Review of Escape From the Deep by Alex Kershaw
Rating **** 1/2
The best nonfiction transports you to another place and time. This is certainly true of this excellent book by Alex Kershaw. I finished the book on my Caribbean trip. Whether I was reading on the plane or sitting by the pool, I was a crew member on a WWII sub. A sub that had the misfortune of being sunk by it’s own torpedo.
I first read about circling torpedoes from the book Scorpion Down. That book is about another sub sinking. In that story the cause of the sinking is unknown. A circling torpedo is one of the top theories. In this story it’s known for a fact that the sub was sunk by its own torpedo.
The writer does a good job of giving just enough background material to build a foundation. You learn a little about the crew and Commander Richard O’Kane.
Before the fateful last voyage of the Tang, the author takes you along as the crew sinks ship after ship. What’s not discussed with any detail is what happens to the thousands of men whose lives are lost as the result of the Tang’s torpedoes. When a ship is sunk and disappears beneath the waves, the men celebrate. But I’m thinking about the fate of the men who are left behind in the water.
In one story involving the commander of the Tang, the author talks about another sub that successfully sunk several large ships in a single battle. He talks about there being thousands of Japanese sailors floating in the water. When one of the men in a life raft opens fire on the sub with a hand gun, the commander of the sub uses it as justification for slaughtering the defenseless men in the water. It was one of the largest massacres of the war. After reading about the many lives lost as a result of the Tang it almost seems like payback when the sub is finally sunk by its own torpedo.
The resulting fight for survival and the subsequent ordeal undergone by the survivors makes for an interesting read. Here again I was drawn not only by the stories of those who survived but also to the men who gave up and decided to lie down and await their fate inside the sub.
Just when you thought every story that could have been told about WWII has been told, you find another gem like this.