Few Americans know that German submarines commonly ranged within sight of America's Atlantic coast during World War II, and even fewer know that many were destroyed in those waters. In 1991, deep-wreck divers John Chatterton and Bill Nagle found a sunken German U-boat 60 miles off the coast of New Jersey. Resting at a depth of 230 feet, the submarine which was unknown to naval experts, historians and governments was beyond the reach of all but world-class divers. The story of the efforts to identify the sub and its 56-man crew is vividly and, at times, chillingly described by Robert Kurson in his book, Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Discovered Hitler's Lost Sub.
Yet the book is about more than just the sub: it's also about humanity. Chatterton and fellow diver Richard Kohler, the two who did the most to identify the sub, disliked each other immensely, but their shared obsession led them to spend seven years piecing together the story of the U-boat, researching in museums and archives both in the U.S. and in Germany as well as making repeated dangerous dives to the wreck. In the course of their experiences, they pioneered diving techniques and equipment, became diving legends, developed a friendship and eventually rewrote history.
Shadow Divers is a mystery, an action-adventure, an education on deep-wreck diving, a drama, and at times, a tragedy. Its climax is so harrowing and emotional that anything Hollywood has to offer pales in comparison. Jason Emerson is a freelance writer based in Fredericksburg, Virginia.