The Inspiration Behind ‘Splinter On The Tide’

Author and navy veteran Phillip Parotti has written an exhilarating, navy-based novel set in WWII, a war he experienced as a little boy.

From submarine chases to love letters from those left behind, this book is the perfect partner to your summer staycation.

What inspired you to write Splinter On The Tide?

Across decades of university teaching, I found myself often surprised to learn how little my otherwise well informed students knew about the history of the Second World War.  Curiously, I often found a similar lapse among any number of my contemporaries, and when it came to more confined subjects such as U.S. Naval history associated with the conflict, what I took for a basic grasp of bare essentials seemed almost non-existent.  With regard to The Battle of the Atlantic, for example, while many had heard of it, few if any seemed to be aware that in the opening phases of the war, the United States Navy was stretched so thin through lack of preparedness that German U-boats were sinking ships within sight of the American East Coast.  A multitude of fine works of naval history have been devoted to the subject, but in considering the particular audience I hoped to reach, I determined that a work of fiction based partially on the history of the battle might have a wider appeal, and knowing that good works of fiction had already been written about destroyers, corvettes, aircraft carriers, PT Boats, submarines, and so forth, I settled on a nearly unknown type of escort, the submarine chaser, as a fitting subject for a novel.

How much have you drawn from your experience in the U.S. Navy to write your book?

If I were to visit a new frigate, destroyer, or aircraft carrier today, I am doubtful that I would recognize much amid the plethora of new weapons systems, electronic devices, or the multitude of computers now installed on a ship’s bridge.  Technology changes rapidly.  I once had occasion to tour the old battleship Texas which is now a museum moored in Houston.  The World War II Combat Information Center located behind the bridge on that immense ship seemed about the size of a broom closet whereas the Combat Information Center on the much smaller destroyer escort upon which I served, a ship commissioned in 1963 and configured to accept all of the new sonar and radar equipment which had been developed after the Texas was built, seemed proportionally huge by comparison.  But if technology changes rapidly, a ship’s routine does not; such things as seamanship, watch standing, administration, and leadership have remained largely unchanged through the ages without regard to the size of the ship or the class to which it belongs.  As a result, a Naval officer or rating serving during the Vietnam era or at sea today still has a great deal in common with the officers and ratings who were serving during the Second World War, and having served myself during the Vietnam era, I brought what I imagined not to have changed in my own naval experience to bear on writing about the subchaser in Splinter on the Tide.

What did you find challenging about writing fiction about an historical event?

Prior to 1963 when I was commissioned as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy, all submarine chasers had been decommissioned, sold or given away to foreign navies, or scrapped.  Aside from looking at photographs, I have never seen a genuine subchaser and certainly have never been to sea on one.  As a result, doing the research to write Splinter on the Tide was probably the most challenging task I faced, although I found every minute of it to be a pleasure.  To begin with, in order to try to understand what living aboard a subchaser might have been like, I read every book that I could reasonably find about subchasers, both the First World War variety and the type that went to sea during the Second World War.  Having a good working plan or schematic for how a subchaser was laid out seemed essential to that work, for given the miniscule size of the ships, confinement in living spaces ran to the extreme, something which demanded that the crew bond like brothers under leadership that acted firmly but congenially so as to make that so.  Weapons, tactics, and technical devices of the type used during the war also required research as did some of the ports into which the ships went, and all of those elements had to be eased into what might have been possible during the particular time period which I elected to address in writing the work.  It is possible then to imagine that I put myself through a minor course in naval history to get the book underway with the obvious result that I look forward to doing it again with yet another subject.

Why did you think it was important to do so?

I happened to be a small boy during the Second World War, but throughout that war, I remember being surrounded by sailors, soldiers, and Marines, all of them coming or going as the war proceeded, and in its wake, throughout the time I attended both grade school and high school, veterans were everywhere in evidence.  As I became aware of the immensity of the war and the deadly seriousness with which the Allies went about winning it, I also became aware of the sacrifice that attended that service and the debt that my particular generation owed to those men and women who made that sacrifice.  In some small way, I have to suppose, my own service might have gone for an attempt to pay back some of the debt I thought I owed.  Much has been written, of course, about the more well known types of ships such as destroyers, submarines, aircraft carriers, PT Boats, and so forth, but not much has been said about such types as fleet tugboats, smaller landing ships like LCIs, navy freighters, and the lesser romantic vessels involved in the war, and yet, the men who served aboard those vessels took the same risks,  faced the same dangers, and made the same sacrifices as their seagoing brothers aboard the more well known ships about which so much has been written.  When the chips were down, submarine chasers, small though they might have been,  fulfilled a genuine need and played a vital role, and I shouldn’t like to think that the men who served aboard them had been forgotten.

Splinter On The Tide
By Phillip Parotti

Ensign Ash Miller USNR, having survived the sinking of his first ship, is promoted and assigned to command one of the sleek new additions to “the splinter fleet,” a 110-foot wooden submarine chaser armed with only understrength guns and depth charges. Ash rises to the deadly challenge he faces, brings his crew of three officers and 27 men to peak performance, and meets the threats he faces with understated courage and determination, rescuing stricken seamen, destroying Nazi mines, fighting U-Boats, and developing both the tactical sense and command authority that will be the foundation upon which America’s citizen sailors eventually win the war.

Phillip Parotti grew up in Silver City, New Mexico, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1963, and served four years at sea on destroyers, both in the Pacific and the Atlantic, before exchanging his regular commission for a commission in the U.S. Naval Reserve. In addition to a number of short stories, essays, and poems, Parotti has published three well received novels about The Trojan War.

Casemate UK | 9781612009582 | Paperback | July 2021 | £17.99
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