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"Bloodstained Sea" by Mike Walling
The U.S. Coast Guard in the Battle of the Atlantic, 1941-1944

"Bloodstained Sea" was first published by International Marine, a division of McGraw-Hill, and received critical acclaim by reviewers and veterans. The Naval Order of the United States honored Mike Walling with its 2005 Samuel Eliot Morison Award for Naval Literature.
Bloodstained Sea - The U.S. Coast Guard in the Battle of the Atlantic, 1941-1944, is about the Coast Guard's role in guarding the convoys of merchant ships carrying vital materiel to our allies during WWII.

In November 1941, under orders from President Franklin Roosevelt, and even though America was not yet officially at war, officers and crews of the U.S. Coast Guard painted their gleaming white cutters battleship gray and steamed into action against the menacing U-boats of the Third Reich. Over the next four years, these men--normally dedicated to saving lives and rescuing ships in distress--would be locked in one of the longest and bloodiest running sea battles in history. Bloodstained Sea tells their powerful and inspiring story.

Americans called it Torpedo Junction; to the Germans, it was Devil's Gorge. By any name, the North Atlantic of the early 1940s was one of the most dangerous fronts in a catastrophic war. Called upon in desperate times, seven of the Coast Guard's finest ships--the sleek, efficient, tough 327-foot Secretary Class cutters--plied these unforgiving waters to protect convoys of troops and much-needed supplies. Hunting U-boats, rescuing survivors from frigid waters, they met every challenge and undertook any task necessary to ensure that the Atlantic remained open to Allied shipping. Here, for the first time ever, author and former Coast Guardsman Michael Walling relates the full saga of these vessels and their intrepid crews in vivid detail.

Through eyewitness accounts based on hundreds of interviews with crew members; personal diaries, notes, and letters; and each cutter's logbooks and patrol reports Walling plunges you into the thick of the battle, re-creating some of the most desperate encounters, heroic rescues, and harrowing missions of the Second World War.

Told largely in the voices of the men who lived it, this unforgettable tale is peppered with humorous and ironic anecdotes about life aboard ship during wartime. You'll meet the liberty-craving crew members who painted their entire ship in less than an hour; the ship's mascot who became canine-non-grata in Greenland; and the crew whose vessel was mistaken for the German battleship Bismarck and attacked by the Royal Navy.

Complete with dramatic photographs of the Coast Guard in action, Bloodstained Sea brings this epic drama to vibrant and pulsing life.
Chapter 1: Loomings
September 1939 through October 1941

On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. Two days later the German submarine U-30 sank the British ocean liner SS Athenia off the Irish coast. Of the 1,103 passengers the liner was carrying; 118 men, women and children, including twenty-eight Americans, were killed. Only two days old, the new war claimed its first victims at sea, not warriors, but innocent civilians, it was a grim beginning to what would become known as the Battle of the Atlantic.
An American freighter, SS City of Flint, reached the scene the next morning, joining the Norwegian freighter Knut and the Swedish yacht Southern Cross who were already at the scene. City of Flint's crew picked up 238 survivors, some of whom had been wounded in the attack or were sick from exposure.   Hearing of the disaster and City of Flint's need for medical help, the U.S. Coast Guard immediately dispatched Bibb from Boston and Campbell from Halifax, Nova Scotia. The three ships met at night on September 9.  
Joseph Gainard, Master of the City of Flint, wrote of this meeting: "When daylight came I was on the bridge where the two cutters could be seen quite easily. ... there was something about the way those ships rushed to our assistance ...always ready to go where there is need for help, ready regardless of personal inconvenience or trouble. The escort presence of the Coast Guard boats did a lot to lift the spirits and morale of everybody on the ship."

On September 5, as Bibb and Campbell raced toward their rendezvous, President Franklin Roosevelt declared a "Neutrality Zone" off the east and west coasts of the United States. In the east, the zone was initially bounded on the north by Canadian territorial waters off the Grand Banks then extended south through the Caribbean with its outer edge 200 miles offshore. The U.S. Navy would patrol this expanse to prevent British, French and German warships from attacking their adversary's merchant ships within the Zone's boundaries. However, after two decades of funding neglect, the Navy did not have enough ships to patrol this vast area effectively and asked for Coast Guard assistance.  
The Coast Guard assigned cutters to help, including six of the seven 327 foot long Secretary Class cutters: Bibb, Campbell, Duane, Alexander Hamilton, Ingham , and Spencer.  Duane, Alexander Hamilton, Ingham and Spencer, stationed on the west coast, were moved east. David Sinclair, an officer onboard Duane, recalls that on September 6, all Leave and Liberty were cancelled and the crew loaded the cutter with fuel and food for the 5,000 mile voyage to Boston. Within two days the men sailed, leaving their families to take care of selling cars, breaking leases, packing, and the hundreds of details involved in a move across country.  

For Hamilton's crew it was a particularly bitter blow, as they were set for a one-year cruise through the South Pacific islands. Their dreams of swaying palm trees and lithesome native girls were replaced with the cold reality of winter cruises in the North Atlantic.

Chapter 6: Perdition
January and February 1943

The beginning of 1943 saw small ships battered by the long Atlantic winter, the crews alternately sweating and freezing as they were called to Battle Stations from their bunks, sleep a distant memory, coffee, sandwiches, cigarettes and adrenaline to keeping them going for days and weeks on end. They were constantly hanging on, constantly "pinging" for the enemy below, constantly searching with radar and stinging, salt-rimmed eyes, constantly hanging from a cargo net in freezing seas to grab for oil-soaked, broken men knowing they were are a prime target for a torpedo. The ship would surge as she went in for an attack, the sea roiling from exploding depth-charges and, for the men, the hope surged for more than dead fish on the surface afterward.
Chapter 13: Final Duty

For the Coast Guard, World War II started with the mid-ocean rendezvous of Bibb, Campbell, and City of Flint on September 9, 1939 and ended on May 7, 1945 when the Coast Guard-manned DE Atherton and Patrol frigate USS Moberly sank U-853 off Rhode Island. After almost six years of daily battles at sea from Greenland to the Mediterranean Sea, the Coast Guard was relieved when the Armistice in Europe was signed on May 8, 1945.   
At the end of the Battle of the Atlantic, Butcher's bill included approximately 3,000 merchant ships, 200 warships, 2,000 aircraft, and over 700 U-boats lost with more than 60,000 men, women, and killed.   The sea wasn't cruel, only indifferent. It was the men and what they brought with them that created the cruelty.