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Death From the Sea

By Herbert Mason

Our Greatest Natural Disaster: The Galveston Hurricane of 1900

Estimates vary, and the exact figure will never be known, but it is certain that three times as many lives were lost in the storm and flood which struck Galveston, Texas, in September of 1900 as in any other natural disaster to befall the United States before or since. Some estimates run as high as 8,000 people killed. The Johnstown flood claimed 2,209 victims and the San Francisco earthquake cost 452 lives.

This anatomy of disaster in an American town is based on survivors’ accounts and official records. It is told in a minute-by-minute description of how the customarily gentle sea breezes mounted to gales and then winds of unprecedented violence, causing the ocean to rise up and fall upon the beautiful and unsuspecting port city.

Walls of water swept over some, 1,500 acres. Nearly 4,000 homes were destroyed. The long bridge connecting Galveston with the mainland was washed away, leaving the “Queen City” a derelict island harboring its dead.

Heroics were almost commonplace during the destruction, and the moral of the story is that a city cannot be killed unless it wants to die. Galveston is very much alive today and this book shows why.

Herbert Molloy Mason (1927-2013) was a noted writer of military history, and has written sixteen books, including The Lafayette Escadrille and The Rise of the Luftwaffe. He lived in San Antonio, Texas with his wife who was an artist.

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