Hidden Warships – Review by Mark Barnes

Hidden Warships
You know those moments when you are down the pub with your mates and a friend of a friend of one of them joins the group and proves to be a bit of a hoot. You know the sort I mean, the bloke who does stuff way outside your experience and regales you with tales of adventures while you sip your beer and find yourself drifting away in jealousy which quickly fades when you get a sniff of your own personal reality back out on the street. Well, this cracking book by Nicholas A Veronico is a lot like that.

Here the author takes us on a succession of episodes from the world of the divers who explore warship wrecks around the globe. It is fascinating.  The book rattles on at a fair old pace and there is a lot interesting detail combining all the sensible stuff about diving and archaeology tangled up with warship preservation and slices of history. This is a very busy book. You get the instant feeling the author combines his feelings of reverence for the ships and their crews with the bond he has with the divers. There is quite a lot of atmosphere in this fast paced outing.

For me, the best of the book concerns Pearl Harbor.  A visit to the USS Arizona is on my bucket list and I will get there one day to pay my respects. For now I will have to make do with the pictures painted by Mr Veronico. His attention to detail is all to the good and I detect strong empathy with his subject matter especially with his treatment of the “black tears” of oil seeping from the ship and similar nuggets of knowledge about the men and ships who were there on that terrible day in 1941.

In the dim and distant past we used to have a print magazine before WHO and one of the best features we ran was done with the help of one of the chaps involved in archaeology and conservation around Hawaii. He gave us some amazing images of dumped trucks and other equipment from World War I adding to a vast debris field at the bottom of the sea. This same area is discussed by the author as he takes us on the search for Japanese midget submarines around Hawaii. You cannot help but like this stuff.

While the book concentrates predominantly on American ships and naval events Mr Veronico takes us to the seas off Malaysia where HMS Repulse and Prince of Wales are ravaged by scrap hunters ignoring their status as war graves. One diver describes their behaviour as “disgusting’ and that is just about all the descriptive power we need.

The author looks at the hunt for U-Boats and the remnants of ships destroyed in the tests at Bikini atoll.  We also get the Graf Spee and a number of important submarines from the USA and Japan.

The book is crammed with photographs and archaeological survey drawings. I like the layout and the way it works within the confines of the dimensions. I can’t actually find anything to dislike here. I am well aware that there may well be wrecks you know of that are not included in this book.  What can I say? Crack on regardless. The old mantra drops in nicely here; because this book is episodic, you can dip in and out as and when and it should appeal greatly to people who don’t get far beyond magazine articles for their heavy reading. They will get through it all and they will be satisfied.

I really like this book. The author does well in telling the history of the ships while completing the picture by offering us a window into the world of deep sea diving.  The bottom of the ocean is another world to us and this seems fitting in this instance. It is nice to be taken out of your comfort zone and this book certainly does that.  Top marks.

 Reviewed by Mark Barnes for War History Online.

HIDDEN WARSHIPS
Finding World War II’s Abandoned, Sunk and Preserved Warships

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By Nicholas A Veronico
Zenith Press
ISBN:978 076034 756 0