A fascinating personal memoir of underwater combat in World War II, told by a man who played a major role in those dangerous operations. Frank and beautifully written, this book will be of lasting value as a submarine history by an expert and as an enduring military and political analysis.
In early 1943, the submarine USS Scorpion, with Paul R. Schratz as torpedo officer, slipped into the shallow waters east of Tokyo, laid a minefield, and made successful torpedo attacks on merchant shipping. Schratz participated in many more patrols in heavily mined Japanese waters as executive officer of the Sterlet and the Atule. At war's end, he participated in the Japanese surrender, aided the release of American POWs, and had a key role in the disarming of enemy suicide submarines. He then took command of the revolutionary new Japanese submarine I-203 and returned it to Pearl Harbor. But this was far from the end of Schratz's submarine career.
In 1949, he commissioned the ultramodern USS Pickerel, the most deadly submarine then afloat, and set a world's record in a 21-day, 5,200-mile submerged passage from Hong Kong to Honolulu. With the outbreak of the Korean War, the Pickerel was immediately sent to Korea to participate in secret intelligence operations only recently declassified and never before revealed in print. Schratz's broad military experience makes this a far from ordinary memoir.
"An authoritative, useful, and interesting view of Pacific Ocean submarine operations." (American Historical Review)
"Fascinating... A delight to read not only because it is well written but because it is so very real seen through the eyes of a completely involved observer." (Submarine Review)
"A commanding and well told tale.... Schratz succeeds in making wartime submarining come alive for nonsubmariners." (Shipmate)
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Humble and interesting military mémoire
Memoir of this submarine captain's rise through the ranks, from ensign to his command on a submarine, as the most senior submarine captain in the US Navy. So this book is primarily about one officer serving on submarines. It reads as a series of anecdotes, some very funny, some tragic. The period covered is approximately 1939 starting operations in the Atlantic, his junior officer roles in the early parts of the war, his rise to executive officer on a combat submarine hunting Japanese convoys, his work on the Japanese mainland during the occupation, the uneasy peace, and finally his intelligence operations as captain aboard his own submarine at the start of the Korean war ~1950. The author did continue his career after this period however the narrative of this memoire stops around 1950 when he finishes his command of submarines. I feel like this memoire might have an unpublished sequel, covering the political half of his career in Washington?
The most enjoyable aspect of this book were the gritty reality, the day to day stories of what the military life was really like on submarines during the second world war, the mind-numbing boredom, the boisterous pranks, the frustration at commanding officers, the terror of diving below test depth, the excitement of doing a dipys doodle (driving upwards at full speed at 45 degree+ angle and pop out of the sea), missing wives, the temptations of prostitutes in port, the food, the beer. This is a full memoir of military life.
The author strikes a balance between soft stuff, his private thoughts about the officers he was serving with at each phase (including a captain he lost respect for), but we also get a lot of really interesting technical detail about what it was like to run the last two generations of diesel submarines, about the unreliable technology and ingenious solutions, hard work and various challenges of submarining.
- Mr. E. Sheffield