Home | Find Shipmates | Join the Crew | Update Your Records | Boat Sites | Links
Sea Stories | Humor | Food | Tributes | BBS | Quotes | Poetry | Reunions | History

Book Reviews and Recommendations


Gallant Lady: A Biography of the USS Archerfish

I just put "Gallant Lady" on the book shelf after finishing it. I was so impressed with this book the way it was written. It told a story that only crew members can truly relate to but it also tells a story that John Q. Public will certainly be thrilled to read. My thoughts are prompted by no one and my feelings could not be hidden as I read the final chapter where it describes that no one will ever touch or see this Gallant Lady again. Shipmates and all others....I have never apologized for tears when I was "moved" as much as this book moved me. I am 66 years old and served on her when I was in my twenties but after reading this book, it was like yesterday. One gigantic BRAVO ZULU to Pigpen Henry and Don Keith. Congratulations on a wonderful book. Zero Bubble. Mac McCollum Woodland, CA USA

The above review was sent to Archerfish webmaster Corny Cornelison who had this reponse: Mac, I had the same reaction... chills, lump in my throat and some tears. Gallant Lady brought back many, many fond memories of a Great Submarine and Wonderful Shipmates. You are so right.... after so many years, it still "seems like yesterday". Pig and Don have done a masterful job of telling "our" story. - Jerry Cornelison

I just finished reading the book about my father in laws old “boat”.  I was impressed with the comradeship and closeness of the crew of the USS Archerfish.  It also put a smile on my face to think about how my father in law (Archie Moore) acted when he was my age and in the Navy.  I would strongly recommend this book not only for Sailors, but also all Military personnel who want to learn about teamwork and mission accomplishment.  - Semper Fidelis, Michael Shetler, GySgt USMC

There are "submarine books" and then there are "SUBMARINE BOOKS". Some books are written by civilians and are total fiction, fantasy and hand you horse manure in front-end loader scoops. Some are written by very knowlegable officers who drank coffee poured from silver plated pots and attended Annapolis class reunions....There are terms used like "my bridge partner" that deal with cards rather where ships are conned...and "cocktail party" rather than "large scale drunken romp"....The words Shore Patrol rarely turn up in 'officer submarine books' and when they do, usually refer to some unpleasant task the fellow had to perform to obtain the return of 3/4th's of his crew. Then there are "raghat perspective' books written by salty sonuvabitches who have danced with the Goddess of the Main Induction, played leapfrog with the Devil, sewed more wild oats than a John Deere seed spreader and wrung more saltwater out of their socks than most folks have ever seen. GALLANT LADY is such a book...Written by two gentlemen who got it right...every bloody word of it. They are Misters. Ken Henry and Don Keith....Actually I wouldn't know Don Keith if he fell out of a tree and landed on me...all I know is that if he co-authored that book he has to be one helluva a writer and if he's a friend of Ken Henry, he's a man worth knowing. But I do know Ken "Pig" Henry...know him well enough to know that this absolutely wonderful book about the USS ARCHERFISH is his idea of a love story. Like most of us he's one of those lucky bastards who has a lovely bride and a 311 foot contraption with bow planes and limber holes tucked in his heart. After fifty pages, you know this is no damn Tom Clancy rendition...this is a guy you could have rubbed shoulders with while swilling suds in some raunchy, godfersaken ginmill in East Bonga-Wanga while waiting for some busted engine part to be flown in from stateside.....our some guy you could have seen jump out the back window of some cathouse while the local constabulary were making their way through the front door of the establishment. This is a book written by a boatsailor for boatsailors. It has nothing to do with radiation, thermodynamics or anything going below six to eight hundred feet.....It does't do cosmetic surgery on anything...It deals with leaks, fires, spare parts theft, smelly raghats, gettin' loaded, riding in paddy wagons and dating Ava Gardner. It has ice bergs, wild liberty ports, tough CPO's (incidently...with tattoos)and cooks in dirty aprons......It tells the story of a boat with a 99% single crew that did a special mission that lasted two years and took them around the globe and registering more naughtical miles than any other smokeboat before or since. But most of all it deals with a group of jolly bastards living inside an old worn out pressure hull and loving every minutes....It's about men in faded dungarees and frayed raghats playing modern day buccaneers....men who knew that they were their own salvation...men who rewrote regulations to meet their particular need of the moment....men who gave everything but the mission, the finger. I have a friend, a raghat submarine warrior...who wrote a classic book about boatsailoring when Hirohito's boys wanted to pack him off to the firey furnace, Ron "Warshot" Smith (author of TORPEDOMAN). I know that Warshot would approve of this book. Why?? Because, I know Warshot....GALLANT LADY doesn't sugarcoat a damn thing.....Serves it to you barnacles, rust stains and all.....and kickstarts your memory cells every other page. Children can you say..."G-O-O-D B-O-O-K ?" Can you say "Goddam FANTASTIC READ?" Take out your ballpoint...write GALLANT LADY...A Biography of the USS ARCHERFISH...hardback....the true story of one of histoy's most fabled submarines...by KEN HENRY and Don Keith....ISBN 0-765-30568-2..........Horsefly, I give the damn thing six stars on a five star scale......but then I'm predjudiced I know the author....but I could be sleepng with him and not buy five damn books...which I have done, just to keep the sonuvabitches I know from stealing mine.....and I have read mine twice. The only thing I could think of that could possibly improve that book would be a giant buck nekkit photo of Meg Ryan as a centerfold....but you can't have everything. As an E-3 they make that very clear...DEX  - Robert "Dex" Armstrong (Ray "Olgoat" Stone BBS post)

More reviews... - How to get a signed copy

Under Pressure - Order From Amazon.Com

One of the best submarine books I've read in a long time. Author AJ Hill does an excellent job of taking the reader aboard the ill-fated S-5 by painting a vivid picture of the original "terrible hours." Skipper "Savvy" Cooke is a most interesting central character - a brilliant submarine officer who endured more than his share of challenges. Once the S-5 is "on the bottom," Hill captures the essence of a submarine crew under extreme duress, the tension is so real you can smell the diesel oil. Related "stories within the story" such as the history of the Edison submarine battery and high-command politics are worth the price of admission alone. - Don Gentry

The Terrible Hours - Order From Amazon.Com

I too have read the book Terrible Hours and although I was not a submariner during the war (I was a Seabee), I did meet several submariners while stationed in Hawaii. They were billeted at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. 

The ones I met loved their duty. A more dedicated group i never met. I was eighteen years old when the Squalis went down and I followed the story in the newspapers every day. The telling of this story in the book brought back those Terrible Hours vividly. 

I highly recommend it's reading 

Warren Grymes

Read this book! "The Terrible Hours" by Peter Maas.

Charles Bowers Momsen, Learn how the "Momsen Lung" was just the tip of the iceberg in one man's dedication to the Submarine Service, and to the Navy collectively. How the sinking of the S-51, and two years later the S-4 off Provincetown almost drove this man to resign his commission. 

Put this together with "Blind Mans Bluff" and one reaches the conclusion that the "Silent Service" is; and for more reasons then one! I for one, a mere amateur, one who loved the duty, but who also recognized the strain that the "submariners life" put on the family, chose the latter. 

As have many, I have seen the conning tower of Squalis at Portsmouth Ship Yard (but just as I never heard mention of sinking, or drowning while stationed on a submarine), I never asked in-depth questions about the Squalis sinking. The rescue was broached but never the mention of how many lives lost. What hawser could connect Squalis, Albacore and Nautilus? The "Submarine Sailor's Sailor," the "Hard Hat Diver's Diver," the "Blue Jacket's Friend": Charles Bowers Momsen, known better as "Swede" Momsen.

Christopher J. Pauli
former EM3(SS) Auxiliaryman

Here's Amazon.com's review:

May 23, 1939. Television was being advertised for the first time to American consumers. Europe was on the brink of war as Hitler and Mussolini signed an alliance in Berlin. These were the days before sonar and before the discovery of nuclear power revolutionized submarine design. Dependent on battery power, submarines were actually surface ships that "occasionally dipped beneath the waves." If a sub went down, "every man on board was doomed. It was accepted that there would be no deliverance."

Swede Momsen was, according to master storyteller Peter Maas, the "greatest submariner the Navy ever had," and he was determined to beat those odds. Momsen spent his career trying to save the lives of trapped submariners, despite an indifferent Navy bureaucracy that thwarted and belittled his efforts at every turn. Every way of saving a sailor entombed in a sub--"smoke bombs, telephone marker buoys, new deep-sea diving techniques, escape hatches, artificial lungs, a great pear-shaped rescue chamber--was either a direct result of Momsen's inventive derring-do, or of value only because of it." Yet on the day the Squalus sank, none of Momsen's inventions had been used in an actual submarine disaster.

In The Terrible Hours, Maas reconstructs the harrowing 39 hours between the disappearance of the submarine Squalus during a test dive off the New England coast and the eventual rescue of 33 crew members trapped in the vessel 250 feet beneath the sea. It's also the story of Momsen's triumph. Under the worst possible circumstances, Momsen led a successful mission and helped change the future of undersea lifesaving. Not only has Maas written a carefully researched and suspenseful tribute to a true hero, in the process he has salvaged a long-forgotten, riveting piece of American history.

Spy Sub - Order From Amazon.Com

We haven't reviewed this book yet but here's a review from one of our own:

Hi, I just got linked to your site from a shipmate. I served on the USS Barb, SSN 596, from 85 through decommissioning (RO). I performed the final reactor shutdown on her and watched the last fuel cell go away. I want to recommend a book to you I just finished called Spy Sub by Roger Dunham, Naval Institute Press. 

This book is the most accurate account of life on board a sub from a nuke's point of view that I have ever found. Dunham was a RO on board a converted boomer spook boat in the late 60's. Fascinating true story, reads like a novel. 

John Bartholomew a.k.a. Bart
USS Barb SSN-596

Previous Featured Book
Thunder Below -
Order From Amazon.Com

Retired Admiral Eugene (Gene) Fluckey's personal recollections of his experiences in the submarine service with the spotlight on USS Barb. This book reads like a patrol report that just happens to include all the details that were omitted from the official one (he makes several references to an "illegal" log of the patrols that adds meat to the enlisted man's viewpoint)

Fluckey paints a realistic and vivid picture with each stroke of the pen - you smell the sea salt as you read. Perhaps the best characteristic of the book is how Fluckey reflects the "innocence" of the era while serving up a clear but restrained depiction of the horrors of battle  How may submariners survived a depth charge attack only to be rewarded by a healthy ration of (approved) beer?  Now THERE'S a skipper I could have served under!    D.G.

A very articulate story of the adventures of BARB under the command of Fluckey. The admiral's recollections are thought provoking and exciting. The admiral was a bit conservative as to his heroics and adventures, however, having read the actual patrol reports of BARB years ago. It is also considerate that profits from the book are us to assist former shipmates and their families. The book is a must for every submariner's book shelf.

Bob Harmuth

Previous Featured Book - Order From Amazon.Com
Blind Man's Bluff :
The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage

This book is a true page-turner.  It's full of formerly "secret stuff."  As I write this, the current chapter chronicles the loss of the Scorpion with much detail on how the search was conducted.  This chapter alone was worth the price of the book!  Did you know about the tapping of Russian submarine cables?  The book is full many things that I had never heard of before. I served during the cold war but had no idea that these things were going on in the background (or below the surface). Have your wife or girlfriend - or family members - read this book and she may understand you for the first time!  Highly recommended.-- D.G.

Top of the All-Time List
Silent Victory :
by Clay Blair Junior 

From what I'm told, this book was originally available via military book clubs only and generally sold in two-book sets - it is currently out of print!  I borrowed a set from George Folta, Capt USN-ret, USS Bluegill - SS-242 and was highly impressed.  The books read much like a high-quality documentary and presents the best picture of the WWII effort I've ever read.  After reading, the books also serve as an encyclopedia of sorts for any diesel boat or WWII research you may want to do.

Scouring used book stores for months, I finally found a set so they are out there somewhere.  If you get a chance - buy it - read it! -- D.G.

New: Great place to find out of print books: www.bibliofind.com

 Read a good submarine book lately?  Please let us know!

Webmaster - Home