Re-Thinking the Battle of the Atlantic – Part 1

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As you might imagine, I read a lot about this battle which lasted the entire war; the final U-Boat to be sunk in the war was sunk 6 May 1945, two days before Germany surrendered.

In the last month or so I have started to question the widely accepted idea that the German U-Boats came within three weeks of cutting off Great Britain from the US which would have forced Great Britain to surrender. This theory is beloved of historians, blog writers, novelists like me, and just about everyone else. While it is written in many places that England was down to three weeks of food, I can’t be certain if I’ve ever seen this footnoted and traced to a top-secret report “eyes only” for the British War Cabinet. Until I can verify this, I’ll question whether its true. Who came up with that figure? What did it include? Just food for civilians? Military rations. Food delivered to restaurants and canteens and cafeterias but not yet consumed? This is a slippery historical reference and very hard to get a hand on.

I also think that even had German U-Boats caused a delay in American shipments of food and war material to Great Britain for a brief period, there was no way the U-Bootwaffe could have maintained this blockade. Thousands of ships were sliding down the ways in the US, hundreds of thousands of sailors and aviators already trained or being trained. We could have increased the number of convoy escorts very quickly. We also could have held back new carriers on their way to the Pacific and used them to provide air cover for convoys while the smaller escort carriers for the North Atlantic were being commissioned. Some were already in service and by the end of May 1943, most North Atlantic convoys had continuous air cover but not all.

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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