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4.0 out of 5 stars A good read, although rather one sided and somehow superficial, 16 July 2012
By 
Darth Maciek "Darth Maciek" (Darth Maciek is out there...) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Atlantic Battle Won, May 1943May 1945: History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Volume 10 (History of the United States Naval Operations in World War II) (Paperback)
This is a very honest account of last three years of Battle of Atlantic - but because it was kept short, it is also by necessity somehow superficial. As it is a story of US naval operations, British and Canadian participation is described very superficially - it also clearly lacks some more insight into the German and Italian point of view.

The book has however many strong points in its favor. It describes in detail and clearly all the tools the Allies used to win this mighty struggle. I was already quite familiar with most of them: the ASDIC, the convoy system, the corvettes, the escort-carriers and their killer groups, the "hedgehog", the "squid", the centimetric radar, the Liberty ships, etc. But I was myself surprised by the role played by the High Frequency Direction Finder (HF/DF), the FIDO anti-submarine torpedo and rocket armed planes. German inventions - METOX, accoustic torpedoes (GNATs), milk-cow U-Boats, flak U-Boats, midget submarines and of course the snorkel - are also described very well.

Some moments of this great confrontation are described in more detail and they are a very pleasant read:

- the battle of the ONS-5 convoy, between 29 April and 6 May 1943; this large convoy of 46 transports and tankers, escorted by 19 different warships (7 destroyers, 4 frigates, 4 corvettes, 2 sloops and 2 armed trawlers), was attacked by a grand total of 51 (fifty one) U-Boats! This was the largest number of U-Boats launched against one convoy during the whole Battle of Atlantic and also the greatest number of submarines ever used in one battle. In this fierce fight 13 merchantmen were lost (9 British, 3 American and 1 Norwegian), but Kriegsmarine payed a heavy price, losing 6 submarines.

- the Bay of Biscay offensive (March-December 1943), in which allied aviation hunted mercilessly the U-Boats leaving or coming back to their lairs in occupied France - and also kept a careful watch for Axis blockade runners. This operation inflicted heavy losses to Germans, causing the destruction of 32 U-Boats, as well as one German blocade-runner and three small destroyers. The price paid by the allies was hefty - in average ten planes were lost in Bay of Biscay every month, although mostly because of mechanical problems, with only a minority being shot down by the U-Boats and long-range JU-88 fighter-bombers.

- the "Snorkel Blitz" in European waters (December 1944-April 1945) - this unexpected revival of U-Boat menace caused a considerable shock to allied high command, especially in the first two months - this is also an episode in Battle of Atlantic which is rather little known and therefore very interesting.

- Operation "Teardrop" (April-May 1945) - this exceptional fight was the result of a last effort made by Doenitz and a succesful bluff and intoxication by III Reich secret services; allied high command was convinced by intelligence planted by Axis agents that a pack of six U-Boats, named "Seewolf", would hit the East Coast of United States with some new, unconventionnal weapons. To intercept those submarines US Navy deployed an exceptionnally strong naval force in two interception lines in the middle of Atlantic. Trying to find just six elusive, snorkel-equipped submarines in the ocean was a mighty challenge indeed - but surprisingly US Navy managed to destroy five of them well before they even reached US territorial waters, and paid for it just with the loss of one destroyer-escort, USS "Frederick S. Davis", which on 24 April 1945 was hit by a GNAT launched by "U-546" and went down with 115 hands, as the last US warship lost in Atlantic theatre in WWII (U-546 was sunk later the same day).

Admiral Morison's writing is as always excellent, passionate and a pleasure to read, especially when he describes with real comitment some of the most dramatic individual fights. I think that the best moment in the book is the epic fight on 22 April 1944 between USS "Buckley" and U-66, concluded by the hand-to-hand combat, which included probably the only naval casualty in WWII caused by the throwing of a Bowie knife... The capture of U-505 by USS "Guadalcanal" killer group on 4 June 1944 is of course also described in detail, as is the sinking on 24 December 1944 at Cherbourg of Belgian troop transport "Leopoldville" filled with GIs, and also many, many other dramatic fights.

Being Polish I very much appreciated that the efforts of smaller allied navy forces (Free French, Dutch, Norwegian and Polish) were mentioned. The tragic loss of our destroyer ORP "Orkan", sunk by "U-378" with a GNAT torpedo on 8 October 1943 and the success of our another destroyer, ORP "Garland", which on 19 September 1944 sunk "U-407" in Mediterranean were not forgotten.

The one thing I liked maybe a little bit less was a kind of violent animosity author feels against Doenitz, when in the same time greatly complementing Raeder... Also, it must be said, that this book is quite old and author got some details clearly wrong - with a better knowledge of German and Italian sources the history of Battle of Atlantic is currently better known than in the 50s. A much larger and more complete study exists: "Hitler's U-Boat war" by Clive Blair (but at 2000 pages in two volumes this thing is a monster!).

Still, this is a very honest, very clearly and very well written account of US Navy operations against U-Boats, Italian submarines and Axis blocade-runners in the Atlantic (and also Indian Ocean). Even after almost 60 years, this is probably the best thing available on the market as an introduction to more thorough studies on the topic. Enjoy!
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