Book Review: Surface and Destroy: The Submarine Gun War in the Pacific


by Michael Sturma

Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2011. Pp. x, 248. Illus., append., notes, biblio, index. $29.95. ISBN: 0813129966

Although not really what one thinks of when discussing submarine operations, surface gunnery actions are occasionally mentioned in naval histories, and in this work Prof. Sturma (Murdoch, Australia), demonstrates that they were in fact not at all uncommon. 

Calculating that there were literally hundreds of surface actions by Allied submarines during the Pacific War, Sturma, author of several earlier works on undersea warfare, examines a substantial number of them.  While some of these clashes occurred because a submarine found itself unable to submerge upon the sudden appearance of enemy warships, most involved attacks on small vessels such as trawlers, barges, and sampans, during blockade operations.  Other clashes took place because Allied submariners were engaged in rescuing downed airmen, or were trying to capture or inflict vengeance on Japanese seamen, several atrocities being committed by the crews of some of the most famous boats, such as the Wahoo (SS 238).  In addition to his narrative account of many surface fight by Allied submarines in the Pacific, Sturma ends the book with a very useful appendix listing all such actions that are known.

Surface and Destroy is a valuable contribution to the literature on the Pacific War and submarine operations.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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