Naval Warfare Movies

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Sea Wolves

The U-boat War
Published: 1997
Country: USA
Length: 52 min.
Keywords: WWII, Documentary, Recommended

This is the VHS release (see more).


This documentary, Part I of The U-boat War series, provides an overview of the Battle of the Atlantic through 1941. It explains some of the major themes and events of the conflict, including the participation of the United States in an undeclared naval war against Germany prior to December 1941; the relatively impersonal nature of U-boat warfare, in which the enemy generally unseen by anyone except the commander; Grossadmiral Karl Dönitz' strategic aims; the Enigma cipher machine and codebreaking efforts; and the capture of U-110. Many respected authors and historians in the field, including Michael Hadley, David Brown, Timothy Mulligan, Edward Beach, Michael Gannon, and David Kahn, offer their analysis of turning points in the conflict. Many veterans and eyewitnesses from both sides are also interviewed, including a survivor of the Athenia; Georg Högel, radio operator on U-30; escort commander Robert Atkinson; Siegfried Koitschka, commander of U-616; and several merchant seamen. Otto Kretschmer describes how a book published in 1931 convinced him that radio silence was key to success in U-boat actions; Peter Petersen of U-518 provides interesting details of life on board and during shore leave; and Erich Topp recounts how he sank the Reuben James as commander of U-552. Modern footage includes shots of U-995 and the former submarine base of Lorient. Footage from newsreels and propaganda films shows attacks and battle scenes; U-boat homecomings; Dönitz; Prien giving a speech after his victory at Scapa Flow; and a band playing the Kretschmer-Marsch.

The other volumes in the series are Iron Coffins and Attack America.


This is an excellent documentary, as a glance at the credits (which include Horst von Bredow of the U-boot-Archiv and authors Juergen Rohwer and Jak Mallmann Showell) will show. It provides a balanced view and accurately presents the highlights and major turning points of the longest battle of World War II.

A German-language version of this series is available as Der U-Boot Krieg (Seewölfe, Angriff auf Amerika, Eiserne Särge).

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