Book Review – Escape from the Deep

I have often heard it said that no subject in history (with the possible exception of Jesus) has received as much attention in the written word as the Second World War. Even today, more than sixty years after it drew to a close, the war continues to fascinate. We still see a constant stream of books, movies and video games drawing upon that worldwide conflict. This makes good sense, I suppose. With countless millions involved in the war in one way or another, and with each person having a story to tell, we will never lack for interesting tales. Like so many others, I never tire of reading these stories.

Escape from the Deep tells the tale of one of the U.S. Navy’s most successful submarines—the Tang. The book was recommended by Dr. Al Mohler in a list he prepared to recommend books for dads and this is where I learned of it. Even in the final months of 1944, the Tang had achieved infamy, having sunk more enemy ships, rescued more downed airmen, and pulled off more daring surface attacks than any other submarine in the Pacific war. But on her fifth patrol, one that took the crew to the Formosa Straight, disaster struck. Near the end of what would have been her most successful patrol yet, the Tang was struck by her own torpedo, killing half of the crew and sinking the submarine in 180 feet of water. Some men were blown clear of the boat and struggled to survive in the water; others went down with the ship and sought to escape from the ocean floor. The handful who survived were captured by the Japanese and spent the rest of the war facing the brutal conditions of prison camps.

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Here is a quote from the book that Dr. Mohler provided in his brief review:

After the last man had exited, he would bang on the trunk—the signal for the escape door to be closed by a lever from inside the torpedo room. Then the seawater would be allowed to drain into the bilges and another four men would take their place in the escape trunk. Unfortunately, because of the Japanese patrol boats above, banging on the trunk placed the men in a terrible double bind. The only way they could communicate with the men waiting their turn was by banging, and yet the sound was bound to give away the Tang’s position to the enemy at some point. It seemed that they were doomed if they didn’t and doomed if they did.

Escape from the Deep is a fast-moving account and one that just about anyone can read and enjoy. With only 220 pages of text and written in a popular style, any reader with even a passing fancy in the Second World War is bound to enjoy it. It comes highly recommended!

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