So Close to Home
Early 1942 was a terrible time for shipping off the Eastern Seaboard.
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“. . . a gripping tale of family bonding and fortitude in the face of disaster.”
German U-boats traveled thousands of miles from their base in occupied France to strike at Allied vessels carrying vital supplies for the war effort. In America complacency and sheer incomprehension as to the U-boats’ capabilities ruled. At night, lighthouses and cities glowed as bright as in peacetime, aiding the U-boats’ devastating attacks. Hundreds of lives were lost and thousands of tons of shipping were sunk. And then in May two of the deadly submarines entered the Gulf of Mexico.
The Downs family of Ray, Ina, 11 year-old Lucille and 8 year-old Sonny were returning home from Colombia aboard the steamship Heredia. Concerns about the U-boat menace weighed on the adults’ minds as the steamship plowed across the Gulf heading for New Orleans. An official news blackout didn’t reassure anybody, and the family’s worst fears were realized when on the night of May 19 Heredia sailed into the sights of U-506. Torpedoes gutted the ship, and the Downs family began a desperate struggle to survive against the odds.
In So Close to Home, Michael J Tougias and Alison O’Leary recount the true story of an ordinary family’s ordeal using first-hand accounts, newspaper reports and official records of the time. The German side of the story is also told in a manner sympathetic to the commanders and crews who suffered in service to their country’s flawed cause. This book is a gripping tale of family bonding and fortitude in the face of disaster. Recommended for any student of human nature in adversity.
Reviewer: Cindy A. Matthews