The War Below

The Story of Three Submarines That Battled Japan

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THE WAR BELOW is the riveting story of the submarine force that helped win World War II in the Pacific by ravaging Japan’s merchant fleet and destroying the nation’s economy.

Focusing on the unique stories of three of the war’s top submarines—Silversides, Drum, and Tang—James Scott takes readers beneath the waves to experience the determination, heroism, and tragedy that defined the submarine service. From the thrill of a torpedo hit on a loaded freighter to the terror of depth charge attacks that shattered gauges and sprang leaks, The War Below vividly re-creates the camaraderie, exhilaration, and fear of the brave volunteers who took the fight to the enemy’s coastline. Scott recounts incredible feats of courage—from an emergency appendectomy performed with kitchen utensils to the desperate struggle of sailors to escape from a flooded submarine trapped on the bottom—as well as moments of unimaginable tragedy, including an attack on an unmarked enemy freighter carrying 1,800 American prisoners of war.

The casualty rate among submariners topped that of all other military branches. The war claimed almost one out of every five subs—and a submarine crewman was six times more likely to die than a sailor onboard a surface ship. But the submarine service accomplished its mission; Silversides, Drum, and Tang sank a combined sixty-two freighters, tankers, and transports. So ravaged from the loss of precious supplies due to the destruction of the nation’s merchant fleet were the Japanese that by the war’s end hungry civilians ate sawdust while warships lay at anchor due to lack of fuel and pilots resorted to suicidal kamikaze missions. In retaliation, the Japanese often beat, tortured, and starved captured submariners in the atrocious prisoner of war camps.

Based on more than 100 interviews with submarine veterans and thousands of pages of previously unpublished letters and diaries, The War Below will let readers experience the battle for the Pacific as never before.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 448 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439176856 | 
  • May 2013
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Read an Excerpt

The War Below 1 SILVERSIDES
“No one knows how long this will last, but long enough to make everyone very tired of it.”

—Slade Cutter, February 9, 1942, letter

Lieutenant Commander Creed Cardwell Burlingame paced the bridge of the USS Silversides as it departed the submarine base at Pearl Harbor at 9:51 a.m. on April 30, 1942. The thirty-seven-year-old skipper, nicknamed “Burly,” felt anxious this warm Thursday morning. The... see more

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