Hidden Warships: Finding World War II’s Abandoned, Sunk, and Preserved Warships – Book Review
Hidden Warships: Finding World War II’s Abandoned, Sunk, and Preserved Warships. Nicholas A. Veronico. Zenith Press. 256 pages. Hard cover. $30.00.
Throughout history, mankind has demonstrated a ceaseless quest to explore and to search for the lost or the unknown. We love tales of discovery as evidenced by the longevity of Treasure Island or the popularity of the Indiana Jones film franchise. We are particularly fascinated with those secrets that lay tucked away deep under the ocean’s waves. Nicholas Veronico’s latest book, Hidden Warships, sails through familiar seas – namely the naval combat history of World War II – in search of that conflict’s lost vessels. Within its pages, readers will search the murky ocean depths for the USS Wahoo, swim amongst the sunken Japanese fleet in Truk Lagoon and dive into Bikini Atoll’s nuclear hell.
Mr. Veronico opens each chapter with a brief overview of the wartime record of each ship to refresh the reader on their historical significance. Prospective readers may already be familiar with this information, but these reviews are critical to understanding the subsequent combat loss and later rediscovery of each ship. The bulk of each chapter focuses upon the motivation, research and recovery efforts to relocate these vessels. For example, chapter one traces the rather unique mission of Japan’s midget submarines in context to the larger attack against the US Pacific Fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor. Having briefly explained the events of December 7th, Mr. Veronico turns to the interesting, if rather short, life stories of the midget submarines including crew selection, deployment, operational role, sinking and eventual relocation. He also discusses the perils and rewards of diving on the submarines today including color photographs documenting their current condition. Veronico follows this model throughout Hidden Warships, turning each chapter into a standalone vignette but adhering to a central theme of discovery throughout the book.
The most revealing aspect of the book is the discussion on the largely overlooked illegal Chinese and Malaysian salvage efforts to strip sunken warships for scrap metal. Mr. Veronico details criminal operations removing valuable materials from Royal Navy vessels HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse and efforts to protect them from further theft. The amount of damage is not inconsequential, with thieves even employing explosives to break up the ships or remove large items such as propeller shafts and screws. Sadly, these are not isolated events with similar attacks occurring on other sunken ships throughout the Pacific. Veronico relays how scrap metal thieves show no regard for war gravesites and international law regarding maritime salvage to say nothing of the historical significance of the ships themselves.
Hidden Warships final chapters are devoted to getting the reader actively involved in warship exploration, and perhaps preservation, on a personal level. Veronico includes information on the final resting places of several World War II ships accessible to divers and non-divers alike. While many of these opportunities are well known, such as the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii or the USS North Carolina Museum, others are more obscure like the minesweeper USS Hazard in Omaha, Nebraska. Veronico thoughtfully includes a lengthy list of websites for those readers interested in learning more about World War II equipment, maritime battles, individual warships and recreational diving on sunken ships. Grab your wetsuit and swim fins – this is a book worth discovering!
Lieutenant Colonel Christopher J. Heatherly enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1994 and earned his commission via Officer Candidate School in 1997. He has held a variety of assignments in special operations, Special Forces, armored, and cavalry units. His operational experience includes deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq, South Korea, Kuwait, Mali, and Nigeria. He holds master’s degrees from the University of Oklahoma and the School of Advanced Military Studies.
The opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of the United States Government, the Department of Defense, or the United States Army.