by Captain Joseph F. Enright, USN, with James W. Ryan
New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987. 250 pp.
Illus., maps, notes, biblio, index. 18.95. ISBN:0-3-1200-186-X
The Japanese carrier Shinano has one of the most fascinating stories of World War II – and in terms of ships, themselves. In many aspects, it is much like the Titanic. It was on its maiden voyage, it was so large as to be considered unsinkable by some, and when she sank, a large number of her crew became casualties.
It is a story of not just a ship, but of a man – Joseph E. Enright, commanding officer of the USS Archerfish and the author of this book. His story in some ways is a classic story of a person who has suffered a setback and is going through a crisis of confidence – who then steps up and makes a big accomplishment. In Enright’s case, his crisis of confidence was a war patrol that did not go well, including a missed opportunity to have a shot at one of the carriers that had raided Pearl Harbor.
Enright also provides superb background on the Shinano, and this book tells this small obscure tale in a fashion that is engaging and holds a reader’s attention. Enright’s writing also opens a deeper picture of intelligence. American intelligence had considered the Shinano to possibly be a cruiser (deriving the name from the Shinano River, rather than the ancient prefecture the ship was actually named for). This minor controversy from six decades ago shows just how inexact a science intelligence is – it is arguably a craft or an art as much as it is science.
This is a story well worth remembering. Not only is it a tale of how the largest ship ever sunk in combat was taken down, but it has a superb human element that make this book a superb story – a story that is a small but significant part of the American submarine campaign in the Pacific.