© Bettman/Corbis


Bitter Ocean is a masterful, authoritative account of perhaps the least-known major battle of World War II, the Battle of the Atlantic . British, Canadian, and American air and sea forces fought the German U-boats in this desperate battle, and prevailed—at a terrible cost.

Between 1939 and 1945, over 36,000 Allied sailors and navy airmen and 36,000 merchant seamen lost their lives in the Atlantic Ocean. They were attempting to deliver the weapons, food, and supplies essential to keeping Britain alive, as well as the supplies vital to the armies fighting in Europe. In addition to the troops themselves, every tank, plane, and bomb crossed the Atlantic aboard ship. As dreadful as the loss of life was for the Allies, the Germans fared even worse. More then 80% of German U-boat crewmen never made it home, the highest casualty rate of any branch of the military on either site. Bitterly contested and nearly lost, the Allies' battle for control of the Atlantic shipping lanes remains perhaps the least understood chapter of World War II—until now.

Drawing on a wealth of archival research as well as interviews with veterans on both sides of the ocean campaign, author and maritime journalist David Fairbank White takes us aboard ship and beneath the waves as he reconstructs this epic clash from both sides. With captivating immediacy, Bitter Ocean evokes the grim years 1940-42 when Admiral Karl Dönitz's U-boats—"tough wolves, stubby, 761 tons of driven, overcharged Nazi attack power"—succeeded in sinking more tonnage than Allied shipyards could replace. He shows us the technological breakthroughs that reversed the course of the battle in 1943, including improved radar, machines that cracked the German naval code, and very long-range bombers. As the hunters became the hunted, the tide turned, but the German fleet continuted to fight despite the increasingly terrible odds.

As he tells the powerful, wrenching stories of individual convoys that suffered from the German submarine attacks, White displays a novelist's flair. Vividly written, Bitter Ocean is scrupulousy factual, a triumph of scholarship the will enthrall every student of history.


                     © Bettman/Corbis



When a cub reporter for the nation's greatest newspaper sets foot on the foredeck of a shattered 26,000-ton oil tanker spewing oil into the Atlantic just south of Long Island's beaches, the moment represents far more than a hair-raising journalistic scoop. It is the break and the wild card of a lifetime for Henry Williams, a twenty-four-year old newspaperman who has fallen in love with the world of the ships which come and go from New York Harbor.

As the last waterfront reporter for The New York Globe, Henry is caught up in a confusion of changes that rock the venerable, old newspaper to its foundations. The time is the mid-1970s, and the accent is no longer upon old-fashioned, factual reportage but upon style sections exploring individual self improvement. Directing these changes is the City Editor - a cold, implacable man named Murray Spector who plans to jettison the harborside beat.

As the seasons fall away, the new lifestyle sections alter the newsroom and all the landscape around Henry and his mentor, Frank Curran, an ancient bastion of the old, gumshoe, hard bulletin newsfront. The zeitgeist steals an age from the crusty Curran, one time waterfront dean, and his young protégé.

The shock of a sea catastrophe played out in the howling winds and the frigid onslaught of a North Atlantic blizzard - the Spartan Pilot oil spill - momentarily engulfs Henry, putting him on the track of a possible crime. The story of the weathered, tramp tanker - and its fate - become, in the chill weeks of winter, inextricably tied to Henry's fate and his ambition to cover the waterfront.

In True Bearing, David Fairbank White has written a profoundly moving novel of human will which permits us to enter two romantic territories of urban scene, the harbor and the newsroom; he has also conjured up an enduring story of youth and inner expedition. True Bearing is a triumph of story telling delivered in keenly observed detail and scene.