The Navy Times Book of Submarines: A Political, Social, and Military History

Brayton Harris, Author, Walter J. Boyne, Editor, Walter J. Boyne, Foreword by Berkley Publishing Group $31.95 (398p) ISBN 978-0-425-15777-0
Tom Clancy's bestsellers have made armchair submariners of millions of readers. Writing under the aegis of ""the independent worldwide newsweekly for Navy members and their families,"" Harris (Age of the Battleship), a retired navy captain, covers undersea territory that will be familiar to many of them, but does so in a spotty way. Nearly half the book concerns the period before 1914 and fails to take advantage of recent research on the evolving role of subs in Great Britain's naval strategy. The U.S. Navy's underwater campaign against Japan receives only parenthetical treatment despite its impact on the Pacific war. Post-1945 developments in submarine tactics and technology are also summarily presented, but here Harris's overview proves a useful guide to a mass of data and doctrine frequently forbidding to nonspecialists. The book's strongest feature is its narratives of German U-boat operations in the world wars. These emphasize the submarine's role as an economy-of-force weapon for lesser naval powers and the contingency of allied victory in both campaigns. Harris later develops the subject of preparedness more directly, assessing innovations recently made by the Russians and insisting that nuclear boats remain inherently superior to even the best modern diesel designs and should therefore be central to the U.S. Navy's procurement program. Elsewhere, Harris downplays the ""official"" point of view. This fact enhances his study as a counterpoint to Dan van der Vat's British-accented Stealth at Sea and as a useful, if unbalanced, popular introduction to the subject. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
Paperback - 448 pages - 978-0-425-17838-6
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