New book by Jim Bunch looks at WWII disaster off Outer Banks coast

Professional diver, author and North Carolina Humanities Council Road Scholar Jim Bunch has written a new book that hits the stands Monday, July 10.

Published by The History Press, “U-Boats off the Outer Banks, Shadows in the Moonlight,” is his third book to date.

He will discuss the book and signing copies at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum at 11 a.m. Thursday, July 13. The book is available through online sources, including The History Press ($21.99), through the author and local book sellers.

Bunch also is the author of “Diving the U-85” and “U-85 A Shadow in the Sea, A Diver’s Recollections.”

About the book

In his latest book, Bunch covers a fascinating period in Outer Banks and world history. During WWII, The German government sent U-boats to patrol the waters off the Outer Banks. Approximately 90 Allied vessels were sunk by U-boats, and four U-boats also met their end in the Graveyard of the Atlantic. Sinking oil tankers was Germany’s goal to shut off fuel supplies to Great Britain. There was so much action, the area became known as Torpedo Junction.

“From January 1942 until July of that same year, the Germans had a chance to completely shut down shipping along the east coast of the U. S.,” Bunch says.

“It was only because Hitler wouldn’t release enough U-boats to finish the job that we survived. If this had happened, it might not have changed the ultimate outcome of the war, but it would have taken a lot longer.”

Bunch says he thought it important to tell the story from the German side, as well as our side.

“We were not prepared for an all-out U-boat offensive and were lucky that Hitler hedged on giving Karl Donitz what he knew he needed to win,” says Bunch of one of the main figures operating during the German blitz.

While most of the world was in the dark about the offensive, it did affect Outer Banks residents who experienced oil-soaked beaches, catastrophic offshore explosions, an overall sense of fearfulness, and black-out conditions.

“I’ve heard so many folks here say they never realized what went on offshore here during the first six months of 1942,” the author says. “I hoped that writing a book that detailed this period would be both interesting and informative. A lot has been written about this period but never in this way.”

Bunch started the book in May 2016 and finished it in March 2017.

“When I began I had the help of my partner-in-life, Beverly Kearns, and my only son, Mike,” Bunch says. “Both died unexpectedly last summer. I worked harder than ever just for their memory.”

The book features more than 120 photos from many sources, including friends Bunch has in Germany. It reads like a novel, though based on factual history. Thus, it is a user-friendly and informative text for lay folk as well as professionals in the field.

Bunch brings to his work a passion for WWII history underscored by his intimate knowledge of U-85, the first U-boat to sink off the Outer Banks coast during the war. He has done more 1,000 dives on U-85, which was torpedoed April 14, 1942, by Jesse Roper just south of Wimble Shoals

Friends, Roger and Richard Hunting, and Bunch, were instrumental in bringing up the Enigma Machine from U-85. It is on display at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum through an agreement with the Federal Republic of Germany.

It was the mid-1950s when Bunch started diving North Carolina shipwrecks. In 1994, he received the Scuba Schools International Pro5000 award for making 5,000 or more logged dives. His photographs of North Carolina shipwrecks and marine life surround the fish tanks at the North Carolina Aquarium in Manteo.

Mary Ellen Riddle is the education curator at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum. Her latest book is “Outer Banks Shipwrecks: Graveyard of the Atlantic,” published by Arcadia Publishing and released in April 2017.

Mary Ellen Riddle is the education curator at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum. Her latest book is “Outer Banks Shipwrecks: Graveyard of the Atlantic,” published by Arcadia Publishing and released in April 2017.

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