June 11, 1940
SS George Washington, At Sea
“Ten minutes” was the signal that came as the ship came to a full stop at sea. The first officer on the bridge frantically signaled to the U-boat. “American, United States.”
“Ten minutes,” a terse response came back.
“Don’t they see the flags?” the captain said.
“The lights are on, I checked,” the first officer said.
“Keep signaling,” the captain said. He then walked back to the panel with the watertight door switches that had already been activated. He then switched over the large toggle switch to the ship’s alarms.
Nigel awoke to the alarm ringing throughout the ship. He quickly put on his life jacket, as did the four other men piled into a cabin meant for two. The hallways filled with passengers in pajamas and nightgowns.
“May I have your attention, please: All passengers muster to the lifeboat stations,” blared over the intercom. The ship’s sirens grew louder up on the boat deck in the early air of just after five in the morning.
People spoke in hushed tones, only a few words to each other. Nigel walked from his cabin into the hallway and made his way to the main staircase. He exited onto the port promenade deck. The lifeboats had been swung out and the doors had been opened already. It was almost as if he never stopped moving or even needed to wait as he stepped onto the boat on the ship’s side, sliding over and making room for two women and a teenaged boy.
“Can’t they tell we are American? We have flags on the side of the ship, for fucking crying out loud!” the second officer said as he came across the bridge from the port side.
“Get this out now. It is our position,” the captain said to the radio officer.
“What is the time? Are they going to warn us before they fire?” the first officer called out on the bridge.
The only noise Nigel could hear was the wind, and it was gentle. The sound of the ship alarms seemed to disappear, as if his mind had shut them off. People moved around in the boat a bit. Some cried, though they tried not to be heard. There seemed to be just this sense of destiny about everything. And time seemed to fall away. People moved and sat together. He had never seen so many people do one thing so quickly without saying but a few words.
David Leroy did extensive research on the German occupation of France for his debut novel The Siren of Paris. This historical novel follows the journey of one American from medical student, to artist, to political prisoner at Buchenwald Concentration Camp during World War Two.
You can purchase The Siren of Paris in Kindle e-book format from Amazon -- http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0088CA098 and learn more about this author and novel at http://www.thesirenofparis.com/
For more information about this virtual book tour, please visit -- http://bookpromotionservices.com/2012/05/22/siren-of-paris-tour/