esquire.com – On November 4, 1943, Convoy UGS 23 left Hampton Roads, Virginia, en route to the port city of Oran in Algeria. There were 96 ships in the convoy. One of them was the Liberty Ship USS James Hoban, named for the Irish architect who designed, among other things, the White House. Aboard the Hoban, as gunnery officer and part of the Navy’s Armed Guard, was a young lieutenant named John P. Pierce, the son of a police detective sergeant in Worcester, Massachusetts, and his wife, a woman who’d begun life as a shepherd in the hills around Listowel, in north Kerry. His log of the trip contains laconic references to submarine alerts and air-raid alerts and the kind of storms you get as winter begins to come in the north Atlantic. What’s between the lines in those slim notebooks is the stuff that is the raw nerve endings of history.
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