By Captain Wayne Hughes, USN(Bet.)
U.S. Naval Institute Press, 1986
This book is a study of fleet tactics which approaches the subject from an historical perspective and proceeds to develop chapters on the “Great Trends,” the “Great Constants,” the “Great Variables,” and the “Trends and Constants of Technology.”
From this massive overview or the elements of tactics there is a chapter on “Modern Fleet Tactics.” This would appear to be an authoritative statement of the current thinking in the u.s. Navy on how to operate a Fleet in combat. In the Forward, Admiral Thomas Hayward states that our Navy has “a need, unrivaled by that of any time in our history, for the study and mastery of tactics,” and that this book “is a treasure house of commonsensical guidelines and stimulating ideas.”
Admiral Hayward also comments that he is often asked “How much longer will the Carriers be the centerpiece of the U.S. Navy’s tactics?” And, according to Admiral Hayward, “A responsible answer must revolve around technology and tactics, — and the pages that follow are relevant to the whole issue.”
This book may indeed mark a turning point in the understanding of tactics by the U.S. Navy. Since WW II the literature on naval tactics has been practically non-existent. Whenever tactics ~re considered they are usually presented axiomatically to support an analysis whose conclusions advocate the adoption of a new technology or the need for more of certain classes of ships and aircraft. The author admits that “this book says little about the submarine wars •••• That is because fleet actions offer the best chance of controlling the seas.” But unexplained by the author is why he never includes submarines as an element of the Fleet. He always presents the carrier battle group as the centerpiece of his tactical force.
Admiral Hayward admitted to being a Naval Aviator “harboring all the biases that term connotes.” And your reviewer admits being a WW II submariner with all the technological ignorance and biases attributed to that breed by many in the modern Navy. But, does that imply that tactical skills are the exclusive privilege of the technologically informed? Indeed, does the skill of a boxer demand a knowledge of physics and physiology, and has the tactical successes of past heroes been based on their technological skills?
The best book on tactics was written some two-thousand years ago by Sun Tzu and is frequently quoted by Captain Hughes. Sun Tzu called his treatise “The Art of War” and has, over these two-thousand years, been the best analysis of the skills needed by that outdated notion of the “Warrior.”
Sun Tzu says “Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances.” This is a truth well known to anyone experienced in battle; the essence of successful tactics is that of catching the enemy “off guard” or, if you will, by surprise. Tactical doctrine and tactics by formula may result in optimum solutions in analysis, but are fatal against an alert enemy.
The essence of tactical genius as best exemplified by Admiral Nelson is to do those things which the enemy does not consider reasonable or logical. All of which says that an understanding of the analysis of Fleet Tactics presented by Captain Hughes is not likely to produce a future warrior of the caliber of Horatio Nelson, John Paul Jones, or Chester Nimitz. Battles are won by the best warriors, not the best mathematicians or technologists, or even analysts.
But still, Fleet Tactics is an important book. If it is widely read and discussed by Naval Officers it will become apparent that something more is needed to produce future victories of the importance we attach to those of Nelson and Nimitz.
Admiral Hayward’s feeling that the “need (for the study and mastery of tactics) was unrivaled by that of any time in our history” was a feeling expressed by Winston Churchill when he wrote of WW I, “We had brilliant experts of every description ••• fine sea officers and devoted hearts: but at the outset of the conflict we had more captains of ships than captains of war. In this will be found the explanation of many untoward events.”
Fleet Tactics may well be the first step toward developing these “Captains of War.” If so, it deserves analysis and criticism.
Frank C. Lynoh, Jr.
By Grover S. McLeod. Copyright 1986. Published by: Manchester Press, P.O. Box 550102, Birmingham, AL 35205. Illustrations by Vince Zerone. Price $19.95
Prior books that have been written about submarine participation in the Pacific during WW II have been written by naval officers or naval historians.
This book presents a forthright view or the submarine war from the eyes or an eighteen year old seaman and later torpedoman. Highly personal, with much name dropping, there are still design, tactical, and operational lessons that shine through the five hundred and forty-eight pages.
The author, now a practicing attorney in Birmingham, Alabama, in his introduction states that the success or the fleet type submarine was more due to the courage or the officers and men that sailed it than the submarine, for many nations had submarines that had as many capabilities as the Americans. He makes the point that u.s. submarines were standard, which not only permitted interchangeability or parts, but enabled personnel to be shifted easily from boat to boat. An underlying thesis of Attorney McLeod is that the American sailor was unique, superior to his weaponry and in many ways to the Navy to which he belonged. In his eyes, the Navy was burdened with unnecessary classes, secrecy, and often was guilty of bungling.
There is an interesting discussion in the early pages, of the chasm between officers and enlisted men. In most cases the chasm would not close during the war. In visiting Australia later during the war, Sam finds that the Australian Army worked in the opposite way. Officers walked the streets with their soldiers, they drank together socially in pubs and it was never “Mister” or “Sir.” It was “Lieutenant” or “Captain” or “Sergeant” or “Bluie” or “Snow.” They also maintained discipline when necessary. This association had much to do with making the best fighting unit in the war. He further states “The German submarine officers were of like mind. On their first night in port, the officers and men had a grand drinking session. There was much camaraderie between officers and enlisted men on the U-boats. This was possible because their submarine officers came from the Merchant Marine, rather than the Academy, and so they had a feel for life on the lower echelon.” How grand it would have been “if the officers of the FINBACK then had shed their whites for khakis and doffed their hats and ties. It would even have been nicer if they bad shelved their whiskey and their fancy officers’ club and joined us on the hill. It would have done much for the crew if they had drank beer with us and shared our stories.”
Not all readers subscribe to the author’s perceived submarine liabilities. Yet there are valid lessons to be learned. FINBACK, ordered to the Aleutians immediately after Midway, was woefully short of accurate navigation charts. Fishermen who had been charting the northern waters for ten years, gave the opponents an edge. In July 1942, when USS GRUNION (SS 216) did not respond to a command communication, FINBACK was directed to search a twenty-five mile quadrant east of Kiska, and transmit on 450 kilohertz. The susceptibility of these transmissions to the opponents’ shore-based RDF system seems to have escaped the notice of the command at Dutch Harbor. Charts were improvised and our seaman author gives the Navigator credit for charting a “dozen” new Aleutian Islands.
Much has been written about the Mk VI Magnetic Exploder and the Mk XIV torpedoes errant depth running ability. A chapter is devoted to bad torpedoes. The lesson learned involved excess secrecy and insufficient proof testing.
In HALIBUT, Attorney McLeod’s second boat, operation and maintenance of the surface SJ radar is dealt with. Remembering the lack of a radar technician in FINBACK, and the remembered uselessness of the SD (air warning) radar in that boat, the Navy is criticized in being late in training men in radar maintenance.The schools were too brief.
Some of the hither-to unchronicled adventures are described in detail through the author’s eyes. Two incidents stand out as written by our seaman first class author. There was the self or auto ignition — of a British type aircraft recognition flare in its storage box in the conning tower, while submerged at two hundred feet. This occurred after repeated exposure to the hostile environment of salt water and heat. One officer and the fire controlman donned lungs with smoke canisters and promptly discovered that the canister did not filter out the acid smoke, With its self-contained magnesium oxide, immersing the flare in a bucket of water did no good. The boat was forced to surface.
In another operational incident described in detail, the conning tower hatch is not properly dogged shut by the nineteen year old quartermaster. Grover McLeod, a lookout, and now manning the bow planes, recalls the scene as the boat plunged to forty-two feet with a twenty-six inch hatch dogged open. With reflex action, the many drills paid off. The boat surfaced and lived to fight another day. If either of these two incidents had occurred while in contact with enemy forces, FINBACK would have joined the fifty-two submarines on eternal patrol.
In a sense, it is an nafter battle critiquen written forty-four years later. The book is, of course, a sailors story. It is non-technical and very readable. To the serious student of submarine warfare, certain fundamental truths stand out as weaknesses in what was a highly successful submarine campaign which provided the cutting edge in stopping the advance of the opposing naval forces and then strangling the sea supply routes to a vulnerable island fortress. On the verge of the high technology era, the U.S. submarines suffered from inefficient weapons, lack of secure communications, underwater and surface, and technicians to maintain complex new surveillance systems.
It is possible that the eighteen year old seaman, and torpedo man, in 1942 and 143, perceived voids and weaknesses that took months and years to get up to higher echelons. The operational foul-ups, which happened to every submarine and usually glossed over or omitted in official patrol reports, give the book its honest and authentic flavor. Although some shipmates disagree with “Sam” McLeod on details, this book is a good sea story, in which all WW II submariners can relive their own experiences. Additionally, there may be lessons learned for the present generation.
Captain H. I. Handel
THE MIKADO’S GUESTS
by A. Bancroft and R.G. Roberta, Print Image Pty. LTD., 31 Angove Street, North Perth, Western Australia.
On Australia Day. January 26, 1987, one of the authors, Arthur Bancroft gave a dinner party for u.s. submariners who were in Perth for the America’s Cup races, plus other American submariners who had married Australian girls and retired to live in Perth. Specifically, Bancroft was honoring Jack Bennett, ~rho was on the Queenfish which picked Bancroft out of the water five days after Bancroft’s prison ship went down. Jack Bennett, Charlie Rush and Charlie Bishop can attest to the great bond of friendship which had been established with the Australian military people through u.s. submarine operations in the Western Pacific.
The book reviewed here is an account o~ two o~ these survivors ~rom H.H.A.S. PERTH, which was sunk in February 1942. For the most part it deals with their prison camp tribulations but the dramatic end to their captivity needs to be retold to our submarine community — for the importance of this special facet of submarine warfare. Thus the last several chapters are condensed here to give some flavor to how it all ended.
Enroute to Tokyo: “Further cholera tests were taken by Japanese doctors and the prisoners were prepared for the unpleasant journey. Previously we’d been told that there was little chance of getting to Tokyo, so the prisoners visualized the prospects of being sunk by American submarines.
“On September 6, 1944, after fond farewells to comrades staying behind, over 700 Australians were moved to the Singapore docks where they were joined by a party of 1300 Englishmen who would sail with us in the same convoy.
“The Australians plus 600 Englishmen were herded onto a Japanese transport, tht:! “ROKUYO MARU” o~ 9,100 tons. With the help of rifle butts the men were crowded down below in No.2 hold, but it was found impossible to find anything but standing room. Two square feet were allowed for each man. The accommodation was meant ~or 187 steerage passengers and the Japanese were tryins to cram 1300 into this space. The remainder of the English, about 700, boarded another exAmerican transport. Our convoy consisted of two tankers, four transports and four destroyet~ escorts. Off the Philippines, the convoy ‘tJas joined by nore transports and tuo more escorts.
“At 2:30 a.m. on the morning of the 12th of September, an Allied submarine sank one of the escorts. (This was Ben Oakley’s GROWLER which had earlier sunk a 900-ton frigate and then in a surface attack sank a Japanese destroyer with a down-the-throat shot. Admiral Ralph Christie called it “one of the most daring attacks on record.”) For half an hour the convoy zig-zagged furiously and depth charges were dropped by the dozen. All men were herded down below but there was no panic among the prisoners.
“At 5:30 a.m. two tankers blew up within a few hundred yards — off our port bow. The pitch black night was immediately turned into day. Our ship was silhouetted beautifully against the two burning tankers. Shortly there were screams from the bridge heralding the approach of torpedoes from the starboard side. One hit abaft of midships and shook the ship from stem to stern. A minute later another explosion rocked the ROKUYO MARU. Luckily the second torpedo hit up in the bow and did very little damage. With our ship drifting toward the burning tankers and with flames all over the waters, the Japs left the ship taking all the life boats while the Australian officers ordered an orderly abandoning of the ship. (This attack was by Eli Reich’s SEALION. He fired six torpedoes at a tanker and a big transport, the ROKUYO MARU, and hit both plus another transport which he saw go down. Looking through his periscope he saw “a large vessel burning well down in the water — the ROKUYO MARU.” SEALION withdrew from the area, unaware of the Allied prisoners who were taking to the water on makeshift rafts. Th~ burning tanker sank, shortly.}
“The ROKUYO HARU took 12 hours to sink. ~iany of us attempted to return to the ship with no success. Two Jap escort vessels picked up Japanese survivors but kept the prisoners off with revolvers. Late in the evening a merchant ship hove-to on the horizon but was turned away by the destroyer escorts.
“After one day and night in water the men were very cheerful and hopeful, but many were ill from drinking salt water and the fuel oil from the sunken tanker was very uncomfortable and many were blinded by it. That night more ships were attacked and the transport with 750 Englishmen aboard was torpedoed — no survivors. (This attack by Paul Summers’ PAMPANITO produced hits in a large transport and a freighter which were seen to disappear beneath the sea. Another attack saw hits in a freighter which sank and damage inflicted on a fourth freighter “could not be observed because of the haze and smoke.” Two days later PAMPANITO and SEALION observed the ROKUYO ~~RU still aflame but neither submarine considered it a worthy target since it was only a matter of time until it would also go to the bottom. The afternoon of the 15th PAMPANITO sighted men on a raft covered with oil and filth but some with black curly hair didn’t look like Japs. Then we made out the words “pick up please” — there were 15 men on the raft. PAMPANITO eventually found more rafts and more prisoners of war, until 73 men were taken aboard. Neanwhile SEALION was combing the ocean for survivors and rescued 54 men, but four later died on the way to Saipan. When PAMPANITO told of his rescue operation, Gene Fluckey in BARB and Elliot Loughlin in QUEENFISH were ordered at top speed to close the area to help recover any other survivors. But enroute, both submarines encountered another enemy convoy and Ed Swinburne, the pack commander, decided to take a crack at the convoy first. BARB put some torpedoes into a large tanker which blew up. Then a little later a 22,500 ton aircraft carrier was spotted and UNYO, an escort carrier, went to the bottom. Loughlin’s QUEENFISH with its last four torpedoes damaged a large tanker. Then the two submarines hurried on to find survivors.)
“Late on the 15th we saw a submarine picking up survivors but she didn’t see us. Our hearts sank very low as we heard her engines fading in the distance. At night we paired off on the rafts for warmth. The sun in the daytime was a curse and we wished for the cool of night. But at night it was vice versa, we wished for the sun. On the 17th by midday the waves were from 10 to 15 feet high. It was advisable to lash one’s self to the rafts as the sea was continually breaking over the rafts. At about 1500 hours a submarine came directly to us, though the sea was tossing her about like a cork. Getting us off the raft and onto the submarine was a dangerous job for the crew as well as us. Quickly we were lowered down the forward escape hatch into the forward torpedo room and placed on mattresses and snow white blankets. After being used to the small Japs for two and a half years these fine husky American sailors were a sight for sore eyes. From then on until we left the submarine, nine days later — in Saipan — their kindness, sympathy and consideration left us with a debt we can never repay. After eating nothing but rice for two and a half years, civilized food was marvelous and the zest with which we tackled it amused the submarine’s crew greatly.
“It was with regret that we said goodbye to the crew of the QUEENFISH for we had struck up everlasting friendships with these boys, most of them only 20 years of age but already wellseasoned in the horrors of war.
Later Bancroft and Roberts learned that there were only three other survivors from the cruiser PERTH “and one of them, Bob Collins, was a friend of ours.”
Thi.s is another one of the accounts from Horld \·Tar II ‘tlhich are beginning to appear in considerable numbers and which offer the oppol’tuuity to tie some of one’s own war experiences together. The America’s Cup races did more than renew a yachting rivalry. It also proved a good excuse for many reunions with Australian friends, more than forty years after the war’s end.
We have had several people call the office or write to request information on how to purchase the book “Fresh Water Submarines – The Manitowoc Story”, reviewed in the January edition of THE SUBt1ARINE REVIEW. The book, by Rear Admiral William T. Nelson, USN(Ret.) is available through the Manitowoc Maritime Museum, 809 South 8th Street, Manitowoc, WI 54220. Price $8.50. ($8.85 for Wisconsin residents.)