There are many historical novels about submarines during World War II and several of which are excellent. Run Silent, Run Deep, written by Edward Latimer Beach, Jr., who was a highly-decorated United States Navy submarine officer, is one of the best ever written. This book, which was also filmed, has been referred to by some as “the Holy Grail of submarine novels”, “an American equivalent of Das Boot” and “a landmark novel”.
The book was written by Beach while he served as Naval Aide to President Eisenhower, and first published in 1955. It quickly became a bestseller. The current edition of this book, which includes an interesting introduction by Edward P. Stafford, is published by the Naval Institute Press as part of the Classics of Naval Literature series.
The story begins shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor. An American submarine captain, Edward “Rich” Richardson is given a new boat – Walrus – with orders to destroy Japanese shipping in the Pacific. His executive officer and his former best friend, Jim Bledsoe, is resentful because Richardson had felt it necessary to fail him after Bledsoe acted in a reckless manner during his test for qualification for command after he had made several mistakes and nearly sunk their boat.
Walrus’s first patrol is tough. Just outside of “Area Seven” (the Bungo Suido), Walrus has its first encounter with “Bungo Pete,” an elusive Japanese destroyer commander, Captain Tateo Nakame, who is responsible for a series of sinkings of American submarines and who seems to know the names of his victims. After a severe depth charge attack, Richardson is forced to abort to Midway.
After a patrol near the Aleutian Islands, Richardson learns that “Bungo Pete” has claimed three more American submarines. Walrus returns to The Bungo Suido and conducts an amazing surface attack on a Japanese convoy during nighttime. As before, Bungo Pete arrives on the scene with his guns blazing, and Richardson is wounded and nearly killed by Japanese shellfire.
Richardson is forced to stay ashore to rehabilitate and convinces his superiors that Jim Bledsoe now is ready for command. Accordingly, Jim is promoted to Captain of the Walrus and goes on to become one of the most successful captains of the war. Edward L. Beach Jr.
While rehabilitating for several months in Pearl Harbor, Richardson played a major part in an effort to correct severe reliability problems in the Mk 14 torpedo’s exploder.
In the meantime, Bungo Pete is still on the loose and has sunk more submarines, including Jim Bledsoe’s and Richardson’s Walrus. Richardson begs to be given command and sent to Area Seven to take care of Bungo Pete. He wants revenge, and he feels that he knows Bungo Pete well enough to be able to deal with him. He is given command of the Eel, one of the most modern submarines in the US Navy, and returns to Area Seven. The battle that ensues between the Eel and Bungo Pete’s special anti-submarine warfare group is epic.
Naval fiction about submarines can hardly get better than this. It has excellent descriptions of equipment, life onboard, tactics, and so forth. The characters are interesting too, and the writing is to the point and good. Run Silent, Run Deep is a very compelling and believable book, and the writing takes the reader into the minds, souls, and terror of the crew of a submarine at war. Run Silent, Run Deep really is a landmark novel, and also very entertaining and suspenseful. I loved it!