Rescue: A True Story of Courage and Survival in World War II

Rescue: A True Story of Courage and Survival in World War II

by Steven Trent Smith

Paperback(First Edition)

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Praise for The Rescue

"Steven Trent Smith grapples boldly with several big subjects: the Japanese occupation of the Philippines; the capture of Japan's 'Z Plan' (the decisive-battle strategy for destroying the U.S. Pacific Fleet); the rescue by submarine of forty Americans stranded in the Philippines; the climactic Battle of the Philippine Sea. Meticulously researched and well written, The Rescue ties these elements together into an epic that is emotionally engaging from start to rousing finish."
-Martin Russ, author of Breakout and The Last Parallel

"Smith's thoroughly researched, detailed account of the brave American and Filipino guerrillas on Negros Island in the Philippines will do much to introduce readers to this little known aspect of World War II in the Pacific. . . . This is a fascinating story well told."
-Elizabeth Norman, author of the award-winning We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese

"The Rescue is a delightful journey with the gallant few who resisted the Japanese occupation of the Philippines and who shaped the larger events wh ich led to victory in the Pacific. Smith's brilliant research and unique storytelling make this account a must for all who enjoy history and a grand adventure."
-Peter Huchthausen, author of October Fury

"With a photojournalist's eye for action and detail, Steven Trent Smith's The Rescue is a remarkable achievement. The incredible mission to save forty Americans stranded in the Philippines reads more like a work of fiction. . . . A must-read for all those interested in one of the great secret submarine operations of World War II and all action adventure fans alike!"
-Richard P. Henrick, author of Crimson Tide and Nightwatch

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780471423515
Publisher: Turner Publishing Company
Publication date: 02/14/2003
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 306,707
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

STEVEN TRENT SMITH is a five-time Emmy Award—winning freelance TV photojournalist and the author of Wolf Pack: the American Submarine Strategy That Helped Defeat Japan (Wiley). He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and son.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
Special Mission

LIEUTENANT COMMANDER FRANK WALKER was not averse to hollering orders through the open hatch. "Mr. Mazzone, bring us to periscope depth!" The Navy Department would surely disapprove of his method, but in the cramped confines of a submarine it was a method that worked quite well. "Sixty-four feet, Captain," came the response from below. Walker turned to his executive officer, Lieutenant William J. Ruhe. When Walker gave a slight nod, Ruhe gave a firm tug on the control handle. The shiny periscope slid silently, smoothly upward. Crouching on the conning tower deck, Walker caught the scope's levers as it rose. "Hold it there." Ruhe shifted the lever. With his right eye glued to the optics, Walker quickly crabbed in a full circle. He first checked the horizon, then the sky. "All clear. Take it up." The tube rose again, and with it the captain, his back slightly hunched as he squinted at the world above him. Clicking in the six-times magnifier for a telescopic view, he carefully, slowly panned left, then right, then left again. "I see the beach, but no signals. Range. Mark." "Three thousand double-oh," came the response. "Down scope." Ruhe tugged the pickle-shaped handle again. The scope dropped quickly, leaving the bare metal tube glistening in the dimness of the conning tower.

Walker turned to his yeoman, Al Dempster. "Yeo, what's that security signal again?" Dempster pulled the flimsy from his clipboard and reread the radio message: "Two white panels fifty yards apart, Skipper."

The captain took a few minutes to sip a cup of coffee, brought hot and fresh from the officers' pantry by his chief steward. He called again for the scope. As he swept the horizon he spotted a white speck to the north. In high magnification he could make out a sailboat headed along the coast. He watched it carefully, for Frank Walker had developed an aversion to small boats. Just two nights before, while transiting Balabac Strait--a heavily patrolled passage between northern Borneo and the west-southwestern tip of the Philippines--the crew of the most innocent of outriggers shot flares into the sky as the submarine passed, attempting to alert the Japanese to his presence. He had vowed that night to blast out of the water any boats that got in his way.

Walker turned his attention to the beach. He scanned the shore from north to south and back again. As the periscope plunged into its well, he told his crew there was nothing yet to see. No people. No flags. Nothing. "Mr. Ruhe, post a watch on both scopes and maintain course zero-five-zero." The captain disappeared down the control room hatch. It was nearing eight-thirty on Thursday morning, 11 May 1944, as the USS Crevalle crept silently beneath the dark waters of the Sulu Sea, two miles off the coast of Negros.

When the call for volunteers to man the periscopes squawked over the intercom, Motor Machinist's Mate John Maille jumped at the chance to get away from the tedium of tending the engines and motors. After he climbed up into the cylindrical steel capsule that was the conning tower, he asked Bill Ruhe what they were looking for. Ruhe described the security signal. Maille leaned into the eyepiece of the scope to begin his watch.

Below in his tiny cabin, Francis David Walker Jr. reviewed the orders that three days before had terminated his war patrol, sending him a thousand miles to the north, into the middle of the Visayas. A frown creased his pudgy face as he read:


"Rescue mission," he muttered to himself. Frank Walker would have preferred to shoot his remaining torpedoes at some meaty target, return to Australia for more, and get on with the job of waging unrestricted war against the enemy.

The thirty-one-year-old Annapolis graduate was a vastly experienced submariner. His war had begun in these very waters, as executive officer on the Manila-based Searaven. With her he had made six desultory war patrols, including his first special mission, delivering fifteen hundred rounds of three-inch antiaircraft shells through the Japanese blockade to the beleaguered garrison at Bataan. But when Bataan fell on 9 April 1942, Searaven was told to dump the ammunition and forget the Philippines. Her crew must have been heartbroken at the lost opportunity to aid American forces. Two days later Searaven's patrol was again terminated when orders came through for a second special mission: rescue thirty-three Australian aviators from West Timor. Though successful, the pickup took five difficult, dangerous days, and on the way down to Fremantle a fire in one of the engineering compartments disabled the submarine. For more than twelve hours Searaven drifted helplessly in the Timor Sea. Another submarine came to her rescue and towed the wounded sub into port. For Frank Walker that patrol was not an auspicious introduction to special missions.

After leaving Searaven, Walker was rotated back to the States to help put Crevalle into commission in June 1943. He made two very successful runs as her exec under the daring Lieutenant Commander Henry Glass Munson. Now the boat was Walker's.

Walker had good reason to feel optimistic about Crevalle's third run. The crew had responded well under his direction. His superiors in Australia would surely approve of his aggressive leadership. Hadn't he already fired eighteen of his twenty-four torpedoes, sinking or damaging three Japanese marus, merchantmen like that monstrous oil tanker? For that there might be a Navy Cross in the offing. But Walker would rather forget the shellacking his boat had taken after putting down the big maru, sixty-one bone-rattling depth charges in a sustained attack that nearly destroyed Crevalle. He must have shuddered when he thought how close to oblivion he had taken his first command. When the special orders ditted and dahed out of the ether, Walker had been preparing to turn his ship homeward, back toward Fremantle in Western Australia. Perhaps en route he would have found some unwary convoy to attack. Perhaps he would have been able to fire his remaining five torpedoes and chalk up another ship. Crevalle was a fighting machine, not a bus. But with receipt of these new orders Frank Walker had reluctantly resigned himself to play bus driver.

His bus was one of ten dozen Balao-class fleet submarines built for the navy during World War II. Each a tad longer than a football field, the fifteen-hundred-ton ships were the successful culmination of forty years of American submarine design and experience. Named after a particularly fierce variety of saltwater jack, Crevalle was a product of the Portsmouth Navy Yard in New Hampshire. Into her cramped interior spaces she packed a crew of eight officers and seventy-two enlisted men, most of them hardened veterans of undersea warfare, all of them volunteers. She carried six torpedoes in her forward tubes, four in her aft tubes, and fourteen reloads. She could dive well below four hundred feet, cruise more than eleven thousand miles without refueling. On the surface her diesel-electric drive could push twenty-one knots. Submerged, running off her batteries, she could sprint at nine knots for an hour, or slug along at two knots for nearly two days. Unlike the aging Nautilus and Narwhal, big cruiser subs now fully dedicated to Philippine cargo runs, Crevalle was a modern fleet submarine. She was not designed to carry passengers; her builders intended for her to sink ships. And Crevalle had already proved she was up to that task. After just three patrols she took credit for sending eight vessels to the bottom. A bus indeed.

Up in the conning tower, motormac John Maille continued his periscope sweeps, scanning the shore for white panels. The seaman had not been told that two dozen American refugees were to gather on the beach at sundown, hoping for deliverance. The captain would withhold that information from his crew at least until those signals appeared, and those people appeared, and a rescue seemed imminent. If no one showed up that evening, Walker was prepared to make another attempt the following night. Then he would leave the refugees to fend for themselves. After all, he thought, what could be so special about these people--and those papers?

Table of Contents


Author's Note.


Special Mission.

The Missionaries.


The Sugar Families.

The Prisoners of War.

Independence Day.

Planter, Soldier, Oilman, Spy.

The Samurai's Story.

The Seventh Son.

Terms of Exchange.

Converging Paths.

The Rescue.

Precious Cargo.


The Admirals.

Decisive Battle.





Customer Reviews

Rescue: A True Story of Courage and Survival in World War II 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Being a crew member of the submarine CREVALLE I found out more about the refugees from the book than being in the contact with them for the past 8 or so years. Mr Smith really dug deep to find out the history of all these people and especially the history of the war in the pacific. I relived the depth charging all over again when reading this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the better WWII stories I've read. Great combination of character development and history. You need to pay attention, given the number of people involved, and if you set the book down for too long you may lose track of who is who.
Relative More than 1 year ago
Albert Francis Bower, featured in this novel, is my grandfather. This book is an honor to those who fought for us and gave up so much.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'The Rescue' is a must read.The author presents a very detailed look at many aspects of life in the Philippines during the Japanese occupation.From sugar cane farmers,allied prisoners,the resistance,americans hideing in the jungle,life aboard a US submarine just to name a few & ties it all together at the end of the book.It reads like a novel but is all fact.The research is incredible. I have read dozens & dozens of WW2 books,this ranks near the top!!Don't miss this one!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book fits into that segment of my list I like to call 'Dad books,' the titles my father would not only like to receive as a gift, but will actually read when he gets the chance. THE RESCUE reads like a thriller, from the trials of the Americans trapped in the Philippines; to the American demolition expert and guerrilla leader whose goal in life, it seems, is to blow stuff up, preferably with some Japanese soldiers on it; to the sub and its two nail-biting runs through enemy water to rescue the American refugees and the Japanese secret plans for the great naval battle the Japanese believed would end the war. It's worth five stars, and sure, I'm biased, but if it weren't worth five stars, I wouldn't have wanted to publish it.