Abandon Ship!

The True World War II Story About the Sinking of the Laconia


By Michael J Tougias

By Alison O’Leary

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$23.99 CAD



  1. Hardcover $18.99 $23.99 CAD
  2. ebook $10.99 $13.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around February 21, 2023. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

A remarkable World War II account of a maritime attack off the West African coast, for fans of Steven Sheinkin and Deborah Heiligman.  

On September 12, 1942, the RMS Laconia was attacked by a German submarine five hundred miles off the coast of western Africa. What the Germans didn’t know was that they had just attacked their allies: locked below decks on the British ship were nearly 1,800 Italian prisoners of war. When the Germans realized their mistake, they made the unprecedented decision to rescue all survivors regardless of their nationality, attempting to declare the waters a neutral zone. But when an American bomber flew over the humanitarian effort, he was ordered to drop bombs, contributing to the deaths of many Italian POWs and British civilians in the process. Some of those who remained alive endured weeks adrift at sea, fighting for survival with little water or food, and in shark infested oceans.

Suspenseful and informative, this incredible true account, which includes historic photographs, is a testament to the idea that compassion can rule over conflict—even at the cruel heights of war. 


  • Praise for Abandon Ship!
    A Junior Library Guild Selection

    "This epic story races along, unspooling like a movie before our eyes—artfully, dramatically, revealing a little known part of WWII history. An intriguing book."
    Doug Stanton, #1 New York Times bestselling author of In Harm’s Way
  • "The authors do an excellent job of conveying the chaos and loss of this grisly historical incident without pushing young readers too deeply into the horror. Many of those who lived through the Laconia catastrophe endured weeks at sea, parched and sunburned and starving in conditions that literally drove men mad. Archival photos add immediacy to this sensational true-life story."
    Wall Street Journal
  • "An amazing account of a World War II event that is almost entirely unknown…. This story chronicles the courage, compassion, and perseverance of the few survivors of the incident, showcasing war at its worst and humanity at its best…. School librarians will want to add this to their collection."
  • "Tougias and O’Leary (Attacked at Sea) recount the 1942 sinking of the Laconia in this pulse-pounding work.... Through viscerally told accountings, including stories of passengers spending several days awaiting rescue aboard lifeboats, the authors deliver a fascinating tale of human perseverance and morality that explores the 'most unusual actions in all of World War II,' as stated by the creators in an introduction."
    Publishers Weekly
  • "In contrast to the usual run of shipwreck tales built around the simple theme of “heroic survival against the odds,” this account depicts the 1942 torpedoing of the British liner Laconia as a realistically messy mix of confusion, desperation, altruism, cruelty, and extreme hardship.... Focusing on a handful of eyewitnesses who left records of their experiences, the authors tell their grim, brutal tale in matter-of-fact tones, then, close with notes on the subsequent lives of significant involved figures."
  • "The unbiased narrative follows the personal stories of the real men, women, and children moved to German ships or abandoned in lifeboats on the open ocean.... Tension escalates as the narrative is pared down to just two lifeboats and their occupants’ harrowing struggle to remain hopeful. Ideal for WWII history fans and readers who have graduated from Lauren Tarshis’s 'I Survived' series."
    School Library Journal

On Sale
Feb 21, 2023
Page Count
272 pages

Michael J Tougias

About the Author

Michael J. Tougias is the author and coauthor of twenty-three books, including Rescue of the Bounty (Scribner, 2014), A Storm too Soon (Scribner, 2013), Fatal Forecast (Scribner, 2007), and Ten Hours Until Dawn (St Martin’s Press, 2005). Tougias has written for the New York Times and several other prestigious magazines and newspapers.

Learn more about this author