Hunters and Killers: Volume 2

Hunters and Killers: Volume 2

Anti-Submarine Warfare since 1943

Norman Polmar and Edward Whitman

Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland, 2016, 272 pages

Book Review published on: June 16, 2017

Hunters and Killers: Volume Two: Anti-Submarine Warfare since 1943 presents a rich chronological history of antisubmarine warfare (ASW) efforts from 1943 until the end of the Cold War, and even a bit beyond. It recounts events, technologies, ships, and equipment used during these years for ASW and is a valuable historical record. Norman Polmar and Edward Whitman take the reader through the evolution of available technology as it existed in its time period and toward the end of the book provide some speculative work on how Cold War battles might have turned out if examples such as the Falklands War or Cuban Missile Crisis are used as a guide. One note for potential readers, if you hope to get details from an ASW practitioner’s perspective, this is not the book for you. It is heavy on the history of ASW and light on the finer points of how forces accomplished their ASW successes or failures. It focuses on reporting what ultimately happened, rather than why a particular tactical technique or procedure was a success.

The book begins with the broad operational outlines that frame the World War II ASW fight. Organizational structures, types of craft available, and the outlines of how the equipment was used are narrated in detail. It takes a high-level look at how forces were prepared to collide in the primary World War II ASW campaign, the Battle for the Atlantic. The book reports ASW operation with interesting vignettes of people and tactical engagements. For example, the odd story of an ASW blimp that was sunk by a German U-Boat vice the other way around! Pacific Theater ASW is covered as well, followed by the beginnings and evolution of ASW throughout the Cold War.

The book is quite authoritative. The authors are both well known in naval circles and have published extensively in the field of naval warfare. The historical data referenced in this book is well documented with copious footnotes. One is assured that these authors understand ASW in great detail and speak from consummate expertise.

ASW conclusions are made that are timely and relevant in the closing portions of the book. Some of the more salient include that history shows it takes a great many ASW assets to combat the effects of just one submarine. A modern ASW effort is therefore going to be difficult and expensive to maintain. It seems clear from history that modern nonnuclear submarines, under the right circumstances, could effectively block access to regions where the United States would like to project power. On this particular issue, Army readers should take special note as it directly impacts the joint fight if America’s land power cannot arrive at the shore because of a credible submarine threat.

Book Review written by: Harold A. Laurence, PhD, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas