Naval Warfare Books

Book reviews

U-Boat War

Kutta, Timothy J.

1998, Squadron/Signal Publications
ISBN 0897473957
Paperback, 64 pages

Type. Historical narrative
Pros. Few, some nice illustrations & photos though
Cons. Full of mistakes and assumptions

This new book is clearly designed to give the reader a good overview of the U-boats, their crews, careers and such. It fails miserably due to incredible inaccuracies and silly mistakes.

I believed that earlier reports to me about serious errors in the book were overblown or something but after checking this myself I actually found out that its problems are even worse than I thought.

Time and again while checking the book for accuracies I thought "why was this allowed to happen?"

The good
On the plus side is that it contains some very nice illustrations by Don Greer, few of those are technically incorrect though (U-377 and U-505 come to mind). Those illustrations could be helpful for modellers. Another good part is a 2-page selection of some 52 emblems. Even here is a bug though, the emblem of the 9th Flotilla was never blue as seen on the cover painting.

The generic text, if one can overlook its inaccuracies, generally follows the basic history of the U-boats in WWII.

... The bad and the ugly
To give you a hint of its numerous problems here are a few examples based on good but not entirely complete check (I gave up after a while, the problems with this book are most probably worse):

  1. There are about 117 illustrations and photos with captions in the book, 42 of them (36%) contain errors, some of the captions even contain more than one mistake. Some are pure fantasies.

  2. In great many cases where Officer ranks are mentioned they are incorrect, incorrectly spelt or the commander did never reach the rank given. This is akin to keep referring to Eisenhower as President Eisenhower when talking about the D-Day instead of using his rank at the time. Example of this is the report of U-3 under command of Korvettenkapitän Schepke during the fall of 1939. Joachim Schepke died on 17 March, 1941 as Kapitänleutnant making this a double mistake.

  3. There are some cases of pure fantasies like on page 57 when there are numerous references to how the XXI and XXIII Elektro boats joined in on the attack on the British Isles in February 1945. Not only that but U-2511 under Korvkpt. Adalbert Schnee is reported to have "scored well during the patrol sinking 10 merchant ships totalling 45,000 tons". (Only 2 XXI boats left for patrol, both in the last few days of war with no successes scored since they did not reach their operational areas).

  4. Again on page 57 there is another incredible factual error. It bravely states that at the end of the war U-boats had sunk no less than 4600 merchant ships for a total of 21 million tons. If that were the case they might have won. However, U-boats "only" sank 2,919 ships with for a total of 14.2 million tons with another 300 ships damaged. The former figure seems to be the total figure of lost shipping to all causes in the war.

One thing that is really incredible is that most of the German commander names are spelled incorrectly. The German character ü (umlaut) is usually missing from them but that is not the sole source of mistakes.

What disturbs me the most is that I've received letters from people who honestly believe this to be an accurate and solid book. That is of course not the case.

The sad part is that if properly proof-read for a day or so those glaring errors would have been weeded out and the book might have been a good introductionary book on the U-boat force. Now it's just an embarrassment to its author and the publisher.

This book is NOT recommended to anyone interested in facts or real history.

Review written by Guðmundur Helgason.

Published on 9 May 1999.

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