloat the waters of the Pacific in the interests of stymying the Japanese. By the time the war begun, Japan had seriously encroached on the entire Pacific region, and the United States used submarines expressly to cripple the imperialist effort. Although The War Below focuses only on the three subs, their stories can be used to extrapolate a larger story about what happened underwater during the Second World War. Essentially, the sailors on these submarines suffer incredible hardships, living in their difficult quarters and having little access to medical services when needed....
Military tactics and strategies were often misguided and led to ebbs and flows of tensions below the sea. Some of the subs were bent on destroying Japanese merchant ships, whereas others focused their efforts on military ships. These latter accounts include stories of torpedoes, one of which hit the U.S.S. Tang. After it was hit, the men on board the Tang were taken prisoner. They were eventually liberated, but their harrowing accounts of being POWs help close the book with a sense of the grim reality that all military missions entail.
The War Below is organized in way that flits back and forth between each of the three main submarines. The author seems to want to treat each submarine as a unique narrative thread or even as a character in an overarching narrative. While this technique might work in a novel, it seems a bit too chaotic for the purposes of retelling history. The reader sometimes feels lost going back and forth between the Silversides, the Drum, and the Tang and their corresponding officers and skippers. It might have been more helpful to organize the book in a more straightforward way, progressing one at a time, or even use thematic organizational methods. At the same time, focusing on three ships makes the narrative a lot more personal and humanized. This is not a dry historical narrative, but one that is about the people…
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