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The War Below: The Story of Three Submarines That Battled Japan | [James Scott]

The War Below: The Story of Three Submarines That Battled Japan

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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more than one hundred interviews with submarine veterans and a review of more than three thousand pages of previously unpublished letters, diaries, and personal writings, The War Below allows readers to experience the Pacific War as never before.

©2013 James M. Scott (P)2013 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“Using voluminous official records plus interviews and an amazing number of unpublished diaries and letters, former Charleston Post and Courier investigative reporter Scott delivers a gripping, almost day-by-day account of the actions of three submarines…Military buffs will lap it up, but general readers may find it difficult to resist the tension, drama, and fireworks of this underappreciated but dazzlingly destructive American weapon of World War II.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“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, New York Times bestselling author)

“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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (147 )
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  •  
    Ryan Fairbanks, AK, United States 06-21-13
    Ryan Fairbanks, AK, United States 06-21-13 Member Since 2012

    I am the most amazing version of myself that I have ever met.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Unique. Engaging. Worth your credit."
    Any additional comments?

    Shortly after the incidents of Dec. 7 1941, the United States unleashed its fleet of what was at the time an unproven and (in comparison to Germany's U-Boats) relatively novice submarines. These brave men participated in a "learn as you go" strategy during the early months of the war, dealing with design and structural failures in their subs, torpedo's that ran amok (and often back at their own boats), and a brutal enemy determined to rule the Pacific.

    What this story is really about is the trials and errors, the unfortunate lethal consequences of learning as you go, and the uncanny courage and bravery of crews from three famous submarines of WWII: Silversides, Drum, and Tang.

    The facts are the facts, but the author does a great job of bringing personal accounts and emotion into the story. As it follows the plights of these three subs, the listener not only gains a certain affection for their crews, but also an appreciation and respect for the bravery and sheer determination these men displayed on a daily basis. Imagine being stuck 250ft below the surface of the Pacific ocean in a disabled submarine, while your captors circle above, as you slowly run out of oxygen in the darkness. What would you do?

    I highly recommend this book to anyone, whether you're just looking for a good story or a lesson in history. Many of the details in this book are very hard to come by and James Scott brought them together masterfully.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Betsy worcester, MA, United States 07-19-13
    Betsy worcester, MA, United States 07-19-13 Member Since 2010

    I no longer live in Worcester. I now live in Brooklyn, NY.

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    "Outstanding work so well researched."

    My review may be biased as I am the daughter of a WWII submarine skipper. I knew only one of the men but I knew their children. The traits shared by these men come through in the details of this chronicle. It is these details that make this so riveting. A must read (or listen) for those interested in the submarine aspect of WWII. I wish the narrator had put in a little research before he read the script....he mispronounced naval terms and even the name of one of the subs.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Warren Cary, NC, United States 11-24-14
    Warren Cary, NC, United States 11-24-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Submarine Excellence"
    Would you listen to The War Below again? Why?

    Yes, great story and suprise ending regarding POWs


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Capt Boyington


    What does Donald Corren bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Quick paced and excitement


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    POW Camp


    Any additional comments?

    Skippers of the submarines were each genius in their own right

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Charles N. Ward ojai ca usa 09-07-14
    Charles N. Ward ojai ca usa 09-07-14 Member Since 2011

    ward

    ratings
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    8
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    Story
    "Slow to build but good"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    The beginning third is slow to congeal into anything exciting.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The War Below?

    The parts lifted from Unbroken, by L. Zamperini


    Any additional comments?

    If you enjoy naval history -- particularly WWII and submarine services history -- then this us for you.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andre R. Frattino Savannah, GA 08-25-14
    Andre R. Frattino Savannah, GA 08-25-14 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    ""DIVE" into this book!"
    Would you listen to The War Below again? Why?

    Absolutely! Great storytelling of the little known history of the submariner during World War 2! I've actually visited the U.S.S Drum in Alabama prior to reading this book, and so I could imagine the corridors and compartments as I listened to this book!


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The War Below?

    All of it! You really started to relate and envision the Captains of these subs and the dangers they went through during the war!


    What about Donald Corren’s performance did you like?

    Consistent and engaging throughout his performance.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Neil San Francisco, CA, United States 07-16-14
    Neil San Francisco, CA, United States 07-16-14 Member Since 2009
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    "Snipers of the Pacific War"

    It almost seems criminal hiding under the sea waiting for merchant ships to sink in the middle of the night but that is war. This is an excellent account of three submarines and their Captains and the set up to find targets. It gives details of life on board, and you can almost smell and feel the sea air when the Captains come above the sea to survey the horizon. There is even an account when the sub was unnoticed between two columns of ships and they had to choose which side to fire upon. I especially like the account after the Tang was hit (self inflicted) and how the sailors reached the surface. If you like WW2 or different look at the war then I recommend this book. Download it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    RFRMAC Cottonwood Heights, Utah United States 12-02-13
    RFRMAC Cottonwood Heights, Utah United States 12-02-13 Member Since 2012

    I love good history books about WW II, the Civil War, and the Revolutionary War. I like other good books about life and cooking.

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    "Three submarines to be remembered"
    Would you listen to The War Below again? Why?

    Yes, it is a very well done history of what happened in the Pacific under the water.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The War Below?

    How prisoners of war where treated by the Japanese during World War II. It made my blood boil. There are other histories that go into it more but this covers it well.


    Which character – as performed by Donald Corren – was your favorite?

    All captains where done well


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Yes, as I have said above, the treatment of US prisoners of war by Japan.


    Any additional comments?

    This brought a human side to the brave men in our submarine service during World War II. You learn about the sub commanders and their performance. It was a good read done well.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael 11-30-13
    Michael 11-30-13
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    "Ambrose-like quality"
    What made the experience of listening to The War Below the most enjoyable?

    The author artfully weaves together the stories of three separate submarines and their various captains and crew members by telling the human stories. He assumes that the reader understands the general history and flow of the Pacific Theatre in WW2 and focuses - as Ambrose did - on the people in the boats, not the generals and the map table strategies.


    What other book might you compare The War Below to and why?

    Stephen Ambrose's "Wild Blue"


    What about Donald Corren’s performance did you like?

    His clarity and pace.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    I listened to it over three days during one very long car ride.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew Truro, NS, Canada 07-27-13
    Andrew Truro, NS, Canada 07-27-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Interesting content, some pronuciation issues"
    What made the experience of listening to The War Below the most enjoyable?

    Many modern books about the Pacific War are either wide ranging but shallow examinations of the whole concept, or a close examination of a specific battle or event. The War below gives a close look at the stories of the crew of three US submarines which is a nice switch from the status quo. Most background information is assumed (you won't have to sit through a Pearl Harbour or Midway summary) so the author can focus on the small details of life on subs during the war.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The stories of the crew members with only first aid training who had to perform emergency medical procedures while deep into a patrol will ame your hair stand up.


    Did Donald Corren do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

    Differentiation was satisfactory - the reader will have to listen as the story tends to focus on one person for a few minutes before switching to another.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I found it to be a good examination of the issue, and a worth while and informative read, but there were no extreme reactions.


    Any additional comments?

    I was disappointed that the narrator consistently mispronounced the word "boatswain." As this word is used so frequently through the text I feel he should have looked it up, or at least that someone on the recording crew could have mentioned, "hey, it's pronounced 'bosun'."

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bob Longmont, CO, United States 08-16-13
    Bob Longmont, CO, United States 08-16-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Submarine story devolves into torture story."

    The story of three WWII era submarines starts off well. There's a discussion of the state of the war after Pearl Harbor. In the time period between Dec. 8 and Midway, submarines were just about the only offensive weapon available to the fleet. However, subs were not used primarily against combatant vessels, but against freighters and oil tankers. This mission was a second prong, along with fleet actions, that reduced Japan's ability to conduct war.

    The stories told here are short biographies of the crews and commanders, their tactics and victories. It is in telling these stories that the book starts to go astray. None of the stories are especially detailed and those that are covered more extensively border on hagiography.
    ,
    The final chapters cover the fates of the crewmen of the Tang, survivors of a defective torpedo fired by their own boat. It details their capture and subsequent internment in Japan. Here, the book looses its focus. It lovingly chronicles how the prisoners were treated and the torture and hardship they underwent. It details other atrocities inflicted on allied prisoners not connected with these submarines. While these are important stories, the way they are presented apes books about the lives of martyrs.

    The actions of the guards are breathlessly detailed, their evilness lingered over. The tortures they inflicted are enthusiastically detailed. The final part of this book borders on torture porn.

    4 of 9 people found this review helpful
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