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Budokan
05-07-2005, 10:47 AM
I started reading Hitler's U-boat War (The Hunters, 1939-1942) by Clay Blair. It's a pretty good historical account and goes into some depth regarding the u-boat war in the Atlantic during the early years of WWII.

But Blair begins his history with a somewhat controversial stance. It goes something like this: After the war a naval mythology arose regarding the u-boat, brought about by German propagandists *during* the war and Allied propagandists who found it politically advantageous to exagerrate the u-boat peril for various reasons. Because of the clamp down by Allies to conceal the secrets of codebreaking,the first "histories" of the u-boat war were produced by people like Doenitz and many u-boat commanders who did nothing to diminish the mythology. Result: it gave "a wildly distorted picture of the "so-called Battle of the Atlantic." (Blair's words, not mine.)

Blair goes on to say "In a word, the U-boat peril in World War II was and has been vastly overblown: threat inflation on a classically grand scale. The U-boats and torpedoes were not technical marvels but rather inferior craft and weapons unsuited for the Battle of the Atlantic. The main contribution of the U-boat force was to present a terror weapon which forced the Allies to employ convoys and deploy ASW counterforces."

He rounds out his thesis with this observation: "The myths notwithstanding, only a tiny percentage of Allied merchant ships actuallyfell victim to U-boats. 99% of all Allied merchant shipping in the transatlantic convoys reached designated destinations." Finally, he says the Americans were successul in the Pacific against the Japanese in their U-boat war, but Britain was never in any true danger of being starved or brought to the brink of defeat by U-boat attacks on merchant shipping.

I know we have a lot of historians and u-boat experts who visit these boards, and I am curious as to whether they agree/disagree with Blair's contention that the "u-boat peril...has been vastly overblown."

It seems to me that when you sink more tonnage than the Allies can build, and can keep it up, you're gonna strangle an island like England. Therefore, the peril was a real one, if only for a short time.

Your thoughts?

con20or
05-07-2005, 11:01 AM
yeh im reading that at theminute as well. its tough going,very informative,but knocks me out every night. he really does think that the Uboats were overrated. wonder if he's right?

archer49d
05-07-2005, 11:33 AM
He is, look at the "economies of scale"

Liberty ships alone... Over 2000 built during war
Victory ships alone... 534 built during war
T3... 481
T2... 500
C2... 230

Total that is 3730 major transport ships built by the US alone. I didn't include C3s because I don't know how many were built. Add this to all the small merchants. Also include British ones and you have a massive amount of ships.

Throughout the war U-Boats managed to sink 2,779 ships of all types (ranging from PTs to BBs). That being said the Germans sank a lot of cargo, but thats over a 6 year period. Now in 1945 the US was building Liberty ships faster than the Germans could sink them. We could get into a whole "what-if scenario" with XXIs sinking Libs, but if the war had dragged on Howard Hughes would have brought the Hercules into fully operational status and the U-Boat would have been completley useless.

Kpt_Zig
05-07-2005, 11:42 AM
I don't think what Churchill said about U-Boots after the war was motivated by a need to inflate the threat. With war over I'm sure he would have been more inclined to belittle them if he'd thought he could.

Some experts like to create a controvesy for the sake of sales.

V-MAN1981
05-07-2005, 02:12 PM
I too believe the U-Boat threat was blow out of proportion but for good reasons. Rationing was on the whole mostly un called for in the UK if anything it was just to stop panic buying and price hikes. The shortages of luxury items (tropical fruit for example) was because the ships that normally brought them in were bringing in war materials instead.

Bergman
05-07-2005, 03:58 PM
That 99% was during the whole war? How much of the shipping was sunk in the years '40 '41 and '42. Those were the important years and it is better to look at the losses year by year. Otherwise it is like saying that the average WWI soldier had only a small change to be killed, while the soldier at Verdun had a slightly different opinion.

Also how much of the trans atlantic shipping had to be destroyed before the it would effect the Allied war effort. I think that the safety margins were not so big because the Allies put a big effort to stop the U-boats.

What if they could have destroyed enough shipping to delay the invasion in Normandy only by a few months untill the fall of 44 with all the bad weather which you have then in the Channel.

Just a few questions which I had when I read this thread

dizeee
05-07-2005, 04:30 PM
tbh this is a rather silly stance....
i keep hearing this "it was all in vain, and never realy effective" thing alot. tbh, if ur going judge all this by the result, you can say that never ever anything the axis did was effective, and that everything was overblown, coz the allies won anyway.

especialy the 99% ship got through is very very missleading, coz it takes all ships into account, and dosnt reflect many aspects of the whole campaign. im not sure where this nr comes from anyway.

the allies where forced to undertake a massive industrial and logistical effort to counter the uboatwar, waged by the axis. sure they where successfull, but that dosnt take away the danger presented to the allies.

in dez 1940 the ammount of goods imported was halfed in comparison to prewar status. this had a broad effect on the british economy.

the goods lost on the ships sunk in pq17 alone would have been enough to equip a whole russian army. in numbers: 3,350 motor vehicles, 430 tanks, 210 bombers and 99,316 tons of general cargo including radar sets and ammunition where lost. a classical "what if". maybe operation mars would have had a different outcome with all this stuff? we will never know...

anyway, to me this sounds a bit like a pseudo controversial "i wanna be cool and interesting, and have a different opinion" thing.

axeman3d
05-07-2005, 06:19 PM
U-boats, indeed any non-nuclear boats, can simply be classed as small mobile minefields, nothing more. As for the WWII German U-Boat itself, you have to say they started off with a good design and improved it all the time. If Doenitz had had the numbers of U-Boats that he originally wanted at the start of the war, I think there's a very real chance he'd have been able to blanket the Atlantic and cause so much damage that Britain would have been in very real trouble. Without the industrial backup and resources of the US the British merchant marine would swiftly have been devastated, with no chance of making good the losses in time. We can only be thankful that Doentiz's proven weapons and tactics were held back by numbers long enough for the US to finally enter the war and help out the allies. He was told to have his fleet ready for a war in 1945-46 at the earliest, so when it all kicked off in 1939 he was woefully undergunned.

Budokan
05-07-2005, 07:12 PM
I think the statement brought up re: Churchill is a good point. He wouldn't have said that just to make Germany look good, especially since the Allies had just won the war. There would have been no political profit in his saying the U-boat peril was the only thing that frightened him....so in my opinion part of Blair's argument fails on that point.

Blair is also not taking into account the devastating toll U-boats took on shipping early on, before the convoy system took effect and more reliable ASW measures were instituted. Sure, 99% of shipping got through, but that number is from the *entire* war. Early on, the U-boats were making their attacks felt by Britons.

We can always play "would-a could-a should-a" with history. Maybe if Doenitz had all the U-boats he originally wanted he could have throttled Great Britain. Maybe. But for Blair to make the statement that the Battle for the Atlantic was "overblown" is, in itself, overblown.

Nevertheless, it's (his book) still a good historical account of the early years of the U-boat war, and I do reccommend it.

(Like someone noted, however, it is tough going at times....)

Anyway, that's my two yen on the subject. http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

dmm_u333
05-08-2005, 02:33 AM
guy's,
i;m not convinced the threat from the Uboat is/was exaggerated. remember that the bulk of the merchants kills where during 1939-1942.
only in 1943 onwards did the allies get a grip to stop the massive kill ratios (kill per uboat). take out the 1943- stats and you have a turkey shoot! if that DID continue, then the allies would indeed have been in deep doo doo.
i think this is univerally recognised.

however, post 1943, everything changed. the ratios turned 180 degrees! even Doenitz knew the propaganda did not reflect reality anymore.

fizilbert
05-08-2005, 06:06 AM
Britain was almost brought to it's knees by the combination of the air battle for Britain and the u-boat battles for the convoys. Some experts estimate that at it's worst, Britain was probably about 2 weeks away from utter defeat.

The u-boats had a devestating effect on the British merchants. The problem was that when the US joined the war, in a matter of months they had churned out enough new ships to COMPLETELY replace all the losses from the last 2 years of u-boat attacks.

Tomus
05-08-2005, 08:51 AM
I think that Blair's comments are probably true had the British immeadiatley adopted the convoy system and had the US done the same in 1942 then I doubt the U-Boats would have made such a great impact as they did. The convoy system was not a new thing and was an accepted anti-uboat tactic from WWI. The Naval obsession with ship to ship combat and the big gun solution to everything scuppered initial Royal Navy protection efforts but had the RN gone straight in for convoy's I truly wonder how successful the Uboats would have been. Yes they were overrated.

Jose.MaC
05-08-2005, 10:02 AM
I rely more in statistics than in interpretations done by historicians. I.e.: the average age of people in middle age was under 20 years. Is true if you take into acount the catastrophic baby deaths, but people who reached a critical age was able to live for longer time.

Bubblehead1948
05-08-2005, 10:06 AM
http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-indifferent.gif I am fond of the phrase: "The truth always lies somewhere between the two extremes."

It seems clear that shipping losses for the years 39-42 were devastating. Those early kill ratios could not continue. Fortunately, the allies developed some rather effective asw techniques by 1943. How effective they were is clearly indicated in the book "iron Coffins."

If you are going to make an informed judgement, you really must look at the situation year by year.

At worst, a comparison of U-boat losses overall vs shipping losses overall, indicate an intolerable kill ratio --had it gone on.

Its a very clever manipulation of stats to say that 99% of all ships reached their destinations, when you know full well that the bulk of those that did were built after 1942.
The allies had to get a grip on it, and they finally did. But don't imagine they weren't terrified at the time. Its easy to dismiss the
gravity of the situation in hindsight, now that we have abundant facts at our disposal.

With regard to the relevance of the sim, don't forget too, that the goal of the player is not to win the battle of the Atlantic, we already know that wasn't in the cards. The goal is to survive the war while performing the best job you can. No small task by the way. Get good or get dead. It is the Submarine captain who is at the disadvantage. Thats what makes this sim so compelling. You are already a dead man statistically... Can you beat the odds?

bertgang
05-09-2005, 08:37 AM
Blair's "mythological theory" sounds a bit silly, specially for a sort of u-boat fan club like we are, but it has some points.

Out of well known boats of top aces, few submarines were really effective against allied forces: only 1/3 about of them sunk some enemy ship (for a medium tonnage near 20.000).

In some manner, the main job of the u.boat force was to keep the enemy busy: more people, ships and crafts for anti-submarine warfare, less available to strike Germany in a different way (not speaking of things and men sent on the bottom).

Anyway, they were the main german weapon at sea: without them, GB shoudn't have experienced any significant problem, out of the short aerial strike.

XyZspineZyX
05-09-2005, 09:02 AM
Hello,
Michael Hadley wrote a book
"The myth of the German U-boat weapon",
however he comes to another conclusion.
The myth and glorification is probably overestimated (like in the whole world, or in the USA, were the military is the best, the Marines are the best of the best, the Seals are the best of the best of ... ok.
However Germany came close to it's goal of sinking more ships than the Allied were able to rebuild, at least until the end of 1942 and the US (officially) entering the war. This is just a thing of adding numbers, sunk tonnage against wharfts building new ships.
Doenitz wanted to repeat the starvation of food and goods caused by the British blockade in WW1, only that this time he used his U-boats to starve out England. Germany was not prepared for a war against England, let alone the US and rest of the world.
viiseas

Flydutch
05-09-2005, 10:33 AM
I Think that if anyone exaturates it is Blair!

Most Historians Agree that the U-boat fleet was 'The weapon' That could have defeated the Allies in Both WWI & WWII!
War is Economics If you run out of financial resources and you are not Able to Hurt, Destroy, Deny or Steal your oponents resources you are the losing party!

Both World Wars show some scary simularities On the U-Boat War, At first there are the Happy times And then follows the Destruction of the U-Flotte.
For sure 'The Weapon'That won The Allies WWII was Radar & Code Breaking. By Breaking the Enemy Enigma Code The Allies had accses to The German Movements Especially of its U-Boats wich where directed by this 'Unbreakeble Secret Code Computer' On the pacific the USN had broken Both the Imperial japanese Army And Navy Codes!
This with the Superior SJ Radar Gave the Allies All means of looking into the Opponents Cards, And Only then Could they Find Such nimble targets as Submarines in A Ocean Are! Have you ever tryed to find A needle in A Haystack?

Anyway, I think it is so easy to downgrade the excelence of others in A war long Ago,
I think If you Ask The Men of the Merchant fleet Who Had to acualy Sail with Danger for there very life in these wolfpacked waters you get A diffrent opinion then some Post-War Historian can philosiphy about!

The WWII Pacific Theather Shows What Submarines Can Achief when no serious action is taken against them!

fizilbert
05-09-2005, 11:17 AM
Ok, a lot of people have been mentioning Blair's comments. Did I miss something? What did he say?

Hfael
05-09-2005, 01:12 PM
Originally posted by Budokan:
I think the statement brought up re: Churchill is a good point. He wouldn't have said that just to make Germany look good, especially since the Allies had just won the war.
Eh? I'm not so convinced. It's not uncommon for victors to mythologized their defeated enemies to some degree precisely because it makes the victors look that much stronger.

A perfect example: David vs. Goliath. Do you *really* think Goliath was 9' tall, or do you think that someone writing the history of Israel/Judea exaggerated his strength somewhat in order to enhance David's reputation?

Remember, a victory isn't worth celebrating if there really was no threat to begin with.

So Churchill certainly may have had good reason to exaggerate the threat of the U-boats, even after they were defeated. I am not a strong enough historian to assert that he definitely DID exaggerate; but it's not difficult to imagine why he may have had good reason to do so.

The Avon Lady
05-09-2005, 01:30 PM
Originally posted by Hfael:
Do you *really* think Goliath was 9' tall, or do you think that someone writing the history of Israel/Judea exaggerated his strength somewhat in order to enhance David's reputation?
And the champion emerged from the Philistines' camp, named Goliath, from Gath; his height was six cubits and a span.
- Samuel I, 17:4

About 9 feet was Goliath's approximate height, similar to the Guiness world record for the tallest man known.

quillan
05-09-2005, 01:33 PM
Some experts like to create a controvesy for the sake of sales.

True, that. What I find funny about it, is that it's considered a legitimate (if rather contemptible) method of advertising in the real world, but if you do it on the internet, they call it trolling. http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif

Il2pongo
05-09-2005, 02:13 PM
No, He was 6.5 feet tall.
I watched a whole documentary on Goliaths height. The original text of the bible had his height accuratly but it was inflated in later versions.

The_Third_Half
05-09-2005, 02:33 PM
Originally posted by V-MAN1981:
I too believe the U-Boat threat was blow out of proportion but for good reasons. Rationing was on the whole mostly un called for in the UK if anything it was just to stop panic buying and price hikes. The shortages of luxury items (tropical fruit for example) was because the ships that normally brought them in were bringing in war materials instead.

My Wife's Grandfather was a p-51 mustang pilot stationed in England during WW2. As such her mother ( my mother in-law) grew up in England for some time.
I think she would very much disagree with your statment about UK's rationing.

archer49d
05-09-2005, 03:36 PM
Originally posted by The_Third_Half:
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by V-MAN1981:
I too believe the U-Boat threat was blow out of proportion but for good reasons. Rationing was on the whole mostly un called for in the UK if anything it was just to stop panic buying and price hikes. The shortages of luxury items (tropical fruit for example) was because the ships that normally brought them in were bringing in war materials instead.

My Wife's Grandfather was a p-51 mustang pilot stationed in England during WW2. As such her mother ( my mother in-law) grew up in England for some time.
I think she would very much disagree with your statment about UK's rationing. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

I know it's not directed at me but I just wanted to clarify what my stance is...

The U-Boats did have an effect on the war, just not a large an effect that people make it out to be.

Bergman
05-09-2005, 05:56 PM
If the U-boats were not a big thread, why are there still untill today diesel-electric subs built? Also you must look to the war in the pacific to see what the full potential of
U-boats were when not delt with.

irreg77
05-09-2005, 08:56 PM
Even at the beginning of 1943 the Brits were still worried about their losses. They had turned the tables after May 1943 and never looked back but it was a tough struggle up to then. John Terrain's book Business in Great Waters is to me the best history of the U-boat wars (WW1 & WW2). The real truth is that Britain and her allies fought a long and bloody battle against the U-boats as well as the surface units of the German Navy and the Luftwaffe as well and it could have gone either way. The same could be said about the rest of WW2 but thank goodness the 'what ifs' didn't happen and the allies won.