The Burning Shore: How Hitler's U-Boats Brought World War II to America Ed Offley. New York: Basic Books, 2013. 296 pp. Illus. Glossary. Notes. Biblio. Index. $27.99.
Ed Offley's latest book focuses on two antagonists against the backdrop of an epic story. The Burning Shore engages readers in a nonfiction account of the U-boat massacre of unguarded ships just off the American coast in the first six months of World War 11. Integral to the author's narrative are biographical sketches of an American pilot and a German sub captain whose lives violently intersect near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay in the midst of the carnage.
Offley, a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War and author of the wellreceived Scorpion Down and Turning the Tide, is a former military reporter in Virginia's Tidewater region. In 1982 he wrote a series for Norfolk's Ledger-Star newspaper about an unusual incident off the coast of North Carolina involving U.S. Army Air Forces Lieutenant Harry Kane's A-29 Hudson bomber and German Lieutenant Commander Horst Degen's U-701. Kane became one of the first Army Air Forces pilots to sink a U-boat (Degen's). The skipper and a few crewmen survived the attack and drifted at sea for days, barely alive, until they were rescued following a search motivated by Kane's plea to help them. The pilot and skipper came face-toface in a Virginia hospital following the rescue but lost contact until their friendship blossomed later in life.
Recently, Offley expanded the series into The Burning Shore. The author traces the roots of the unfolding U-boat drama to late 1941, when Washington-based journalist Chesly Manly got hold of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's topsecret Rainbow Five war plan. It revealed how Roosevelt, despite his public stance of neutrality, intended to draft 10 million men, half of whom would join British troops in an invasion of Europe to defeat Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime. The Chicago Tribune published the entire Rainbow Five plan. Within 24 hours, the Third Reich was devouring all the details, including the epiphany that Americans would be unable to invade Europe until July 1943 at the earliest. With an 18-month window of opportunity, Germany decided on a bold move. According to Offley, "By shifting its military priority from the Soviet invasion to mounting a knockout punch against Great Britain before the United States became strong enough to intervene, Germany could forestall an Allied invasion of the continent and refocus its efforts on beating the Soviets. …