Naval Warfare Books

Book reviews

U-boote: 1939-1945

Dalliès-Labourdette, Jean-Philippe

1996, Motorbooks International
ISBN 2908182424

Type. Pictorial
Pros. Well-produced photos
Cons. Mostly inaccurate information

This largely pictorial overview of U-boat warfare is definitely an odd creature. While the pictures are excellent and quite useful in themselves, the accompanying text and captions often contain errors.

These errors represent a range of severity, from simple typographical errors, to errors in translation, to cases of simply plain wrong information. Major categories of errors include misspelling of ranks; inconsistent use of hyphenation (e.g., Type II A, type IIA, Type II-A, and Type-II-A are all used); wrong ranks attributed to commanders; wrong dates and years; wrong statistical information; wrong fates of boats; wrong spelling of commanders' names, flotilla names, and other words; and misleading information.

As an example, an analysis of the photo captions alone on a randomly chosen range of ten pages shows that of 18 captions, half contained at least one error, sometimes two or three, and in one case eight separate errors. A listing of these errors appears below:

Caption on page 10

Caption on page 11

First caption on page 12

Second caption on page 12

Caption on page 13

First caption on page 15

Third caption on page 15

Third caption on page 17

First caption on page 18

Again, this list represents just the captions on ten pages of this 144-page book. The text itself contains similar types of errors.

While the incorrect fates are understandable on the grounds that new data has come to light since the publication of this book, the other errors are simply inexcusable. It is evident that this book did not enjoy even a minimal level of proofreading before its publication. I have not seen the original French version, but it is likely the factual errors and possibly also the typographical errors originated there, and were carried over into the English version, which suffers additionally from generally poor translation. Besides incorrect spelling and grammar, failure to translate technical terms and place names into their proper English equivalents makes reading very confusing (e.g., "thick hull" instead of pressure hull; "Antilles Sea" instead of Caribbean Sea…).

The photos and other illustrations are the only aspect of the book that make it at all worthwhile. They are numerous, well-reproduced, and many are in color. My final recommendation: Look at the pictures, don't read the text!

Review written by Tonya Allen.

Published on 16 Feb 2000.

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