history of submarines

Submarine history since 1580: a comprehensive, fresh -- and accurate -- look!

By Captain Brayton Harris, USN (Retired)
Edited by Walter Boyne


By getting closer to original sources on such pioneers as Bourne, Drebbel, Papin, Borelli, Symons, Bushnell, Fulton, Sam Colt, Lodner Phillips, Bauer, the Civil War submarine builders Villeroi and Hunley, Nordenfeldt, Tuck, Simon Lake -- among others -- the author has set down an accurate and highly interesting text. Yes, WWI and WWII certainly are included -- with a fresh look at the hydrogen peroxide-fueled U-Boats of Helmuth Walter -- in a narrative that runs from 1580 to 1997.

Selected Reviews and Comment:

Extract of Review published in Naval Institute Proceedings:
By Admiral Frank B. Kelso, USN (Retired), career submariner and former Chief of Naval Operations: "Captain Harris has written an informative and entertaining history of submarines and the people involved in their invention and operation. The book covers the period from the early vision of a submarine to recent times, and includes a great deal of history that was new to me . . . . He describes those early years in most entertaining prose and has uncovered and pieced together submarine history which was both new and exciting... This is a book of submarine history and its leading characters. Throughout their history, submarines have fascinated many. This book will explain the fascination and make for enjoyable reading." (February, 1998)

From Publisher's Weekly, 11/10/97
. . . Harris's overview proves a useful guide to a mass of data and doctrine frequently forbidding to nonspecialists. The book's strongest feature is its narratives of German U-boat operations in the world wars. These emphasize the submarine's role as an economy-of-force weapon for lesser naval powers and the contingency of allied victory in both campaigns. Harris later develops the subject of preparedness more directly, assessing innovations recently made by the Russians and insisting that nuclear boats remain inherently superior to even the best modern diesel designs and should therefore be central to the U.S. Navy's procurement program. Elsewhere, Harris downplays the "official" point of view. This fact enhances his study as a counterpoint to Dan van der Vat's British-accented Stealth at Sea and as a useful, if unbalanced, popular introduction to the subject.

A reader from Seattle , December 4, 1998
A fascinating look at a very mis-understood subject. I picked up this title to round out my collection--and discovered that it seems to have made some portions of "my collection" obsolete. Following Harris's lead, I could see where a lot of other authors, including several who are very well-known today, seem to have been copying each other without making any apparent effort to check their facts. Oh, there may be some errors in this book; I found one--the WWII USS Nautilus probably did not "give the coup de grace to the crippled Japanese carrier Soryu," although a lot of authors have also said so. Whatever--this is not only a "must have" for any serious student of naval warfare--but is actually an enjoyable read.

Rick (crusader@aucom.com.au) from Canberra, Australia , November 12, 1998
Excellent Overview of the History of the Submarine I have read nearly every decent book you can get on U-boats and submarine warfare during WWI and WWII. This new book is one of the better books that offers you a more complete understanding of their historical background and role. Most people know about the U-boats and the terrible campaign they waged against Merchant shipping during both World Wars but who knows about the very early submarines, their sometimes unfortunate crews and their inventors. This was a great story and I was unsure if I would find the history behind the submarine as interesting as its role in naval warfare but I did. The author tells a great story that never gets boring and keeps you reading page after page with interesting bits of information and first hand accounts of those involved. I found this book easy to read and it was a joy to lay back and read a few pages each night.

kathleen@kelley.net from Kansas City, Mo. , October 9, 1998
Surprisingly interesting for a non-specialist. I gave this book to my father -- a World War II Merchant Mariner, who came under frequent U-boat attack. But I read it first, and was amazed at the range and depth of the material. I learned more about submarine -- and anti-submarine -- warfare from this book than I ever had in 25 years as a naval officer! And, I must say, I enjoyed the journey. Captain Kathleen Kelley, USNR

A description from the PUBLISHER:
Here is an engaging, informative, and sometimes startling history of the men and the machines that dared to go beneath the surface of the water to enter combat. In his careful reconstruction of events, Brayton Harris combines his extraordinary sense of humor with intensive research, to present a compelling history of the submarine, from conception, to gestation, to birth during World War I, to the genesis of the mighty nuclear submarine. In his excursion through the political, social, and military history of the submarine, Harris refutes many popular myths that grew out of eyewitness accounts and copies of copies-and sets the record straight with wit and insight. A fascinating exploration of the steps and stumbles during development, a rousing tribute to the heroes who fought and died, and a powerful study of the submarine's impact on America, The Navy Times Book of Submarines is an unparalleled source for understanding the great equalizer, the beguiling boat, that decided the outcome of World War I-and changed the face of warfare forever.

Available online from: http://www.amazon.com

To contact the author: brayton@harris.net
Click for information about another history project, Civil War Newspapers.
Go to Submarine History introduction, or the timelines

Submarine History Timeline 1580-1869 / Submarine History Timeline 1870-1914
Submarine History Timeline 1914-1945 /
Submarine History Timeline 1945-2000