by Marcus Faulkner and Christopher M. Bell, editors
Lexington: Andarta Books, University Press of Kentucky, 2019. Pp. vi, 314.
Illus., tables, notes, index. $50.00. ISBN: 1949668002
New Perspectives on the Battle over Merchant Shipping
In their introduction the editors, both well-known naval historians, point out that while “the dramatic clashes between U-boats and convoy escorts” attract the most attention, the “Battle of the Atlantic” actually involved relatively little combat. The critical issue was the safe arrival of merchant ships at their destinations, and that “battle” extended well beyond the Atlantic.
The ten essays that follow, by various scholars, all cover various aspects of this “battle” that have hitherto been largely overlooked. Papers examine the grand strategy of the campaign, interservice relations, efforts to develop “offensive” options, and more.
Several of the essays are particularly valuable, as they cover hitherto overlooked aspects of the war against Allied shipping. There’s a very impressive piece making a good case that a global shortage of repair facilities caused more vessels to be out of service than actual sinkings; damaged ships awaiting repair were repair for months, were just as useless as if it had been sunk. There’s also an interesting paper on the Royal Navy’s concerns about the threat of a German aircraft carrier; we now know that Hitler had shelved the carrier program, but the British didn’t. And then there’s an essay on the defeat of the German Schnellbotte fleet in the English Channel and North Sea, which not only saved coastal shipping, but also helped protect the D-Day landings and the Allied line-of-supply to France.
Albeit that a map or two would have been quite useful, Decision in the Atlantic, fittingly a volume in the Kentucky series “New Perspectives on the Second World War’, makes a major contribution to a fuller understanding of the role of merchant shipping in the war.
Note: Decision in the Atlantic is also available in several e-editions
StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium