Military history


The formal entry of the United States into World War II marked the end of the twenty-eight months of U-boat warfare almost solely against the British Empire. It provides a convenient milestone to assess the outcome of the Anglo-German naval campaign. In order to draw some conclusions, it is necessary to examine closely another barrage of numbers.

In these first twenty-eight months of war, the Germans deployed 153 oceangoing attack U-boats to the various war zones.* According to the most reliable source, British author V. E. Tarrant, these boats sank 1,124 British and “neutral” ships of about 5.3 million gross tons. The sinkings included twenty-eight warships: aircraft carriers Courageous and Ark Royal; battleships Royal Oak and Barham; the first “jeep” carrier, Audacity; light cruisers Dunedin and Galatea; nine destroyers (among them the American Reuben James and the ex-American four-stacks Bath, Broadwater, and Stanley); three sloops; six corvettes; and three submarines (British Thistle and Spearfish; French Doris).

The loss of 5.3 million gross tons of British and “neutral” merchant shipping to Axis submarines was undeniably a tough blow. Not the least of the considerations was the heavy loss of life in the ranks of the British merchant-ship crews. The Admiralty put that figure to December 31, 1941, at 9,267 men. Most died quickly and horribly in the explosions and sinkings, or slowly and agonizingly in lifeboats and on rafts. Although statistically the odds of a ship being hit or sunk were quite low, every voyage was a prolonged and terrifying nightmare for the crewmen.

It is seldom mentioned in accounts of the Battle of the Atlantic of the period under review but, remarkably, the British were able to make up this loss of 5.3 million gross tons of merchant shipping to Axis submarines in several ways. These included the construction of about 2 million gross tons of new (and superior) merchant shipping in British yards and the one-time confiscation, purchase, or lease of about 4 million more gross tons from Axis and Allied “neutral” sources. In fact, the total British-controlled merchant marine fleet actually increased during this period from about 3,000 ships of 17.8 million gross tons to about 3,600 ships of 20.7 million gross tons.§

Some writers have described an “oil crisis” in the British Isles caused by the heavy loss of Allied tankers to U-boats in this period. Actually, Allied tanker losses to Axis submarines were not crippling: 117 vessels of about 936,777 gross tons, of which seventy-six of 628,110 gross tons were British-owned.* under review, British shipyards made up about half of the loss of British-owned tanker tonnage by completing thirty-seven new and larger tankers of about 365,000 gross tons. Besides that, in this period the British government acquired control of about 200 tankers from Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, and other nations. Over and above that, in 1941 the United States diverted fifty tankers to the British “oil shuttle” in American waters and authorized U.S. (and Panamanian) companies to charter tankers to the British in war zones. As a result of these gains, the size of the British-controlled tanker fleet actually increased substantially by the end of 1941. Owing to that and to petrol rationing and other fuel-conservation measures, the official British historian wrote, no real oil crisis occurred in the British Isles in this period.

However, total imports to the British Isles continued to fall sharply, from about 60 million tons in 1939 to about 45 million tons in 1940 to an uncomfortable and worrisome rock-bottom 31 million tons in 1941. By the end of that year, almost all consumer goods and food in the British Isles were rationed and “Victory Gardens,” begun as patriotic gestures, had become virtual necessities.

In addition to U-boat sinkings of and damage to merchant ships, there were numerous other causes for the drastic loss of imports. Chief among these were the diversion of shipping for strictly military purposes and delays incurred by convoying. Other reasons: Luftwaffe bomb and mine damage to shipping and seaports; the loss of convoy routes in the Mediterranean Sea; inefficiencies in the British unloading and distribution systems; overcrowding in ship refit, overhaul, and damage repair facilities; labor problems;* and increased shipping accidents and collisions due to convoying and to the shutting down of navigational aids, and to other wartime restrictions.

In return for the destruction of and damage to this Allied shipping, the Atlantic U-boat force did not escape unharmed. To December 31, 1941, forty-nine oceangoing U-boats manned by about 2,150 men were lost in Atlantic combat operations to all causes. The British rescued and imprisoned 39 percent (828) of these men; the others died terrible deaths at sea. Five other oceangoing U-boats manned by about 220 men newly arrived in the Mediterranean were lost in those waters during November and December 1941. The British rescued and imprisoned 54 percent (119) of these men. The total of fifty-four oceangoing U-boats lost in action to the end of 1941 amounted to about 35 percent of the 153 oceangoing attack boats deployed in all war zones outside the Baltic. The total of 2,400 men lost (947 captured) was the cream of the prewar submarine force.

• • •

To this point it would be difficult to declare a “victor” in the so-called Battle of the Atlantic. Inasmuch as the British had persuaded the Americans to provide significant help (sixty warships; North Atlantic convoy escort; occupation of Iceland; amendments liberalizing the Neutrality Act; the “oil shuttle”; and most significantly, Lend-Lease), they had assured themselves of victory over the U-boat in the long term. However, in the short term, many more difficult months lay ahead. The British had not defeated the U-boat force; rather, they had taken the necessary steps to prevent it from defeating them.

In truth, neither Germany nor Great Britain had been properly prepared for a submarine war in the Atlantic, and it showed. When that war came, neither side responded with war-decisive measures. Both sides made errors of commission and omission. A review of these helps to set the stage for the second phase of the U-boat war.

First, the British side.

• The appeasing antiwar attitude held during the prewar years by a majority of British citizens and the various governments opened the way for Hitler to abrogate the Versailles Treaty and enter into a bilateral naval agreement with the British, which allowed him to create a second U-boat force. In light of the naval experience of World War I, this has to be ranked as an egregious and unfortunate mistake, but given the dark economic situation of the 1930s and the mood of the British-democracy, perhaps unavoidable and inevitable.

• Although it then became possible that the British would have to fight a U-boat force again, the London government did not take sufficiently vigorous steps in the late 1930s to prepare for that contingency. Made smug by the success of convoying in World War I and overconfident of modern sonar to detect submerged U-boats unfailingly, the Admiralty neglected men and weaponry for possible antisubmarine warfare in the wider reaches of the Atlantic.

One result was that when war came the British did not have nearly enough surface and air escorts to support convoying, or adequate ASW weaponry. When the 1,000-ton Hunt-class destroyers intended for Atlantic ocean escort failed to meet satisfactory standards, the British had to rely heavily on the slow corvettes, which had been earmarked for inshore escort and were not adequately armed or suited for the rough waters of the open ocean. Historically, the scandalously neglected stepchild of the RAF, Coastal Command, remained outside Admiralty control for too long and did not get the men, aircraft, electronics, and weaponry required for proper escorting of convoys and killing U-boats.

Beyond that neglect, the Admiralty squandered some of its most valuable ASW assets in ill-conceived ventures, such as hunter-killer operations in 1939 and the attempted occupations of Norway in the spring of 1940 and of Greece in 1941. Hunter-killer operations cost the Royal Navy the carrier Courageous. The attempted occupations of Norway and Greece cost it numerous destroyers sunk or damaged, besides those lost at Dunkirk.* Elsewhere all too many destroyers were worn down in futile hunter-killer patrolling.

• The British had no way of foreseeing the sudden, craven collapse of France. However, when it became unequivocally clear in the summer of 1940 that the Germans were shifting the entire oceangoing U-boat operational force to bases on the Atlantic coast of occupied France, the British failed to take steps to interfere. Had the War Cabinet directed RAF Bomber Command to focus its airpower on those bases rather than on German cities, doubtless the British would have prevented the construction of the massive, bombproof U-boat pens. The failure to do so or to mount vigorous ASW air patrols over the Bay of Biscay, a “choke point” that all inbound and outbound U-boats in France had to transit, were British errors of omission in 1941 of regrettable proportions.

• The secret British break into naval Enigma in 1941 was a triumph of intelligence, literally and figuratively. However, it was a two-edged sword. While it enabled the British to evade U-boats and save ships, at the same time it had the effect of reducing the U-boat kill rate.

To the end of 1941, most U-boats were sunk or disabled while tracking or attacking convoys. The successful “evasion” strategy therefore sharply reduced contacts between U-boats and convoys with a commensurate reduction in opportunities to kill U-boats. In all of 1941, British-controlled ASW forces sank only thirty oceangoing U-boats, an average of 2.5 per month. British intelligence put new U-boat construction at an average of twenty boats per month. It was not that high in 1941, but even so, it was at least six times or more than the kill rate. Thus it was clear—at least to the Americans—that the British could not rely so completely on convoy “evasion” much longer. In addition to strengthening defensive convoy escort, they needed to hurl offensive air and submarine forces at U-boat construction yards, training areas, bases and pens, the Bay of Biscay, and elsewhere to kill U-boats at a much higher rate.

Some historians have argued that the British failure to honor the December 1940 Anglo-American Enigma deal in spirit and give the Americans complete access to Enigma-breaking secrets in 1941 was another regrettable British mistake. The British were hard-pressed to find technicians and facilities to build three-rotor bombes, let alone the anticipated new generation of four-rotor bombes. The Americans had technicians and facilities to do both. Had the British revealed Enigmabreaking machine technology to the Americans more willingly and sooner, it is likely that specialized American production know-how could have minimized the possibilities of “losing” naval Enigma for an extended time, as was soon to be the case. That same advanced codebreaking technology could also have better detected the German breaks into Anglo-American naval codes, which also occurred.

• Although it soon became clear that the land-based aircraft of Coastal Command served well in an ASW role, even if only to hold U-boats down while the convoys fled the area or surface vessels arrived, the British War Cabinet in 1941 continued to rank the ASW role of Coastal Command far below the role of Bomber Command in razing German cities. Coastal Command therefore lacked adequate numbers of suitable ASW aircraft, centimetric-wavelength ASV radar, and electronic navigation and position-finding systems. The development of stable aerial bombs and depth charges with more powerful Torpex warheads and fuses capable of actuating at shallow (25-foot) depths likewise lagged, as did the powerful Leigh Light, which was imperative for nighttime ASW operations.

• British management of the naval assets of Canada, a chief ally in the U-boat war, left much to be desired. Where this clumsy growing child with huge new responsibilities required sensitive nourishment, it got too much abuse and contempt. Had the Royal Navy provided the Canadian Navy more vigorous and sympathetic training in convoying and ASW and with improved ships, electronics, and weaponry, sooner rather than later the Canadians in time doubtless could have done as well in the escort role as the British, or perhaps even better. Although it was not so great a factor in this period, American management of Canadian naval assets was no better.

Second, the German side.

• Hitler erred in his assumption that he could occupy Poland with small or no military intervention by Great Britain and France. He likewise underestimated the willingness of the British to fight for home and hearth, epitomized in the person of Winston Churchill. The Führer’s decision to postpone the defeat of Great Britain in favor of the conquest of the Soviet Union was another fatal miscalculation. That huge enterprise diverted men and materials from the construction of U-boats, the one weapons system that had any chance of isolating and defeating Great Britain. The failure to rush production of U-boats to the maximum after Hitler abrogated the Anglo-German naval treaty early in 1939 ceded to Great Britain valuable time in which to ward off a truly decisive U-boat blow and to coax help from the American “Arsenal of Democracy.”

• Hitler erred not only in failing to provide a vigorous increase in U-boat production but also in his insistence on diverting large numbers of U-boats to Norway, the Arctic, and the Mediterranean. At the close of 1941, about one-third (thirty) of the entire combat-ready oceangoing U-boat force was posted in those areas, leaving only sixty-four boats of that type in the Atlantic force, not nearly enough U-boats to wage anything like decisive naval warfare. To no avail, Dönitz rightly argued that the U-boat arm should be maximally deployed against the vital North Atlantic convoy run between Canada and the British Isles, not split up and sent to less important areas or assigned to support land operations or to escort surface ships or to report weather.

• Hitler and Mussolini erred in the strategic and tactical deployment of the thirty-one oceangoing Italian submarines that had been based at Bordeaux by mid-1941.* As Dönitz suspected, neither the boats nor the crews were qualified for combat in the rough and dangerous waters of the North Atlantic. Doubtless far better successes would have been achieved had the Italian boats been assigned earlier rather than much later to patrol southward to the Azores, Canaries, and Cape Verde islands, and to West African waters. Had they been so deployed, these submarines also would have forced the British to provide substantial ASW forces in the southern area much sooner, further reducing these scarce resources in the North Atlantic area.

• To avoid another Lusitania incident or a similar outrage while he sought to negotiate Great Britain and France out of the war, Hitler initiated U-boat warfare with a set of rules and restrictions so complicated that U-boat skippers had to be issued a special handheld “wheel” device to sort out what could or could not be sunk. These rules substantially reduced the effectiveness of the U-boats, increased the risks that had to be run, and led in part to the high U-boat losses in the first year of the war.

The accidental sinking of Athenia by Lemp in U-30 on the first day of hostilities, rightfully denounced in London as an outrage, made a mockery of Berlin’s claims to be fighting a carefully “restricted” U-boat campaign. In the face of the universal perception that Germany had launched barbarous “unrestricted” U-boat warfare, the continuation of these complicated rules and restrictions was, to say the least, an ill-advised course for Hitler to follow, and it gained him absolutely nothing, politically or otherwise.

• Dönitz erred in his insistence that the Kriegsmarine stake almost all on the overtouted medium Type VIIC U-boat. Conceived to attack convoys in the Northwest, Western, and Southwestern Approaches in groups or “wolf packs” on relatively brief missions, the VIIC was not suitable for longer-range operations and for hard, fuel-guzzling convoy chases in the central and western North Atlantic without means at hand to provide spare parts and to refuel and replenish torpedo, food, and water supplies. Besides that, the VIIs were much too crowded and cramped for sustained operations and lacked air conditioning for summer months and proper heating for winter months.

In view of the propensity of the high-performance diesel engines to break down under continuous strain, the VIIs would have benefited greatly by the inclusion of a third diesel engine. So fitted, when one engine broke down a Type VIIC could still keep two engines on line and maintain chase speed. The addition of a third diesel engine would have necessitated an increase in the length of the VIIC, and that in turn would have made possible an increase in its external fuel capacity and its top speed by perhaps one or two knots. The added living space inside the pressure hull certainly would have improved habitability.

• Dönitz also erred by greatly overestimating the ability of single U-boats or groups of U-boats to find, shadow, and attack convoys. As the U-boats on the North Atlantic run were forced ever westward to avoid British air and surface escorts and U-boat hunters, the ocean areas to be searched for convoys by eye and passive sonar increased almost exponentially. To overcome this handicap, Dönitz requested—then demanded—large numbers of long-range Luftwaffe reconnaissance aircraft specifically to locate convoys. Hitler and Göring assured Dönitz that his requests and demands were to be met, but in fact they were unable to provide anywhere near adequate and competent air reconnaissance at sea. The Condors, which were based in France and Norway in 1941, were too little and too late. Crews were insufficiently trained in navigation and communications.

In the absence of good intelligence on convoy locations, Dönitz was compelled to resort to convoy-hunting “patrol lines,” the spacing of the U-boats of a group (or “wolf pack”) on a straight line at precise positions about fifteen miles apart. The organization and deployment of the U-boats in these search lines and shifting of the lines resulted in heavy radio traffic back and forth, thereby providing the British with a continuous flow of standardized and predictable messages—the necessary grist for the codebreakers’ mills. Moreover, the patrol lines were of such great length (165 miles per twelve boats) that it was difficult for the boats most distant from the convoy contact to close in time to attack, especially in daytime when enemy air was present. Hence, in most instances, “convoy battles” consisted of first-night strikes carried out by a few of the boats in the patrol line. The usual depiction of a voracious “pack of wolves” circling and hungrily gnawing at a convoy over a number of days was the product of darkly imaginative propagandists on both sides.



This propaganda has left the impression that the U-boats savaged one merchant-ship convoy after another. This is not true. In the first twenty-eight months of the war, the British sailed about 900 Atlantic convoys. U-boats achieved major victories (six or more confirmed ships sunk) over only nineteen of these convoys.*  Ninety-eight percent of all the ships in these convoys reached the British Isles.

• The German technical branches failed scandalously to provide U-boats with efficient, safe, and reliable electronics and torpedoes, essential for the success of World War II submarine warfare. Kriegsmarine scientists and engineers egregiously neglected radar technology, especially in failing to vigorously pursue miniaturized centimetric-wavelength radar for U-boats. The early development of this important detection device by the Germans would have greatly enhanced the ability of U-boats to find and attack convoys at night and in times of poor or no visibility, to defend themselves from sudden surprise attacks by radar-fitted enemy surface and air forces, and to navigate precisely near coastlines. The pursuit of this electronic technology doubtless would have resulted also in a greater appreciation at much earlier dates for and knowledge about radar detectors of various wavelengths to counter search radar employed by the Allies. The failure of Kriegsmarine engineers to test the air and electric torpedoes and pistols more thoroughly in prewar years needs no further comment, except to say that at the end of 1941 the torpedoes still had serious defects.

• The Germans not only underestimated the ability of the British to develop powerful miniaturized radar, but also their ability to DF U-boat radio transmissions with a high degree of accuracy. At the end of 1941, the greatly improved British land-based HF/DF (Huff Duff) networks provided fairly reliable information on U-boat positions, and a miniaturized HF/DF for surface ships was ready. The Germans had scant to no HF/DF technology and scoffed at the possibility that the British systems were effective.

• The Germans consistently underestimated not only the willingness of President Roosevelt and the American government to support the British in various ways, but also America’s ability to produce mind-boggling quantities of ships of all kinds. Dönitz arrogantly dismissed the colossal American shipbuilding projections as so much “propaganda” and, at the same time, almost uncritically accepted U-boat-sinking claims, which in some cases were inflated, intentionally or otherwise, by as much as 100 percent. These judgments greatly distorted the actual progress of the naval race, exaggerating the successes of U-boats and minimizing the ability of Great Britain and America to produce shipping. Thus the Germans always thought they were doing infinitely better than was truly the case.

What emerges from this analysis is that, contrary to the general perception at the close of 1941, German U-boats were nowhere close to isolating and strangling Great Britain. Although occasionally successful, group or “wolf pack” tactics were on the whole a failure, and the Type VII as well as the Type IX U-boats were unsuitable for this kind of warfare in the Atlantic. For all the reasons laid out above, the rate of U-boat nonperformance (no sinkings per patrol) had reached ominously high levels in all areas, so much so that it is clear that U-boats had lost any prospect of crushing Great Britain, let alone defeating the formidable new enemy, the United States.

Nonetheless, the myth of U-boat prowess and invincibility had taken firm root in the public mind for the second time in this century. Rightly, Churchill had proclaimed a Battle of the Atlantic to sharply focus the attention of British ASW authorities on the U-boat problem. This battle cry achieved its purpose more rapidly than is generally credited. Therefore, one is still left to puzzle over Churchill’s lugubrious postwar assertion that the only thing that really worried him during the war was the U-boat peril.

* Five surviving prewar vessels plus Assiniboine and seven ex-American four-stacks. One of the prewar vessels, Saguenay, had only just returned from prolonged battle-damage repairs in a British shipyard.

* The vessels met on September 3. The U-106 escorted to September 8, when Focke-Wulf Condors took over off Cape Finisterre. The blockade runner reached Bordeaux safely.

 Dönitz approved of the rescue. An account of it was prepared for his defense at Nuremberg, but it was not submitted.

* The fourth rotor, known as the Beta Wheel, was mounted on the rotor axle and was a fixed addition inside the machine, somewhat like the reflector, although the Beta Wheel could be set in a “neutral,” or nonoperating, position. The other three rotors remained interchangeable, with a total of eight rotors to choose from.

 The safer area was referred to as the “Air Gap” or “Greenland Air Gap” or “Black Hole,” or by other slangy nomenclature.

* As the designation makes clear, a “Support Group” was different from an “Escort Group.” Usually it was a reinforcing element for a threatened convoy. “Hunter-Killer Groups” often served in the role of “Support Groups.”

* The Admiralty routed the eastbound Slow Convoy 43, Halifax 148, the American Task Force 15 en route to Iceland with Army troops, and other convoys to the south of Markgraf.

* American destroyers were named for people, cruisers for cities. The destroyer Dallas was named for a nineteenth-century naval hero. To avoid confusion, no cruiser named for the city of Dallas, Texas, was commissioned during the war.

* Stark and King ruled that older destroyermen were to be transferred to other duty. The objective was to reduce the average age of squadron commanders to forty-five, division commanders to forty-three, and ship captains to forty-one, or less. Thebaud, age fifty-one, was soon relieved by John B. Heffernan, age forty-seven.

* For saving the ship, Danis, Esslinger, and Chief Motor Machinist Mate Aucie McDaniel were awarded the Navy Cross, the highest naval award, second only to the national Medal of Honor.

* In addition to Broadwater, Mengersen had sunk one ship on the duck U-18 and nine ships on U-101, for a total of ten confirmed ships for about 54,000 tons.

* An account of Hardegen’s rescue of Shaw as an example of German humanity was prepared for Dönitz’s defense at Nuremberg but not submitted.

* Cope; his executive officer, Ashton B. Smith; and two other men were awarded the Navy Cross for saving the ship. Admiral King complained that such high awards for merely saving one’s ship—without harm to the enemy—were inappropriate, and they were accordingly curtailed.

* Reflecting the lingering isolationist sentiment, the Senate vote on November 7 was 50 to 37; the House vote on November 13 was 259 to 138. President Roosevelt signed the bill on November 17. The amendments permitted United States merchant ships to arm and to call at ports of “belligerents,” meaning in this instance ports in the British Isles and the Dominions. U.S. Navy gun crews, to be known as the “Armed Guard,” were to man the guns on merchant ships.

* In a propaganda broadcast, Berlin credited Mützelburg with sinking 50,000 tons. His confirmed score was eight ships for 26,086 tons.

* Her departure left only one boat of those that in 1939 had launched the war in the Atlantic: Wolfgang Lüth’s Type IX, U-43.

 The new battleship, King George V, and the new fleet carrier, Victorious. The Admiralty had sent the other new battleship, Prince of Wales, and the battle cruiser Repulse to Singapore. The new carrier, Indomitable, was to reinforce the Far East Fleet, but during workup in the Caribbean, she ran aground off Jamaica and went into Norfolk for lengthy repairs, joining new British carriers Illustrious and Formidable, which were also in Norfolk for repairs, and she never got to Singapore. grounds that her possible loss would be an unacceptable blow to German prestige and that she was needed for the defense of Norway.

* Mayrant, McDougal, Moffett, Rhind, Rowan, Trippe, Wainwright, Winslow, all of which were to be away until after the New Year. Counting the damaged Kearny and Du Pont and the lost Reuben James, Admiral Bristol’s support force was reduced by eleven American destroyers in November.

* A onetime merchant marine officer, Kleinschmidt had crossed the Equator before and was thus a “shellback.” He arranged an appropriately brutal initiation ceremony—presided over by King Neptune in costume—for the “polliwogs” crossing the line for the first time.

 Kleinschmidt wrote that he supplied the survivors of both ships with chocolate, cigarettes, matches, and brandy.

* Her upper hull area was coated with rubber strips (known as “Alberich“) to deflect sonar. The experiment was a failure.

* Snowflake was a double-edged sword. On the one hand it lit the area “like day,” robbing the U-boats of concealment. On the other hand it provided enough light to enable the U-boats to clearly see the targets and to make follow-up submerged night attacks by periscope.

* Apparently the work of the Italian boat Malaspina, commanded by Giuliano Prini, but the boat was lost without trace at this time. The reported sinkings could not be confirmed in British records.

* The official British historian wrote that the Admiralty “sometimes received the decrypt of the German report of an arrival at Gibraltar before it received the British notification signal.”

* Buchheim’s depiction of Lehmann-Willenbrock sinking a tanker at this time was fiction, based on an attack that U-96 had conducted earlier in the year.

* After passing through the Gibraltar Strait, the Mediterranean boats employed a different Enigma net, Süd (called Porpoise by the British), which Bletchley Park was unable to break. Hence the Admiralty’s U-boat Tracking Room “lost” these boats and countermeasures were difficult to mount.

* He had a new first watch officer replacing Herbert Werner, the author of Iron Coffins, who had qualified for his own command.

* See Krug (1996), “Filming Das Boot.”

* After U-64 at Narvik, in April 1940, the second U-boat kill by a navy Swordfish, unassisted by surface ships.

 Launched by the Italian submarine Scire on the night of December 18-19, the frogmen entered the harbor, riding three slow-running “human torpedoes,” or “pigs,” with detachable delayed-action, 485-pound warheads. The delayed explosives shattered the 32,000-ton Queen Elizabeth and sister ship Valiant, the 7,500-ton tanker Sagona, and the destroyer Jervis. Both battleships sank in the shallow water and were out of action for many months. The six Italian frogmen who carried out this amazing deed survived but were captured. damage to the cruiser Aurora by Axis mines, and the transfer of German airpower (Luftflotte 2) from the Russian front to the Mediterranean, temporarily broke the Royal Navy’s command of the Mediterranean Sea. It was unable to provide the British Eighth Army flank support, and partly as a result, the British offensive, Crusader, bogged down after the capture of Benghazi in Libya. The Axis forces dug in at El Agheila and another stalemate in the North African desert war ensued.

* After Robin Moor, Lehigh was the second American ship to be sunk by U-boats before America entered the war.

* Atlantis, the most successful of the raiders, had been at sea for 622 days, had steamed 102,000 miles, and had sunk or captured twenty-two ships for 145,698 tons.

* Merten in U-68 transferred seventy men to Tazzoli; Mohr in U-124 gave Calvi seventy men; Clausen in U-129 gave Finzi seventy men; and Eckermann in the bigger U-A gave Torelli fifty men.

* Boot Greift Wieder An: Ritterkreuztrager Erzählen (Boat Strikes Again: Tales of the Knight’s Cross). This and other war patrols of Lüth have been described by an American biographer, Jordan Vause, in his U-boat Ace (Annapolis, 1990). For details of the loss of Astral, which remained unexplained for twenty years, Vause relied on two separate articles by Edward F. Oliver and Arthur Gordon in U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, March 1961 and October 1965, respectively.

* The other eight Ritterkreuz holders then commanding Atlantic boats were Lüth in U-43, Lehmann-Willenbrock in U-96, Schewe in U-105, Bleichrodt in U-109, Schnee in U-201, Mützelburg in U-203, Topp in U-552, and Suhren in U-564. With twenty-one confirmed ships to his credit, Lüth ranked second after Endrass.

* At the time of the award, Bigalk had sunk two confirmed ships for 15,370 tons, including Audacity. Klaus Scholtz in U-108, who had skillfully shadowed the convoy for seven full days and sunk one ship from it, received a Ritterkreuz at the same time. His confirmed score was thirteen ships for 61,760 tons.

 Endrass had sunk a total of 25 confirmed ships for 137,990 tons while commanding U-46 and U-567. He ranked eighteenth in tonnage sunk in the war.

* Kerneval privately discounted Bigalk’s claim to have sunk a Formidable class carrier, but let the claim stand publicly. Unaware as yet that the British even had a “jeep” carrier, and based in part on erroneous information from German spies at Gibraltar, in part on a report from Müller-Stöckheim in U-67, who had seen and shot at Audacity during the chase but described her as an aircraft “mother ship,” Kerneval continued to believe Bigalk had sunk the aircraft tender Unicorn.

* See appendices 1, 5, and 6.

 See Appendix 18.

 This total included 180 ships from Norway, 156 from Greece, 147 from the Netherlands, and 137 “prizes” or “requisitioned” vessels.

§ See Plate 6.

* See Appendix 17.

* When the British belatedly shifted from riveted to welded construction for some vessels, the riveters went out on strike. Regardless of the hardships inflicted on the civilian population, including themselves, dockyard workers also struck from time to time for increased wages and benefits.

 During workup in the Baltic, three new VIICs, U-560, U-580, and U-583, were lost in accidental collisions. The U-560 was raised and salvaged but relegated to a school boat.

 In addition, eleven Type II ducks, manned by 275 men, were lost in all waters. Two were accidentally rammed and sunk by German-controlled surface ships; four were sunk by mines, four by British warships, one by a Russian submarine. The British captured seventy-eight men from three of these ducks: U-13, U-63, and U-138.

* See Appendix 9.

* See Appendix 8.

* See Plate 11. prised of a total of 12,057 ships. The U-boats sank only 291 of these vessels.

* See Plate 10.

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!