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Silent Victory: The U.S. Submarine War against Japan (Bluejacket Books) Paperback – January 4, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Clay Blair saw service on the fleet submarine Guardfish in World War II and later wrote for Time and Life magazines before becoming editor-in-chief of The Saturday Evening Post. The author of several other popular books on submarines, he died in 1998.
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Product Details

  • Series: Bluejacket Books
  • Paperback: 1072 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (January 4, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 155750217X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557502179
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #379,489 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Alex Diaz-Granados on November 25, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One of the deadliest weapons used in naval warfare during the two World Wars was the submarine. In the Atlantic, Germany's U-boats did extensive damage to Allied shipping and twice threatened to starve Britain. In the Pacific, the Japanese submarine force, tied to a rigid doctrine of stalking enemy capital ships, scored a few outstanding kills of carriers and the USS Indianapolis but did little to harm Allied cargo ships.
In Clay Blair, Jr.'s Silent Victory: The U.S. Submarine War against Japan, reissued by the U.S. Naval Institute (the same publishing company to release a Tom Clancy novel) after several decades of being out of print, is a fascinating and detailed look at the officers, sailors and submarines of the Silent Service and their nearly four-year-long campaign against Japan's Imperial Navy and her Merchant Fleet.
Blair, himself a former submariner, pulls no punches and details the many difficulties faced by the American submarine force. Sub skippers who in peacetime were among the best often failed the test of battle. The S-class boats were too slow, had fewer torpedo tubes than the newer T and Gato-class fleet boats. Like Japan's submarine force, targeting priority was on capital fleet units (battleships, carriers and cruisers). Worst of all, the Mark XIV torpedo, the Navy's wonder weapon, proved to be less than wonderful until Admiral Charles Lockwood, Commander, Submarines, Pacific Fleet (ComSubPac) and other officers fixed several defects in the arming mechanism.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
Mr. Blair offers a complete history of the unsung role of U.S. Navy submarines during World War II. This book is an encyclopedic and essential resource for those who wish to further explore how the Pacific War was fought and won.
Thankfully, this book is now available in softcover after years of being out of print. My only complaint is that the Naval Institute Press did not make an effort to clarify and update some of the information (classified and otherwise) that has come to light since the initial publishing of this book in 1975 (hence 4 Stars out of 5). Sadly, Mr. Blair was not around to do such work as he passed on in 1998. Still, all in all, this book must be read for those seeking a full picture of the Pacific War. Hopefully, some ambitious naval historian will take advantage of Mr. Blair's work and recently available archives to craft a contemporary history of U.S. submarine warfare during World War II.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Heiko Martin on March 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
The title says it all, indeed: there's no better book on this subject available, nor a more detailed one. Are you looking for details about what happened during which cruise? Do you want to share the worst scares of WWII US submariners? The greatest successes? Do you want to know who was behind the decisions taken? Who took care of the torpedo problem? Which kind of help intelligence provided? Which boat sank what? What happened to the book's "heroes" later, in real life?
Well, it's all in there, plus detailed tables, numbers, all you could possibly want. If you're interested in this subject, or at least in WWII, there will be no better book, don't hesitate to buy it!
My only criticism, though, is readability. Don't misunderstand me, it's well written, but there is too much of everyting, simply. Too many names of unknown one-time submarine commanders, too many names of less important staffers, and so on. And while the book's chronological order of events may be the most obvious choice, it further dilutes information about specific persons. You will frequently wonder "Captain XYZ, my God, who was that? I've read that name before, but in which section?" It's no easy-to-read childrens' book, that's for certain. Others than naval enthusiast might better be advised to look elsewhere...
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on August 4, 2004
Format: Paperback
Clay Blair's book is one of the greatest single books to keep in your library if you decide to devote your education to matters of the Pacific Theater in WWII. It is a hefty book, packed to the gills with technical details, and enough names to make you think that thousands of small towns and US cities gave their entire citizenry to sub warfare. And in some towns this was almost the case. Many people think that the sailors and other personnel who served on submarines were chosen because they were physically smaller than other fighting men. Not so, and for proof you could do no better than look at author Blair, who in his prime stood a good six feet three, longer than many submarine bunks. He is modest about his own service and prefers to take the larger view.

The drawbacks to the book is that it is heavy and even though it's a quality paperback, you have to use it with care. But the brave men who died on their various missions to defeat Japan live on in this book, and thus every time you consult this book, you light a little vigil for their souls.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Melvin Sico on October 20, 2003
Format: Paperback
Silent Victory provides us with numerous valuable insights about the lives of submariners who helped subdue a belligerent maritime power. Interspersed with technical data and submarine tactics within the book are the travails and triumphs of the officers and men who fought the undersea war in the Pacific theatre.
Three things struck me while reading this book:
(1) Submarines are of relatively little value if their primary weapon, the torpedo, is ineffectual. Torpedoes, being self-contained and self-propelled weapons systems, must operate reliably under all conditions. Although boats that were then in use had been armed with naval guns, using such rifled weapons required submarines to operate on the surface, thereby largely negating the boats' stealth capability.
Silent Victory describes in detail how the various torpedo problems encountered by the fleet were eventually addressed. The book also paints a poignant portrait of the quandaries submariners faced due to the initial lack of torpedoes in the theatre, the highly disappointing performance of the torpedoes due to design defects, and the resulting negative impact on morale whenever a textbook approach on unsuspecting targets resulted in no sinkings.
(2) With the benefit of hindsight, Mr. Blair points out that the strategic interdiction of Japanese commerce could have dramatically abbreviated the war had the military brass thought of positioning submarines in the Luzon Strait, where numerous convoys and men-of-war transited. Copious accounts of submarines being sent to areas where warships were detected (usually through code-breaking) and then returning home empty-handed are found throughout the book; it is impossible to wade through these accounts without experiencing a sense of frustration.
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Silent Victory: The U.S. Submarine War against Japan (Bluejacket Books)
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