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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Review: Stealth Boat: Fighting the Cold War in a Fast-Attack Submarine by Gannon McHale

At age 19 in an effort to avoid the Vietnam draft McHale dropped out of college, where he was facing failure and joined the Navy. For whatever reason mostly because he is like the TV show silent service when he was younger he has to be assigned to submarines. He was sent to join the USS sturgeon a fast attack sub that was brand new.

Years ago, I helped a good friend, a retired board member, write his memoirs. Clarence was already a published author and a good writer (Riverhill Soliloquy by Clarence Mitchell.) Clarence had lived a fascinating life: he had been a cowboy in Montana recounted in another book I worked on (Montana Montage), worked his way up from apprentice and journeyman to become editorial director of a large publishing concern. In spite of my best efforts, however, he insisted on adding the name of virtually everyone he worked with and knew (a lot; he lived to be 102.) Almost all of those mentioned had predeceased him and really of little consequence. Of much more interest was his descriptions of the printing business and how it had evolved not to mention his time in Montana and growing up in NW Illinois. All those extra personages really made a mess of the book.

So it is with this book. There are some nuggets of very interesting material about the submarine service during the Cold War and their missions. He was a Yeoman and so had an interesting perspective on events, but except for his friends who are mentioned, the reader really doesn't care to know the backgrounds of all his friends nor the places and times they all went out drinking. In addition, current events are paraded before the reader (“Yellow Submarine” fell of the record charts, etc.) I suppose it was intended to provide context. It felt like padding.

In the end, the thousand days (his counting) should have been reduced to a few hundred. It’s a shame because he’s a reasonably good writer and some parts are quite interesting.
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