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How Hitler's U-Boats Brought World War II to America

by Ed Offley

Pub Date: March 25th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-465-02961-7
Publisher: Basic

An authoritative work on the awful, early effectiveness of German U-boats in disrupting shipping traffic off the east coast of the United States.

Having written previously on the Battle of the Atlantic (Turning the Tide, 2011, etc.), military reporter Offley focuses on a short, early period of World War II—in particular, one lethally effective U-boat that caused massive devastation along the rich hunting ground of the North Carolina coast. During the course of the first six months of 1942—a period the Germans blithely referred to as der Glückliche Zeit, or halcyon days—a cluster of German U-boats marauded along the U.S. Atlantic shore, strangling the shipping lifeline to Britain, sinking scores of Allied merchant vessels, totaling more than 1 million tons of cargo, especially oil, and killing thousands of seamen. As part of a major expansion of his U-boat force, Vice Admiral Karl Dönitz, using the newly refurbished bunker at Saint-Nazaire and other occupied French ports as launch pads, resolved to sever Atlantic maritime trading routes, which fed British fighting power. The Germans drew on their experience from World War I while taking advantage of American inexperience and ill-preparedness in the first days after the confusion of Pearl Harbor. Lt. Cmdr. Horst Degen’s U-701 made three patrols during this period, the last encompassing a mine-laying operation in the Chesapeake Bay and numerous sinkings of oil tankers near Cape Hatteras, before U-701 was hit fatally by Lt. Harry Kane’s aircraft depth chargers on July 7. Offley brings up the other factors that came into play for the U.S. Navy, such as the breaking of the Enigma code, interservice rivalry, taking advice from the more seasoned British, and garnering the necessary higher-level support for a convoy escort system and more effective patrol bombers. 

A knowledgeable overview and exciting re-creation of the final U-701 attack and defeat.