Publisher description for At all costs : how a crippled ship and two American merchant marines reversed the tide of World War II / by Sam Moses.


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August 1942. For two years, the island of Malta has been under siege by Axis bombers. Winston Churchill’s “tiny rock of history and romance” and “unsinkable aircraft carrier” is the most heavily bombed place on Earth. Enemy aircraft, submarines, warships, and E-boats have stopped all but a trickle of supplies from reaching this Mediterranean stronghold. Malta’s own bombers and submarines have been keeping Rommel from marching across North Africa and gaining the Mideast oil fields for Hitler. But now Malta is down to her last drops of fuel and crumbs of food. She is mere weeks away from surrender.

To prevent this strategic disaster, Churchill orders Operation Pedestal, a do-or-die attempt to resupply the island. It will be the most heavily defended naval convoy in history: fourteen merchant ships escorted by thirty-three destroyers, seven cruisers, four aircraft carriers, and two battleships. At its center is the SS Ohio, the biggest and fastest tanker in the world, lent to the British by President Roosevelt at Churchill’s request.

The Axis knows that the Ohio, with her precious cargo of fuel oil for Malta, must be sunk. Hundreds of dive-bombers attack in unrelenting waves. Twice, shot-down Stukas crash onto her decks. She is torpedoed by an Italian submarine and set afire, but continues to steam toward Malta. A 500-pound bomb penetrates her boiler room and blows out her powerful steam turbine engines. A 1,000-pound bomb blows off her rudder. Her back is all but broken, and she is sinking. Her British crew abandons her.

Frederick Larsen, twenty-seven years old, and Francis Dales, just eighteen, are American merchant mariners rescued after their freighter, one of the fourteen ships in the convoy, is torpedoed and sunk. Now Larsen, with a fractured back, and Dales, with a broken arm, must climb aboard the Ohio to repair her guns and defend her, along with a few other volunteers. At the towed pace of two or three knots, Malta is still two days away.

The fierce Axis air attacks continue. If the Ohio fails to deliver her fuel oil to Malta, the island will be forced to surrender; if Malta surrenders, Hitler gets the Mideast oil. At stake is nothing less than the fate of the free world. As Churchill said, Operation Pedestal must succeed at all costs.

In the tradition of Robert Kurson’s Shadow Divers and Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm comes this historically accurate story of a desperately dangerous mission in the darkest days of World War II. It’s a gripping and gut-wrenching true tale of indomitable personal courage in the face of overwhelming odds.


Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
World War, 1939-1945 -- Campaigns -- Mediterranean Sea.
World War, 1939-1945 -- Transportation -- Mediterranean Sea.
World War, 1939-1945 -- Naval operations, American.
World War, 1939-1945 -- Naval operations, British.
Merchant marine -- United States -- History.
Naval convoys -- Mediterranean Sea -- History.
Larsen, Frederick August, -- 1915-
Dales, Francis.
World War, 1939-1945 -- Norway.