Up Periscope

This book is a throwback to my younger days. I read it maybe as a 6th grader, I think. I seem to remember living on Windsor place and talking about it with a childhood friend. I read it then, and this time, specifically because I loved Deathwatch by the same author.

It’s a war story about a Navy diver who must steal some Japanese secret codes from an island in the Pacific during WWII. A submarine named the Shark is responsible for getting him to the island and back to Pearl Harbor. Most of the action takes place on the submarine except for a few chapters on the island. This book actually held it’s own after 30 plus years better than Deathwatch did. It’s a good story that was also made into a movie.

There is one scene that has stuck in my head for those 30 years I’ve been away from this book. It occurs near the end after the Shark successfully sinks a Japanese aircraft carrier and then has to try and outsmart a bunch of Japanese destroyers seeking revenge. The Shark is forced to stay under water at an unhealthy depth for an extended period of time while being attacked from above. White’s description of how difficult it is to be without fresh air for such a long time has always stayed with me. Here are some samples:

On the deck itself was an inch-deep slime of oil and sweat and vomit and water, a filthy, greasy, nasty-smelling gunk through which he had to wade.

A little later:

By midnight the air in the boat was so foul that each light seemed to be shining in a grayish fog. Breathing was hard, each man gasping rapidly. Faces were becoming faintly blue. No one smoked for there wasn’t enough oxygen in the air to sustain a flame.

I was really struck by this as a kid, for some reason. I’ve always wanted to see the movie to see how they portrayed this part of the story. It’s on iTunes so maybe I’ll grab it someday.