Seventy-four years ago today, on May 5th 1945, days after Hitler’s death and the fall of the Nazi Third Reich, Admiral Karl Donitz gave the order for all U-boats to cease offensive operations and return to their bases. U-853 was on its third wartime patrol that same hour and either did not receive, or ignored, Donitz’s order. After the sinking of the SS BLACK POINT within sight of the Point Judith Lighthouse in Rhode Island, many US Naval units descended on the U-853 and sank her in shallow water 7 miles east of Block Island, with all 55 crewmen remaining aboard.
“In My Backyard” may be a stretch, but I’ve lived close to the wreck of the U-853 for much of my life. Forty years ago I used to pilot boats from the Coast Guard Station at Point Judith over a spot marked “Unexploded Ordnance May 1945” on the chart of Rhode Island Sound, and years after that I was a crewman on the Coast Guard Cutter EAGLE, ex-HORST WESSEL, which had been used by the Nazis to train submariners for WWII; making the entombed crew of the U-853 members of my extended family of shipmates, several generations removed. (You can read about the EAGLE–HORST WESSEL connection on my website.)
That’s why my one dive to the wreck was an eerie experience that I don’t wish to repeat; and it is why I had to write a novel that imagines a connection between this enigmatic U-boat and current events. Hence my latest book is THE RULES OF FATE: A Mystery From The Sea.