Run Silent, Run Deep
is the quintessential submarine novel
set during World War II
. The reason for it is the novel's stunning authenticity, with detail and accuracy exceeding Tom Clancy
's wildest dreams. The author, Commander Edward W. (Ned) Beach, was an authentic war hero. Beach served as executive officer to "Dusty Dornan"
on USS Trigger
and Congressional Medal of Honor
winner George L. Street on USS Tirante
, two of the
most successful American submarines of the war. Beach earned the Navy Cross
. He made dozens of war patrols and personally watched many Japanese ships sink through a periscope
. As it states in the introduction, "I have personally tasted Bungo Pete's depth charge
s." Beach went on to command a number of submarines, including the twin reactor USS Triton
. It is a novel of submarine operations, its teething pains as the force moved from peacetime into war, and of command
The story begins soon after Pearl Harbor. The Navy is hungry for qualified captains, and Lt. Commander "Rich" Richardson has a talented exec, Jim Bledsoe. But Bledsoe still needs some seasoning, and Richardson is forced to take over the boat, aborting Bledsoe's qualifying cruise. Though his action was correct, Bledsoe feels betrayed, and this creates a tension between the two that will last for much of the book.
The pair are kept together as their old S boat is turned over to some Polish sailors, and they are to prepare a new fleet boat for sea, the Nerka. The pair are successful, and eventually Richardson is wounded in combat, and Bledsoe takes command of the Nerka.
Richardson is moved to staff duty during his recovery, and the book traces the real struggles the Navy had perfecting its torpedoes. And he watches as Bledsoe turns his anger at his former captain into burning aggressiveness, cutting a swath through Japanese shipping until the Nerka is lost somewhere inside the Bungo Suido. To a Japanese hunter-killer team headed by a man known as 'Bungo Pete'.
Nerka wasn't the first submarine to fall to that most capable enemy. Five boats have been lost to Bungo Pete, including Bledsoe's Nerka. A former submariner himself, Bungo Pete's teams has killed so many American subs that the Bungo Suido had been declared off limits to submarines. Richardson is sent back to sea in a new submarine, the Eel, with the mission to kill Bungo Pete. This enemy is simply too good. For the sake of the American submarine force Bungo Pete must die. The battle between Richardson and Bungo Pete is an excellent fight between two skilled adversaries where no quarter can be permitted.
Though fiction, this is a novel of truth. 'Bungo Pete' really existed. From the Is-Was string based firing computer used on the S-boats to opening the group vents to trim the sub, everything about the novel is real, written by someone who was there. This novel can teach as much as any history written on the submarine war of the era. It has a sequel, Dust on the Sea which is also quite good, and equally realistic.
The book was also made into a film starring Clark Gable as Richardson, and Burt Lancaster as Bledsoe. Though it deviates from the book in important ways-- not unusual for a film-- it still offers a taut drama and more authenticity than any other submarine film until Das Boot, or perhaps the Robert Mitchum film The Enemy Below. Highly recommended.