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Bestselling author coming to Cape Region

Writer Michael Tougias tells stories that are nearly lost in history
April 16, 2018

New York Times bestselling author Michael Tougias said he's looking forward to doing some fishing during a visit to the Cape Region.

Tougias, who lives part time in Massachusetts and Florida, will discuss his books Sunday, April 22.

At 10 a.m. at South Coastal Library in Bethany Beach, the author will provide a multimedia presentation on “The Finest Hours: A True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard's Most Daring Sea Rescue.” The event is sponsored by Delaware Seashore State Park.

Then at 2 p.m. at Cape Henlopen State Park's Fort Miles, Tougias will give a presentation on “U-Boats So Close to Home: A True Story of an American Family's Fight for Survival During WWII.”

He will also talk about his newest book, offering little-known facts surrounding the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962, “Above and Beyond: JFK and America’s Most Dangerous Spy Mission.”

An avid outdoorsman – who started his career as a outdoors writer – Tougias has not only authored or co-authored 24 books over the past 20 years, he also travels the country making 50 or more presentations.

He said his presentations are not a typical book reading because he delves into the history and research he did writing the book. He also provides historical photographs from the actual events he writes about.

“I don't like to do author readings because I think they are boring, but with a slide presentation, the viewer can visually relive the adventure,” he said.

'Finest Hours' at South Coastal

Over the past few years, Tougias has focused on writing maritime rescues, survival and adventure books, chronicling events such as the U.S. Coast Guard's most daring rescue in the book “The Finest Hours.”

If that title sounds familiar, it should. The book, which he co-authored with Casey Sherman, was made into a Disney movie in 2016 staring Chris Pine and Casey Affleck.

On Feb. 18, 1952, a ferocious nor'easter split apart two large oil tankers off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass. All four sections were sinking in 60- to 70-foot seas with a total of 84 seamen clinging to life. Fighting against all odds, Coast Guard crews were able to rescue 70 of the men aboard the two ships.

“This was in my own backyard, and I had never heard of it,” Tougias said.

He details the story of the heroic four-man Coast Guard crew sent out to sea in a 36-foot motorized lifeboat to the Pendleton, the first of the tankers to split in half.

He researched old newspaper files and found a survivor living in Florida who he interviewed at length. “I felt this episode of heroism and tragedy needed to be told in its entirety because it's an important piece of overlooked history,” he said.

'So Close to Home' at Cape Henlopen

Another of his books, “So Close to Home: A True Story of an American Family's Fight for Survival During World War II,” chronicles the story of the Downs' family fight for survival after their boat was sunk by a German submarine or U-boat in the Gulf of Mexico 30 miles off the coast of Louisiana.

The book details part of the little-known history of U-boats off the coast of the eastern United States during World War II.

On May 19, 1942, highly decorated U-boat Capt. Erich Wurdermann sank the freighter Heredia with 59 people onboard, including four members of the Downs family. When the ship exploded, the family members were separated. More than half the crew perished, but miraculously after 15 hours in the ocean, the family – including two children – survived and was rescued.

Tougias interviewed Ray Downs Jr., now 82 years old, who remembered every detail of the voyage, attack and the family's survival story. Tougias also read the U-boat commander's diary, and the presentation will include a discussion of the challenges faced aboard the sub, and some of the other raids the commander made off the coast.

Fort Miles is a perfect venue for a talk on U-boats. At the end of World War II, the crew of U-boat 858 surrendered at Fort Miles. That event is re-enacted each spring during the fort's living history weekend.

Cuban Missile Crisis subject of new book

“We came within a whisker of World War III on four occasions during the 13 days of the missile crisis,” Tougias said about his newest book, “Above and Beyond.”

Tougias said President Kennedy recorded every meeting during the Cuban missile crisis. “These transcripts, as recently declassified CIA documents, form the basis of this fascinating analysis of JFK's successful decision making,” Tougias said.

He interviewed U-2 pilots who discovered the missile sites in Cuba, who provided insights that have remained undisclosed for more than 50 years.

He also tells the little-known story of Maj. Rudolph Anderson, killed in his U-2 by a Soviet surface-to-air missile over Cuba.

Go to www.michaeltougias.com to see a 4-minute interview with a U-2 pilot who was shot down and survived.

Go to www.michaeltougias.com for more information.