Andrew Williams' THE BATTLE OF THE ATLANTIC
Book review by Dennis D. McDonald
This war history book about the U-boat war in the Atlantic during World War II has one of the best balances of strategy, tactics, and firsthand experience that I’ve read. The writing style is fluid and the research is meticulous. It also combines objectivity with frequently-gripping first person reporting.
There’s just enough strategy to let the reader understand the significance and the early-on desperation of England as supply convoys were meticulously cut down by Karl Dönitz’ U-boats.
The action was brutal. As the tide turned and the Allies began sinking more German submarines and convoy protection increased, the hopelessness of the German war situation became clearer and clearer. But Hitler and Dönitz kept the sea war going as fewer and fewer (and younger and younger) German crews returned to base.
There’s nothing romantic about the events in this story; England was desperate and killing was the name of the game on both sides. Naturally one takes away a sense of the waste of war from reading a book like this and this is amplified by the author’s focus on Dönitz and his continued loyalty to Hitler and his resulting willingness to fight an increasingly unwinnable war.
One glimmer of possibility of why this continuation was possible relates to surprising details this book surfaces about how understaffed the German submarine force was from the standpoint of intelligence, analytical support, and research and development, compared to the Allies. Dönitz simply didn’t have the resources that might have enabled him to see beyond Hitler’s increasingly imaginary strategic visions. If he had, would he have been more willing to pursue different tactics? We’ll never know.
Review copyright (c) 2010 by Dennis D. McDonald