Naval Warfare Books

Book reviews

U-Boats Offshore

When Hitler Struck America

Hoyt, Edwin P.

1978, Stein and Day, New York
ISBN 081288521X
263 pages

Type. General history
Pros. Accurate, detailed
Cons. No index

This fast-moving book uses dramatic style to present the history of Operation Drumbeat and subsequent U-boat operations in American waters from the point of view of the United States. Describing itself as the first book ever to recount the story of how U-boats crossed the Atlantic in World War II to attack U.S. shipping (it precedes the publication of Gannon's Operation Drumbeat by more than a decade), the book catalogs in remarkable detail the pattern of circumstances that made this first strike truly resemble the attack of a small pack of wolves among a large flock of defenseless sheep.

These circumstances included a lack of preparedness for war (the bombing of Pearl Harbor had occurred just five weeks before the first sinking by U-123 (Hardegen), waking the Americans to the realities of war but turning their attention to the west coast); the unwillingness of U.S. Navy and merchant ships to work together for the safety of the latter; the lack of escort vessels and air cover; and the slowness of the United States to realize the realize the seriousness of the situation, both on the part of the general population, who objected to dimming lights along the coast because it would hurt business; and on the part of government officials, who mobilized themselves with a lack of alacrity that alarmed their British allies.

Although the true Operation Drumbeat consisted of only the first wave of U-boats to attack U.S. shipping, the book covers the period January 1942-May 1943, during which time the German presence in American waters remained steady. Told mainly from the American point of view, but including some chapters from the Germans' perspective, many interesting incidents are recounted, including the sinking of U-85 (Greger) and U-352 (Rathke); and the landings of German saboteurs on the U.S. coast. The American inexperience in anti-submarine warfare which at first resulted in many false reports of sightings and sinkings (and heavy casualties among the whale population) and the often strained diplomatic traffic between the UK and the United States are also described.

The book includes a bibliography and chapter notes. The only deficiency of this volume is its lack of an index, which would have made it more useful as a reference tool. Even so, this book is an excellent overview of how the United States first experienced U-boat warfare in its home waters.

Review written by Tonya Allen.

Published on 11 Feb 2000.

This title is highly recommended.

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