Naval Warfare Books

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U-Boat Operations of the Second World War - Vol 1

Wynn, Kenneth

1998, United States Naval Inst.
ISBN 1557508607
368 pages, 9 maps, apps. bibliog. #1-8607/

Type. Reference
Pros. Complete operational histories of all U-boats, with C.O.s, all dates, fates, summaries of successes.
Cons. Strictly a reference; only for occasional reading. Due to continuous new detail being uncovered, not 100% correct, but close to it.

For anyone researching, writing or reading wartime naval history that touches on the U-boat war, whether in the Atlantic or in distant oceans, this two-volume work is a most valuable reference to use as a cross-check. Wynn has used some basic material, from the British PRO, the Bundesarchiv and the U-boat-Archiv in Cuxhaven. He credits naturally, Dr. Jurgen Rohwer's prior research and that of others. Thus the odd error has been perpetuated. But with some 1,200 boats' histories, these are remarkably few. Wynn is an engineer with a long time interest in the U-boat war arising from a stamp and 1st Day Cover collecting hobby.

For every U-boat, in its number sequence, he gives the Type, where built and when and the "Feldpost" (postal service) number. Then her ultimate fate, which Flotilles she served in and where, and a list of her C.O.s. This is followed, patrol by patrol, by every movement of the boat, with all the dates until sunk or withdrawn from active service. Also listed are all the boats' successes in sinking ships, by name, date and location of operations.

An example of the latter: "U 530: (Patrol) 6. 17.10.43 Left for Caribbean operations. ...refuelled by U 488 east of Bermuda. Entered the Caribbean on the 21st through the Martinique Channel.... Made an unscuccessful attack on a tanker off San Blas. She torpedoed and damaged the turbine tanker Chapultepec (am 10,195t) on 26.12.43 NNE of Nombre de Dios.... had a narrow escape when rammed by tanker Esso Buffalo but succeeeded in getting away. U 530 returned to Lorient 22.2.44".

Some entries are only a brief quarter column, for training boats, those sunk early, etc. Others, like Kretschmer's U-99, run for a page and a half. There are useful but very general operational area maps, an index of C.O.s and ships' names - sunk, damaged or just attacked; warships and Allied Air Force units mentioned in the text. Also names of U-boat Groups, date of operation and the boats assigned. His histories include the tanker U-boats, the Type XVII Bs and XVIIIs, the Type XXIs and XXIIIs - fortunately for the Allies, most of which did not become fully operational. Wynn has not included any introductory comments on U-boat employment, nor assessments of their war. This is simply an operational log book reference.

Like most histories, due to a slow and minor dribble of corrections surfacing even some 55 to 60 years after these operations, much of it due to earlier work by R.N. Coppock of the British MoD naval section, every entry should be checked against other facts. Some of the histories are fascinating reading just for the endurance, successes and failures they narrate. They could provide in themselves a valuable base for more philosphical analyses of why some boats, some C.O.s were successful, others even in excellent opportunistic circumstances, were less so, or failures. But this is one of the most useful and valuable references in any naval writer's library, filling in many gaps in related stories of their intended targets. If appropriate, these volumes are a must have.

Review written by CDR Fraser M. McKee, Ontario, Canada.

Published on 31 Jul 2001.

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This title is highly recommended.

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