“BATFISH“, the Champion “Submarine-Killer Submarine of World War II” by Hughston E. Lowder
with Jack Scott – Prentice-Hall: 1980:226 pages.
“BATFISH” will be a nostalgia trip for WWII submariners and education for latecomers as Lowder, one of her Radiomen, takes the reader from Commissioning in Portsmouth, N.H. through 7 war patrols to her final resting place as a monument in Oklahoma, over a thousand miles from the nearest sea.
Some fine photos help set the atmosphere and include a younger ‘Jake’ John K. Fyfe, and ‘Bob ‘
Robert L. Black, well known to many of us. BATFISH (SS310) sank 1!1 enemy ships , heard many
depth charges, made the usual delightful liberties at Pearl, Midway, Freemantle, and San Francisco,
missed Japan’s mightiest battleship Yamato, weathered typhoons, fretted about trigger-happy
friendly aviators, and raced around on life guard duty as did many of us.
What made BATFISH truly unique was her sinking 3 Japanese submarines in 3 days. What makes that
part of the story truly gripping is that we can empathise with both BATFISH and her targets. How
often has each of us sighed “There but for the grace of …?”
Somehow her handsome last skipper, ‘Walt 1 Walter L. Small missed having his picture included
in what has got to be one of the greatest submarine stories told. Regrettably, charts are not provided to add clarity to the narrative for those not familiar with war areas.
“THE AMERICAN SUBMARINE” , Second Edition, by Norman Polmar, 1983 Nautical and Aviation Publishing Co. of America; 170 pages.
After fitful starts, the line of submarine development became well established just about a century ago and has continued at rates varying from busy to frantic until now. Polmar has achieved a remarkable overview in a copiously illustrated compact 170 pages easy and fascinating to read.
Every retired submariner will want a copy with which to enjoy the nostalgia of reliving the quarter to third of this history he inhabited. Each Wardroom needs a copy so all the officers can share a perspective about the segment of the development line they influence. School libraries need it to provide potential submariners a view of the continuity into which they may enter. Each submariner needs a copy with which to show his son what he does and what his life means.
The Author shows that submariners have placed themselves in danger and discomfort in efforts to
achieve naval missions from the Revolution to the present as technological opportunists of each
time frame. Propulsion has gone from one manpower through multi-manpower, sail, steam,
gasoline-electric, diesel-electric up to about 6000 horsepower, to nuclear power up to 60,000
horsepower. Hull materials have gone from wood to iron to steel to HY 80 steel to aluminum to
titanium. Weapons have gone from screw attached mines to spar mines to launched mines to
torpedoes to homing torpedoes to guided missiles to ballistic missiles to homing missiles to MIRVed
Similar decibel changes have been made to happen in such other characteristics as hull form, environmental controls, endurance, operating depth, detection methods, detection avoidance,
communications, speed, and ruggedizing. Most of the phases in these evolutions are illustrated and
described. The author gives well deserved credit to Cmdr. John Alden and his excellent book “THE
FLEET SUBMARINE IN THE U.S. NAVY.”
Many fun games can be played with the information contained : ‘What well known officer
was last CO of U.S.S. Plunger SS-2 Ensign c.w. Nimitz. Who was her most famous visitor?
President T. Roosevelt.
I was able to detect just 10 errors. They are all inconsequencial so I’ll not name them; you’ll
have more fun looking for them. Many of the truly heroic men of submarine development are mentioned; many are not. I hope future works will bring out such names as O.P. Robinson, Carlton Shugg, Ralph Kissinger, Lou Roddis, Joe Pierce, ‘Red’ Gates, J. ‘Bill’ Jones, Bill Roseborough, Mike Moore, Levering Smith, Tom Dunn, ‘Fuel Oil’ Johnson, Mandell, Panoff, Rockwell, Dan Daspit, Frank
Andrews, Paul Backus, Hank Arnold, Harry Jackson , Chet Smith, Frank Lynch, and about a hundred
others who became my heroes.
Of great interest are the parts on the many configurations which have been derived from fleet
boats since WWII; including SSR’ s, transport and cargo submarines, various research submarines,
various LOON and REGULUS launchers, SSK 1 s, SST 1 s, and the ALBACORE.
The evolution of the NUCs and the SSBNs brought out a number of facets unknown to me even though I lived through part of that era on active duty.
Polmar has written a book which will interest many, including submariners at various career stages