Thirty years go this month, the SS Marine Electric set sail into a storm on a course destined to change United States maritime history. The old coal collier, originally a World War II T-2 tanker, sank about thirty miles off the Virginia coast and dumped all its crew and officers into a wave-thrashed ocean.
Incredibly, three men survived. Led by Robert M. Cusick, the chief mate, they testified in detail about the “given” of the US Merchant Marine: old ships were sent out to sea in unsafe conditions. No one, not even the unions, would complain for fear of a loss of jobs.
“Until the Sea Shall Free Them” tells the story of how these three men fought a powerful company and no small amount of peer pressure to prevail against overwhelming odds, first at sea, and then in courts of law on land.
The audio-book format is just out and available through Audible.com on its site, iTunes and Amazon.
The Naval Institute Press publishes a paper back version of the book. And you can buy the Kindle version as well on Amazon.
I’m proud of this book. It’s on the U.S. Coast Guard’s Reading List for the fourth-year running, along with Two Tankers Down, my other maritime book. It’s read regularly by students of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and Kings Point — the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. The Coast Guard inspection school makes it required reading and awards a copy to its top graduates each year. It’s one of the best jobs of reporting I’ve done and one of the best jobs of writing too. I hope you enjoy it.