Twelve Desperate Miles
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 19 Nov 2014
Full Title: Twelve Desperate Miles: The Epic World War II Voyage of the SS Contessa
We often study WW2 as an armchair general, studying how the various commanders moved corps and fleets across the face the globe. We often forget that wars were fought by the individual soldiers, sailors, and airmen. What we think of even less were those outside the military, like the crew of the cargo ship SS Contessa. Tim Brady's Twelve Desperate Miles told the story of this civilian vessel manned by a wide variety of hands, everything ranging from the undisciplined from the Norfolk County jail to a French resistance fighter, that sailed alone across the Atlantic Ocean and up the Sebou River to deliver fuel and ammunition for the Allies in North Africa. While some might argue whether the journey of this cargo ship was truly "epic", Brady's telling of her tale of without a doubt entertaining and most enjoyable. As I closed this book, however, I thought that the author had spent far too many pages on George Patton's preparations for the Operation Torch and Erwin Rommel surrounding Tobruk; although those events gave SS Contessa's journey a background story, I thought they probably should had faded into the background a bit more, rather than taking away entire chapters from SS Contessa's suspenseful tale.
I had reviewed this title in its audio book format. Joe Barrett did a fine job reading, though his pace was a bit slow, with somewhat long pauses between sections which made me look at my player to make sure that I had not accidentally turned it off. His reading was clear and his volume was ample, however, both of which were much appreciated.
Twelve Desperate Miles had told the voyage of SS Contessa well, though at times I had to dig around the verbose background stories to get to the main part of the tale. It might not be a keeper, but those interested in the merchant marine might find it interesting enough to check out from the local library.
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945