Historian Kevin Duffus to discuss war off N.C. coast

Published 7:17 pm Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Special to the Daily News


North Carolina author and research historian Kevin Duffus visits Washington on Sunday to discuss one of the most interesting and tumultuous periods in the state’s history: “War Zone – World War II Off the North Carolina Coast.”

The free program is sponsored by The Friends of Brown Library, and it is made possible by a grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council. The program is set for 2 p.m. Sunday in the fellowship hall at First United Methodist Church.
Did you know that the fate of World War II once hung in the balance off the beaches of North Carolina? Few people today know that, in 1942, the United States suffered one of its worst defeats of the Second World War not in Europe or the Pacific but along out nation’s eastern seaboard. Three hundred ninety-seven ships were sunk by more than 60 German U-boats in just half a year. Nearly 5,000 people, including many civilians, burned to death, were crushed, drowned or vanished into the sea. Black smoke and orange flames from torpedoed vessels filled the ocean skies from New England to New Orleans. Explosions rattled windowpanes and the nerves of coastal residents. Beaches were awash with wreckage, oil, empty lifeboats, and bodies. The greater number and worst of these attacks occurred off the North Carolina coast.
“War Zone” is a gripping panorama of the shameful betrayal of merchant sailors, of young Coast Guard recruits watching helplessly as sailors plunged into pools of burning oil, and of the renowned baby born in a lifeboat. Learn about the intrepid men and women who defended America in little boats and in small planes; the surprising truth behind the famous phrase “Sighted sub, sank same;” and the children who spied on German spies. Discover the real story behind the legends of secret agents, midget-submarine landings, and the purported shelling of a chemical plant on Kure Beach. Hear the accounts of three climactic engagements between U.S. forces and German U-boats off the North Carolina coast that influenced the outcome of the Battle of the Atlantic; and the time a tearful son from England visited his father’s grave on Ocracoke Island for the first time in 62 years.
“War Zone” is a classic American story told from the perspective of everyday people who daily faced daunting challenges with perseverance, patriotism, and uncommon valor. Shocking, emotionally stirring, humorous, and ironic, “War Zone” preserves these memories of the greatest generation of Americans living on the coast of North Carolina in 1942.
Kevin Duffus is also the author of “The Last Days of Black Beard the Pirate,” “Shipwrecks of the Outer Banks” and “The Lost Light — A Civil War Mystery.”