FIPS, the title of Werner Fürbringer’s WWI memoirs, comes from the nickname Fürbringer earned while becoming one of Germany’s greatest U-boat aces (101 ships sunk). During the interbellum years, he was instrumental in rebuilding the German Navy. His memoirs came out during those years and have fascinated readers by both the intimate portrayal of the U-boat service and the picture of WWI submarine warfare.
It has ever been my opinion that Germans should take pride in their U-boat service. Their history in both WWI and WWII displays great gallantry in face of the enemy, and they carried out their duty aggressively despite appalling loss rate of 80% and 75% respectively. These memoirs show Germans adhering closely to prize warfare in the early days of the war (capturing merchantmen before sinking their ships) despite the many more dangers this poses to submarines than to surface warships. Even after unrestricted submarine warfare was declared, they generously helped their victims however they could.
I just had the pleasure of finishing Run Silent, Run Deep by Edward L. Beach. The author has many works on submarines, including Salt & Steel and Submarine. This work, a classic of naval literature, happens to be the first fictional work of his I’ve read. Both this novel and his non-fiction reveal an excellent touch for both narrative and historical detail. Run Silent, Run Deep starts off slowly with training at the submarine base in New Haven, CT, and the action slowly builds from more normal submarine patrols until the latter missions become reminiscent of the escapades of the U.S.S. Tang. The final patrol includes a hunt for a deadly anti-submarine vessel and her captain. The characters are easy to relate to, and the prose is quite readable.
Now, this book has long been on my list of things to read because of my lifelong love for the memoirs of WWII submariners; but, Run Silent, Run Deep is an excellent thriller, and many of my dear readers would love it for that reason alone. As may be expected from an Annapolis graduate of the class of 1939 and submarine officer, Beach adds a ton of realism to this gripping narrative. It is important to keep in mind that the U.S. submarine force sustained the highest losses by percentage in WWII of any department of the armed services. So, when so many of the characters’ friends are reported missing, that’s the kind of news one would be bombarded with after a patrol: a constant sense of loss. In one regard, that makes certain events in the final patrol more understandable. The novel is an excellent way for people to understand what it was like to serve on a WWII submarine without having to read a more ponderous memoir or history written by an academic.