Behind the Scenes: Eternal Patrol
Michael G Wallace
One problem with writing a story which involves WWII is the number of war historians out there that will hang on every detail no matter how slight. So when I took on the project of writing a time travel story that included two American Gato Class submarines, I knew the details would make or break the book. No one would have a problem with the time travel, but if I said the said the depth gauge was above the ballast gauge, they would throw the book down and say the entire story was unbelievable.
Even though some readers posted, in their reviews, I should have watched more WWII movies so my submarine facts would have been more accurate, several submariners have told me I had the details so accurate it was like being back on the boat.
Before I wrote my first word for this book, I spent a year and a half researching all I could about submarines. I read Commander's logs, sailor's journals and every manual, schematic, and website I could find about Gato Class submarines and their operations. This led to a lot of information about modern day subs which also came in handy as this is a time travel story.
"I did find some very unusual events surrounding the disappearance of two subs"
My research started with the Navy's record archives catalog. I found, since the Navy launched it's first commissioned submarine, (the USS Holland, October 12, 1900), it has kept a record of the location of each boat. The are listed as, "In Port", "On Patrol", "Sunk in
Battle", or "De-commissioned".
If a sub goes out on patrol, never returns and its fate is unknown, the Navy
will officially list the submarine as, "On Eternal Patrol." It was
these subs I wanted to find.
I spent days going through each page of the Navy log writing down the names of all the subs from WWII still listed as On Eternal Patrol. Once I had my list, I delved into the logs, sightings and war reports from the U.S, Japanese, and German navies to try and find out what happened to the subs. As I expected, if the Navy couldn't find out what happened, I wasn't going to have much luck going through only the de-classified reports. But I did find some very unusual events surrounding the disappearance of two subs, the USS Corvina and the USS Dorado.
While on patrol in the
Gulf of Mexico,
the Commander of the Dorado radioed he had spotted a German U-boat. This was
the last communication from the Dorado as she was never seen again. According
to German records, they did not have a submarine in that area at that time. I'm
going to give Commander Schneider the benefit of a doubt he knew what a U-boat
looked like and one must have been in the area. If the Germans didn't have any
record of this sub in the area, it sounds like German black-ops.
"the Germans claimed they did not have a boat there at that time"
There are several conflicting stories of what happened to the Dorado. She sank under friendly fire, sank under attack off of
Panama but none
of these stories actually confirm what happened to her.
In my novel, I used the circumstances we know about the submarine. The last contact was that Schneider saw a U-boat in the area and the Germans claimed they did not have a boat there at that time. I knew these details would work well with my time travel story.
The second boat in my novel is the USS Corvina also listed as On Eternal Patrol. Like the Dorado, the
Covina had some mysterious facts surrounding
her disappearance. After months of searching through both U.S. and
Japanese records, (ones that had been translated to English), I again found
many conflicting stories. But, they all boil down to no one knows what happened
to the sub.
The Corvina reported they were under attack by a Japanese destroyer which had an attack sub escort. The Japanese destroyer reported they had dropped depth charges on the American sub and followed her oil slick for miles. One problem here, after they dropped their depth charges, they never saw or heard from their Japanese attack escort sub. The Japanese Captain insisted he only sank one sub and it was the American boat. There was no way he would go back to
and tell the Emperor he sank one of his own subs.
So which sub did they sink? Debris from the Japanese sub was found by passing Allied ships hours after the attack and modern day deep water surveys have found the hull of the Japanese sub in that area but to this day no evidence has been found as to the fate of the Corvina.
"this crew spent the next several days wondering if they had all died in an earlier attack"
So I had my two submarines for my story. But with all that research, I found so many incredible stories of what happened to our subs when they were out there on patrol. Commanders wrote about their boats being flipped upside down and dragged across the ocean floor by undersea storms. While on the surface conducting open sea repairs and unable to submerge, one submarine had a Japanese destroyer pass by only fifty yards away and never saw them. And, what I found was common on many boats, this crew spent the next several days wondering if they had all died in an earlier attack and this is why the Japanese ship didn't see them. Many subs went deeper than they were built to go causing the crew to wonder if they were still alive. Crewmen continuously made makeshift repairs with whatever they could find on the boat.
Every sub had to deal with "rogue fish." These were torpedoes that would loose their steering and come back at the sub which launched them. To make it worse, they didn't come back in a straight line. They darted all over like a tuna chasing a mackerel giving the sub no place to hide.
In the novel, Eternal Patrol, I brought all of these events into one story that linked both the Corvina and Dorado into a battle where the fate of the war, their future and our past is held on the outcome of their journey.
Check out the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rd_b0XEqGhM
Here's more about my and my other books. http://timepirate.wordpress.com/