The U.S. Navy troopships of Convoy WS-12X went from eluding U-boats to trying to avoid Japanese bombs.
In early September 1941, the White House received a request for help: Could the United States transport British troops to the Middle East, where they were desperately needed? Two months later, when six American troopships loaded with the British soldiers and under U.S. Navy escort sailed from Halifax, Nova Scotia, the dangers they faced were known. At least five large, long-ranging U-boats were close enough to the convoy’s route to present a danger, and scattered German armed merchant cruisers were operating in the South Atlantic. Nevertheless, there was confidence in Washington and at sea that the risks could be contained. But what the convoy’s commanders could not have known was that before their voyage was over the troopships would face a new enemy and dangers far greater than those posed by the Germans in the Atlantic.