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Thunder Below!: The USS *Barb* Revolutionizes Submarine Warfare in World War II

4.43  ·  Rating details ·  1,232 ratings  ·  106 reviews
The thunderous roar of exploding depth charges was a familiar and comforting sound to the crew members of the USS Barb, who frequently found themselves somewhere between enemy fire and Davy Jones's locker.
Under the leadership of her fearless skipper, Captain Gene Fluckey, the Barb sank the greatest tonnage of any American sub in World War II. At the same time, the Barb
Paperback, 464 pages
Published July 1st 1997 by University of Illinois Press (first published 1992)
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Average rating 4.43  · 
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 ·  1,232 ratings  ·  106 reviews

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Start your review of Thunder Below!: The USS *Barb* Revolutionizes Submarine Warfare in World War II
Mr. Matt
Mar 20, 2015 rated it liked it
Thunder Below is the story of the USS Barb. The Barb roamed the Eastern Pacific between 1943 and the end of the Second World War. In her wake, she left a slew of sunken, broken Japanese ships - including a carrier. The Barb and her crew truly revolutionized submarine warfare. Under the direction of her captain, Gene Fluckey, the Barb didn't merely lurk under the waves waiting for a hapless ship to pass slowly in front of her torpedo tubes. Fluckey kept the Barb on the surface, actively seeking o ...more
Jul 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I would not have thought a naval history book could make me cry any more than I would have expected it to inspire me as a reading teacher--but cry and learn I did as I turned the pages of Thunder Below! Admiral Eugene B. Fluckey's history of the USS Barb's patrols in the Pacific under his command during World War II.

It is a book my mother's uncle--our Uncle Bud--drove to Alabama to buy copies of for himself and for his siblings in 1994. Admiral Fluckey's submarine had been part of a wolfpack tha
Aug 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
The history of the USS Barb in WWII and Cpt. Fluckey is a non-stop exciting tale of bravery, strategy, and daring. This is the best WWII submarine book I have read to-date. The reader is taken into the heart of submarine warfare both in its nail-biting battle sequences and in its calmer moments, which allows the reader to experience the full life of the boat.

Fluckey cares about his men, and his proudest achievement is that none of the crew were awarded a purple heart (even though he was awarded
Mar 11, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
This year I've started working on near-future science fiction, and I decided to read about submarines as part of my research. In some ways nuclear submarines are a better match (because they can stay submerged basically indefinitely), but I also wanted to get a feel for submarines when the technology was a little more raw and untested, so I'm interested in World War II (that would be this book) and World War I as well. I tell you that, just because perhaps "spaceship research" is not a typical s ...more
May 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What a boat, what a crew, what a captain! Was an outstanding read, written as if the reader was there. I remember seeing the original battle flag for the Barb while I attended Sub School, but never delved into the history of the boat, crew, and captain, rather the boats that are on "Eternal Patrol" (Thresher, Scorpion, Harder, Darter, Growler, Wahoo, etc.) Fluckey and the crew of the USS BARB SS220 certainly revolutionized submarine warfare as the title states, first to use rockets and conductin ...more
Sep 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: naval historians, submariners
This memoir by Admiral Fluckey, the most decorated naval officer of WWII, gives a firsthand account of his three war patrols of the USS Barb. Not content to rely upon his own memory and notes, Fluckey contacted former shipmates and pored through their letters and diaries so the result isn't just a one-sided recollection by the Skipper, but insight into everyone's experiences, from the CO to the mess cranks. You really get a sense of what it was like on one of the old diesel boats, so if you are ...more
Oct 19, 2013 rated it it was ok
Though the admiral has an interesting story to tell, the writing is contrived and corny, very stilted. He should have considered a ghost writer. He often resorts to conversation reconstructions that are painful to listen to (I consumed this book via Audible).

Two books that describe the life of a sub captain during WWII that are way more engrossing and much better written:
1. The Bravest Man: The Story of Richard O'Kane & U.S. Submariners in the Pacific War by William Tuohy
2. Silent Running: My Ye
Aaron Meyer
Nov 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, ww-2
No doubt about it, this is the absolute BEST American submarine account out there that I have read. Usually I tell folks if you want an exciting submarine warfare book you need to read the German stuff, but now I finally have an American account to recommend. This guy had b$^ls that clanked and knew when and how to push things to the brink. Get it, read it, you will LOVE it!!!
Jun 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Just finished this book. I do not write many reviews and since the ones written varied so much I thought I would give it a shot. Read it. It is not a bad book.

The book basically takes the "supposed" most successful American submarine in WWII and describes the history of five combat patrols that made the success. From the ship's log; after action reports (both Japanese and American); and a crew member's unauthorized diary the book is presented in a fairly dry format. But at least it doesn't read
Jun 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: wwii, submarine
I just could not get too excited about this book. My biggest complaint is that it reads like a ship's log sprinkled with dialog. Secondly, there is do depth of character or reflection. Fluckey primarily talks about himself. The only other person in the book that me consistently mentions is Bob, his Exec. The rest just are names on the page. In the end, even with his great accomplishments, I was left feeling emotionless.

There are several FAR better submarine books than this: Battle Stations, O Go
Feb 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is a worthy read for those interested in the WW II Pacific naval campaign. Much of what I have to say about "Thunder Below" by Eugene Fluckey would be a repeat of a Goodreads review dated March 20, 2015 by Mr. Matt. I point interested readers to his fine analysis.
The book is autobiographical, about the author's two years aboard the submarine USS Barb in the Pacific during WW II. During that time Fluckey and the crew were highly decorated and successful, including a Medal of Honor for F
Philip Prescott
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Better than fiction

This is one of the most heartfelt, real, and direct accounts of warfare in Wwii that I have ever read. The passion CMDR Fluckey felt for his ship and crew are easily sensed throughout the pages of his story.

This story depicts honor and bravery in a barbaric and unimaginable theater of war.

The Barb and her exploits are truly inspiring. I have been so moved as to visit the USS Drum in Mobile AL to further grasp the experience of these brave men. It is regrettable that the Barb
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I generally tend to read Army military history, so when given this as a gift by a contemporary submariner family member, I was hesitant to read it. I only know about submarines from such classic movies as "Run Silent, Run Deep," "The Hunt for Red October," "Crimson Tide," and "Operation Petticoat" and the television series, "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea."

Wow, the real story is just as much of a thriller as any of these movies!! This book is a very well-written, researched memoir of a great Na
Eugene Pougatch
Aug 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Amazing. The author manages to portray the horrifying reality of submarine warfare in WWII in a very engaging, light-hearted, and often even humorous way. You will not find any bragging about the unheard-of successes of the Barb, Fluckey writes about their endeavors in a very humble, honorable tone. Many times you can really feel the emotions coursing through the author's veins while reading the lines: elation of successful engagements, the bitter disappointment of failed searches or near misses ...more
Gary Detrick
Aug 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great read. Took me a little time to get use to and learn a bit of their "jargon". You feel as if you are actually aboard the Barb, working in the background, hearing the conversations and becoming part of the surroundings. Fluckey and his written timing of the events as they unfold and the quoted conversations place you right there in the middle of the action. When he calls his crew above to observe a particular amazing attack, you feel as if you are being called up with them to observe. Amazin ...more
Aug 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
An exciting and informative walk through WWII submarine warfare from one of the most successful and decorated crews of the time. Exploring in real time the end of antiquated marine tactics and the birth of new harassment. Reading like a fiction adventure, I had to keep reminding myself that these were actual accounts of historical events. Once I finished the book I immediately went hunting for more from Fluckey and was disappointed to find this was his only book. While it may not have contained ...more
William Bailey
Nov 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I can't recommend this book enough! It puts you on the USS Barb, one of the most decorated WWII subs ever, during the heat of battle. You learn what submariners are made of, that they are as tough as the steel sub that surrounds them. This book is historically accurate being it is written by it's Captain Eugene B. Fluckey himself. He and his crew revolutionized submarine warfare. You'll learn how deadly depth charges were and how they were the Thunder Below! Get a copy, you won't be able to set ...more
Sep 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
Thunder Below! is a first-rate book and while I understand that authors tend to forget the bad and just provide the good in their books; Adm Fluckey was the type of officer many of us only wish we could have served with. The story of his command tour during wartime in USS Barb is truly inspiring. He was a humble man and it comes through in his writing. We should all be grateful that he and many men like him served our country in WW II. I truly enjoyed the book and highly recommend it to any and ...more
Andrew Hunter
Jun 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pedestrian but fun. The kind of book that literally writes "BOOM! WHAM!" whenever the author hears a torpedo hit a ship. But damn if it isn't fun. It's a gripping (real) tale of badassery under pressure, with a lot of fun anecdotes.

An annoying thing is conversations that are clearly fictionalized in that they explain things both participants know (and wouldn't have mentioned to each other)--very As You Know, Bob--but helpful to me, and the rest of the narrative kept me glued to it.
Scott Davis
Mar 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Audiobook: I enjoyed this book. The Barb was the only US submarine to sink a train during WWII. The history of the Barb is told in a first person type of story telling, recreating the conversations between the captain and crew. The unconventional fighting style of the Barb changed the way submarines were used in battle. Many lessons can be pulled from Fluckey's leadership style. He was so successful, the Navy was compelled to give him another tour beyond the limits prescribed for sub captains.
AG Jerome
Apr 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An amazingly detailed book, not just for submariners but for anyone to enjoy. Providing a first hand account of the evolving tactics of submarine warfare in the Pacific during WWII, Eugene Fluckey paints a picture of both desperation and heroism in the face of difficult odds. The USS Barb is the most decorated submarine in history and it even blew up a train!
Amy & Bob Beasley
An Amazing Story of Skill and Guts

By far the best combat story I have read in 60 years. That one, Ploesti, featured B-17 crews flying so low from North Africa to bomb the Ploesti, Rumania oil fields, they often got home with cornstalks in their bomb bay doors. Thank God for the men and women who have served to defend America! Don’t miss this book!
Larry Weldon
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Start to finish action. Great account of submarine life and warfare. Interesting fact: opening every war they have had the Japanese destroyed the enemy fleet in a surprise attack. Missed on USA.
Gary Misch
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The best non fiction submarine book ever written, by one of the best submarine skippers of World War II (two Medals of Honor). Eugene Fluckey revolutionized submarine warfare as much as anyone, and the reader reads about in this book. His only potential equal, Mush Morton, didn't survive the war.
Mark Rose
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Must read ww2 sub story

Well written nailbiter. Cant be put down. Written in sequential ship log manner, this one takes you from battle to battle. Great classic, should be required reading for every HS history class.
John Gates
May 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Spectacular front seat experience to one of the US's greatest skipper's endeavors. Moments in this book might bore you of destruction, as the Barb's crew does their job, but Fluckey's intermittent expression of distaste in war is enough to get one through at times.
Aug 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredible Accomplishments

I am amazed by the coordinated and complex skills that were required to do combat by those submariners on the Barb. This is a story about very intelligent and brave sailors working as a team (with some luck) to achieve there objectives.
Simon Parent
Aug 03, 2020 rated it it was ok
So boring, I stopped halfway. I just could not take one more dry description of another spotting, torpedo launch, explosion, cheers, beer in the captain's shower, etc. It is interesting in principle, knowing it's a real story, but it's pretty boring on a narrative level, in my opinion.
Bill Tumpowsky
Aug 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Descending into the pure escapism of my youth, this book covers a truly amazing chapter of the submarine war of the Pacific. You can’t help admiring the author and Captain of the Barb. True leadership when exhibited so brilliantly can be thrilling, a lesson, and worthy of great respect.
Aug 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A fun, lively, inspiring story, told in a witty and simple way. I enjoyed this book thoroughly. If you enjoy both fiction and non-fiction, this stands up the test of time, and ends up being a great war story that is enjoyable as heck.
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Nonfiction: Rear Admiral Fluckey 1 11 Dec 20, 2009 01:37PM  

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“Today we live; tomorrow—who knows? Best we be prepared and rested to avoid being bested. Yet, maybe we can cheat a bit on this and celebrate.” 0 likes
“Swish, I don't want a bastard, I want a leader. We don't drive men on board the Barb. We lead them. From my experience with bastards, they achieve about equal results. But there's one big difference. When you lead men, they ship over and want to stay with you. Anything else?” 0 likes
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