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The Battle of the Atlantic: Hitler's Gray Wolves of the Sea and the Allies' Desperate Struggle to Defeat Them (American History Series)

Overview

From 1939 Until 1942, Hitler's U-boats -- the submarine fleet dubbed the "gray wolves" -- threatened to accomplish what his air force had been unable to achieve: to starve Britain into submission. The ensuing struggle for control of the Atlantic trade routes was to become the longest, and one of the most bitterly fought, campaigns of World War II. Battles might be won or lost, Winston Churchill later wrote, but the island nation's power to continue the fight depended, above all, on the outcome of this ...
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Overview

From 1939 Until 1942, Hitler's U-boats -- the submarine fleet dubbed the "gray wolves" -- threatened to accomplish what his air force had been unable to achieve: to starve Britain into submission. The ensuing struggle for control of the Atlantic trade routes was to become the longest, and one of the most bitterly fought, campaigns of World War II. Battles might be won or lost, Winston Churchill later wrote, but the island nation's power to continue the fight depended, above all, on the outcome of this war-within-a-war. The U-boat attack was, Churchill recalled, "the only thing that ever really frightened me during the war." The submarine battle was of such strategic importance that it devoured manpower and led to astounding losses: Over the course of this sprawling conflict, Allied powers would lose more than fifty thousand seamen and fifteen million tons of shipping.

In this rousing historical narrative, Andrew Williams vividly recounts these crucial years of battle against the dreaded German "wolf packs." Through exclusive interviews with survivors on both sides, including those given for the first time by former U-boat crew members, he creates a compelling picture of the claustrophobic and dangerous life on board. With breathtaking immediacy, The Battle of the Atlantic also enters the war rooms where leaders such as U-boat Fuhrer Karl Donitz and Royal Navy Admiral Sir Max Horton angled for any advantage in a race that spelled doom to its loser, and follows the trials of the code-breakers, the unheralded few whose critical contributions ultimately changed the course of the battle -- and the war. Highlighted by hitherto untold tales of personal valor, endurance, and loss, it is an important and lasting contribution to our understanding of one of the greatest battles of the twentieth century.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The Battle of the Atlantic (1939-1945) was one of the most crucial of World War II; tens of thousands of sailors were killed on each side, and German U-boats almost succeeded in choking off the supply lines on which Britain's survival depended. This hard-fought conflict gets an engrossing retelling in this companion to the History Channel series. Williams, producer of War Crime: Five Days in Hell for the BBC, covers every aspect of the cat-and-mouse game in which U-boats stalked merchant convoys across the ocean and were in turn hunted by Allied planes and destroyers. It's a harrowing tale, full of torpedo attacks, depth-chargings and drownings in the icy North Atlantic, and Williams draws on many first-hand accounts, both German and Allied, to bring it to life. He also pulls back to examine the strategic dimensions of the battle, exploring the development of German wolf-pack tactics, the initially bumbling Allied efforts to organize convoys and escorts, and the increasingly sophisticated anti-submarine warfare techniques that eventually drove the wolf packs from the North Atlantic. Williams is especially good at explaining the vital development of sonar, radar, detection and decryption technologies that enabled Allied escorts to locate, evade and destroy the stealthy U-boats with ever greater success. The conflict was both a nerve-wracking battle of wits and an epic of self-sacrifice, and Williams's thorough research and skillful storytelling does it full justice. B&w photos. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Williams, a writer and producer for the BBC, presents an interesting history to accompany a television series on the Battle of the Atlantic, the longest campaign of World War II. This underappreciated effort began with the sinking of the ocean liner Athenia by the German submarine U-30 just hours after the British declaration of war on September 3, 1939, and continued until V-E Day in 1945. The Battle of the Atlantic was a crucial factor ensuring Germany's defeat by forcing Hitler to fight a two-front war; the purpose was to keep the sea lanes between Britain and America open and to defeat the German submarines that preyed on Allied shipping. If the Germans had succeeded in shutting down the sea lanes, Britain would have been forced out of the war, America would not have been able to mount an invasion of Western Europe, there would have been no Allied bombing campaign directed at German resources, and Hitler would have been free to direct all of Germany's military assets against the Russians. Williams bases his study on interviews conducted with more than 40 participants from both sides. He concentrates on the period from September 1939 to May 1943 when it became apparent that the U-boat force had lost the battle-although they would fight for another two years in a futile attempt to regain the initiative. A vivid account of an important campaign that will interest both the casual reader and the armchair historian, this is recommended for public and academic libraries.-Robert J. Andrews, Duluth P.L., MN Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786256877
  • Publisher: Gale Group
  • Publication date: 8/28/2003
  • Edition description: Large Print Edition
  • Pages: 587
  • Product dimensions: 5.44 (w) x 8.88 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword 6
Author's Note 10
1 The Freikorps Donitz 13
2 Pingers 41
3 Happy Times 63
4 Wolf Pack 84
5 Mortal Danger 105
6 The End of the Wolves 116
7 Special Intelligence 137
8 Beating the Drum 161
9 The Sardine Tin 189
10 Survivors 211
11 Collapse 233
12 Sacrifice 267
Notes on Contributors 289
References 294
Index 300
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