At All Costs




“Thrillingly told and beautifully researched, AT ALL COSTS is not just the against-all-odds story of the saving of Malta, but also of how the fate of nations can turn on the personal bravery of two ordinary men.” —Robert Kurson

“AT ALL COSTS is an extraordinary work of research and an exciting read that pays tribute to a crucial enterprise taken against incredible odds. Sam Moses has brought the ghastliness of war and the beauty of heroism together, in jarring union.” —Frank Deford

Sam Moses is sharing an important and oft neglected story about a battle that played a decisive role in shaping the outcome of WW II. It’s a terrific read, an astonishing feat of research, reporting and writing.  You will meet people who will linger in memory for their bravery, foolishness, or wisdom. And you will never again think of the Merchant Marine as a fourth team.” —Ken Auletta

“A riveting tale of true American grit. ... Moses takes readers directly into the heat of battle, demonstrating a strong command of historical detail. Highly recommended for fans of naval adventure.”  —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“…a wealth of original documentary research … an immensely readable and authoritative account …” —Mark Whitmore, Director of Collections, Imperial War Museum, London


Sam Moses’ AT ALL COSTS: How A Crippled Ship and Two American Merchant Mariners Turned the Tide of World War II (Random House; Publication Date: November 14, 2006) is a gripping tale of heroism in the face of unfathomable danger. It’s also a story of how individual courage can change the course of history. And an astonishing account of two young Americans who faced impossible odds to help save the island of Malta, which Winston Churchill considered to be the crux of the war.

In the opening years of World War II, Hitler was determined to take the oil in Iraq and Iran (then Persia) from the Allies. The tiny Mediterranean island of Malta was all that was keeping General Rommel from driving across North Africa to the oilfields. The Allies were bombing Rommel’s supply lines using planes from Malta, and attacking Axis convoys using submarines based there. The Axis responded by putting Malta under siege.

In 1942, Malta was the most heavily bombed place on earth; that spring, more bombs fell on Malta than fell on London during the entire Battle of Britain. Meanwhile, German and Italian U-boats kept Allied supply convoys away from Malta. By summer, food, fuel and ammunition had run out.

Malta’s final hope was a do-or-die convoy. More than 50 warships escorted thirteen freighters carrying aviation fuel, and one tanker, the SS Ohio, carrying 103,000 barrels of oil from Texas. Relentless attacks by dive-bombers and U-boats sank nine of the freighters in horrifying flames. The Ohio was torpedoed, bombed, and abandoned; her hull was holed, her decks were aflame, her engines were dead and her rudder blown off. Two American Merchant Mariners—a 27-year-old Norwegian-American named Fred Larsen, whose back had been fractured, and an 18-year-old boy from rural Georgia, Lonnie Dales, whose arm was broken—boarded the Ohio after their own ship was sunk, and repaired the tanker's antiaircraft guns. They led a handful of volunteers in fighting off hordes of dive-bombers as the sinking Ohio was towed by destroyers toward Malta. With the Ohios oil, Malta was saved, Rommel was stopped, and the tide of the war was turned.

The Ohio’s volunteers were greeted as heroes in Malta, where Fred Larsen learned that his wife Minda had safely escaped Nazi-occupied Norway, with their three-year-old son that he’d never seen. The harrowing journey to freedom by Minda and Jan is also part of the story told by AT ALL COSTS.

Sam Moses’ AT ALL COSTS is about the bravery of men determined to save a ship and win a war, the profound communal courage from an island under brutal siege, and leaders who understood the cause of freedom.