Thunder Below!

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on February 9, 2009

Last year, Adm. Eugene Fluckey died at the ripe old age of 93. Upon reading his obituary, I bought his book where he recounts his service commanding the USS Barb submarine in World War II.

I finally got around to reading it the past few days, and despite what some may think, Fluckey's matter-of-fact recounting of the exploits of the men of the USS Barb reads better than many works of fiction. Fluckey was awarded the Medal of Honor for the Barb's daring attack on several merchant vessels in the Namkwan Harbor, destroying five (four went under immediately, one was beached) and damaging three other ships. In five war patrols in less than two years, Fluckey's Barb sank 29 ships weighing more than 146,000 tons including a converted aircraft carrier, the Unyo.

In addition to sunk ships, Fluckey's men also were the only Americans to set foot on the Japanese mainland during the war when eight sailors in small rubber boats went ashore to destroy a railroad and a train.

Fluckey's exploits on his final war patrol, where the Barb was the first submarine to be outfitted with, and fire, rockets, caused so much havoc among the Japanese, that they were convinced that Adm. Bill Halsey's Pacific fleet had been split in two and was conducting attacks both south of Japan and in the northern Okhotsk Sea.

Japanese military typically credited the destruction wrought by the Barb to several cruisers and destroyers -- accompanied perhaps by a sub -- or entire flights of bombers. That one sub could wreak such destruction was unthinkable.

For those interested in World War II or naval history, "Thunder Below!" is a must-read.

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