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Escape from Archangel: An American Merchant Seaman at War

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Escape from Archangel

An American Merchant Seaman at War

By Thomas E. Simmons

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Format: Paperback, 168 pages
Other Information: 1, black & white illustrations
Published In: United Kingdom, 01 November 1990
During World War II, merchant marine tankers in convoys plied the frozen North Atlantic through the flaming wreckage of torpedoed ships. Working to keep sea lanes open, valiant merchant seamen supplied food, fuel, and goods to the Allies in the last pockets of European resistance to the Nazis. This exciting book acknowledges that the merchant marines, all volunteers, are among the unsung heroes of the war. One of these was Jac Smith, an ordinary seamen on the Cedar Creek, a new civilian tanker lend-leased to the U.S.S.R. and in the merchantman convoy running from Scotland to Murmansk. Smith's riveting adventures at sea and in the frozen taigas and tundra are a story of valor that underlines the essential role of merchant marines in the war against the Axis powers. This gripping narrative tells of a cruel blow that fate dealt Smith when, after volunteering to serve on the tanker headed for Murmansk, he was arrested and interned in a Soviet work camp near Arkhangelsk. Escape from Archangel recounts how this American happened to be imprisoned in an Allied country and how he planned and managed his escape. In his arduous 900-mile trek to freedom, he encountered the remarkable Laplanders of the far north and brave Norwegian resistance fighters. While telling this astonishing story of Jac Smith and of the awesome dangers merchant seamen endured while keeping commerce alive on the seascape of war, Escape from Archangel brings long-deserved attention to the role of the merchant marine and their sacrifices during wartime.

About the Author

Thomas E. Simmons is a businessman and writer who lives in Gulfport, Mississippi. He is the author of The Brown Condor: The True Adventures of John C. Robinson.


In The Brown Condor ( LJ 6/15/88), Simmons chronicled the exploits of a black American pilot who gained fame flying for Ethiopia during the 1935-36 Italian invasion. Here he offers another real-life adventure, that of a seaman imprisoned during World War II in the dreaded gulag archipelago. A member of the too-often unsung merchant marine, Oswald Marion (``Jac'') Smith served on a tanker bound for Murmansk to be delivered to Soviet forces. Out on the town afterwards, he was arrested for violating curfew and sent to a Soviet work camp, from which he eventually escaped. His story makes compelling reading, and Simmons does it justice. If the author has no particular gift for literary imagery, he has a nose for those unsung individuals whose tale deserves an audience. The book is a bit spare, but nonetheless cogent.-- J.K. Sweeney, South Dakota State Univ., Brookings

A remarkable tale of true adventure, this is the story of O. M. (Jac) Smith, who served aboard a WW II U.S. civilian merchant ship slated to be leased to the Russians. When Ceder Creek docked at Archangel in the Soviet Union after surviving an attack on a convoy which lost a third of its ships, Smith and two other Americans aboard were arrested as ``foreign troublemakers'' and sent to a labor camp. He escaped, was helped by Laplanders, who placed him under the protection of the Norwegian underground; Smith's land trek had covered 900 miles of frozen territory. The Norwegians ferried him to Scotland and he returned to the U.S. in 1944 to sail as a merchant seaman for another 30 years before retiring in Mississippi. A suspenseful account of courage and the will to survive, told by the author of The Brown Condor. (Nov.)

-Escape from Archangel is an extraordinary story, a story of human bravery and endurance, which not only captures the emotional spirit of World War II but its desperation, too.- --Willie Morris-This book is a rare and fascinating tale of a merchant sailor's life at war on dangerous waters, with an escape so fantastic that I simply would not have believed it had I not carefully checked its credibility myself.- --Kemp Tolley, Rear Admiral U.S. Navy (Ret.)-It tells a truly amazing story. Now that we are friends again with Russia, this book can be read as a remarkable adventure story of the war---just one more reason why we must never again have a war.- --Frank O. Braynard, American Merchant Marine Museum

EAN: 9781604730111
ISBN: 1604730110
Publisher: Lean Marketing Press
Dimensions: 22.86 x 15.24 x 1.04 centimetres (0.27 kg)
Age Range: 15+ years
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