SUBMARINE COMMANDER, by Paul R. Schratz, USN (Ret).
Few men have been in and commanded as many sumbarines on as many combat war patrols as the author. This is his action-packed story from the North Atlantic in 1941 to the South Pacific to Korea in 1952. He explains the ties that bind the brotherhood of submariners who must face the realities of surface as well as undersea engagements. This book is well written and a delight to read. His boats include USS Mackerel, USS Scorpion, USS Sterlett, USS Atule, USS Burrfish, and USS Pickerel. In early 1943 the submarine USS Scorpion, with Paul R. Schratz as torpedo officer, slipped into the shallow waters east of Tokyo, laid a minefield, and made successful torpedo attacks on merchant shipping. In a fierce battle with a heavily armed patrol vessel, Schratz’s executive officer and best friend, Reggie Raymond, was killed. On the Scorpion’s next patrol, a torpedo salvo dedicated to Raymond sent two more freighters to the bottom in a near perfect attack.
Here is a fascinating personal memoir of underwater combat in World War II, told by a man who played a major role in those dangerous operations. In the next two years Schratz participated in many more patrols in heavily mined Japanese waters as executive officer of the Sterlet and the Atule, sinking eight more ships and rescuing seven air force and navy aviators shot down off Okinawa. At war’s end he participated in the Japanese surrender, aided the release of American POWs, and had a key role in the disarming of enemy suicide submarines. He then took command of the revolutionary new Japanese submarine I-203 and returned it to Pearl Harbor.
But this was far from the end of Schratz’s submarine career. In 1949 he commissioned the ultramodern USS Pickerel, the most deadly submarine then afloat, and set a world’s record in a 21-day, 5,200-mile submerged passage from Hong Kong to Honolulu. With the outbreak of the Korean War, the Pickerel was immediately sent to Korea to participate in secret intelligence operations only recently declassified and never before revealed in print.
Schratz’s broad military experience makes this a far from ordinary memoir. Frank and beautifully written, Submarine Commander’s breezy style and irrepressible humor place it in a class by itself. This book will be of lasting value as a submarine history by an expert and as an enduring military and political analysis.
Paul R. Schratz, now retired from the Navy, is also an established writer, diplomat, and war college strategist, a Brookings scholar, an educator, and a professional violinist with several major symphony orchestras.
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