Naval Warfare Books

Book reviews

V otsekakh tishina

Vlasov, Lev Aleksandrovich

91 pages, photos

Type. Memoir
Pros. Crewmember's perspective is refreshing
Cons. Lack of chronological arrangement makes for difficult reading

The author of this memoir was senior electrician on S-104, serving on that submarine from its commissioning until the end of the war. In the 1930s he served some years on Shch-105, left the navy after his five years of mandatory service, and then was called back to the submarine service in 1941. The construction of S-104 was delayed by supply shortages, and then the submarine was bombed in harbor, necessitating repairs before she could finally go into action in 1944.

Vlasov recounts another air attack which left the boat unharmed but almost cost him his life. When the boat was bombed in an Arctic harbor near Poliarnyi, Vlasov was on deck. The others went below, but in a fit of patriotic feeling he stayed behind to put up the flag which had been shot down. As he ran for the hatch, he saw the flywheel being turned from the inside. The water began to rise, the boat began to descend, and for the first time "I saw what my own boat looked like as it dived." After 30 minutes in the water, S-104 surfaced and he climbed aboard, to discover that no one had noticed his absence.

Vlasov's recollections of his first commander are quite negative. He portrays M.I. Nikiforov as a mediocre commander who delayed more than one mission by getting drunk on the eve of departure, and was finally relieved after freezing up in a crisis. He was replaced by Vasilij Andrianovich Turaev, formerly of S-12, who turned out to be a definite improvement on his predecessor.

For some reason the author presents his memoirs in non-chronological order, beginning with an account of a successful patrol in 1944, then going back to the beginning of the war, jumping next to the end of the war, then turning back for a look at the author's first days at sea in the 1930s, and finally finishes with a chapter on Vlasov's postwar life. Needles to say, this arrangement makes the narrative a bit difficult to follow.

The book is rather refreshing to a reader of Soviet submarine memoirs due to its being written by a crewmember rather than by a commander. Vlasov includes many interesting details about his comrades among the crew, especially emphasizing how the sixth compartment, which contained the electric motors he had charge of and was thus a comparatively warm and cozy haven on board the submarine, had a magnetic effect on the crew and was a focal point of the sub's social life. The from-the-ranks perspective makes this one of the more worthwhile memoirs of the Soviet submarine service in World War II.

Review written by Tonya Allen.

Published on 1 Dec 2000.

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