DeHaan has spent his adult life at sea traveling the oceans of the world on modest freighters. Intelligent, unmarried by choice, he is generally content with his life but anxious to strike at the Nazis who have occupied his homeland and cut him off from his family.
With the approval of the ship’s owner he is asked to aid the Allies by undertaking a short trip along the North African coast. His cargo will be a group of British commandoes on a mission to acquire information on German electronic capabilities to find Allied ships. With over 1,500 Allied ships sunk since the start of war 1 ½ years earlier it is a desperate struggle at sea.
Over night the Noordenham is transformed into the
, a comparable Spanish ship, fortunately docked on the Mexican coast for repairs. With her new paint drying the Santa Rosa sails for Santa Rosa Cape Bon. Ultimately, while costly in human life, the mission is successful.
With the success they are ordered to take the
on another even more dangerous voyage with the goal of further aiding the Allied efforts in the electronic sea war. Santa Rosa
DeHaan does not hesitate to commit himself and his crew to the new mission. It was striking how little say merchant seamen of that era had in their lives. When the Captain undertakes a voyage they are required to go with him. On the Noordenham / Santa Rosa is a group of sailors exiled, like DeHaan, by the war from their homes. They include a Polish engineer, a Jewish medical student acting as the ship’s doctor, an Egyptian radio operator and a Greek Army deserter.
It was interesting to read how both the Allies and Axis nations used ships of neutral nations to further their war efforts.
They undergo remarkable adventures on their missions for
but they are not the cartoon stories of most England Hollywood movies. As the ending approaches there is a buildup of tension and anticipation that drives a reader to reach the ending.
In his personal life the reflective DeHaan thinks about the intense but so brief relationships he has had ashore with women.
DeHaan and the crew are the ordinary people of war. Once again I felt as if I was reading one of John Le Carre’s spy novels. There is no glitz or glamour. There are people doing their best amidst gritty circumstances. As in a Le Carre book there is no certainty of a happy ending.
Furst weaves another superb tale of life in the shadows of the battles, intrigues and politics of
Europe in World War II. (Mar. 12/12)