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Shepherds of the Sea

Captains tested by the war years

Naval buffs should consider "Shepherds of the Sea," by Robert F. Cross (Naval Institute Press, 2010, $34.95), a non-fiction account of life aboard the destroyer escorts during World War II.

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With praise from noted historian and author Douglas Brinkley, 'Shepherds' collects tales of courage, heroism and fear told in the words of 91 sailors and officers who served aboard 56 destroyer escorts that were tasked with sinking as many predatory German U-boats as they could.

Disdained by regular Navy sailors, the crews were typically made up of unseasoned teenage recruits led by inexperienced college-age officers more accustomed to yachts than warships. Their ships were untested vessels designed by a man with no formal training in ship design.

Yet these vessels and their crew sank more than 70 German submarines during the war and captured U-505, the only German submarine taken during the war and the first enemy vessel captured at sea by Americans since the War of 1812.

This is the definitive story of the ships and their crew.

Cross is a trustee of the USS Slater, the last destroyer escort still afloat in the U.S. and serves as commissioner of the Port of Albany (N.Y.) and is water commissioner for the city. A former newspaper correspondent, Cross is the author of "Sailor in the White House: The seafaring Life of FDR."

This article originally appeared in Home Waters Sections of the March 2011 issue.