Naval Warfare Books

Book reviews

U-Boat War in the Atlantic 1939-1945

Hessler, Günther (editor)


1992, HMSO, London
ISBN 0117726036

Type. General History Book
Pros. Detailed and accurate narrative
Cons. Nothing major.
Rating.

This is an impressive work, maybe second only to the Der U-Bootkrieg 1939-1945. Its conception is simple, but also one of the better ones available for an historical research.

After the war Fregattenkapitän Günter Hessler was asked by the British Admiralty to achieve a source of reference to provide a cogent analysis of the German U-boat offensive in the Atlantic during World War II.
For this purpose Hessler had free access to the war diaries and other primary sources of the Kriegsmarine.

He was much assisted by Korvettevkapitän Alfred Hoschatt for checking many of the original documents and preparing most of the drawings, and by Leutnant zur See Jürgen Rohwer for collecting data and summarizing them in statistical information.

The son-in-law of Dönitz, Hessler commanded U-107, a type IXB boat from October 1940 to November 1941. Then he became a Staff Officer to Flag Officer of U-Boats. Hoschatt commanded U-378 from October 1941 to June 1942, thereafter he served on the staff of the 11th UbootsFlotille in Norway and then joined Flag Officer U-boat staff. Rohwer became a professor after the war.

With those premises this work could hardly be anything but not extraordinary. Each volume deal with every aspect of the German submarine warfare with the point of view, and the knowledge, of a German U-Boot commander.

There were taken into consideration the actions of singles U-boats and of wolfpacks, the building programs of the traditional U-boats (types II, VII and IX) and the technical innovations and the war needs that brought to the buildings of the types XXIII and XXI, the information from the German intelligence and the tactics and strategies of the battles that followed ... with some explanations from the Allied point of view (like the break up of the German secret transmission codes contributed to the capture of the U-505 and its Enigma machine).

Originally a classified document, this book provides a wide range of deeply references and information, obtained from German sources cleared, tested and reordered thanks to the Allied (mostly British) intelligence work.

I agree with the back cover text "...is an unique account, not least because the many charts and diagrams allow the record of each U-boat to be traced, including its deployment on any particular day"
It's really true, (I've experienced it for U-515) so I recommend this book to all the students and fonds of military, naval or intelligence history.

Volume I, 1939-1941, 119 pages;
Volume II, January 1942-May 1943, 126 pages;
Volume III, June 1943-May 1945, 121 pages;
(The three volumes are physically together in a single book,
each one keeping its own page numbers)
Errata corrige, Reviser's Notes etc., 28 pages (after Volume III);
5 Sheets of diagrams (on separate wallet);
No photos.

Editor's Notes:
This is truly a wonderful book as it gives so much insight into the BdU and how it operated, coming from a man on its inner circle at the time. The main problem with the book is that the authors did not know of the allied code breaking and thus did not have the information we have today. All in all this is an excellent book for the serious scholar.

Review written by Andrea Bigioni.

Published on 5 Dec 1998.

This title is highly recommended.

Purchase information: (info)
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