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more than one hundred interviews with submarine veterans and a review of more than three thousand pages of previously unpublished letters, diaries, and personal writings, The War Below allows readers to experience the Pacific War as never before.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

Critic Reviews

“Using voluminous official records plus interviews and an amazing number of unpublished diaries and letters, former Charleston Post and Courier investigative reporter Scott delivers a gripping, almost day-by-day account of the actions of three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 Ratings

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  • Betsy
  • brooklyn, NY
  • 07-19-13

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.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Ryan
  • Logan, Utah
  • 06-21-13

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.<br/><br/>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.<br/><br/>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?<br/><br/>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.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

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Best Written & Best Told Story of American Subs

I've listened to this book twice and will listen to it again. It is a very well written and an extremely well narrated book. What is particularly good is the manner in which the author switches between the three submarines and still manages to tie the various stories together. Contrary to becoming confusing or disjointed, for my part, it made the listening even more riveting. I'm constantly looking for good books about American sub warfare and so far the others pale in comparison. Although a story might be well written and well researched, let's face it, narration is huge and Donald Corren is now in my top five narrators because of his performance in this book. The author also manages to relate facts without making it sound like a captains daily log or a statistics lecture. If you are in any manner a WWII, naval, or submarine buff you should get this one for your library.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Best book I've read

What did you love best about The War Below?

As a student of military history, I tend to focus on the western theater of war during WWII. This book, however, gives amazing detail on the lives and woes of those brave sailors aboard submarines during the "wild west era". You get to see the perspectives not only from the captain and officers, but from the crew. The fact that James Scott also took the time to dig through Japanese records of the convoys adds even more reliability and impact to the book.

What did you like best about this story?

I liked best the stories (can't stay with just one) which showed the hearts and souls of the crew (there are too many to count throughout) and I especially found interesting the various good luck rituals each captain had.

Have you listened to any of Donald Corren’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have not. He's no Stefan Rudnicki, but he's a good narrator. He's perfect for historical books, I think. He can put emotion into the words in a way that makes you pay attention and, in some cases, feel as if you were really with these men, hearing their thoughts and words.

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

Yes. There is a point near the end where a captain does the most moving thing he can do in his situation. He looks out for his mens' well being above his own and bears punishment himself.

Any additional comments?

HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT!!! Because of this book, I'm doing more research on the submariners of WWII and WWI. This is probably my new favorite book.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Great First Book for WW2 Sub Warfare Against Japan

If you haven't read much about submarine warfare in the Pacific, this is a great book. It does a terrific job describing the life, action, and heroics of American submariners. I especially liked the escape scene from Tang. Unfortunately, for more experienced readers, once you've read through one depth charge attack, you've read them all - so nothing new there. I also didn't care about the last third of the book as it is all about conditions in a Japanese POW camp. Horrifying yes, but I had just read through all that stuff in "Unbroken", and much of the material was repetitive. I would have rather of used that space to work in more of the US submarine strategy, logistics, and other operational arts that impacted the activities of these three subs. So first timers, you will enjoy this book. For the more experienced, not much new here.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Rick
  • Murrieta, CA, United States
  • 01-21-17

WWII Naval History without the Embellishment

I've read and listened to countless books on WWII Naval history, most recently The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailers which was excellent I might add. Flyboys, and The Fleet at Flood Tide: America at Total War in the Pacific, 1944-1945, were also excellent. When I read a book on Naval history, I don't want to read anything that has even the slightest hint of Hollywood embellishment, or one-sided heroic anecdotes making a ship, crew, or skipper look far greater than what history can prove. And having served in the world's finest Navy, I like to use my experience, as well as adaptations of naval jargon to test the validity of what I'm being told. The War Below met, and often exceeded my expectations.

I was a surface sailer, and having only toured a few subs while in port, I have no desire to get underway on a ship designed to sink. Those guys are simply nuts! But to hear their story, and what type of person it took to both lead, and man a sub in war time had my attention. As stated, I cannot imagine going under water intentionally, but to hunt, and be hunted with the primitive sonar and radar capabilities of the 1940's is far beyond my comprehension and something that I can only marvel at.

The War Below does an excellent job of depicting life in a WWII submarine, what it was like to live on those fish, and what it was like to go to war. Every chapter provided a glimpse at what a crew was like, how they were commanded, and what was needed by each crew member to remain undetected in a target rich environment, the China Sea, and the Sea of Japan. I enjoyed this one, cover to cover

I give this book two thumbs up, and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a read that is unlike the typical WWII Naval war story.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Johann
  • Lake Elizabeth, CA, United States
  • 06-05-16

Among the best books on the navy and sub warfare

James Scott follows three ships, but writes of several others, in this masterful display of history and epic. The personal accounts of the skippers and crews on these World War 2 submarines outlines the danger and heroism that would come to define them. The history of the boats as well as the careers of many of the officers and crews gives this an extremely personal feel.
This is a solid history with direct quotes and referenced information, but it is far from a simple history and acts as a full suspenseful narrative.

Donald Corren beautifully narrates this piece. His tone and cadence embody the importance and measured passion of the story.

A must read for any interested and in submarine ware fare, naval history, world war 2, or the Pacific Theater.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Great story of brave men of the submarine service.

This is a look inside the most dangerous job in US Navy during WWII. The author & narrator injects you into the story with the sub's crews. It shows our freedom comes with a price.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Interesting, Reads Like a Combat Report At Times

Worth reading. The engagements started running together after awhile. Although the author developed the captains' personalities, the tension I have found in other books like "Silent Running" was not present. Did not read like a novel as some great war accounts do.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Submariners

Good book to listen to. It did a good job explaining the life of a submariner during WWII. The good times and the bad.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful