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The Iceman by P.T. Deutermann
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it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction-military, fiction-historical

Capt Duetermann has once again written an outstanding look at the US Navy in World War II. In this entry to his WW II series he once again turns his eyes to the Silent Service. This time he looks at the early efforts of the Navy to utilize their submarines and some of the problems encountered as prewar attitudes and doctrines are tested and found wanting. These include just what should the subs targets should be (combat ships vs merchant shipping) and most famously – inadequately tested torpedoes and firing mechanisms.

The novel opens with the main character, CDR Malachi Stormes, in command of an obsolescent S-class submarine lurking off of the German U-boat base of St. Nazaire, mapping the mine fields. His coolness under fire and his agressiveness are established in this scene and he is subsequently transferred to the Submarine Fleet in Darwin, Australia and given the command of a modern fleet boat, the USS Firefish, whose previous commander has been relieved for lack of aggression. His coolness under fire soon causes the crew to nickname him “The Iceman”.

In telling the tale of “The Iceman”, Capt Deutermann explores many of the issues the Navy had early in the war in just how to use their submarine force. According to the novel in addition to the torpedo failures, just what they should be targeting was a big issue. Naval doctrine has the subs targeting naval vessels, the bigger the better. CDR Stormes feels that they should be targeting the merchant fleet, esp tankers. This leads to some friction between him and his commanders starting with his squadron commander and going up. However his success shields him from a lot of the fall out for so adamantly disagreeing with his bosses. Another issue touched on is the lack of aggressiveness of submarine commanders early in the war. The author also gives some possible reasons for that lack of aggression.

The author also tells the story of the problems the dogged the MK14 torpedo that the the US submarines carried early in the war. Cdr Stormes has extensive experience with the torpedoes, including a stint on the development board. He figures out what the problem is and successfully modifies the settings and has a very successful first patrol. He again runs into problems with his bosses when he deactivates the magnetic triggers, which just don’t work. He boss however was on the board that developed them and issues a command that magnetic triggers WILL be used.

In telling the story of the Firefish, the author looks at just what makes CDR Stormes tick, the horrible secret he is carrying, how that secret affects both his personality and his relationships with both his crew and the other sub commanders in his squadron. The author also looks at some of the moral dilemmas that the submarine commanders faced. These include just what to do about survivors of the ships he sinks. In one memorable scene, he actively machine guns the crew of a flying boat he catches floating on the surface. This scene triggers a confrontation with his XO, who wants nothing to do with it. I felt the author handled both the scene and the subsequent actions very well.

There is also a love story sandwiched in between patrols. After his first patrol, Malachi meets and falls for an Australian Surgeon. She happens to be the daughter of one of the more important citizens of Western Australia. He eventually unburdens his soul and tells her his secret.

As usual with Cap Deutermann, he writes of the rhythms of shipboard life excellently. He makes the characters believable and sympathetic. I basically inhaled this book, finishing it in two days. (I had to go to work, or I would have finished it in one sitting) My rating if GR allowed would be 4.75 stars so I rounded up.

In fairness, I received an advanced copy of this novel from St. Martins Press in exchange for an honest review. There were some copy editing problems (misspellings and a couple of missing words) that I'm sure will be fixed in the print edition.
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Reading Progress

June 25, 2018 – Shelved
June 25, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
July 2, 2018 – Started Reading
July 5, 2018 – Shelved as: fiction-military
July 5, 2018 – Shelved as: fiction-historical
July 5, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by Sweetwilliam (new)

Sweetwilliam Great review Hap. I don't rememberSilent Victory The U.S. Submarine War Against Japan if you had tried Clay Blair's book. It is comprehensive but it was still entertaining. As the guy that rant the Renaissance Book store told me "there are books that are fun to read and books that you have to read. Silent Victory by Blair and The First Team are books you have to read."

message 2: by happy (last edited Jul 10, 2018 02:59PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

happy Sweetwilliam wrote: "Great review Hap. I don't rememberSilent Victory The U.S. Submarine War Against Japan if you had tried Clay Blair's book. It is comprehensive but it was still entertaining. As the gu..."

I've read it, but it was more yrs ago than I care to remember. Duetermann gives it a nod in his Acknowldedgements

'I wish to acknowledge the extremely useful history book by Clay Blair called Silent Victory. I used it as my princepal research reference for this story.

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