Naval Warfare Books

Book reviews

An Operational Necessity

Griffin, Gwyn

1999, Harvill Press
ISBN 186046596X
Paperback, 416 pages

Type. Novel
Pros. Excellent story based on historical incident
Cons. None to speak of

This is a fictionalized account of the Peleus Affair, the only documented case in World War II in which a U-boat machine-gunned survivors in the water.

The strength of this novel lies in its harshly realistic depictions and in that it presents the perspectives both of the shipwrecked and of the U-boat officers. The sympathy of the reader first turns toward the inhabitants, dwindling in number as the days pass on the open sea, of the single life-raft that has managed to escape the hail of bullets. Our sympathy then falls equally on the two U-boat officers who, injured and defenseless, lie in a tropical hospital after they abandon their damaged boat and are captured.

A strange kind of love story arising midway through the book gives the reader more insight into the personality of one of these officers, but the real impact comes in the courtroom scenes and in the unrelenting account of the final hours and minutes preceding their execution. Seldom has the state of mind of the condemned been so minutely examined in literature.

Review written by Tonya Allen.

Published on 26 Nov 1999.

This title is highly recommended.

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