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Surface and DestroySurface and Destroy

The Submarine Gun War in the Pacific

Michael Sturma

Narrated by James McSorley

Available from Audible

Book published by The University Press of Kentucky

World War II submariners rarely experienced anything as exhilarating or horrifying as the surface gun attack. Between the ocean floor and the rolling whitecaps above, submarines patrolled a dark abyss in a fusion of silence, shadows, and steel, firing around eleven thousand torpedoes, sinking Japanese men-of-war and more than one thousand merchant ships. But the anonymity and simplicity of the stealthy torpedo attack hid the savagery of warfare—a stark difference from the brutality of the surface gun maneuver. As the submarine shot through the surface of the water, confined sailors scrambled through the hatches armed with large-caliber guns and met the enemy face-to-face. Surface and Destroy: The Submarine Gun War in the Pacific reveals the nature of submarine warfare in the Pacific Ocean during World War II and investigates the challenges of facing the enemy on the surface.

The surface battle amplified the realities of war, bringing submariners into close contact with survivors and potential prisoners of war. As Japan’s larger ships disappeared from the Pacific theater, American submarines turned their attention to smaller craft such as patrol boats, schooners, sampans, and junks. Some officers refused to attack enemy vessels of questionable value, while others attacked reluctantly and tried to minimize casualties. Michael Sturma focuses on the submariners’ reactions and attitudes toward their victims, exploring the sailors’ personal standards of morality and their ability to wage total war. Surface and Destroy is a thorough analysis of the submariner experience and the effects of surface attacks on the war in the Pacific, offering a compelling study of the battles that became “intolerably personal.”

Michael Sturma is chair of the history program at Murdoch University in Australia. He is the author of several books, including Death at a Distance: The Loss of the Legendary USS Harder and South Sea Maidens: Western Fantasy and Sexual Politics in the South Pacific.


“Once again, Professor Sturma has presented a detailed study of a facet of World War II history that has so far received very little attention. His well-researched and very readable work makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of submarine warfare in the Pacific. ”

—Don Keith, author of War Beneath the Waves: A True Story of Courage and Leadership Aboard a World War II Submarine

Surface and Destroy fills an important gap in our knowledge of the War with Japan in general and the submarine war in particular. It is liekly to appeal to both specialists and general readers with an interest in naval history of the Second World War.”

—Ronald H. Spector, author of In the Ruins of Empire: The Japanese Surrender and the Battle for Postwar Asia

“A relatively little-known aspect of the Pacific War. Well documented, this book is recommended for those interested in World War II naval and Pacific operations. ”

Library Journal

“Michael Sturma has penned an intriguing book on a virtually unknown aspect of a submariner's war.”

WWII History

“An important book for every serious Naval buff for the author offers countless insights into just about every type and condition of surface gun attack and its consequences.... A superb read by an author who knows his subject well. ”

Sea Classics

“Michael Sturma's Surface and Destroy will change the way you view World War II in the Pacific. This book is an important addition to the widening literature on the collateral damage that attended the ground and air wars in World War II.”

History Book Club

“This is an important book. The writing is excellent and the research meticulous.... It is well worth reading. There has long been a need for a comprehensive account of U.S. submarine gun actions in the Pacific during World War II. This book ... provides such an account.”

Proceedings of the US Naval Institute

“A compelling meditation on the nature of modern war. ”

Northern Mariner

“n examining both the operational and human aspects of submarine surface gun attacks, Michael Sturma offers a potent corrective to the traditional view of submarine warfare.”

Post Library

“Sturma has genuinely contributed to the history of the submarine war in the Pacific and solidified his standing as the leading academic historian of U.S. submarine warfare in the Second World War.”

Military History

Surface and Destroy is a valuable contribution to the literature on the Pacific War and submarine operations.”

The NYMAS Review

“This excellent book may well make modern naval commanders pause and think about current submarine doctrine. ”

Work Boat World

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