- It is a jolly good read either way Review by Warship World reader PB
Just imagine what the British population, weary of total war, would have made of the news that Japanese submarines were operating in the North Atlantic. Of course, the population was kept in the dark and were blissfully unaware of submarines such as the I-52 which had made its way into the North Atlantic on a supply mission to transfer vital war materiel to the Germans. To be fair the Germans also sent U-boats into the Pacific to supply their Japanese allies with modern torpedo technologies and other vital supplies.
That I-52 got into the Atlantic is the main thrust of this excellent and professionally written book that effectively comes in two parts. The first focuses on the wartime mission to evade the Allies and bring vital components to the beleaguered Axis power in Europe to, however futilely, try to stem the inexorable tide of Allied dominance. The author has got to extraordinary levels of research to discover mission plans, crew, and cargo manifests of German and Japanese sources around the world to paint a vivid and times claustrophobic portrayal of life aboard a mid-20th century submarine. The stench and the foul air and the long periods at sea are described in extreme detail as is the search and science behind the tracking of a doomed submarine. From the moment I-52 left port it had already been identified and noted and it was only a matter of the correct time and place before it would meet its destruction at the hands of anti-submarine aircraft from the escort aircraft carrier USS Bogue.
The discovery of long forgotten mission logs from the pilots and crew of the aircraft carrier lend a human aspect to the story of the unequal fight between the hunted submarine and its hunters, the aircraft.
The second part of this book chronicles the search for the sunken submarine and efforts to recover some of the valuable cargo that it had been carrying to Germany. T was one of the first joint US/Russian salvage operations following the collapse of the Iron Curtain and reading the text suggests that some tensions still persisted between former Cold War adversaries.
In some places the text becomes quite technical and in-depth whilst in others the book reads like an action, espionage, and codebreaking adventure novel. It is a jolly good read either way.
(Posted on 25/11/2020)