Run Silent, Run Deep (1955)

Sometimes there’s no substitute for being there. I find that the best novels are from those that can convey there actual experience into fiction. While any of us could write a novel of World War II, for example, few would have the first hand knowledge that author Edward Beach brings to the table. You see, he was a submarine commander in the Pacific during WWII, and although Run Silent, Run Deep is a fictional work, it is still firmly grounded in what really went on from someone who did it in this author's debut novel.

The novel opens shortly after Pearl Harbor, and the “sleeping giant of America” comes off of its peacetime footings and scaling up for war. We meet the characters as they are training on an old WWI sub at the base at New London, Connecticut. In a rush to get subs into the battle, folks are getting promoted to sub commander who in peacetime would take a lot longer. Also, a bit of a love triangle develops between the sub captain, his executive officer and a civilian female.

After taking a new sub through the Panama Canal, we find our crew going up against Bungo Pete- a Japanese destroyer commanded by an ex-submariner. He knows the American tactics too well, and proves a formal adversary against several of the sub crews as he sinks them one by one. I definitely give credit to the men that went out in these boats that were so crude compared to modern standards. For example, they barely had sonar, and half the time they attacked from the surface because it was easier than using the periscope!

Compounding the American challenges is a torpedo that doesn’t work correctly. Even with vigilant maintenance, the torpedo that the American subs are firing has a high fail rate, striking the target and literally bouncing off. Our captain on a shore side assignment takes on the challenge of dealing with this. Finally, in an epic sea battle that would make Herman Melville proud, the latest American sub goes up against Bungo Pete’s destroyer in a death match to the very end.

I enjoyed this novel very much. As an aside, I had read this work when I was a lot younger, and I had enjoyed it quite a bit that time also so it was interesting to see how much my taste hasn’t changed. The descriptions of Pearl Harbor, and Waikiki are also very accurate, and again the author’s first hand experience come into play here. While this novel is over fifty years old, it still reads well, and is a classic at this point. Fans of either World War II, or the Navy will enjoy Run Silent, Run Deep very much.

Overall Grade: A-

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