Thursday, February 23, 2006

I'm on a submarine mission for you baby

Most people know about the U-Boat war thanks to movies like Das Boot. People know the attempt to strangle the UK with subs didn't work. Fewer people are aware that the US campaign about Japan was hugely successful, after a number of missteps. The classic text for that is Silent Victory, but it is probably a bit long for most.

Subs are sexy, but anti-sub ships are not, so its not surprising that the Allied forces that defeated the Nazi sub attack are negelected. Take a look at one of the most commonly used ships, the Flower class. One of the only novels to show the life of the anti-sub fighters is the Cruel Sea. It follows a British crew of a corvette from 1939 to war's end. That's six years on a tub floating around a dangerous stormy sea while playing cat and mouse with U-Boats. As the war progresses you see it wear the crew down, some dying, some losing family in the German bombing campaigns and some just cracking. Others of course persevere and the Captain's dogged days long hunt for a U-Boat is one of the most exciting scenes of the book. The focus of the story is on the crew and their lives, which is quite unlike modern technothrillers which revel in the technical specifications of each weapons platform while serving up the most wooden of characters.

There is a movie adaptation which is surprisingly good given the amount of time covered and the limits of 1950s special effects. It's not super easy to find, so you better try the movie lover video store.

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