Today I have the privilege of participating in a blog tour for Deborah Hopkinson’s new nonfiction work on submarine warfare:
Dive! World War II Stories of Sailors and Submarines in the Pacific
published in 2016 by Scholastic Press
As Deborah has noted, “This December marks the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which devastated the Pacific Fleet and transformed the role of submarines in the war in the Pacific.” It’s a timely account, then, which just hit the shelves this week and Hopkinson is a wonderful guide for us, whether she’s tackling historical fiction or straight non-fiction as she does here.
A number of years ago, our family toured the U.S.S. Silversides, a World War II submarine anchored in Muskegon, Michigan that functions now as a museum.
Descending into that dim, cramped ship, I was astounded that anyone could have come through active duty on one of these vessels and stayed sane! Dozens of narrow bunks were stacked so closely together, the top ones wedged among pipework running along the ceiling.
Our tour guide noted that with the sizable crew, the significant body odor resulting from having to scrimp on water, the intense heat and diesel fumes produced by the engines, as well as cigarette smoke from nearly every sailor on board, all compressed into very limited space — air quality aboard ship was tremendously bad. I would have gone berserk with claustrophobia in about 5 minutes!
Little wonder that Hopkinson mentions over and over the pleasure sailors took in gulping clean, fresh air when their subs surfaced at night.
There are surprisingly few books written for children focusing on the Pacific Theater of the war. It’s a lack that has puzzled and frustrated me. So I’m really glad to see this title. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the US had only 44 Naval submarines — many of them dating from the 1920s. With the Pacific battleship fleet decimated by the Japanese, it was up to the subs and their crews to stymie the Japanese plans for the entire Pacific region.
Hopkinson has written a thorough account, forthrightly revealing the tragic defeats and key triumphs of the submarine forces. It’s dense reading, packed with military strategy, submarine mechanics, and the names of islands and bays, boats, officers and sailors.
All of this is woven around play-by-play stories of battles fought under extraordinary duress by intrepid men. The first-person accounts are incredible in terms of sheer, tenacious, audacity!
This is not the first book you should read about WWII. An overview of the war, including a framework for understanding Japan’s motivations and the U.S. island-hopping strategy, would be a helpful foundation for the specifics of this book. But for those hankering to know the gritty reality of one of the unsung, strategic keys to Allied success, this is your book! Ages 12 to adult.
Thanks again to Deborah Hopkinson for her work. For other stops on the Dive Blog Tour, including author interviews and a guest post by Deborah, please check deborahhopkinson.com.