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This coffee-table style book was produced by Sonalysts, Inc. and The Naval Submarine League in celebration of the U.S. Naval Submarine Force by presenting the story of the history of the first hundred years of submarining. The editors, in the foreword, advise the reader that, “We view the book as analogous to a small museum. Flipping through and looking at the pictures should be enjoyable. If your interest is piqued, read the captions and become better informed. If you’re hooked, read the text and you will become much better informed.” The editors were more than successful in their endeavors.

This book consists of a series of articles, vignettes, and anecdotes describing the Submarine Force from the acceptance of USS HOLLAND on 11 April 1900 to the celebration of the 10ot11 anniversary in the year 2000. It also contains a superb collection of photographs, documents, and diagrams that explain this history in ways that words are frequently incapable of doing. Although much of the text appears written to inform the non-submariner of the uniqueness of these ships and the men who man them, it is sufficiently enthralling as well for a person who has served in or is familiar with submarines.

Divided into seven major sections, this book addresses a chronology of the key Submarine Force events, the early years of submarining, World War II operations, Cold War operations, the submarine family, proud traditions, and explorations and the future.

The section on the early years describes the initial operations of USS HOLLAND including an informative article by the son of the first Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Harry H. Caldwell, USN. This article gives the reader an insight of the difficulties experienced and traditions established during that first submarine command. An anecdote describes the crew dealing with its first flooding casualty and attempting, thereafter, to determine how to escape from a stricken submarine (using a dog, no less). This section also contains the publication of Admiral Crowe’s 2000 banquet address to the Naval Submarine League on the early days of submarining and an interesting discussion of submarine sinkings, rescues, and salvage during the first 100 years.

The section on World War II starts with an excellent summary of submarine operations from the war’s beginning to its end. This was followed by an article describing the various classes of submarines and their variants that fought during the war and the process that led to the development of the Gato, Balao, and Tench fleet boat classes. This article also discusses the selection of the yards that built these submarines and covers the many improvements in technology that helped the Submarine Force win the war in the Pacific. An article addresses the 52 submarines lost during the war and the means (or suspected means) of their loss. Finally, an article identifies the seven submariners who were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor during the war and presents the reasons for these awards. This review of these medal winners’ bravery brought back memories of the types of people of which the Submarine Force consists.

By far the largest section of the book, and appropriately so, is the one dealing with submarine operations during the Cold War. This section commences with a description of the evolution of submarines and technology from the end of World War II to the present. Following are two views of Admiral Rickover and his impact on submarines. A Cold War retrospective summary provides an excellent background for further discussions of submarine operations during this period. An article on the different submarine strategies employed by the United States and Soviet Union during the period gives the reader a better understanding of Cold War submarine operations. Lastly, the book provides two articles that discuss fleet ballistic missile and attack submarine operations during the Cold War period, describing why each was instrumental to the U.S. victory of this non-shooting war.

Of interest to readers, both submariners and non-submariners, are vignettes describing two recently declassified Cold War, submarine versus submarine operations. The Commanding Officers of the U.S. submarines involved convey the stories of these operations and give an excellent perspective of the types of encounters chat submariners experienced in the Atlantic and Pacific areas of operation during chat period.

A section on the submarine family characterizes the life of the men who serve on submarines and the families that support them. It also provides a brief history of the U.S. Naval Submarine School and discusses the role of the Chief of the Boat in the day-to-day operation of a submarine. In addition, this section discusses the Dolphin Scholarship Foundation and Red Cross Volunteers (Gray Ladies). These two descriptions provide a human touch to the book which is otherwise about men and their ships.

Proud traditions addresses the types of insignia, medals, awards, and citations given to submariners. It also explains the submarine battle flags flown by ships during World War II and the patches designed by submarine crews throughout the century. Finally, this section provides a brief description of all the submarine memorials and museums throughout the country. This is a handy tool for those wanting to go to visit a submarine to get an appreciation of their size and the accommodations they provided or learn more of the history of these ships.

The final section of the book covers submarine involvement in scientific exploration. It primarily examines the ice and deep submergence operations in which submarines have been involved. This section also attempts to give the reader a look at the submarine and submarining of the future. Looking back through this book and seeing how much submarining has changed over the past 100 years, demonstrates the difficulty of this latter task. Unfortunately, we are only looking forward in time through a periscope with the narrowest field of view in predicting submarine operations in the future.

This book is an entertaining and educational look at the first 100 years of submarine operations. It documents well in words and pictures the life that submariners, past and present, experienced in their love of country and love of the sea. It is a must have for submariners and those with interests in the field of submarining.

Naval Submarine League

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