Twelve Desperate Miles
Twelve Desperate Miles
The Epic World War II Voyage of the SS Contessa
By Tim Brady
Broadway Books, Paperback, 9780307590381, 352pp.
Publication Date: April 23, 2013
The largest amphibious invasion force ever to cross the Atlantic Ocean set sail from Virginia in November 1942 with the aim of capturing Casablanca and a crucial airfield northeast of the city. Unfortunately, the airfield was located a dozen miles up a twisting Morrocan river, too shallow for any ship in the entire Allied fleet. As the invasion neared, the War Department turned up the Contessa, a salt-caked Honduran-registered civilian freighter that had spent most of her career hauling bananas and honeymooners.
This unremarkable ship, crewed by seamen from twenty-six different nations, eighteen sailors pulled from the Norfolk County jail, and a French harbor pilot spirited out of Morroco by OSS agents, became the focus of the opening salvo of World War II. Too late to join the massive convoy sailing forAfrica, the Contessa set out on her own through the U-boat-infested waters of the Atlantic to the shores of Morocco, where she faced her most daunting challenge: the twelve-mile voyage up the well-defended Sebou River, carrying an explosive cocktail ofairplane fuel and nine hundred tons of bombs in her holds.
Twelve Desperate Miles is a surprising and entertaining account of one of the great untold stories of the war.
“Historians have so thoroughly fished the drama of World War II that it is hard to believe the subject still has prize catches to offer up, but here comes a keeper.... [Tim Brady] conveys the campaign in an almost novelistic way, bringing seemingly disparate figures and incidents into an engaging narrative.... [he] tells the story in a style that will keep readers on the edge of their seats”
—The Wall Street Journal
"Tim Brady's yarn of the Contessa and her role in one of the most crucial episodes in WWII will delight military buffs and those looking for a well-written page turner. Highly recommended."
—Alex Kershaw, author of The Bedford Boys and The Longest Winter
"[A] tension-filled, exciting story of the invasion and the Contessa’s role in it. This is an excellent recounting of an obscure but important episode of World War II."
"An entertaining story of individual heroism, which Brady surrounds by an equally entertaining account of the North African invasion, the largest amphibious operation in history at the time."