The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Operation Ivy Bells: Sea Story Of The Year

Posted on | December 8, 2015 | 7 Comments

by Smitty

I finished reading Operation Ivy Bells a month or so back. The author is a friend, and I owe him a review. But even if I didn’t know RGW personally, I’d still feel privileged to write this.

Is anybody old enough to remember a pre-Obama era when we knew who the Bad Guys were, and we took the fight to them? OIB is a straightforward sea story of the Good Old Days by a guy who was there. An intrepid special operations submarine goes up against the Soviet Union at the peak of its Commie might, and performs page-turning feats of derring-do. Spoiler alert: we win; they lose. But let me say a little more.
The author is a retired diver who participated actively in the source events. However, RGW is also a fine storyteller, keeping the action going and making the reader feel the sway of boat as she sneaks right under Ivan’s nose and acquires valuable information.

We follow Lieutenant J. R. “Mac” McDowell, a master of both submarining and saturation diving, through training and deployment aboard USS Halibut and a mission that is legendary. Anybody with any sea time in the Navy is going to be hard pressed to find a misplaced detail, making this an entertaining yarn suitable for even the most meticulous reader. I have no idea if RGW is working on a movie script. RGW’s prose does a fine job off explaining the action, but some well-done CGI could produce a thriller as good as The Hunt for Red October here.

Overally, Ivy Bells is an excellent yarn and holds together splendidly as such. Where I’d fall short of five stars for the story has to do with the character development. McDowell is something of a Naval superhero; I’ve met few in my experience who could be such consumate masters of their primary job (saturation diving) and another equally daunting (if related) skill, e.g. submarining. Even given that, I’ve rarely seen a skipper as cool as that of the USS Halibut, so casually letting a mere Lieutenant not of his own wardroom have that much driving time. And we really don’t get to learn anything of the other characters. No one in the book is burdened by relating the Cold War to life in general. In summary, we don’t get much deeper than the typical Clancy novel, and that’s OK.

All of that literary mumbo-jumbo sounds peevish, though. Pick up a copy of Operation Ivy Bells for that special veteran in your life. They’ll thank you!


7 Responses to “Operation Ivy Bells: Sea Story Of The Year”

  1. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    December 8th, 2015 @ 8:26 pm

    There was clarity back in the old days…

    There is clarity now if you pay attention. I know it is difficult for Barack Obama to accept the concept that the arc of Christianity and Western moralism gradually fading way to a pan-sexual Bonobo socialist paradise in the west is not exactly how things are playing out in the Muslim world. In fact, the moral decline in the west is accelerating the Islamist movement in the east.

    There is a train wreck coming.

  2. JeffWeimer
    December 8th, 2015 @ 9:24 pm

    And if this book whets your whistle, try Blind Man’s Bluff. That tome recounts the actual missions these boats undertook.

  3. GruntOfMonteCristo
    December 8th, 2015 @ 9:55 pm

    I’m with you, Ma’am. John Wayne on clarity:
    “Screw ambiguity. Perversion and corruption masquerade as ambiguity. I don’t trust ambiguity.”

  4. Daniel Freeman
    December 8th, 2015 @ 11:26 pm

    “Screw ambiguity.”

    An anthropomorphic rabbit of indeterminate gender, with rainbow-colored top hair and several prominent piercings, ceases grazing and perks up with interest. “He’s talking about me!” xe thinks, freezing in place.

    “Perversion and corruption masquerade as ambiguity.”

    Ambiguity Rabbit bounces up and down a little. “He gets me! He really gets me!” xe thinks excitedly, tail quivering.

    “I don’t trust ambiguity.”

    It takes some time for the unexpected, inexplicable words to percolate through Ambiguity’s little rabbit brain, and then its ears and tail droop. “Awww.”

  5. Arthur hembree
    December 8th, 2015 @ 11:36 pm

    That was some seriously hairy stuff, excellent read!!

  6. M. Thompson
    December 9th, 2015 @ 1:46 pm

    Grumbling about forgotten security clearance paperwork…

  7. Quartermaster
    December 9th, 2015 @ 2:37 pm

    All this time I thought it was a Squirrel. You know how the head and tail can have arguments sometimes.