Hitler's U-Boat Fortresses

Hitler's U-Boat Fortresses

by Randolph Bradham
     
 

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The French naval bases at St. Nazaire and Lorient, occupied by the Germans in June 1940, quickly became the homes of massive U-boat fortresses—nearly indestructible submarine pens, built by mostly slave labor. The Royal Air Force began an all-out bombardment of the two ports. Despite their extensive efforts—and those of the Americans who joined them in

Overview

The French naval bases at St. Nazaire and Lorient, occupied by the Germans in June 1940, quickly became the homes of massive U-boat fortresses—nearly indestructible submarine pens, built by mostly slave labor. The Royal Air Force began an all-out bombardment of the two ports. Despite their extensive efforts—and those of the Americans who joined them in 1942—the fortresses would survive, surrounded by the decimated French towns and countryside. This is the story of what was, perhaps, the longest ongoing battle in Europe during the Second World War, seen through the eyes of someone who experienced much of it firsthand.

The desperate battle was waged on land, air, and sea. Because the dock at St. Nazaire could house and repair Hitler's powerful warship Tirpitz, British commandos carried out a daring raid to destroy it in March of 1942. They succeeded, but with great loss of life. The defenses of these fortresses were so strong that Eisenhower would ultimately decide to seek containment rather than destruction. The 66th Division, on its way to take up the task, lost its troopship Leopoldville to a German torpedo, with a loss of 802 men. The French underground movement in the area spawned a fighting force of 40,000 men to fight alongside the Americans, but the subsequent German reprisals would ultimately destroy many families in Brittany. Yet the bases stood, and continue to stand today.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780275981334
Publisher:
Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated
Publication date:
11/30/2003
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt


At 2:00 P.M., the Germans launched their third attack on a front covering 2,500 meters, using reinforcements including German parachutists, Georgians, and a tactical deployment group from the 275th Infantry Division. The Georgians gained the chateau through the breach. Automatic weapons then stopped them. In the center, the Germans launched a fierce attack and captured the farm, driving the French forces back 300 meters.
Jacques Jacir, a parachutist, described the fighting:

The Fritz (Germans) came in great numbers this time but, believing that they were facing a small group of mazuis soldiers, their first patrols were isolated, one behind the other. They were systematically destroyed. Two companies occupy the village of St. Marcel, and from there they approach toward Marienne's position. He stands his guard well.

The Germans seem confused and are being killed at an incredible rate. They come forward, standing in the middle of fields, without understanding what is going on. After a while, they react and form a front, a line of battle that gives them a chance to have a good understanding of the opposing forces. They install machine guns and organize firing zones. The farm Bois-Joli is taken by the Germans. They also try to take Chateau of Sainte-Benevieve, as they believe it to be the maquis headquarters, which it isn't. It is still occupied by Madame Bouvard and her children. Her son, Loic, age 15, is fighting with the maquis and has an American rifle.

Allied aviation intervened at about 3:30 P.M., after Commandant Bourgoin had requested assistance fo the general of the Special Air Service (S.A.S.). Planes were airborne 70minutes after the request was transmitted. For almost one hour, fighter bombers struck and bombed enemy positions and columns of reinforcements. Once the planes had left, the battle raged again.

Meet the Author

RANDOLPH BRADHAM is a retired thoracic and cardiovascular surgeon who practiced in Charleston, South Carolina, for 40 years. Formerly a staff-sergeant squad leader in Company E, 262nd Regiment, 66th Infantry Division, he fought in Brittany against the Germans contained in St. Nazaire and Lorient.

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