Other Books About Subchasers

Subchasers in WWII

The Sonarman’s War—A Memoir of Submarine Chasing and Mine Sweeping in World War II by H.G.Jones; McFarland & Company, Jefferson, NC; 2010. In the words of the author: “...an intimate and sometimes irreverent account of one man's coming of age during World War II...” Jones, born a North Carolina farmboy, served as a U.S.Navy sonarman aboard a wooden subchaser operating from Africa and Sicily during the Allied invasions at Anzio and Southern France. He also served as sonarman and yeoman on two fleet mine sweepers in the Okinawa, Formosa and China operations. This memoir is not only drawn from memory, but from the author’s surviving diaries from the conflicts, daily logs of the three ships upon which he served, and the secret reports of military commanders and other official records.

“SUBCHASER” by Edward P. Stafford, published in 1988 by Naval Institute Press is a very good book by the former skipper of SC 692. Well researched and documented he describes in detail the early days of the war, the makeup of convoys and their escorts, the crossing of the Atlantic requiring refueling at sea while underway, and operations in the Mediterranean theater.

SUBCHASER IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC By J. Henry Doscher, Jr., Captain, USNR, (Ret.) is another good documentary by a former subchaser skipper. Subtitled “A Saga of the USS SC 761 During World War II” and published in 1994 by Eakin Press the author tells some interesting tales of life aboard a subchaser in the Solomons.

“NINETY DAY WONDER” by Lewis M. Walker, Comdr, USNR, (Ret.) published in 1989 by Harlo Press is still another good book about a commanding officer’s experiences on a subchaser. The writing is excellent and some of the descriptions are gripping, such as the one telling about being aboard a subchaser during a typhoon. (Out of print but available through most library exchange programs.)

“THE SEVEN”, a novel written by William Edward Syers in 1960 and published by Duell, Sloan and Pearce, is an interesting story of life aboard a WWII subchaser. The author obviously must have been on a subchaser for he gives details that would be missing only and unless. (Out of print but available through most library exchange programs.)

“A SAILOR’S TALES” by Bill Robinson was published by W.W.Norton in 1978 and although it is highly personalized with biographical tales both before and after the war, one chapter is devoted exclusively to his experiences as commanding officer of SC 743 in the Southwest Pacific. Mr. Robinson is the former editor of “Yachting” magazine and writes extremely well. His stories about SC 743 are informative, witty, humorous and true. (Out of print but available through most library exchange programs.)

PC Patrol Craft of World War II by Wm. J. Veigele, Ph. D., USNR (Ret); Astral Publishing Co., Santa Barbara, CA; 400p.1998. This is an excellent account by a veteran sailor of PC 793. PCs were the “big brother” to the smaller 110' SCs. They were 173' steel-hulled vessels, built and used for the same purposes as the SCs and commonly referred to as subchasers. The men who served on PCs were trained at the same training center in Miami (SCTC) as those who served on SCs, and their experiences were very similar to those of the SC sailors. Dr. Viegele’s book, supplemented with more than 170 photographs, contains stories of the exploits of over 175 PCs and provides a thumbnail history of each one of the 361 PCs commissioned during the war. A series of exquisite engineering drawings of ship’s details provide complete and accurate details of PCs and their design.

Sea Bag of Memories—Images Poems Thoughts and Crafts of the Small Ship Sailors of World War II by Wm. J. Veigele, Ph.D., USNR (Ret); Astral Publishing Co., Santa Barbara, CA; 320p. 2002. This recent addition to the history and lore of subchasers and patrol craft of World War II is not only rich in its depth of information, but fascinating for its photos, cartoons, poems, art, drawings and miscellany about and by the men who served on the “Little Ships That Could.” Thirty pages of exquisitely drawn plates by Robert Baldwin will make ship modelers ecstatic while historians and researchers now have a gold mine of information heretofore never disclosed. It is a beautifully executed hardbound book complete with Prologue, Introduction, Notes, Bibliography and Index and is highly recommended as an invaluable part of subchaser history. Don’t wait. Get a copy and see for yourself.

“ALLIED COASTAL FORCES OF WORLD WAR II” by John Lambert & Al Ross, Conway Maritime Press, London, 1990. Also an excellent reference book with line illustrations and photos of subchasers. Gives some details regarding postwar disposition of subchasers. (Out of print but available through most library exchange programs.)

“The Shetlands Bus” by David Howarth (Lt.Cmdr, R.N.V.R.) published by Thomas Nelson & Sons Ltd., London and New York. First published in 1951 and reprinted in 1992 by Time-Life Books Inc. The author was attached to the secret base in Scalloway from whence the “Shetlandsbussen” operated. It is a fascinating story of the heroism and patriotic fervor among a small group of Norwegian fishermen as they plied back and forth between the Shetlands and Norway carrying arms, radios, counteragents, spies, and munitions to their underground patriots in occupied Norway and, on their return trips, whisking key figures to freedom. A lot of it deals with the fishing boats used but there are some good stories about the three American subchasers acquired later in the war.

“Black Company, The Story of Subchaser 1264” by Eric Purdon, published by Robert B. Luce, Inc., Washington-New York, 1972. This is a great true story about PC 1264, which was a warship manned 100% by black Americans as part of an experiment conducted by the navy to prove that the color of one’s skin was of no consequence when it came to running a ship and going to war. PC 1264 distinguished herself and performed so well that she, of all the PCs built during the war, was the one selected to be honored in a giant “Navy Day” celebration in New York City in October 1945 when President Harry Truman reviewed over fifty warships on the Hudson River after their return from victory.

“Subchaser Jim” by Josef Berger, published in 1943 by Little, Brown and Company, Boston. This is a little nugget of fiction that you can’t put down once you start reading it. Written by someone who knew a lot about the Gloucester fishing boats and also knew something about deceptive warfare and U boats. He takes the reader through some fascinating and exciting experiences aboard one fishing boat that the Coast Guard used to spy upon the U boats and, finally, to sink one. The book is written in a style intended for junior high school-age reading but I found it a great read, thoroughly exciting and enjoyable.

Subchasers in WWI

Hunters of the Steel Sharks: The Submarine Chasers of WWI by Todd A. Woofenden: Signal Light Books, Bowdoinham, ME; 2006. This recently published book is a treasure that should be owned by all WWI naval history buffs. Carefully researched, painstakingly documented, and chock full of rare photographs and documents, it is a definitive work about the subchasers of World War I. The author has the unique advantage of being the grand-nephew of George S. Dole, commander of SC 93. Lieut. Dole, in addition to his long service, left an extensive and valuable collection of documents, revealing not only his own story on SC 93, but that of the chasers and the men who served on them. Mr. Woofenden draws upon these documents in a wonderfully effective way. I highly recommend this book for its well-presented historical content.

“The Splinter Fleet of the Otranto Barrage” by Ray Millholland was published in 1936 by the Bobbs-Merrill Company. The author was a crew member aboard a World War I subchaser and he wrote about his experiences in a breezy, interesting style. Incidentally, his son, James Millholland, served on SC 699 in the Pacific in World War II. (Out of print but available through most library exchange programs.)

“The Cinderellas of the Fleet” by William Washburn Nutting, USNR, published in 1920 by the Standard Motor Construction Company of Jersey City is a “collector’s item” about the experiences of several different SC-1 subchasers during the first World War. It has several fine illustrations and photographs and gives a good insight into subchaser life in World War I. It won’t be easy to find.

“United States Subchasers” by Hilary Ranald Chambers. Published by Knickerbocker Press, NY, 1920. A small, rare book 91 pages long written by the Commanding Officer of SC 128 during World War I. An easy reading 91-page book describing operations in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas, including the Durazzo attack, the only major battle of WWI in which the U.S. Navy participated. Good information about typical ship’s complement, crew accommodations, training methods, adminnistrative duties, etc. Post-Armistice duty in the Mediterranean is also described, including the “liberation” of certain enemy equipment.

“Maverick Navy” by Capt. Alexander W. Moffat USNR (Ret). Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, CT 1976. A first-hand account of Capt. Moffat’s experiences as skipper of a WWI subchaser. Well written and includes photos.

General

“U.S. SMALL COMBATANTS” by Norman Friedman, published by the Naval Institute Press 1987. An excellent reference book with photographs and line illustrations and chapters on first and second generation subchasers.

DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN NAVAL FIGHTING SHIPS (DANFS) published by the Naval History Division, Navy Dept. 1977 is an 8-volume encyclopedia of U.S. warships. Many libraries carry this as a standard work on their reference shelves. One section gives a thumbnail sketch of every subchaser launched and commissioned in both wars as well as information regarding fates and/or postwar disposition.