Killing Shore

The True Story of Hitler's U-boats Off the New Jersey Coast

Non-Fiction - Historical
395 Pages
Reviewed on 04/03/2024
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

Killing Shore: The True Story of Hitler’s U-Boats off the New Jersey Coast by K.A. Nelson is a true historical account of how merchant marine shipping out of the east coast of America, in both world wars, was constantly on the lookout for the dangers of submarines. Just below the surface, these were ready to send the sailors and their precious cargoes, so vital to the Allied war effort, to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. The author has tapped numerous primary sources of information to bring a detailed account of not only the dates and facts but, much more importantly, the human stories behind this generally unseen and frequently unknown destruction taking place just off the New Jersey shoreline as well as all down the eastern seaboard. There is little doubt that without the immense bravery of especially the merchant marine sailors, the war would have taken a very different turn. Covering every loss of ships and U-boats in the region during this period, this book is a significant contribution to the historical record of events that are generally not well-known or appreciated.

Killing Shore is a beautifully written and thoroughly humanized account of horrific loss and destruction. K.A. Nelson’s research and presentation are meticulous and faultless. As a history buff, I was blissfully unaware of much of what is described in this book. I knew of the Japanese efforts to cause havoc on the West Coast but had little to no knowledge of the Nazi U-boats' utter devastation of merchant shipping, so close to the continental U.S.A. This was a real eye-opener. What I appreciated more than anything was that it is not a dry collection of facts, dates, ships, and dispositions. Yes, that information is there, vital as it is to any historical account, but this book is much more about humanizing the characters involved in the drama taking place. We meet all the U-boat captains, their commanders, and even their families. It was fascinating to note the differences in attitude and character between those who considered themselves true German patriots and those whom one could only describe as rabid National Socialists. The depth of character development of both the hunters and the hunted is what makes this particular book stand out so starkly against other historical records of World War II that I have read. I was amused at the bumbling efforts of the saboteurs sent to New York to create havoc, fear, and mayhem amongst the civilian populations of the eastern seaboard cities. It was clear from some of their actions that they were not always fully committed to their Fuhrer or his maniacal pronouncements. This is a solid, well-written work that celebrates the true under-appreciated heroes of this conflict; the sailors of the Merchant Marine. This is a wonderful addition to the collection of any historically-minded reader. I highly recommend it.