THE SUBMARINE by Thomas Parrish


A History
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Dive, dive! Ah-oogah, ah-oogah!

Beg pardon, but military historian Parrish (Berlin in the Balance, 1998, etc.) steers his text so far away from Run Silent, Run Deep–like clichés (and, sadly, excitement) that the reader may feel compelled to provide some. Instead, Parrish’s narrative duly points to the evolution of the submarine from experimental tinker toy to tactical spearhead. A high point comes early on, when Parrish discusses the many sources of the modern submarine, including designs by Leonardo da Vinci; 16th-century English mathematician William Bourne; American naval architects Robert Fulton and David Bushnell; and the unsung Irish revolutionary John Holland, whose Fenian Ram of 1878 “came close to ranking as the first functioning submarine.” In WWI, Parrish holds, the now fully functioning submarine “exercised decisive political influence”; it helped shape political alliances that eventually drew America into the Allied cause, and its manufacture and use were political as much as strategic matters. Had it had only 50 more submarines, one English leader remarked, Germany would have won that naval battle, as it very nearly did the Battle of the Atlantic in WWII. Parrish revisits now-familiar episodes in WWII naval history, including the deciphering of the German Enigma cryptographic system. But, usefully, he illuminates some lesser-known aspects of the conflict: the lack of coordination among the Axis naval powers (Pearl Harbor, Parrish writes, was as a surprise to the Germans as to the Americans) and the successful application of German tactics on the part of American submariners in the Pacific, especially against Japanese merchant ships. Parrish closes his narrative with an examination of the modern superpowers’ submarine forces, including the Soviets’ accident-prone supersubs and the Americans’ stealthy “boomers,” which are still in service today. In that modern era, he observes, the submarine had evolved still further, from highwayman-like destroyer of merchant ships to a powerful instrument of nuclear deterrence—and “queen of warships.”

Dry if well-researched: best for students of naval history.

Pub Date: May 10th, 2004
ISBN: 0-670-03313-8
Page count: 572pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2004


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