Naval Warfare Books

Book reviews

Torpedoes in the Gulf

Wiggins, Melanie

1995, Texas A&M University Press
ISBN 0890966486
Hardcover, 265 pages, 32 b&w photos, 1 map

Type. General History
Pros. Excellent coverage of the subject, well-researched
Cons. Nothing major

This book explores U-boat operations in US waters as viewed by inhabitants of Galveston and the Gulf area as well as the United States as a whole. From newspapers and other contemporary sources the author reconstructs the nation's faltering steps toward mobilization of defenses, as well as the false alarms, fears and speculations that the U-boat activity generated among the civilian population.

The narrative begins with an interesting summary of the activities during the early stages of the war of Baron von Spiegel, Consul General of the Gulf Coast and World War I U-boat ace, which included publishing pro-German remarks and propaganda. Pre-war intelligence and espionage operations of other Germans in United States, and the eventual closing of the German consulates, are also described.

The gradual awakening of the US government and military to the danger to shipping the U-boats posed, and the various stages of implementation of defensive strategies, are well described. Most interesting of all are the ways in which the invasion of home waters touched civilian life, including the atmosphere of suspicion which dogged coastal residents and fishermen (who, it was speculated, were aiding the U-boats with shipping information or supplies); the inauguration of civilian (and canine) coastal patrols; and the increased need for the services of shipyards and hospitals to deal with the ships and sailors who had crossed paths with the U-boats.

The author makes excellent use of individual U-boats' war diaries, providing a detailed account of the missions of U-507 and U-506. Also recounted is the interesting contemporary rumor that Ktkn. Harro Schacht was actually none other than Spiegel, a supposition which arose because Schacht was patrolling an area Spiegel was familiar with and, as with Spiegel in World War I, survivors who encountered Schacht reported that he was courteous and spoke English well. Other U-boats covered in some depth are U-106, U-753, U-158, U-67, U-171, U-166, U-155, U-527 (including her sinking and crew's imprisonment), and U-518. In addition, the author usefully summarizes the career of each U-boat after it left the Gulf.

The narrative ends with the November, 1943 sinking of the Touchet. An appendix shows vessels sunk listed by U-boat. An entertaining and informative overview of this topic.

Review written by Tonya Allen.

Published on 5 Jun 2000.

This title is highly recommended.

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