Naval Warfare Books

Book reviews

Wolfpack

U-boats at war 1939-1945

Kaplan, Philip and Currie, Jack


1997, United States Naval Inst.
ISBN 1557509549

Type. General History
Pros. Good overview, great photos
Cons. Very minor - format
Rating.

This large-format book uses images and text to provide an overview of the U-boat war. The authors employ a combination of photographs and reproductions of wartime posters; a text narrative; and sidebars containing quotations from various sources on the topics of U-boats, war, the sea, and other relevant themes, as well as excerpts from operational orders and other documents.

The photographs, most large in size and many in color, include wartime images as well as shots of U-boat pens today, the museum boats U-505 and U-995 today, and objects from the U-boot-Archiv, such as uniforms and decorations. Especially interesting are the posters, both Axis and Allied.

The chapters cover the major themes and issues of the U-boat war, including a short history of the submarine; a brief biography of Dönitz; life on board a U-boat on patrol; torpedoes and anti-submarine weapons; supply lines and the convoy system; an in-depth look at the technical details of the Type VIIC; U-boat commanders; U-boat bunkers; U-boat attack strategies; anti-submarine tactics used by the Allies; the tedium of the uneventful mission; the Arctic convoys; shore leave; the impact of Allied aircraft on U-boat operations; and U-boat losses. A glossary of terms, an index and a bibliography round out the volume.

The sidebar format has both advantages and disadvantages. The sidebars provide, in the main, valuable information. Those quotations which are drawn from memoirs and other historical accounts encourage the reader to track down these items in order to learn more. Quotations on less immediate topics, such as courage or the sea in general, serve to set the tone of the chapter or topic under discussion. A small disadvantage of the sidebars is that they make the book a bit more difficult to read, as the reader must interrupt reading of the text to read the sidebars. (The same format is used in the authors' Convoy).

No major inaccuracies were found in the text, and the bibliography shows an adequate coverage of major English-language works, although it seems few German works, even those in English translation, were consulted. The real strength of this book lies in its photos and in its clear presentation of the basic outlines of U-boat warfare in World War II. It is overall a good introductory work and would serve as a useful starting point for those new to the subject.

Review written by Tonya Allen.

Published on 13 Feb 2000.

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