U.S. Submarines in World War II: An Illustrated History, by Larry Kimmett andMargaret Regis, Navigator Publishing, Seattle, Wash., 1996, $19.95.

When the Japanese opened hostilities against the United States with their attack on Pearl Harbor, they were disappointed to find no aircraft carriers present. Instead, they concentrated their bombs and torpedoes on the capital ships–docked along battleship row–and other lesser craft of the American surface fleet.

Due in part to their preoccupation with the largest ships they could find, the Japanese seemed to ignore the exposed submarines neatly anchored in the Hawaiian waters, an oversight that may have cost them the war. Beginning almost immediately after the Pearl Harbor attack and running continually over the next four years, U.S. submarines conducted unrestricted warfare against every type of ship flying the Japanese ensign. Submarine attacks on Japan’s warships greatly reduced her offensive naval strength, and the campaign against the merchant fleet all but cut off raw material shipments and brought her military productivity to a virtual standstill.

With the veil of secrecy lifted from the files of the “Silent Service,” there has emerged a comprehensive and timely work about the U.S. submarines in the Pacific during World War II, U.S. Submarines in World War II: An Illustrated History. The story that unfolds is detailed in a straightforward and highly readable historical text. In addition, the text is complemented by some 250 illustrations that include crystal-clear photographs and original drawings.

In this highly researched work, Larry Kimmett and Margaret Regis have created a visual record of the U.S. submarine campaign against the island empire of Japan. The book concentrates on war patrols and island engagements across the Pacific Ocean, where most U.S. submarines fought and all confirmed sinkings by U.S. subs took place.

U.S. Submarines in World War II describes the tension between Japan and the United States in the prewar years and the evolution of the submarine in the U.S. Navy–from a small seven-man boat at the turn of the century to the diesel-electric powered fleet boat of World War II. A section titled “Aboard the Boat” takes the reader on a vivid photographic tour of the inside of a crowded 1942 submarine.

With detailed maps and diagrams, the book follows the course of the entire Pacific War, giving a submarine’s eye view of events from Pearl Harbor, through the decisive battle of Midway and the island campaigns of the Solomons, Gilberts, Marshalls and Marianas, to the final Japanese surrender at Tokyo Bay.

Unique periscope photos, battle diagrams and 3-D drawings detail each engagement, illustrating the weapons and highlighting the exploits of such daring submarines as Wahoo, Bowfin, Flasher and Seawolf. These stories, firsthand observations from war patrol reports, battle photos and Margaret Regis’ outstanding graphics combine to make a one-of-a-kind and long-awaited record of this incredible chapter in U.S. naval history.

Japan suffered an overall maritime loss of nearly 8 million tons of shipping, and of that total, nearly 5 million tons were credited to U.S. submarines. America’s incredible success in the Pacific did not come without cost. The United States lost 52 submarines, 37 of them going down without a single survivor. One out of every five American submarine crewmen in World War II never returned.

U.S. Submarines in World War II concludes with an enumeration of losses (20 percent of the U.S. submarine force was lost–the highest casualty rate of any branch of the services) and a list of museums and memorials across the United States that feature submarines.

Raymond Denkhaus