8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
There are many books about WW II U.S. submarine patrols in the Pacific. Many of these books are fascinating in their descriptions of tactics and leadership. A few books are almost as dry as official patrol reports. What unifies these books is that almost all of them have been written by officers, frequently skippers. In the last few years, books like "Hell Above, Deep Water Below," have appeared, written about or by enlisted submariners, which is how the vast majority of the force served. Ron Smith's "Torpedoman" is the latest addition to the submarine genre and it's a doozy. The book follows his time training to be a submariner, through the Seal's outfitting, and on through a number of harrowing patrols. The book captures the camaraderie of the sub's crew and the way more experienced submariners looked out for the new sailors and showed them the ropes. The book appears self-published. Author Ron Smith's (apparently) unedited language is unvarnished and the story often isn't pretty or very noble and he makes no apologies. For that we can be thankful as Smith brings a sense of character, and a sense of time and place, that are unlike that of any other sub narrative I've read. Smith reports the mundane, day to day routine (monotonous watches, what he had for breakfast, laundry) alongside the dramatic (depth charge attacks, fights with Marines, other sailors, and civilians, drinking binges). At one point he and fellow crewmen sit on the oily, wet deck of the aft torpedo room, eating sardines and canned pineapple in the dark, trying to hide their fear by telling dirty jokes as the Seal sits at a 30 degree angle unable to trim, below their test depth, trapped by seven destroyers off the coast of Honshu, quickly running out of air and batteries. But this book is also interesting because of Smith's descriptions of the changing life stateside. Along the way, we learn about San Diego, Mare Island, Vallejo, Honolulu, and Hammond Indiana from a sailor's point of view, with a particular eye towards the sexual mores of the era. People did speak and behave differently then and "Torpedoman" captures this better than any other book I can think of. I would strongly recommend this book to those interested in submarines tales.