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Thunder Below!: The USS Barb Revolutionizes Submarine Warfare in World War II

Thunder Below!: The USS Barb Revolutionizes Submarine Warfare in World War II

4.9 12
by Eugene B. Fluckey

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The thunderous roar of exploding depth charges was a familiar and comforting sound to the crew members of the USS Barb, who frequently found themselves somewhere between enemy fire and Davy Jones's locker.
Under the leadership of her fearless skipper, Captain Gene Fluckey, the Barb sank the greatest tonnage of any American sub in World War II.


The thunderous roar of exploding depth charges was a familiar and comforting sound to the crew members of the USS Barb, who frequently found themselves somewhere between enemy fire and Davy Jones's locker.
Under the leadership of her fearless skipper, Captain Gene Fluckey, the Barb sank the greatest tonnage of any American sub in World War II. At the same time, the Barb did far more than merely sink ships-she changed forever the way submarines stalk and kill their prey.
This is a gripping adventure chock-full of "you-are-there" moments. Fluckey has drawn on logs, reports, letters, interviews, and a recently discovered illegal diary kept by one of his torpedomen. And in a fascinating twist, he uses archival documents from the Japanese Navy to give its version of events.
The unique story of the Barb begins with its men, who had the confidence to become unbeatable. Each team helped develop innovative ideas, new tactics, and new strategies. All strove for personal excellence, and success became contagious. Instead of lying in wait under the waves, the USS Barb pursued enemy ships on the surface, attacking in the swift and precise style of torpedo boats. She was the first sub to use rocket missiles and to creep up on enemy convoys at night, joining the flank escort line from astern, darting in and out as she sank ships up the column.
Surface-cruising, diving only to escape, "Luckey Fluckey" relentlessly patrolled the Pacific, driving his boat and crew to their limits. There can be no greater contrast to modern warfare's long-distance, videogame style of battle than the exploits of the captain and crew of the USS Barb, where they sub, out of ammunition, actually rammed an enemy ship until it sank.
Thunder Below! is a first-rate, true-life, inspirational story of the courage and heroism of ordinary men under fire.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The USS Barb was the Navy's most successful submarine in WW II. Operating mainly in the South China Sea, the Formosa Strait and the forever mysterious Sea of Okhotsk, the Barb sank at least 29 Japanese ships and climaxed its final patrol with an audacious commando raid on land during which the crew destroyed a 16-car train. This was the sole U.S. military landing on Japanese soil during the war. Drawing on ship's logs, letters, interviews, diaries and his own memory, Fluckey, a retired rear admiral, reconstructs every attack by and against the sub from its eighth through its 12th and last patrol. This was the 15-month period when he served as the Barb's skipper, winning the Medal of Honor and four Navy Crosses for his daring exploits. Fluckey is a fine writer with a lively, colorful style. His book is packed with action and suspense and is rich in details about the day-today operation of a submarine in combat. Photos. Military Book Club main selection. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Medal of Honor holder Fluckey relates the story of his wartime command, U.S. submarine Barb , in a well-told and -researched narrative of undersea resourcefulness and courage. Barb set an unparalleled record of exploits in the naval war against Japan, and Fluckey has used both U.S. and Japanese naval records to re-create the vessel's story. The quality of his writing is far above the usual wartime memoir. This title will appeal to readers of both military history and Tom Clancy-style technothrillers. Highly recommended for World War II collections. Military Bk. Club main selection.-- Stanley Planton, Ohio Univ.-Chillicothe Lib.

Product Details

University of Illinois Press
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Product dimensions:
7.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Eugene B. Fluckey, Rear Admiral, USN (Ret.), was a 1935 graduate of the United States Naval Academy. For his valor under fire, Lt. Cdr. Fluckey was awarded four Navy Crosses and the Congressional Medal of Honor, unequalled by any living American. The crew of the USS Barb received the Presidential Unit Citation and Navy Unit Commendation. In 1989 the U.S. Navy honored Fluckey by naming the nuclear submarine Combat Systems Training Center, the largest and highest building in New London Connecticut, Fluckey Hall, the only building there named for a living person. His last active duty was as NATO Commander in Chief of the Iberian Atlantic Area in Lisbon, Portugal, from which he retired in 1972. In June 1991 he did research for Thunder Below in remote villages on the coast of China. Of his many citations, Fluckey said he was most proud of the one medal no member of his crew was ever awarded: the Purple Heart, given to those wounded under fire.

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Thunder Below!: The USS Barb Revolutionizes Submarine Warfare in World War II 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My Grandfather was the Torpedoman who contributed the diary.  As a child I spent a great deal of time with him and his accounts of the tours and battles still amaze me. My Grandmother has the dive siren from the ship and She and my Grandfather named my Mother Barbara after the USN Barb. This book is a fascinating account of patriotism and heroism.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Old Navy spirit with "Can Do" hands on talents. These are the stories tall tales are made of, but they are true and show what sailors are capable of doing with little resources. It also shows how officers should lead. As a 22 year retired Navy veteran I can relate. These are our heroes.
NookBrick More than 1 year ago
Absolutely riveting. I could not put this book down. I borrowed it from the library but now I am buying it because I could read it many times without tiring of its tale. Buy it, read it, you won't regret it!
CareerGreenBeret More than 1 year ago
The man is quoted late in the book as he reflected on his five WW2 war patrols,"there were never really any problems, just solutions and other options." For each of his first through third war patrols, Flucky was awarded the Navy Cross. For his fouth, the Congressional Medal of Honor. For his fifth, the Navy Cross. His mission and his men were always foremost. He pioneered rocket bombardment of the Japanese coast and blew up a train with a shore party. They escaped from the worst the IJN could through at them without the loss of a sailor. A remarkable leader, tactician, innovator, educator (USNA), humanist, and All-American hero. This was his autobiography. What more can you say about a man who accomplishes all this, has a sterling post-war career, then retires to run orphanages in Portugal. A must for every sailor, midshipman, and naval officer. Inspirational for anyone else.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you like reading about the Navy in WW II, this book about Gene Fluckey and the U.S.S. Barb is a must! Only 'Silent Victory' (the history of the submarine in the Pacific Theater) is rated, by me, higher than this book. Silent Victory offers a lot of detail, facts, minutia and a plenty of action for interest and intrigue in the WW II submarine, that is premier book to read. However, Thunder Below should be the next book on your list. It is action packed in each and every chapter. The reader can feel the heat of the steamy boat, the tense moments, and the excitement as 'Bam' is heard many times thoughout the book as a torpedo strikes its target. There is a lot of Navy/submarine jargon but that does not detract from the fast moving reading. Gene Fluckey, as far as I'm concerned, is the father of the ballistic submarine and the Navy's elite Seals.
Anonymous 9 months ago
Title sez it all!
WritermomHB More than 1 year ago
Great job, Barb! An amazing example of outstanding leadership! Admiral Fluckey tells of the patrols of the USS Barb and her missions during WWII in the Pacific. Using totally new attack methods, the Barb contributed so much to defeat the Japs during this war! Admiral Fluckey commanded the Barb during her 8th through her 12th patrols. One of the most significant messages he wrote is the last chapter of the chapter called Swan Song. But, this story is about these patrols and the men who served on the Barb. I recommend it to Everyone. Most WWII stories tell of soldiers and Marines and some Air Force. Not much is ever told about the importance of our Submarine Force. This story tells of one of the most successful of our subs. Read it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JeannieWalker More than 1 year ago
Readers, we owe our freedom to men like “Luckey Fluckey”, who commanded USS Bard, a WWII submarine. Commander Fluckey had the confidence to become unbeatable. Commanders were only allowed four patrols, but Fluckey persuaded his superiors to let him have 5 patrols and promised to sink 15 ships. His kept his promise, and relentlessly patrolled the Pacific as he kept his ship cruising the surface, diving only to escape the enemy.This is what real heroes are made of, and Fluckey was a real hero, as were the sailors who served under him. This is a true story that tells of the courage of extraordinary men who excelled under fire from the enemy. I believe everyone should this read well-written, inspiring book.   Jeannie Walker (Award-Winning Author) "I Saw the Light" - A True Story of a Near-Death Experience 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Rear Admiral Eugene B. Fluckey's account of the exploits of USS BARB and it's crew during his 5 patrols in command is superb. I have been an avid reader of submarine history for almost forty years and have not read a single book or article that surpasses it. Fluckey's compelling prose transports the reader from fun and high-jinks at the The Royal Hawaiian to the cramped quarters of a WWII submarine on patrol, where death can be a miscalculation away and where victories are celebrated with cake and by 'Splicing the main brace'. With each passing year the ranks of these brave 'Barbarians' grow smaller but, in THUNDER BELOW!, their captain has left an enduring memorial to their skill, their courage, and the fortune that so often attends the bold. Read it! If it does hold you in thrall you have no soul.