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Hitler's U-Boat War

The Hunters, 1939-1942

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Clay Blair's best-selling naval classic Silent Victory: The U.S. Submarine War Against Japan, is regarded as the definitive account of that decisive phase of the war in the Pacific. Nine years in the making, Hitler's U-boat War is destined to become the definitive account of the German submarine war against the Allies, or "The Battle of the Atlantic."

It is an epic sea story, the most arduous and prolonged naval battle in all history. For a period of nearly six years, the German U-boat force attempted to blockade and isolate the British Isles, in hopes of forcing the British out of the war, thereby thwarting the Allied strategic air assault on German cities as well as Overlord, the Allied invasion of Occupied France. Fortunately for the Allies, the U-boat force failed to achieve either of these objectives, but in the attempt they sank 2,800 Allied merchant ships, while the Allies sank nearly 800 U-boats. On both sides, tens of thousands of sailors perished.

The top secret Allied penetration of German naval codes, and, conversely, the top secret German penetration of Allied naval codes played important roles in the Atlantic naval battle. In order to safeguard the secrets of codebreaking in the postwar years, London and Washington agreed to withhold all official codebreaking and U-boat records. Thus for decade upon decade an authoritative and definitive history of the Battle of the Atlantic could not be attempted. The accounts that did appear were incomplete and full of errors of fact and false interpretations and conclusions, often leaving the entirely wrong impression that the German U-boats came within a whisker of defeating the Allies, a myth that persists.

When London and Washington finally began to release the official records in the 1980s, Clay Blair and his wife, Joan, commenced work on this history in Washington, London, and Germany. They relied on the official records as well as the work of German, British, American, and Canadian naval scholars who published studies of bits and pieces of the story. The end result is this magnificent and monumental work, crammed with vivid and dramatic scenes of naval actions and dispassionate but startling new revelations and interpretations and conclusions about all aspects of the Battle of the Atlantic.

The Blair history will be published in two volumes. This first volume, The Hunters, covers the first three years of the war, August 1939 to August 1942. Told chronologically, it is subdivided into two major sections, the War Against the British Empire, and the War Against the Americas. Volume II, The Hunted, to follow a year later, will cover the last years of the naval war in Europe, August 1942 to May 1945, when the Allies finally overcame the U-boat threat.

Never before has Hitler's U-boat war been chronicled with such authority, fidelity, objectivity, and detail. Nothing is omitted. Even those who fought the Battle of the Atlantic will find no end of surprises. Later generations will benefit by having at hand an account of this important phase of World War II, free of bias and mythology.

From the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Oct 02, 1996 – Everything about this book is big: its page count, its thesis--and its shortcomings. Blair is a respected authority on submarine warfare whose Silent Victory, a history of the U.S. submarine service, remains a widely cited work. He is also a master of operational narrative, a writer who can put readers in a destroyer's bridge or a U-boat's conning tower as convincingly as many novelists. Here, in the first of two projected volumes, Blair employs a comprehensive mix of German, British and U.S. sources to argue that the German U-boats have been mythologized, their successes overstated and their threat to the Allied war effort exaggerated. While U-boats delayed and diminished the arrival of supplies to Europe, 99% of all ships in transatlantic convoys reached their destinations. For Blair, that is a sizable margin of acceptable loss. He even stands foursquare behind Admiral Ernest King's reluctance to organize merchant convoys after Pearl Harbor. German U-boats operating off the Atlantic Coast and in the Caribbean accounted for about a quarter of all tonnage sunk during the war, but even these losses could be replaced. Blair compares by implication German failures in the U-boat war to the U.S. submarine campaign in the Pacific, which succeeded in strangling Japan by mid-1945. But to assert, as he does, that the U-boats never had a chance seems to fly in the face of an overwhelming body of evidence that cannot be dismissed as retrospective mythmaking. Even before the climactic convoy battles of 1943, the Allied navies were morally and materially stretched to near breaking point. Though richly informed and a pleasure to read, this volume ultimately provokes without convincing. Photos and maps not seen by PW. History Book Club selection.
Hitler's U-Boat War
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  • $13.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Military
  • Published: Oct 22, 1996
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 864 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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