There is an old adage that states: 'if it ain't broken, don't fix it'. Sage advice for author/historian Alex Kershaw who has again turned out another 'page-turner' with his recent DaCapo Press release, "Escape From the Deep: The Epic Story of a Legendary Submarine and Her Courageous Crew". While a great many artists struggle to find their muse Kershaw has certainly found his. One could even say that Kershaw's books have a certain 'formula'. For instance, compare his previous Longest Winter and his current book "Escape From the Deep": First, both books have at their heart a story about a small group of soldiers who achieved something remarkable in the face of seemingly impossible odds. Second, units at the heart of both books received considerable after action accolade in terms of individual and unit citations (although in the former case this took many years). Lastly, the overall story in both books can be broken roughly into three parts: 1) combat action; 2) captivity; and 3) after war life. In these, as well as Kershaw's other books (e.g., The Bedford Boys and The Few), what makes these works popular and enjoyable reads is the human story that Kershaw so expertly captures.
"Escape From the Deep" is a book that anyone can read quickly because the reader will not want to put it down. The basic story revolves around the USS Tang, one of the most celebrated submarines to operate in the Pacific Theatre during World War II, and her crew. During her fifth and final combat tour the Tang sank a large tonnage of Japanese shipping (>100,000 tons) in just 14 days (10 Oct-24 Oct 1944) before she was sunk in the Formosa Strait by one of her own torpedoes, an errant final shot of her illustrious career. What makes her story compelling is not simply what she accomplished in battle, but how nine of her crew managed to escape the near certain death of downed submariners, their capture and ultimate survival in captivity on the notorious POW camp, the 'Torture Farm'. As he has done in his previous books, but even more so here, Kershaw presents the coldness and brutality of mechanized warfare while capturing the humanity that is essential to appreciate the impact the Second World War had on shaping our modern world. Kershaw is a master of conveying the human element of war; few authors come close to his abilities to engage the reader to empathize with the combatants. Readers will not only get to know each of the nine men (and a few of the unfortunates who did not survive the war) central to the story, but feel personally connected to each. "Escape From the Deep" is an engaging story that anyone with even a passing interest in WWII will enjoy. Five stars!!