“Greyhound” and “The Good Shepherd”

Tom and I recently watched the movie “Greyhound,” starring Tom Hanks.  The movie was supposed to be released to theaters in 2020 but went directly to Apple+ TV after being delayed several times due to the pandemic.  The movie is based on the book “The Good Shepherd” by CS Forester, the same author who wrote the Horatio Hornblower series and “The African Queen.”

Tom Hanks adapted the book and wrote the screenplay for the movie “Greyhound.”  The plot follows Ernest Krause, a commander of the US Navy, on his first war-time assignment.  Krause is command of a multi-national escort group of destroyers defending a merchant ship convoy.  The 37 ship convoy is under attack by submarines in early-1942 during the Battle of the Atlantic, only months after the U.S. officially entered World War II.

The most fascinating thing to me, and the tension in the movie, comes when the convoy enters “The Black Pit.”  In 1942, when the movie takes place, neither Great Britain or the United States had bombers that could cover this gap in the Atlantic Ocean.  Convoys were particularly susceptible to U-boat attacks during the three days it took to cross “The Black Pit.”  By 1943, the United States was able to produce more long-distance bombers that could cover the convoys all the way across the Atlantic.

Ernest Krause is in charge of a group of four destroyers that are guarding the convoy.  Most of the movie centers on the three days crossing “The Black Pit” as the convoy is stalked by a wolf pack of U-boats.  I won’t give away any spoilers, except to say the movie is exceptional.  The emotions, the tension, the split-second decisions and the cost of those decisions.  I didn’t relax through the entire middle of the movie.

Although Krause graduated from the Naval Academy and is an experienced naval officer, this command is his first in war-time conditions.  He is a man of faith and leads his men calmly even under very difficult circumstances.  You can see his pride in the job they do together but also the toll the command takes on him.

The book, “The Good Shepherd,” is very similar to the movie, but it delves more deeply into the mind of Commander Krause.  The book is necessarily heavier on explanatory detail.  Because I saw the movie first, I skipped a lot of paragraphs that were shown to better effect in the movie.

If you like World War II movies and want to explore a little known part of that history, I highly recommend “Greyhound.”  If you watch it, let me know what you think.