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

4.44  ·  Rating details ·  1,982 ratings  ·  194 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 4.44  · 
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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 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Thunder Below!: The USS *Barb* Revolutionizes Submarine Warfare in World War II by Eugene B. Fluckey presents the world of submarine warfare. 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 did far more than merely sink ships-she changed forever the way submarines stalk and kill their prey.

The thunderous roar of exploding depth charges was a familiar and comforting sound to the
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
Feb 15, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-nonfiction
This book is a memoir covering 5 battle patrols from the legendary WWII submarine captain, Gene Fluckey. It is especially fascinating if you have ever toured a submarine and tried to imagine what it would have been like to serve on it during combat.

Every bit of the retelling is interesting in some way. Technology and strategies were evolving rapidly during his patrols, and Fluckey himself was at the forefront, pushing boundaries and taking carefully calculated risks. Two specific incidents were
Bryan Brown
Nov 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: misc-books
OK first of all I really enjoyed this book in spite of the clunky way it was written. The author is the former commander of the USS Barb, a Gato class submarine that fought in WWII. The writing is clearly not that of a professional author, but in spite of the craftmanship of the book the story being told is fascinating and gripping.

The book covers the 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th war patrols of the USS Barb late in the war in and around the seas near Japan. The author as a sub commander is clearly
Aug 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wwii
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
Aug 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2021-read
The WWII history of Fluckey's time on the USS Barb as its Captain. He was an innovator in submarine warfare in the Pacific. The Barb was very successful in using new techniques to harrass the Japanese in the late parts of the war. It lead to many awards for Fluckey and his crew, including the Medal of Honor. An excellent read.
Garhett Morgan
Jul 21, 2022 rated it it was amazing
This is my second time listening to this book. One of my favorites on a first hand account in the silent service in wwii
Quinton Andersson
Mar 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book captain Fluckey's outstanding leadership, knowledge, ability to adapt and courage under fire. Are all attributes that we should strive to match in our own life. Whether you are a captain or accountant. This book will teach you something. I have no doubt that these where the things that made him so successful against the japanese and in life. 5/5 recommend you read. ...more
Peter Schmeltzer
Mar 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wwii
Excellent story of daring, bravery, and adventure.
Dec 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoy WW2 history, and this account of a US sub and her commander, in the Pacific fleet, is a real page-turner. The history is written by her skipper and gives his perspective as he led the USS Barb and her crew to an incredible record of enemy ships sunk and damage inflicted. The battle accounts are detailed and make you feel as if you were there, feeling the percussion of the depth charges from the angry Japanese escorts who tried to sink the Barb after each successful engagement.
If you enjo
Nov 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A story about the kind of guys you want on your side in a war.

Wow. This is the first WW2 submarine account I’ve read, and am still in show and disbelief by the heroic actions of the captain and his crew.

The book is a recount of events from the captain, log, and Japanese reports and tells a thrilling story. It is pretty much non stop action accounting the events of the boat. There is no typical intro or conclusion, it just starts and ends with the war patrols.

The captains actions almost seem re
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
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
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
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
Oct 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great perspective stretcher book for me -- to experience the action history and perspective of WW2 combat submariners. These were competent, creative, and brave young men, doing their duty in the awful business of war. The narrative reads like an active voice action log, somewhat repetitive, but exciting and worthwhile.

I came across this book after watching a video documentary of modern day US military submariners in which this text was acknowledged as a must-read.
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!!!
David Hohrath
Nov 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book was written by Admiral "Gene" Fluckey about his exploits during World War II specifically in his role as the Captain of the Submarine, USS Barb. The story of the ship and its crew defies belief in its action packed recount of the ships exploits. Lucky Fluckey walks us through his 3 tours of the submarine as it scouts, harasses, and destroys Japanese merchant and military vessels. This book is entertaining to listen to and once started only took about a week to drive through it since it ...more
Feb 23, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic!! One of the best books I've ever read - everyone should read this. Gives you an appreciation of what we were fighting against (such as the gripping stories from a Japanese prisoner of war ship - the Australians and British on board starved, beaten then left to die of thirst and exposure when their ship was accidentally torpedoed and the Japanese only collected up their own, leaving the hundreds of POWs floating in the Pacific), why were fighting (home fires burning), and the brave sub ...more
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
Apr 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Thunder Below is a very enjoyable story about submarine life during World War II. It covers the Author's time as captain of the Barb during the last year of the war. The whole book reads like a sea story of a sailor as he's telling it to his kids. The level of detail is incredible as it is drawn from the ship's log, the memories of multiple sailors, and even enemy records retrieved after the war.

My only criticisms are sometimes sailing terms aren't explained, or descriptions of the boat which wo
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
Feb 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
The fascinating story of the most accomplished submarine in the Pacific in World War II, written by its captain.

The story itself is thrilling, and improbable and daring in that special way only history can be. Yet as much as it gains from being written by an actual eye-witness, it loses from the author being a bit dry and probably inexperienced at writing. Still, a fascinating tale.

I would give it three stars on its own. But reading it after reading "Das Boot" makes for such a striking contrast
Nov 20, 2021 rated it liked it
I was hopping for a book on tactics and strategy of submarine warfare during WWII and this book is not it. It actually drops you straight into the action, like an action movie. The action is the dialogue on the bridge of the Barb. Most of the book is dialogue of the Barb personnel during their various missions. By the time I realized this book wasn't what I was hopping for, I was completely hooked and I wanted to know what would happen next.

It does let you know a bit about how the Barb revolutio
Leigh Fawbush
Nov 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Do yourself a favor and read this book. Yes. Do it.

Capt. Eugene Fluckey of the USS Barb gives outstanding, factual accounts of his submarine patrols in WWII and gives insane insight to the true capabilities of submarines in warfare, as well as, showcased the intelligence and innovation of himself and his crew even when the odds were against them. I laughed, cried, and stayed on the edge of my seat. I felt like I was in the sub with him. No joke.

It’s a brilliant work and will instill a great se
Sep 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thunder Below! ended up on my "to read" list and I must say it did not disappoint. I usually find the "autobiographies" of heroized leaders have a defensive undertone as they attempt to justify their decisions to their critics. While there was a touch of that in Thunder Below!, I found it was very minimal and Admiral Fluckey managed to keep the book focused on the facts of the Barb's World War II activities under then Captain Fluckey. It is quite the story and well worth the read or, in my case, ...more
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
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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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