Book Reviews

This is a remarkably complete and well-researched handbook that details all aspects of submarine technology, with easy-to-understand explanations of the broad, esoteric, and complex technologies involved, making it relatively easy for laymen to follow. Zimmerman stresses the significance of submarines not only in today's world, but also in the 21st century. He explains the basics of nuclear propulsion; diesels and air-independent propulsion (AIP); batteries and fuel cells. There is comprehensive coverage of submarine torpedoes and missiles, hydrodynamics, acoustics, and enough attention to non-acoustic phenomena to understand their significance in submarine warfare. Each relevant subject is covered in detail as is the importance of modern combat systems for submarines today—and in the future.

Extensive endnotes for each chapter provide sources and references for all of Zimmerman's statements and discussion. He includes tables to show relevant statistics, and figures to clarify such complex systems as nuclear power, AIP systems, and submarine fire control techniques, while ample sidebars emphasize and highlight various issues like non-acoustic antisubmarine warfare.

Technical information is up-to-date, with details about Russian weapons and submarines, as well as U.S. Navy developments of interest. Much of this information will be new to many readers who do not follow professional journals or technical intelligence matters. When Zimmerman was editing the Navy News & Undersea Technology newsletter, he consistently provided unclassified scoops on new developments. This book follows that tradition. The recently advertised-for-sale 200-knot Russian submarine rocket torpedo ( Shkval ) is described, along with current work in progress elsewhere on the submarine-launched hypervelocity underwater projectiles. These will provide an extremely dangerous ASW weapon when fired from a quiet bottomed diesel submarine at short ranges. Zimmerman gives a worldwide view of the status of torpedo developments and operational weapons, with their advantages and shortcomings. In addition, he covers submarine-launched cruise missiles and provides data on Russian missiles newly available on the open market.

If submarine officers are to understand better not only where they fit into the large and growing world of submarines, but also what the rest of the world is doing, this is the book is for them. I doubt that many people working in our submarine program have heard of much of the data this book provides on other navies. They should be concerned about where we stack up in the big picture, since we are no longer preeminent in many technology areas. Other submarines dive deeper, go faster, are just as quiet, and have excellent weapons and the combat systems to use them. All of the submarine-design yards and their governments are moving ahead smartly with many forms of non-nuclear propulsion that will provide all of the advantages of nuclear power except for open-ocean fast transit, at about a third of the cost. Zimmerman points out that the strategic and tactical requirements of most of the rest of the world (Russia, U.K., France, and China excepted) do not require either very high speeds or very long endurance. They will be operating in or near their own waters, where they know the environment and can hide quietly in choke points and other areas which might be of interest to us. So in addition to excellent coverage of the subject, this book should serve as a wakeup call for submariners.

Captain Prisley is a retired naval officer and career submariner.

 

Jimmy Carter: American Moralist

Kenneth E. Morris. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1996, 321 pp. $29.95 ($26.95) hardcover, $19.95 ($17.95) paper.

Reviewed by Lieutenant Fred Kacher, U.S. Navy

Sociologist Kenneth E. Morris explores the role Jimmy Carter's morality played in the public leadership positions he filled throughout his life in this psychological biography of our 39th President. Carter, the only Naval Academy graduate ever elected President, became the first chief executive elected after Watergate. Because he is a born-again Christian, personal ethics and morality figured heavily in his victory.

Morris ably captures Jimmy Carter's first 30 years by showcasing the superior intelligence and character that made him an excellent candidate for admission to the Naval Academy's Class of 1947. The hard work, frustrations, and achievements Carter experiences as a midshipman help to shape his sense of morality and his view of public leadership. His commissioned service receives far less emphasis, although Morris does highlight Carter's selection to the nuclear power program and his interaction with Admiral Hyman G. Rickover. Not surprisingly, Carter's admiration for Admiral Rickover's work ethic and analytical mind mirror two qualities that many would attribute later to President Carter himself.

After a fine exploration of Carter's early business and political successes in Georgia, American Moralist peaks with Carter's methodical three-year campaign as a virtual unknown running for President. Carter's watchwords, morality and competence, allow him to develop an "issue by issue" political philosophy that transcends conventional political labels and underscore his belief that superior discipline, preparation, and effort always will win in politics. Following the election, however, Carter's unwillingness to compromise his political beliefs and his outsider's distrust of established power lead to a number of struggles, both foreign and domestic, that hamper his presidential effectiveness. Morris skillfully recognizes the irony that those qualities that made President Carter most electable, perhaps were most responsible for his failures in the Oval Office.

Morris closes with the years that may be the most accurate reflection of Carter's public morality—his years after the White House. Carter's exploits as peacemaker and activist are documented but the analysis dedicated to his post-presidential years seems hurried relative to other phases of Carter's life. Since this is the first biography of President Carter since 1980, Morris partially misses a great opportunity to analyze Carter's moral actions after he has been freed from the constraints of presidential politics.

Although Morris' eye for detail and insights into Carter's psyche help us understand Carter's morality, his reliance on psychological analysis may seem forced and out of place to readers who enjoy more conventional biographies. For instance, Morris reconciles Carter's morality and his willingness to run tough campaigns by declaring, "When it came to winning, the rage he had so successfully repressed against his father who never let him win was unleashed against surrogates—especially socially prominent ones." Similar haphazard psychological assessments persist throughout the book.

American Moralist is, at times, a fascinating book. Kenneth Morris deserves much credit for his effort, but the book's psychological orientation makes it more suitable as an academic work for presidential scholars than for leaders coming to grips with their own view of individual morality and public responsibility.

Lieutenant Kacher recently graduated from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government with a Master of Public Policy degree. He is attending the Surface Warfare Officer School in Newport, Rhode Island, and is the prospective weapons control officer of the Princeton (CG-59).

 

The Living and the Dead: Robert McNamara and Five Lives of a Lost War

Paul Hendrickson. New York: Alfred Knopf Publishing, 1997. 427 pp. Bib. Ind. Notes. Photos. $27.50 ($24.75) hardcover, $15.00 ($13.50) paper.

Reviewed by Major H. R. McMaster, U.S. Army

In The Living and the Dead , Paul Hendrickson, an award-winning feature writer for The Washington Post , makes a unique contribution to our understanding of the experience of the Vietnam War and the character of a man who helped cause that disastrous war. Brilliantly conceived and elegantly written, Hendrickson's book transcends conventional approaches to biography and history. His treatment of McNamara is unsparingly critical, but thoughtful and sensitive. The author makes subtle yet powerful connections between the former Secretary of Defense and "five lives" affected by McNamara's profound dishonesty and character flaws. As he exposes McNamara's role in easing America into war in Vietnam, Hendrickson illuminates the war's adversity and its enduring, divisive legacies.

Hendrickson has produced the most insightful biography of McNamara yet to appear. The Living and the Dead is sure to deepen many readers' scorn for the man. More important, however, readers will understand McNamara better. Hendrickson pays particular attention to McNamara's early life, his family, and the educational and social experiences that shaped his personality. He paints a portrait of a man who is divided between body and soul, who has a remarkable capacity to repress sensitivity to the human condition beneath a cold, arrogant, calculating shell. Hendrickson's painstaking research exposes McNamara's ability to disassociate his words and deeds from what he knows to be true and right. McNamara appears as a man who is not without conscience, but who is "continually willing to compromise" it. In the end, McNamara's "divided self' and the "riddle" of his character leave even Hendrickson puzzled. Particularly fascinating is Hendrickson's portrait of McNamara after the Defense Secretary left President Lyndon Johnson's administration for the World Bank and eventual retirement. If it were not for the disastrous consequences of McNamara's lies and his related abdication of responsibility to the American people, the reader might begin to feel sorry for this guilt-ridden man who is unable to enjoy the twilight of his life. The sin, however—as the lives of those who struggled with the consequences of McNamara's deceptions reveal—has been simply too large.

Hendrickson's selection and sensitive development of the book's dramatis personae reveal the diversity of human experience in a war that divided a generation. The author is true to their stories and resists the temptation to overdramatize their experiences or make artificial connections between them and McNamara. Hendrickson's five lives include: a reclusive artist who tries to throw the former Secretary of Defense from a ferry; a young Army nurse who loses her innocence in Vietnam, but gains an inner strength that will help her overcome a long, debilitating illness; a young Marine who struggles physically and psychologically after his return from the war; a Quaker who immolates himself beneath McNamara's Pentagon window; and the fifth child of a Saigon patriot separated from his family and tortured in the wake of the Communist victory in 1975.

Hendrickson's book is full of travail and sorrow, yet a positive theme emerges: the human capacity to overcome adversity. The reader gets to know the five people as human beings, even as McNamara remains an enigma. Indeed, a commonality among the five is the contrast between the way they lived their lives (or, in the case of the Quaker, Norman Morrison, how he chose to end it) and the character of the man who periodically emerges from the background in the midst of their stories. On one level, the book is a dialectic between their honesty and McNamara's dishonesty, their humility and McNamara's arrogance, their sincerity and McNamara's suppression of his inner self.

This reviewer feels hard pressed to capture fully the dimensions of this powerful book. It cannot be read passively and is bound to make a distinct impression on each reader. The reader is swept along by the narrative, keeping up with the author as Hendrickson shifts the story, sometimes radically, in time and place. The quality and tenor of the prose are remarkably original—at once elegant and humble, almost colloquial. It is no wonder that The Living and the Dead has earned wide acclaim and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Although it does not fit neatly into any particular genre, this book is bound to be considered a classic literary and historical work.

Major McMaster is the author of Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that led to Vietnam (Harper-Collins, 1997).

 

Fair Seafarer: A Honeymoon Adventure with the Merchant Marine

Nancy Allen. Bridgehampton, NY: Bridge Works Publishing Co., 1997. 224 pp. Photos. $21.95 ($19.95).

Reviewed by Joanne Reckler Foster

What a way to spend a honeymoon!

As a brand-new bride, albeit older and wiser, Nancy Allen went to sea with her chief mate husband, Bob, on the M/V Endurance . It is her personal-style journal of that 1994 round-trip voyage to the Far East on board the 845-foot Sea-Land containership that makes up the body of the book. Into crack and crevice she has crammed background information.

You know what's coming. Right off the bat she tells the reader of Bob's warning that the six-week passage "would be no row in the pond: `Sea-Land has one goal: to get boxes from here to there—fast. They work the Chief Mate's ass off round the clock. I'll have no time for you and you might not make any friends—you'll probably be the only woman aboard. And by the way. please don't leave your underwear lying around the laundry room."'

As a supernumerary—neither paid crew nor passenger—Nancy Allen sailed with one foot in each camp, sharing both parts of the voyage with the reader. Remembrances of her trip capture the flavor of the merchant seaman's life on board this American-flagged freighter, then take us with her as she plays tourist ashore from Oakland, California, where she embarks, through every port to Shanghai and back.

Although Melville, Masefield, and London are woven through the narrative, Richard Henry Dana and his Two Years Before The Mast are the ever-present yardsticks against which she repeatedly measures. Her light, chatty diary—set off in italics—is interrupted frequently with the denser passages of explanation and conversation culled from memory, and from books and other records listed in a bibliography at book's end. Although somewhat disjointed, it is a readable style that lures one into her cabin, and into her life.

Sailing through this high-intensity trip, we do learn about other crew members, especially Keith, the radio operator (curiously, only the captain has a last name in this narrative), and Jess, the second assistant engineer, and the only other woman aboard.

Then there is sexual harassment and salaries, reefers and pirates, the Jones Act and Japanese bathrooms, cargo and downtown Kobe, Japan. That's all mixed in with weather, World War II, and Unalaska; unions, foreign flagging, Chicken Adobo, alcohol, and survival suits; Korean cuisine and (a dearth of) shipboard sex. And more and more and more.

Nancy closes the book "grateful that I was able to step inside a working ship and explore her from stem to stern, engine room to bridge. Though I entered the world of merchant shipping unbaptized like Dana, I'm leaving it with respect for those who make their living battling the sea."

It is the reader's good fortune that Bob was usually working. Nancy was left with sufficient time to collect snippets and stories for Fair Seafarer .

Ms. Foster is the author of The Captain’s A Woman: Tales of a Merchant Mariner (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1997). 

 

 
 

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