Reporter Peter Stevens’ latest book, Fatal Dive, is an engaging and easy to read work about the disappearance of the US sub USS Grunion off the coast of Alaska during World War II. Launched only a few weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Grunion’s first combat deployment was against Japanese shipping in the Aleutian Islands. Commanded by Lieutenant Commander Jim Abele, Grunion and her 70 man crew successfully sank 2 Japanese sub-chasers, survived a depth charge attack by a Japanese destroyer and then disappeared with all hands after crippling the Japanese merchantman Kano Maru. Apart from Western Union telegrams declaring the crew members Missing In Action, the relatives of the crew were largely kept in the dark as to the causes of the sub’s loss.
Stevens’ straightforward writing style and the book’s relatively short-length of 175 pages (plus a 60 page appendix containing short bios of each crew member) make it a quick, but thoroughly enjoyable read. Fatal Dive chronicles the life of Lt. Commander Abele, the Grunion’s first combat cruise and subsequent loss, and the dramatic story of her discovery by Lt. Commander Abele’s sons 65 years later. Stevens’ avoids getting bogged down in historical minutiae and instead focuses on the characters in the story from both sides of the conflict. His writing effectively conveys the sense of excitement and danger faced by the Abele brothers and their crew as they work to locate the ship in the treacherous waters of the Bering Sea. Stevens concludes the book with a discussion of the causes of the ship’s sinking and why the US Navy subsequently chose to torpedo any explanation of her loss. Fatal Dive is a great choice for a quick weekend read for any history or mystery buff.