SUB: An Oral History of U.S. Navy Submarines. By Mark K. Roberts. The Berkley Publishing Group. 298 pages. $25.95.
There are many great men serving in the United States submarine force. Unfortunately this book does not do them justice.
"Sub" is divided into 13 chapters, with a short introduction and then a first-person account from a former submariner. The introductory passages are helpful in that they highlight key points in history, but unfortunately often venture into editorial waters. For example, the book calls treaties with the Soviet Union limiting offensive strategic weapons "a big mistake," and describes The New York Times as "pro-Soviet."
Mark K. Roberts also writes about his shame and disbelief that President Carter, a former submarine captain, would do things such as pardon Vietnam draft dodgers and cut military spending.
Riddled with inconsistencies, the book often mixes up dates, too.
There are some interesting tidbits: rescuing Australian sailors on the brink of destruction, finding and destroying enemy submarines or playing chicken with Russian subs. It also gives a glimpse of the trying conditions that sailors had to live through, such as once-a-week salt showers on the "old" boats, elaborate trash-drinking rituals to initiate members into the "shellback" club and the smell of diesel fuel that seeped into clothes.
But the book is written in a short, choppy style that reads more like a third-grade book report: I came, I saw, I torpedoed. There is little discussion of what each submariner felt, but rather a dry description of what each did.