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The first full-length account of a tragic three-ship disaster on the southern coast of Newfoundland on February 18, 1942, when a convoy of American ships ran aground. A blinding snowstorm had bollixed the radar, and heavy seas in the area--plus a need for radio silence because of U-boats reported--fouled up communication between the ships: the destroyers USS Wilkes and USS Truxton and the supply ship USS Pollux. They were following a zigzag course on dead reckoning when a huge white iceberg-like cliff (200 feet high) rose out of nowhere and claimed them one by one. Then the horror began as sailors from the Truxton and Pollux attempted to establish a line to the shore so that rafts could be attached to it and men hauled to safety. Meanwhile the ships were leaking off and the treacherous stuff was congealing a foot deep--and when the ships seemed to be breaking up and going under, the men who jumped overboard drowned in oil or froze in the frigid water. Others died when their lifebelts rammed their arms overhead on impact with the sea. News reached miners in the nearby village of Lawn Head and emergency rescue crews arrived in heavy snows to save as many men as they could; 203 sailors died. Ironically, six officers were pegged for court-martial and two, convicted, had their careers permanently ruined. The book's middle section about the shipwreck is compelling, but the opening chapters and the final court-martial are too dense with compass and chart readings for the seawary.

Pub Date: Oct. 12th, 1979
Publisher: Doubleday