Currently reading "War In The Boats: My World War II Submarine Battles" by Capt. William Ruhe.
Capt. Ruhe started out in submarines while stationed in Australia, where he was supposed to install radar on aging S-type submarines. When the first load of radar equipment was sunk at Pearl Harbor, and a later load was delayed, he requested to ship out on one of the submarines to get a taste of what it was like, rather than simply sitting out the war doing various duties on the tender. He remained on submarines through the rest of the war and beyond.
He kept a journal through all of his tours. This book is compiled from those journals. The book describes many aspects of the patrols, with a focus on the mental stresses experienced by the crew. He describes the mundane aspects of sea duty aboard the boats: battles with cockroaches, the effects of depth charges on porcelain toilet bowls, and the difficulties in lighting cigarettes in the damp interior of the submarines. He also describes the difficulties of fighting the war in the early days, using aging World War I vintage vessels and torpedoes that often failed to detonate, detonated prematurely, or otherwise went awry. One has to wonder at how success was ever achieved under those conditions, but the men managed.
The strain on the captains under which he served are of particular interest, as he describes in detail how these manifested themselves through odd behaviour. To their credit, most captains recognized these failings themselves, and requested transfers or duty changes themselves. The men, with responses that sometimes bordered on mutiny, managed to keep the boat focused on the missions and on the war even as the captains' mind failed to maintain that focus. It is a good study, and shows us that the ‘iron men' had their weaknesses after all.
On an interesting note, (at least interesting to me): I've commented before that I prefer hardcover books, and this one was no exception. Since the book is currently not in print, I had to order it from Amazon's secondary market. The seller advertised its condition as ‘very good', which it was, and shipped it promptly. When I first opened it, I noticed that it has one of those embossed "Library of" seals inside, indicating that it came from the library of one Wayne R. Fritz. The next thing I noticed was an inscription from the author addressed to Capt. Fritz, who he identifies as a fellow diesel submariner.
Capt. Fritz (USNA ‘57) is on the board of the United States Naval Institute, of which I am a member. Capt. Ruhe (USNA ‘39) passed away in 2003. He had been an advisor to Tom Clancy on the book "The Hunt For Red October". He also wrote the book; "Slow Dance to Pearl Harbor: A Tin Can Ensign in Prewar America", which I have not yet read.
Anyway, I find it rather nice owning this little bit of history, a book passed from two old diesel submariners. I think it's a nice addition to my bookshelf.
Quod scripsi, scripsi.