So Close to Home: A True Story of an American Family's Fight for Survival During World War II

So Close to Home: A True Story of an American Family's Fight for Survival During World War II

by Michael J Tougias, Alison O'Leary


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On May 19, 1942, a U-boat in the Gulf of Mexico stalked its prey fifty miles from New Orleans. Captained by twenty nine-year-old Iron Cross and King's Cross recipient Erich Wurdemann, the submarine set its sights on the freighter Heredia with sixty-two souls on board. Most aboard were merchant seamen, but there were also a handful of civilians, including the Downs family: Ray and Ina, and their two children, eight-year-old Sonny and eleven-year-old Lucille. Fast asleep in their berths, the Downs family had no idea that two torpedoes were heading their way. When the ship exploded, chaos ensued—and each family member had to find their own path to survival. Including original, unpublished material from Commander Wurdemann’s war diary, the story provides balance and perspective by chronicling the daring mission of the U-boat—and its commander’s decision-making—in the Gulf of Mexico. An inspiring historical narrative, So Close to Home tells the story of the Downs family as they struggle against sharks, hypothermia, drowning, and dehydration in their effort to survive the aftermath of this deadly attack off the American coast.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781681774329
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Publication date: 07/11/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 526,035
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Michael Tougias is the author and co-author of twenty-three non-fiction books, including several true survival-at-sea adventures, such as Rescue of the Bounty, Fatal Forecast, Overboard!, A Storm Too Soon, and The Finest Hours (soon to be a major motion picture by Disney). Ten Hours Until Dawn was selected as one of the American Library Association's "Best Books of the Year."

Table of Contents

Prologue ix

Part I

1 A Tired Old Workhorse 3

2 Ina and the South American Venture 7

3 Admiral Dönitz and his Grey Wolves 18

4 Harro Schacht and U-507 28

5 The Grey Wolves and the Mississippi 40

6 Moving Ever Closer 47

7 Denied a Safe Port 58

8 An Uneasy Feeling 67

Part II 75

9 Torpedoes in the Night 77

10 The Raft 83

11 A Most Hopeless Night 89

12 Dawn 96

13 Desperation 101

14 Running Out of Time 107

15 The Shrimp Boat and a Surprise 116

16 Ina 119

17 Lucille 128

Part III 139

18 Triumphant Return to Lorient 141

19 Morgan City and the Hospital 152

20 The Laconia: A Sinking and a Rescue 165

21 Spies, Duty, and the Turning of the Battle Tide 177

22 Passages So Far from Home 189

23 Sonny 200

Epilogue 203

Acknowledgments 213

Sources 217

Authors' Notes 219

Bibliography 223

About Author Michael J. Tougias 229

Summary of Michael J. Tougias's Latest Books 231

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