Naval Warfare Books

Book reviews

The Atlantic Turkey Shoot

U-Boats off the Outer Banks in World War II

Cheatham, James T.

1990, Williams & Simpson, Greenville
ISBN 093270509X
Paperback, 61 pages, 25 photos, 3 maps, 1 diagram

Type. General History
Pros. First-person accounts and regional focus
Cons. Too short

This slim book (just 61 pages including foreword, introduction, notes, and appendix, 16 of them devoted to photos and maps) describes how Operation Drumbeat brought World War II to the North Carolina coast in 1942. The author, James T. Cheatham (Cmdr., USNR, Ret.), brings a personal perspective to his book; a native of the region, he was a child at the time the U-boats came.

The first few chapters (five pages in all) consist of a rather short and choppy overview of the highlights of U-boat operations and strategy. The ensuing chapters on the American response to U-boat attacks are longer and more fully developed. Subsequent sections presenting reminiscences of coastal inhabitants, an account of the loss of the Bedfordshire, and details of some of the sinkings occurring off the Outer Banks are the most valuable parts of the book.

Also interesting are a few quotes from Klaus Friedland (U-310) who evidently served on one of the Drumbeat boats before taking up his own command, as he is quoted as saying that he had never visited Long Island (New York), but had seen it - through a periscope.

The book is well documented with footnotes indicating careful research by this amateur historian. The source list is a bit thin on secondary sources, but includes among its laudable primary sources an interview with Prof. Dr. J├╝rgen Rohwer; another with the above-mentioned Klaus Friedland; interviews with North Carolina inhabitants who witnessed the wartime events on their coast; and articles from various local newspapers.

An appendix (List of Ships Lost off North Carolina from January through June, 1942, reprinted from the 1952 Graveyard of the Atlantic by David Stick) includes vessel name, type, and date and place of sinking.

While possibly primarily of local interest, both interest and demand seem to be relatively high, considering the 1999 edition is the 7th printing, and the book rights have now been assigned to the Program in Maritime Studies at East Carolina University. The only complaint is that the book is too short; more accounts of incidents as recalled by coastal residents would have been welcome.

Review written by Tonya Allen.

Published on 24 Jun 2002.

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