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Shepherds of the Sea: Destroyer Escorts in World War II Hardcover – May 15, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


Just when it seems that nothing new can be said about World War II, along comes Shepherds of the Sea, Bob Cross' well told tale of a dimunitive but decisive weapon in the naval battle...a great read and an important chapter in our naval history.
Joseph E. Persico, author of Roosevelt's Secret War

Shepherds of the Sea is well researched...this book is recommended to naval historians and to general readers interested in the maritime aspects of World War II.
Journal of Military History

The first full-scale history of American destroyer escorts...the book itself can and should drop anchor in any World War II naval collection.

This is the definitive story of the ships and their crew.
Soundings magazine

Author Robert F. Cross tells their whole story for the first time...this is a well-written and extensively researched book.
Steamship Historical Society of America

Just when it seems that nothing new can be said about World War II, along comes Shepherds of the Sea, Bob Cross's well-told tale of a diminutive but decisive weapon in the naval battle, the Destroyer Escort. Cross's gift is to create a sense of "being there," with the President who first envisioned this vessel and among the young men, often just teenagers, whose first glimpse of the sea was often from the deck of their DEs. A great read and an important chapter in our naval history. --Joseph E. Persico, author of Roosevelt's Secret War

Robert Cross has brought about nothing less than a moving and thrilling story consistently focused on the people involved and almost miraculously evoking the special character of the destroyer escorts...He has told their stories with eloquence and, sometimes, in graphic detail, portraying the pain, the injury, and yes, the blood and gore that are a necessary part of war. It is a story of the heart and soul of our country and we as its people...and comes at a critical time in U.S. history. --From the Foreword by Christopher duP Roosevelt, Grandson of President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Shepherds of the Sea is a wonderful and well-written study of the noble role U.S. Destroyer Escorts played in winning the Second World War. The amount of original research Robert Cross performed is stunning. Highly recommended! --Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History at Rice University and author of The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America


"...The former news correspondent does an excellent job of weaving together the memories of sailors and describing in vivid detail what life was like for small ships in combat."
International Journal of Maritime History

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press; 2nd edition (May 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591141443
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591141440
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,501,533 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert F. Cross, author of the presidential biography, Sailor in the White House: The Seafaring Life of FDR, and Shepherds of the Sea: Destroyer Escorts in WW II, is a trustee of the USS Slater, the last destroyer escort still afloat in the United States. The museum ship is fully restored to its original WW II configuration and is moored on the Hudson River in Albany, New York. Cross retired in 2015 as Commissioner and Chairman of the Board of the Port of Albany, a 240-acre year round seaport located on New York's Hudson River. He had served 17 years. He retired December 31, 2013 as Commissioner of Water for the City of Albany, the second longest serving Water Commissioner in the history of Albany. He previously was an Assistant Environmental Commissioner for New York State in the administration of Governor Mario M. Cuomo.

A former award-winning newspaper correspondent, Cross has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and a variety of Dow Jones community-based newspapers, along with several magazines including the Conservationist, Historic Nantucket, Offshore and Seaport, among other publications. He has appeared on C-Span's Book TV and American History TV. He has been involved in environmental and historic preservation affairs for many years. Cross, a native of Port Jervis, New York, received his bachelor of science degree from the State University of New York at Albany and his master of arts degree from the State University College at New Paltz. He lives in Albany, New York and Nantucket, Massachusetts with his wife, Sheila, a physician, and Fala, their West Highland White Terrier. He currently is at work on his third book.

Visit the author's webpage at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Mike O'Connor TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
During World War II, destroyer escorts were the Rodney Dangerfield of the U. S. Navy. Looked down upon by some Navy brass, these small, maneuverable but well-armed pint-sized warships went in harm's way around the globe, compiling a combat record as illustrious as that of their big-brother destroyer brethren. In the Atlantic alone, DEs accounted for 70-odd U-boats and helped capture U-505. In the Pacific, they fought in just about every major battle. Robert Cross details the development and combat history of these brave ships and their crews in this marvelous 2010 release from Naval Institute Press.

Designed to supplement the overworked USN destroyer squadrons especially in convoy escort duty, DEs were between 290 and 308 feet long, had crew complements between 180 and 220 men and speeds ranging between 20 and 24 knots. They boasted a varied armament: 3-inch/50 guns, 40mm guns, 20mm cannons, torpedo tubes, depth charges and hedgehogs. They also carried radar and sonar. Typically they were commanded by so-called '90-day wonder' OCS graduates. During WW II, 563 DEs were built. Sixteen were lost or damaged beyond repair by war's end.

SHEPHERDS OF THE SEA traces the Destroyer Escorts' war through first-person reminiscences by some 90-odd officers and sailors who served onboard 56 different DEs. Their war was a combination of endless patrolling, boring convoy escorts, exciting duels with U-boats, terrifying encounters with kamikazes and equally terrifying bouts with typhoons. Not all DE/U-boat duels ended in an American victory. Eight DEs were sunk by German - or Japanese - submarines and some of those battles are recounted in Cross' book. Likewise, the reader gets a firsthand view of the terrible battering DEs received at the hand of kamikazes.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By F. S Virden on December 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Robert F. Cross, SHEPHERDS OF THE SEA--Destroyer Escorts in World War II. Underappreciated by history, hastily designed and built, manned largely by inexperienced young reserve officers and teenaged crews, these small ships became crucial to victory in the Battle of the Atlantic and in the Pacific Theater, where they even took on the world's largest battleship. Robert Cross is an experienced professional writer who currently serves as commissioner of the Port of Albany NY and water commissioner of that city. He also is a trustee of the USS SLATER (DE-766) museum ship, a fully restored WWII DE at Albany, and the only such ship still afloat in the U.S. Mr. Cross compiled his book from numerous personal interviews of and documents from DE veterans, as well as considerable official records and other historical accounts. It is well indexed and annotated. If you want to know what really happened, this is the book for you.

Unfortunately, Mr. Cross' work is sullied by numerous technical gaffs, such as "3in 50mm guns" (s/b 3in/50cal)and "Iowa Jima" repeated a number of times. Without the normal space breaks, his narrative shifts from one person or incident to another in breathtaking confusion. He could have used a far more competent editor. Nevertheless, it otherwise reads well and he does progress with some logic through the initial conception, then hiatus, then construction and crew training, to the Atlantic and finally the Pacific--including a number of first-hand accounts. An epilog briefly describes the SLATER museum and its history. If you're a naval history buff, you will enjoy it and overlook its unfortunate faults. Your wife, in all probability, will not be interested.

Frank S. Virden, Captain, USN (Ret)
Member, Destroyer Escort Sailors Association
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Shipdriver on December 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover
While I found the information relative to destroyer escort operations wonderful, I felt that the space devoted to individual sailors a bit too detailed, including information not truly relevant to the topic. More data on the individual ships mentioned would have been better.
Further, I noted the lack of use of common Navy jargon, such as the use of the word "walls" instead of "bulkheads", etc. I feel the nautical accuracy of a book is very important to the veracity of the author. Having a proof reader with a Navy background might have eliminated these inaccuracies.
Overall, however, I see historical data here not found in other DE type books I've read, and the author is to be applauded for his work.
My background is as a Surface Warfare Officer, retired in '85.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Steve Conslaw on April 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Shepherds of the Sea isn't a classic, but author Robert Cross did us a service by preserving the stories of 91 Destroyer Escort sailors. If you are looking for technical information on ships and a lot of statistics, then this isn't the book for you. This book is a series of interesting anecdotes from DE sailors, strung together with what almost seems to be a stream of consciousness editing. I find the lack of structure to be the prime deficiency of the book. The book jumps back and forth in time, and sometimes in theater of operation.

Things that I found interesting about this book: Cross points out that FDR was a proponent of destroyer escorts for years before they were actually built. Had they been built earlier, the Allies might have started winning the Battle of the Atlantic a lot earlier than they did. There were several destroyer escorts that were manned by a predominately African American crew. These ships helped shatter barriers that kept African Americans in menial positions within the navy. It was the personal intervention of FDR and Elenore Roosevelt that made this integration happen. (If you are doing a term paper on segregation in the navy or armed forces in World War II, this book would be a good source.) Finally, there are a lot of stories about the crew training that occurred not in some coastal base, but in a slapped together facility in Illinois.

As an authoritative volume, this book is not in the same league as something like Shattered Sword, or Clash of the Carriers, but it seems to be aimed at more of a casual audience rather than the WWII wonk, so with that in mind, I'm giving it 4 stars, but my wonk rating would actually be 3 or 3.5 stars.
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