The book: In February 1943, 63 merchant ships were sunk in the Battle of the Atlantic, and 19 U-boats. Britain was losing 700,000 tons more imports than were arriving, and reserves would be exhausted in April; while Germany was losing half the number of U-boats compared to new ones being built. This was the crisis of the battle of the Atlantic. At this time, convoys SC.122 (slow) and HX.229 (fast) set out from New York, with a third HX.229A split off due to the sheer number of freighters and tankers: 141 ships carrying 920,000 tons of vital cargo (fuel, meat and other food, timber, minerals, steel, gunpowder, lorries, locomotives, invasion barges, aircraft, tanks...) and 1,000 passengers. Twenty escorts crossed with them, mostly elderly Flower class corvettes, a few destroyers, frigates, trawlers and sloops. German naval intelligence was reading most Admiralty ciphers, and 45 U-boats were on their way to sink as many as possible. This book is the story of this part of the battle.
My opinion: Middlebrook dovetails UK, US and German sources with personal accounts, and does it well. He combines strategic overview with personal drama, and it all forms a fascinating and harrowing whole. He interviewed Donitz as well, plus 39 U-boat men, in additions to scores of Allied merchant sailors and Navy personnel. A fascinating portrait of the crisis of the Battle of the Atlantic, while the Air Gap was still open...
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