Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Donitz's Last Gamble

Donitz's Last Gamble

Donitz's Last Gamble 
The Inshore U-Boat Campaign 1944-45
Seaforth Publishing logo
Lawrence Paterson
Found in: Naval: Iron & Steel
All Seaforth Books
Hardback 192 pages
ISBN: 9781844157143
Published: 20 March 2008

After the June 1944 D-Day landings D'nitz withdrew his U-boat wolf-packs from the Atlantic convoy war and sent them into coastal waters, where they could harass the massive shipping movements necessary to supply the Allied armies advancing across Europe. Caught unawares by this change of strategy, the Allied anti-submarine forces were ill-prepared for the novel challenges of inshore warfare. It proved surprisingly difficult to locate U-boats that could lie silently on the seabed, and the shallow waters meant less than ideal conditions for sonar propagation. Furthermore, because the battle was nearer home, the U-boats wasted less time on transit, so at any one time there were more of them in combat. In the final months of the war there was also the threat of far more advanced and potent submarine types entering German service, but thanks largely to overwhelming numbers of escorts this last gamble by D'nitz was defeated. In fact, the Allied navies had never really established superiority, and this was to have enormous significance later during the Cold War, when the same tactics were planned by the Soviets. Since it had such a major impact on post-war naval thinking, it is a story of the utmost importance told by an accomplished U-boat author.

Most histories of the Battle of the Atlantic pretty much end after Operation Overlord in June of 1944 when the U-Boats were assigned missions to UK and Canadian inshore waters.. Author Lawrence Paterson brings to life in this story of the campaign in UK waters.

This thoroughly researched book is largely written from the German perspective with tremendous insights on bases, personnel and equipment. The German hope was the UK campaign would buy them time until the revolutionary Type XXI and XXIII boats could come into service. Fortunately for the Allies, the RAF/USAAF bombing campaign interrupted the program sufficiently so that the new boats couldn't take part in the battle in a meaningful manner. Postwar trials on captured boats indicated just how advanced they were and the devastation they could have had on the war effort.

Two small quibbles about the book - the photo of page 42 is taken on a Canadian Tribal Class destroyer sometime after 1950 or so and the meager mention in the text about the rapid introduction of wreck charts for UK waters rapidly drafted as part of the UK inshore campaign.

The book is an excellent addition to the historical narrative of this often ignored period of history. We look forward to reviewing Mr Paterson's other book "Black Flag."