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Subject: Books on the Battle of the Atlantic rss

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Robb Minneman
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Anyone care to recommend any good books on the conduct of the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II? I've had an itch to scratch on this subject, recently.

I'm looking for a good strategic overview, mostly.
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Pete Belli
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I just read ENIGMA: The Battle For The Code by Hugh Sebag-Montefiore.

Fascinating naval history with plenty of excitement and lots of detailed information.

The math was a bit over my head, but I'm not all that bright. shake
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Michael Tan
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It certainly won't rival the detail of a book but the DVD Clash of Wings: Germany's Third and Last Chance provides a very nice overview. Although the series is primarily about air power, this episode devotes much time to the surface fleets and u-boats. Here is the synopsis:

Battle of the Atlantic
The Battle of the Atlantic very nearly brought Britain to her knees and proved to be one of the most crucial campaigns of the war. Deadly weapons including H2S maritime search radar were developed to combat the German U Boat menace.
Aircraft Featured: Fairy Swordfish, FW Condor, Short Sunderland, Lockheed Hudson, PBY Catalina, Liberator, HE111 and Dornier 217.
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James Nolan
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Hi.

I suggest the following;

Deadly Seas: The Duel Between The St.Croix And The U305 In The Battle Of The Atlantic by David Bercuson and Holger H. Herwig

I sought out this book because a great uncle died on the St. Croix. It is quite good and Bercuson is a Canadian military historian of some note.


James
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Bill Eldard
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Operation Drumbeat: Germany's U-Boat Attacks Along the American Coast in World War II, by Michael Gannon

Focuses on the devastating 1942 U-Boat operation against US Atlantic Coast shipping, and how the US Navy -- specifically Anglo-phobe Chief of Naval Operations ADM Ernest King -- was woefully unprepared doctrinally and force-wise perform the necessary ASW necessary, but gradually adjusted. A lot of the German perspective is based on archives and interviews with one of the U-Boat captains who survived the war.
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Doug
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I'd recommend you start with Iron Coffins by Herbert Werner. He was in U-boats for most of the war.

Also see if you can find a copy of "The Boat." It's the book that Das Boot is based on, and actually better than the movie (which I also recommend). Written by Lothar Buchheim (sp?)

There are also the following:

David Fairbank White, Bitter Ocean: The Battle of the Atlantic 1939-1945

Andrew Williams, The Battle of the Atlantic: Hitler's Gray Wolves of the Sea and the Allies Desperate Struggle to Defeat Them

I used them in a paper I wrote on the Battle of the Atlantic, they're both very interesting.

If you can, study the battle from the UK or German perspective. The UK lost 33,000 plus in the battle of the Atlantic, while the Germans lost somewhere around 80% of the crews they sent out over the course of the war. The US only lost 2,000+ in comparison.

You also might want to take a look at the background of U-boat warfare in WW I. It formed the template for the WW II battle. I'd recommend looking at Martin Gilbert's First World War and Martin Van Crevald Changing Face of War.

HTH



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Mark Luta
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Richard Hough was a preeminent British historian, and several of his books are dominated by the Battle of the Atlantic. You might start with 'The Longest Battle--The War at Sea 1939-1945' which fits the various parts of the WWII campaigns at sea together. 'The Greatest Crusade' is another good one. And his source material is excellent--he actually spoke with many of the people who wrote the other books from his and other nations! In addition to many of the British captains and admirals, one key one was the senior surviving officer from the Bismarck, whose own work (unfortunately cannot remember either his or the name of his book right now, but they are easily found, I am not at home right now) about the Bismarck is an excellent narrative of the enthusiasm surrounding the workup of one of the most powerful warships even, to an unmitigated expose of just how incompetently the battleship was handled on her (or his, by the convention stated by Captain Lindermann) one sortie.
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olivier R
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This one is not for the faint hearted, 'Hitler's U-Boat War : the hunters' and volume two 'the hunted' by Clay Blair.

You pretty much got month by month, the number of U-Boats sent to each area, North Atlantic, Carribean, African Coast etc, the name of the skippers, the number and names of every single ship they sunk, how many depth charges were launched against them, how many air attacks they encountered etc.

It is very very detailed and thorough, the equivalent of what Lundstrom wrote about Pacific air combat and operations. But it also deals about strategic matters.
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Mark Luta
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The English version of the book I mentioned about the Bismarck is conveniently enough entitled 'Battleship Bismarck--A Survivor's Story' by Baron Burkard von Mullenheim-Rechberg, translated by Jack Sweetman. I have actually recalled this book from time to time in my current job when I sometimes work with German ship's officers. Mullenheim-Reckberg related a couple of rather incomprehensible issues related to the way the Bismarck was run during the sortie, one being the fact little seems to have been done to try to solve the problem of the rudder jammed left during the last night which caused a turn back away from France...Different nationalities of ship engineers certainly have characteristics, and it seems very much in character for the Bismarck's engineers to have been calmly working through various ways the steering might be restored, rather than reacting as this was something which had to be solved immediately to save their ship, and their lives. When I first read the book years ago, I never understood that part.

'Das Boot' is also an excellent suggestion, even in the movie many of the issues with the conduct of the U-Boat war are mentioned. And it certainly adds a much better picture to a dry line in a history book 'Germany sent a half-dozen U-Boats into the Mediterranean in 1941'...Off topic, but the same film producers also made the movie 'Stalingrad' which is well worth seeing.
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Jason Russ
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m44_4dave wrote:
I'll throw another Michael Gannon book into the mix. "Black May" is a good read but is narrow in scope. Not an overview but about the sea change in 1943. Still, a good read.



Dave beat me to this recommendation. Very narrow in scope indeed - which is a good thing if you really want to know about the sub war turning in favor of the Allies.

Very detailed research in this one.


Cheers,
Jason
www.wargamedepot.com
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Bob
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One of my favorites is U-Boat War by Lothar-Gunther Bucheim (also did The Boat - 1975)
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M@tthijs
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I recommend "The cruel sea" (Nicholas Monsarrat)

It's from 1951, and it about a British crew of a small convoy escort vessel (flower class corvette). It's according to my father (who has a wall full of WW-II books) the best about the Atlantic struggle and does a fine job in telling about how the men had to fight the Nazis, but the elements as well.

Great read!
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Pete White
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Clay Blair wrote two books on the Uboat war. "The Hunters" and "The Hunted", covering the early and late periods. It's extremely good, far and away the best account of the Battle of the Atlantic I've read. It manages to make it clear not just what was happening, but why, and what the high commands were doing and trying to do.

If you have a particular interest in the Royal Canadian Navy, Milner's books "North Atlantic Run" and "The Uboat Hunters" are very good at showing how the Canadians built a huge navy from virtually nothing, but then struggled to get it modernised enough to fight effectively.

John Terraine's book "Business in Great Waters" isn't bad too as an overview.

If you want fiction, both "The Cruel Sea" and "Das Boot" are very atmospheric from the two different sides.

Finally, Middlebrook wrote an excellent book "Convoy" about HX229 and SC122, which fought a horribly confused battle in early 1943. This gives a good account of what an individual convoy battle was like.

I think I might have to get some of these down off the shelf...
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Paul Lister
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Dan Van Der Vat's Atlantic Campaign is a good read
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Timothy Young
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Another fictional recommendation - Alistair MacLean's unflinching 'HMS Ulysses' about the Arctic Convoys. An amazing read and containing various elements from his own real experiences on the convoys.

Douglas Reeman has also written a number of factually inspired novels on the Atlantic war (and other naval aspects of the Second World War) and from what I have read of his works, they are all worth picking up.
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Robb Minneman
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Jackasses? You let a whole column get stalled and strafed on account of a couple of jackasses? What the hell's the matter with you?
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Thanks for all the recommendations, everyone. That gives me a lot of interesting avenues to explore.
 
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