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Authors: Alex Kershaw

Escape From the Deep

BOOK: Escape From the Deep
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Table of Contents

 

Praise

OTHER BOOKS BY ALEX KERSHAW

Title Page

Dedication

Acknowledgements

 

PART ONE - The Last Patrol

Chapter 1 - Thunder Below

Chapter 2 - The Bravest Man

Chapter 3 - The Most Dangerous Mission

Chapter 4 - The Greatest Patrol

Chapter 5 - Battle Royal

 

PART TWO - Escape from the Deep

Chapter 6 - The Deep

Chapter 7 - The Terrible Hours

Chapter 8 - Blow and Go

Chapter 9 - The Last Attempt

 

PART THREE - Captivity

Chapter 10 - Guests of the Japanese

Chapter 11 - Torture Farm

Chapter 12 - The Coldest Winter

Chapter 13 - The Last Stretch

Chapter 14 - Liberation

 

PART FOUR - Back from the Deep

Chapter 15 - Back from the Deep

Chapter 16 - To the Last Man

 

SURVIVORS OF THE USS TANG

NOTES

BIBLIOGRAPHY

INDEX

Copyright Page

PRAISE FOR

Escape from the Deep

“Alex Kershaw’s latest page-turner tells the riveting story of the maverick skipper, courageous crew, and destiny of the USS
Tang
, arguably the Navy’s most legendary WWII sub . . . A raconteur whose other WWII books include
The Bedford Boys
and
The Few
, Kershaw has a screenwriter’s style that’s most intimate and spellbinding in portraying the trapped survivors’ nightmare inside the
Tang
180 feet below, and their history-making escape that landed them in yet another nightmare as prisoners of war.”

—USA Today

 
“[A] spellbinding saga. . . . Relying on interviews with survivors and oral histories, and writing with his customary verve, Kershaw delivers another memorable tale of uncommon courage.

—Publishers Weekly

 
“A gripping, novelistic account of the U.S. submarine
Tang
’s tragic final patrol. . . . Kershaw’s action-packed, character-driven narrative of this extraordinary crew’s exploits concludes with a poignant wrap-up of the survivors’ later years. Reads like the best suspense fiction.”

—Kirkus

 
“Writing purposefully about The War and showing the normalcy that preceded it . . . [Kershaw has] enriched our macro understanding of Armageddon by focusing on the micro, the particular, the individual. Kudos!”

—Washington Times

“Kershaw has researched exhaustively . . . and written compactly the portrait of nine Americans who rose to heroism and of a ship that well deserved its status—it was the most successful combat sub in the Pacific theater—as a legend in the naval history of World War II.”

—Booklist

 
“[A] gripping submarine saga. . . . Told in action adventure prose . . .
Escape from the Deep
moves crisply from scene to scene, shifting points of view and time sequences to keep the survival narrative front and center. . . . Kershaw does a good job of honoring an interesting subsection of the Greatest Generation.”

—Portland Oregonian

 
“An incredible survival story told in a fast-paced style. It has all the action of a Stephen Spielberg film.”

—Park City News

 
“This harrowing story of one sub’s deadly fate is an eloquent tribute to the extraordinary courage of the sailors of the silent service.”


Military.com

 
“Kershaw’s meticulous work turns this piece of historical non-fiction into an adventure story of rare color and depth.”

—Richmond Times Dispatch

OTHER BOOKS BY ALEX KERSHAW

The Bedford Boys
The Longest Winter
The Few
Blood and Champagne
Jack London

For my mother,
in memory of her father, Neville Lee

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

There are sadly fewer and fewer survivors from the undersea war in the Pacific, one of the most astonishing success stories in military history. During the writing of this book, two unique American naval officers, who both served in the
Tang,
died. It was my great fortune to meet one of those two men, Murray Frazee. I will always remember his and his wife’s hospitality and humor. Mr. Frazee provided extraordinary insight and helped direct my research. The other
Tang
veteran who died during the writing of this book, Larry Savadkin, was just as remarkable. I am indebted to him for talking to me about his harrowing escape from the deep.

Two living survivors of the
Tang
’s final patrol were incredibly helpful. Bill Leibold, the very definition of an officer and a gentleman, was generous with his time. He replied to countless e-mails and spent many hours on the telephone patiently answering questions. His fellow survivor from the
Tang,
Floyd Caverly, was also a most gracious and humorous host, and I enjoyed a couple of afternoons in Oregon with him and his wife. Without the assistance of these two men, this book would have been impossible to write. I cannot thank them enough. It has been an honor to know them and to pay tribute to their fellow submariners of the legendary
Tang
.

I am indebted to a fellow Limey, Leslie Leaney of the Historical Diving Society, for his diligent fact-checking. I was lucky to benefit from Mr. Leaney’s and his colleagues at the Historical Diving Society’s interest in this book and eleventh hour assistance; Tom Burgess, in particular, read the manuscript with great care and made several key suggestions, as did Nyle Monday at San Jose State University.

The following relatives, veterans, and experts kindly provided help and in many cases spent hours answering my questions, rooting out information, and tracking down photographs and contacts: Joyce DaSilva, widow of Jesse DaSilva; her daughter Joyce Paul, who searched high and low for a great deal of vital documentation; Barbara Lane, sister of Larry Savadkin; Annie Decker, widow of Clay Decker; Marsha Allen, daughter of Dick O’Kane; Jim O’Kane, son of Dick O’Kane; Jackie Morris, daughter of Pete Narowanski; Robin Enos, relative of Mel Enos; Keith Merwin, an expert on Basil Pearce; Ken and Barbara Siegfried, relatives of George Zofcin; Dave Harnish of the U.S. Subvets Western Chapter; John Anderson; Paul Wittmer, a distinguished veteran; and Charles Hinman in Hawaii.

I must also mention the following, all of whom went out of their way to make my job easier: the inimitable broadcaster Rick Crandall in Denver; historian Thomas Saylor in Minnesota; Paul Tullis at
Men’s Journal
; Wendy Gulley, archivist at the Submarine Force Museum in Groton, Connecticut; and George Rocek and Bill Cooper, of the
Sculpin,
who both experienced all the horrors of imprisonment. The following World War II submarine veterans also provided harrowing testimony about their time as POWs: Thomas Moore, Herbert Thomas, Charles Ver Valin, Kevin Harty, and Ernest Plantz.

The Indiana Historical Society unearthed wonderful material on Jesse DaSilva, including an oral history that I have quoted at length. Regis University in Colorado was just as generous in sending many hours of invaluable interview material with Clay Decker. The following institutions were also helpful: The Naval Historical Center; the New York Public Library; the University of Minnesota; the Minnesota Historical Society; the museum library at the New London submarine base; Lafayette College; and various chapters of U.S. submarine veterans’ associations across the country. I cannot thank the staff at the Sawyer Library at Williams College enough for all their help over the years. They have graciously provided me with a second home during the writing of several books.

The idea for this book was the result of discussions with my editor, Robert Pigeon, of Da Capo Press, and I must thank him yet again for his diligence and dedicated support on this, my fourth book for Da Capo Press. His instincts and loyalty are second to none. My publisher, John Radziewicz, and his colleague Kevin Hanover were just as encouraging. Kate Burke and the best cover designer in book publishing, Alex Camlin, have provided wonderful assistance yet again. Ashley St. Thomas aided me enormously during the editing process, and Christine Marra and Susan Pink did a wonderful job during editorial production and copy-editing. I am also grateful to Albert A. Nofi for reading the book and providing comments.

My agent, Derek Johns, and his colleague, Rob Kraitt, and the rest of the team at A. P. Watt in London were also wonderful. Liza Wachter in Los Angeles was an inspiration, as ever. My wife, Robin, and son, Felix, again tolerated my obsessions. I owe them more than I can ever say. My relatives in Britain and in America have also been great supporters.

The Pacific, 1944

PART ONE

The Last Patrol

It’s a big ocean.
You don’t have to find the enemy if you don’t want to.
1


Dick O’Kane

1

Thunder Below

August 11, 1944, a few miles off the coast of Japan

 

T
HIRTY-THREE-YEAR-OLD DICK O’KANE peered through a periscope. In the distance, he could see two large Japanese freighters. They would have been easy targets had it not been for the fast-moving gunboats escorting them.

Few submarine captains would have pressed on with their attack. Only the most aggressive, like Commander O’Kane, would contemplate taking them on. Nothing, it seemed, could prevent him from hunting down the enemy. He believed that it was his mission to wage unrestricted warfare on the enemy by sinking vessels small and large—sampans, merchant ships, troop carriers, and Japanese navy ships—as many as he possibly could.

O’Kane switched on the loudspeakers so that his crew of eighty-seven men could listen to his crisp, calm orders. He then prepared to make the approach on the convoy.

Seated in a small cubicle a few yards from O’Kane was twenty-one-year-old Minnesotan Floyd Caverly, known to his fellow submariners as “Friar Tuck.” He was listening intently to the sound of the enemy’s screws through his headset.

Swish. Swish. Swish. Swish.

The sound reminded the men aboard of a shaving brush being slopped back and forth in a sink.

Caverly looked at a Sherman and Clay Co. metronome in his radio shack. On his last patrol aboard the USS
Tang,
Caverly had begun using it to time the speed of the enemy’s screws.

Tick, tock, tick, tock.

O’Kane stood close beside several other officers. They crowded the cramped area of the
Tang
’s conning tower. Their faces were studies in concentration, their features lit up by the small room’s eerie red light.

“No change in speed, Captain. Still seven-two turns,” reported Caverly.

O’Kane was ready to strike.

“Open all outer doors forward,” he ordered. “Stand by for final bearing. Up scope.”

Caverly listened carefully, trying to detect any change in the enemy’s speed. On his three previous patrols aboard the
Tang,
he had come to trust utterly O’Kane’s instincts. The “Old Man” had an innate ability to outwit the enemy—he was a “walking torpedo data computer,” able to work out angles and bearings in his head. He had learned his trade from the best, the legendary Dudley “Mush” Morton of the USS
Wahoo
.
2

Every man depended for his survival right now on Caverly relaying information quickly and accurately. Was the enemy moving toward or away from the
Tang?
What was the enemy’s bearing?
3

BOOK: Escape From the Deep
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