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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely well written, a superb account of sub warfare
As a fresh graduate of the US Naval Academy, Ruiz was assigned to the heavy cruiser USS Vincennes as it was entering the Savo Sound off of Guadalcanal. He and an Academy classmate draw cards to see who would get the plumb assignment to the bridge, where they could observe the captain fight the ship, and who would end up on the signal bridge. Ruiz winds the card draw,...
Published on December 5, 2006 by Thomas J. Dougherty

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Luck of the Draw
Pollock's was not a particularly noteworthy WWII submarine cruise history thus the action accounts were limited. It was more interesting to me as a fairly graphic account of a sailor's life aboard the sub...and in this case the ship and crew survived!
Published 20 months ago by Ralph Wood


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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely well written, a superb account of sub warfare, December 5, 2006
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As a fresh graduate of the US Naval Academy, Ruiz was assigned to the heavy cruiser USS Vincennes as it was entering the Savo Sound off of Guadalcanal. He and an Academy classmate draw cards to see who would get the plumb assignment to the bridge, where they could observe the captain fight the ship, and who would end up on the signal bridge. Ruiz winds the card draw, and takes the bridge assignment. Two days later, the flag bridge is destroyed and all are killed during the attack. The Vincennes is attacked during the battle and sunk in Ironbottom Sound by torpedoes from a destroyer. After a harrowing time in the water with other survivors, Ruiz is rescued. The survivors eventually meet with Admiral Nimitz, who specifically requests volunteers for the submarine service. Ruiz volunteers, and is assigned to USS Pollack, one of the P class of submarines, and one of the last submarines built with rivets rather than a welded hull. Pollack has balky diesel engines, noisy bilge and trim pumps, and a hull that has a test depth of 250 feet, much less than the new fleet submarines. He joins the crew during an overhaul, when among other features Pollack is equipped with the new SJ surface search radar (with the old "A" scope display). During his first cruise on the boat at the end of 1942, Ruiz sees first hand how difficult it is to fight with this submarine, as time and again, equipment and systems fail. Even when the submarine does manage to work in for an attack, the torpedoes let the crew down with their poor performance, and Pollack must dodge depth charges. Time and again, as Ruiz describes it, Pollack takes the crew to the brink of disaster, only to snatch them from the jaws of defeat. One serious flooding incident that occurred during a depth charging turns out to be due not to the depth charges, but to a bolt jammed into the conning tower hatch to the bridge, blocking the hatch gasket from sealing.

We follow Ruiz on eight war patrols on the Pollack. Many of these are frustrating and frightening in the close calls the sub survives. Along the way, the colorful George Grider (from Morton's Wahoo, and later to captain the highly successful Flasher) joins the crew as the XO. Grider's leadership style and abilities have a positive influence on all the officers. As Ruiz puts it, "Before long, I realized that Grider had become the ship's heart and soul". Ruiz also moves up the officer chain and we follow him, in the process learning about the functions of the submarine. With a change of command to Cdr. Bafford Lewellen, the luck of Pollack begins to change. They carry out a successful attacks on the Bangkok Maru , which is carrying Japanese troops to Tarawa. Ruiz' sixth patrol on Pollack is the most successful, with over 21,000 tons of shipping sunk. In between the two attacks, Pollack has more misadventures, including an uncontrolled excursion to 500 feet, more than twice the test depth.

This book is another outstanding look at the experience of serving in the submarine force during WWII. In this case, it is not aboard a modern fleet boat, but in an older, worn, and balky submarine that was almost as dangerous to the crew as the enemy. The resourcefulness and resilience of men not far out of their teenage years is the true story of Pollack. The writing is superb; one passage stuck with me after I had finished the book: "My fondest memories of submarine duty are those tropic nights on the bridge, reveling in the warm salt air, and a slow easy swell under the Southern Cross. The sky seemed much closer here than on shore, and the Southern Cross has always been my favorite constellation. It was a lonely but powerful feeling being out there hunting thousands of miles from the nearest friendly base".
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Click-BANG...Click-BANG... not just another war story, November 27, 2005
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You start off in an out of control crash dive to your imminent death and Kenneth Ruiz has you immersed in a Tom Clancy styled epic, the only difference, this is a real life and death struggle. Not only does the crew have to battle the Japanesse but they also are fighting the antiquated USS Pollack. You won't find the author giving you family history like a lot of military authors,instead you are with the crew 250 feet below the surface being depth charged or on the surface, with the spray in your face, charging after the enemy. For the movie goer there is "DAS BOOT" for the reader there is Kenneth Ruiz's "The LUCK of The DRAW".
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dud torpedoes, incestant depth charges, and the luck of the draw in war and life., December 13, 2005
By 
I have just finished reading The Luck of the Draw. I am most impressed by the feeling I got of what it is like to live on a 1937 built WWII submarine from the safety of my own home. With everything Captain Ruiz went through in the telling of his story and that of his shipmates, it is a wonder that he survived to a ripe old age to write about it!

Surviving the sinking of his cruiser USS Vincennes on his maiden cruise in the Battle of Savo Island by the Japanese. Eight war patrols in the hostile waters of the Pacific during WWII in what must have been the oldest, loudest, most tempermental sub in the Silent Service.

After surviving the sinking of your boat, it was customary to spend some time off to heal the psyche. Not Ken. He went direct to the submarine USS Pollack, at the personal invitation of Admiral Chester Nimitz, no less!

There is one great periscope photo that shows the snow covered beach of Japan behind the one of the ships topedoed by Pollack.

Ruiz' description of daily life onboard Pollack may not inspire you to go to war in a submarine, but you will get a good feeling of what it was really like.

If you want to get a feel for tactics of WWII era submarine warfare and the dangers that go hand in hand with fighting from beneath the waves, then this book is for you. I highly reccommend it. I enjoyed it immensely and hope that I never have to do what Ruiz and his crew went through.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Views of another diesel boat submariner. Ruiz had "Right Stuff", September 7, 2005
I found LUCK OF THE DRAW to be a fascinating first-person narration of submarining which made me feel that I was actually on board POLLACK with Ken and his brave shipmates. I later served with some of the officers he describes during their many brushes with death on war patrols in the Pacific. With my 20 years submarine experience including duty in four boats, from junior officer to skipper, I confirm that this book obviously tells it like it was...combat under much stress and doing their very best within the limitations of their submarine and its torpedoes. POLLACK and Ken sank or damaged 50,000 tone of Japanese shipping with only four tubes forward and two aft. She experienced both good and bad luck most every day on patrol!

Though I was never assigned to cruiser duty, Ken let me visualize every aspect of the battle of Savo Island, He survived the sinking of his ship, the cruiser VINCENNES. He stayed afloat for over six hours without a life jacket until rescued, following the surprise night attack by a Japanese high-speed task force.

I had met Ken Ruiz at the Naval Academy in 1941 as a midshipman. He was a very brave and lucky naval officer; he is indeed made of the "Right Stuff".

Submiitted by: Capt. Dan C. Clements USN(Ret), Nashville, TN.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I knew him when, January 20, 2006
I bought this book simply because I had served with Capt. Ruiz later in his career (Fighter Squadron 102).As a lowly Petty Office r 3rd. class I had little ontact with him, a Lt.Cmdr., and the "Navy's caste system" prevented me from getting to know him. However I remember him as an unassuming, no nonsense, by-the-book officer and Pilot who commanded our respect.
AS an old "Airdale" with only "movie" knowledge of subs, I was pleasently surprised to find this a "can't put down" tale of a true American Hero. Buying and reading this book was my LUCK of the DRAW.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The little Known Pacific Sub War, July 4, 2005
By 
M.S. Hennessy (Seattle, WA USA) - See all my reviews
I bought this book to read of Capt. Ruiz' personal experiences of the first Naval Battle of Savo Island. I am a plankowner of the USS Vincennes (CG-49) and have heard many personal accounts of the sinking of the CA-44 through the USS Vincennes Association. Ruiz' experience shed some new light on that battle and what took place on the bridge during the engagement.

What I wasn't expecting was the gripping stories of the seven war patrols of the Pollack and the immenent doom that boat faced. These men fought well and survived pommelling from Japanese destroyers' depth-charges. A great story.

I gave the book 4 stars due to compressed story telling...I sensed that there was more detail he could have told about the life aboard the Vincennes and the Pollack. When the story ended, it felt abrupt. I would have enjoyed reading about his new naval aviation career.

Well done, Captain Ruiz!

If you want to read more personal accounts of the Vincennes' Savo Island battle of August 9, read A Log of the Vincennes by Donald Hugh Dorris (I have the 2nd printing, 1983).
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Luck of the Draw, December 14, 2005
It was my luck of the draw to read "The Luck of the Draw." With the passage of time, we tend to forget our American heroes of World War II. Captain Kenneth Ruiz of the U.S. Silent Service was one of them, and his first-person account of action in the Pacific kept me spellbound. It's a great story and one that ended much too soon. My only question is: "Where's the sequel?"
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Views from a Naval retiree, July 3, 2005
Having served on active duty as a naval person I am particularly interested in all aspects of this service. I found this book to be immensly interesting and once I started reading it was difficult to put down. I read this book because I have served on surface ships only and wanted to learn more about the silent service. Captain Ruiz fulfilled this desire and I will want to read more on this subject.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost a five star story of a WWII boat., September 9, 2006
By 
Robert B. Cushman "R B Cushman" (Cedar Crest, NM United States) - See all my reviews
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Kenneth Ruiz told an excellent story . . . and I connected with most of his experiences . . . even being a pilot after serving in the "Silent Service". His boat was two generations older than ours, so I couldn't picture everything that he related, but most was an excellent and easy read . . . recommended as one of the best of submarine records. The "Pollack" had four tubes forward, and two aft . . . rather than six forward and four aft. Their test depth was 250 feet, as against over 400 feet for the later boats. This makes their excellent record all the more remarkable. My complaints are that maybe in the decades since he (Ruiz) served, he may have forgotten that "Dive, Dive" is given only twice (not three times), and the publisher failed to catch the annoying failures of "periods", and double words . . . simple mistakes. But, barring those, the book is worth owning and recommended to all of us who have served aboard a diesel boat, even down to the "Fairbanks-Morse" rock-crushers that brought us home.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Old Sailor Speaks, July 27, 2007
Luck of the Draw by Capt. Kenneth Ruiz

An Old Sailor Speaks

I am a retired naval officer who served in destroyers and carriers throughout my career, during which I was under direct fire in three wars. My ship was shot up by the Japanese, my plane shot down by the Chinese and my flagship shot at by the North Vietnamese. I have a lot of vivid memories from those days of waiting and warring. I also like good war stories and I have read a lot of them. I have enjoyed only a limited few because most are usually pretty unrealistic. Those readers who have under fire in combat can usually tell whether an author has ever been in a firefight. Ken Ruiz has not only been under fire, he has generally been where the action is.
Ensign Ken Ruiz had graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis in June 1942. After two weeks of leave, he reported to his first duty station, the USS Vincennes. This was a modern, well maintained, 8 inch gunned heavy cruiser with an experienced crew. In the summer of 1942 the Americans and their allies were losing the war everywhere. In the opening pages of Luck of the Draw, Ruiz describes the battle of Savo Island and the shocking defeat of the U.S. Navy's cruiser and destroyer task force protecting the amphibious landings on Guadalcanal. In this night action, a Japanese force of cruisers and destroyers sank four of our cruisers without a loss of any of their own. Ruiz recounts in the most graphic detail the total destruction of the Vincennes. His account is the best of the many I have read of that battle. The description of the methodical and agonizing dismembering of the Vincennes' at the hands of the Japanese, is a classic.
Rescued from the treacherous waters of "Iron Bottom Bay" after his ship went down, Ruiz was sent immediately to augment the crew of a diesel submarine without the normal procedure of survivor's leave and the prescribed six months of training in the Submarine School in New London, Connecticut. He had volunteered to go directly to a deploying fleet submarine in response to an emotional personal appeal by Admiral Nimitz: "We need officers like you in our submarine fleet and we need them now. Our submarines are desperately short handed". Ruiz stayed in subs for the rest of the war, and The Luck of the Draw tells his story.

Ruiz has the ability to write in a way that makes you feel that you are there. I have never served in submarines in combat but I have many contemporaries who did, and several of my friends have written books about their wartime submarine experience. They cannot match Ruiz in the reality of the accounts of his submarine war patrols in Luck of the Draw. He makes them come alive. I could swear I smelled the diesel oil and felt the damp heat of the engine room. There are no cardboard heroes such as we encounter in so many war stories. Ruiz' people are normal and alive, just as prone to error as they are capable of a satisfactory job. They are like the people you and I know.

From Ruiz we learn a lot about submarines - including their vulnerability to age, wear and the shock of battle. He shows us the same effects on his shipmates, reacting under the unrelenting tension of the silent service. This is a wonderful book. I read it through the first time without stopping. Now I keep a copy on my bedside table to pick up and read a chapter at random whenever I need that boost to my morale and the vicarious satisfaction that comes with refreshing my admiration of the courage and sacrifice of those otherwise average guys in dirty dungarees and un-pressed khakis mottled with the dark stains of their sweat, who fight this country's wars at sea.
XXX

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