The “remarkable story” of a tall ship’s history in WWII and beyond—and the sailors who have inhabited it, both German and American (Booklist).
Hamburg, 1936: A splendid three-masted sailing ship is christened Horst Wessel in the presence of Adolf Hitler and thousands of cheering Nazis. It would become a training vessel for naval officers during World War II—but after Germany’s defeat, the US Coast Guard found its young crew terrified and half starved.
The Coast Guardsmen brought the Germans, so recently their mortal enemies, back to life; the Germans, in return, taught them the ways of the beautiful square-rigged ship, rechristened Eagle. In time, Eagle would become the Coast Guard’s elite school ship—the barque of saviors.
Uncannily linking Eagle’s malign past and its American present is a coast guardsman named Karl Dillmann, who believes the spirit of a young German sailor drowned in a U-boat explosion inhabits his soul. The voices of Dillmann and other crew members are heard throughout the book, as are the voices of young sailors on the Horst Wessel. Russell Drumm has obtained never-before-published logbooks from its war years, affording fascinating new insights into both the ship’s everyday life and its moments of high drama.
This unique piece of maritime history captures the feeling of life at sea, and shows how the courage and sacrifice of the “greatest generation” are alive and well today in the dedicated members of the US Coast Guard.
“Tall ships cast spells, and Drumm catches the witchery of the Eagle’s overpowering presence.” —Kirkus Reviews
“The reader becomes familiar with the cadets of various eras . . . The book also offers a rare look at postwar military cooperation and at the integration of female cadets beginning in the 1970s.” —Publishers Weekly
Drumm, senior writer at the East Hampton Star, chronicles some of the "hidden" history of the U.S. Coast Guard's three-masted sailing ship Eagle, currently serving as a training vessel and oft visited by dignitaries for photo ops. The Eaglewas originally named the Horst Wesseland was launched in 1936 at a German shipyard, with Adolf Hitler and the chief Nazis of the party present. Itserved as a training ship for German seamen and officers, many of whom went on to careers in U-boats during WWII. The ship barely survived the war and was taken by the Coast Guard as part of America's share of the former German navy. Derelict but still served by a skeleton crew of emaciated survivors, the ship proved a fertile ground for friendship, as the Coast Guard brought the German crew to health, and a mixed crew eventually sailed across the Atlantic to U.S. port. Drumm accompanied Eagleon a 1999 voyage to the Caribbean. His book interweaves a hardcore sailing history of this stalwart vessel with a dense account of the 1999 voyage. Along the way, the reader becomes familiar with the cadets of various eras, with an obvious focus on WWII. Sea buffs are the primary audience here ("Captain Cummings ordered that Eagle's t'gallants be put 'in their gear,' clewed up but not furled, and the mizen gaff topsail doused, along with several staysails"), but the book also offers a rare look at postwar military cooperation and at the integration of female cadets beginning in the 1970s.