U BOATS AGAINST CANADA: GERMAN SUBMARINES IN CANADIAN WATERS
Michael L. Hadley. Kingston and Montreal: McGillQueens University Press, 1985. 345 pp., notes, index.
War in the North Atlantic in a German U-boat is not for the weak or timid. Nor is war in a small antisubmarine ship fighting both the sea and the enemy below. Far too little is known about the Canadian inshore defense against submarines in the approaches to Halifax, deep in the Bay of Fundy, or in the St. Lawrence River, where submarine penetration reached to within 172 miles of Quebec. For the armchair warrior, Captain Michael Hadley, RCN (Reserve), provides ample material for a saga of heroism and selfsacrifice, of terror, repugnance, and delight.
When World War II opened in September 1939, Canada had two destroyers in Halifax to cope with Germany, four in Esquimalt to deal with Japan. None had asdic or radar. The Canadians, nevertheless, carried a major burden of the war, much unappreciated by her powerful neighbor to the south. In the Battle of the Atlantic, the Canadian Navy provided ~8J of the convoy escorts between North America and Europe, swept mines, supported the Africa and Normandy landings, patrolled the Mediterranean and Caribbean, and aided the U.S. in escort duties between New York and Cuba.
For the enemy, the war meant unspeakable hardships, and infrequently, German ineptness. Putting intelligence agents ashore in Canada was comic opera. Agent Langbein was landed near St. John, New Brunswick on 14 April, 1942 with a cumbersome radio transmitter, $7,000 in large, old-fashioned American dollars and a few $2 Canadian bills. The money, long withdrawn from circulation, could be negotiated mainly in bordellos. When funds ran out, he gave himself up to Naval Intelligence. Agent Janowski, landed on the Gaspe Peninsula on 10 November, 1942, made himself immediately prominent through the same outdated currency, his carelessness with Belgian matches and cigarettes, his claim to have arrived on a non-existent bus, and his distinct body odor after 44 days submerged — well known to diesel submariners worldwide. Taken into custody the day be landed, he was immediately turned into a double agent via his radio contact in Hamburg.
If their human operatives tailed, the Germans bad more luck with their technological “agents.” Fourteen unmanned weather stations were planted in Arctic and subarctic regions. Of two others planned for Canadian wilderness areas, one was lost enroute when U-807 was sunk ott Bergen, Norway; the other, in northern Labrador, was not discovered until July, 1981. Canadian stations failed to detect the outgoing signals, but on a number of occasions, strangely, they were subject to intense jamming by a German station.
The story of submarine and antisubmarine warfare on both sides is one of incredible courage and few rewards. The Atlantic, its fog and violent seas, freezing rain and ice, made for unspeakable hardship. Sharp temperature gradients and saline layers. strong currents and irregular seabeds, made conditions for detection ot submarines the worst possible. It is a great tribute to the allied effort that of 30,000 ships convoyed from 1942 to 1945, less than tJ were sunk. And a tribute must go also to the persistence of the U-boat service when losses passed the merely prohibitive. The u.s. submariner suffered the highest mortality or any service branch, with 20J casualties, 3500 men in 52 submarines lost. But in the U-boats, 20J survived — 718 submarines were lost with 29,000 killed and 5,000 taken prisoner of a total force of 39,000 engaged. Late in the war the life of a U-boat averaged only 50 days.
U-Boats Against Canada offers a dramatic account of men at war. Unfortunately, the author’s style does not make for easy reading. Much of the information must be mined from the text, where it is all but lost in excessive detail and haphazard organization. The reader learns much of submarine and antisubmarine tactics but not without considerable effort in piecing the story together. Captain Hadley made a painstaking searob of war patrols, action reports and newspaper morgues. So, the analyst will fare better than the casual reader.
P. R. Sobratz
Reprinted from U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, March, 1986, with permission.
By Mario de Arcangelis, ~landord Press, Poole-Dorset 1985. Distributed in the United States by Sterling Publishing Co, Inc., 2 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10016.
Rear Admiral de Arcangelis, Italian Navy (Ret.) has produced an important and useful book, particularly for the active-duty military man. By tracing the history or electronic warfare (!W) from its origins to the present, he has provided a base of historical experience from which can be derived perspectives and sound rules for the development or EW technologies and for their eventual use in peace and in conflict.
The Admiral demonstrates an excellent capability to sift out the facts from a welter of guesses by the media and then produce a good coherent story — one which is sufficiently credibl~ to provide an appreciation of the impact or ele~onic warfare on conflict situations of the past. Some errors appear, but they are not overly important to the EW lessons learned from his accounts. For example: the author states that “American subs in WW II had to surface in order to pick up radar signals.” Or, German subs attacked convoys on the surface because of their fear of ASDIC detection by the allies.
Although submarine operations, compared to other naval actions, appear to be least susceptible to enemy EW efforts and submariners seemingly have less opportunity to determine the outcome of naval engagements by using EW, there are important lessons in this book which should be appreciated for what they can offer to competent submarining — today.
The earliest example or electronic warfare, as retold by the author, deals with the EW decisions made by Admiral Rozhestvensky in the Russian-Japanese War. His decisions demonstrate how a commander who is not well versed in the tP~hnology and tactics or EW can unwittingly cause the defeat of his command. The Russian Admiral, when entering the Strait of Korea, had his fleet maintain radio silence so that his ships could covertly slip by Togo’s fleet and get to Vladivosok for voyage repairs — after an 18,000 mile voyage from the Baltic. With very low visibility, as his fleet closed Tsushima Island, his chances for avoiding a major fleet engagement with the Japanese appeared good. But his ships were sighted by a single Japanese cruiser, which tried lengthily to get a contact report to Togo’s headquarters. Radio ranges in 1905 were very short, most naval transmitters were of low power, a technique for jamming radio signals had just been discovered and direction finding was still undeveloped. Nevertheless, Admiral Rozhestventsky turned down urgent requests from several of his units to jam the weak enemy radio broadcasts. Eventually, Togo was apprised of the location of the Russian fleet. He then sortied his fleet and destroyed the Russian warships — winning one of the most decisive naval victories of history.
The “Channel Dash” of the German battleships SCHARNHORST and GNIESENAU, in another chapter, describes a well planned massive use of EW measures for a short period of time — sufficient for the battleships to reach their destination in Germany. To sortie from Brest and get successfully past the solid network of radars in eastern England was viewed by the British as an impossible task. But the Germans had become skilled in electronic warfare using ELINT, “window” (chaff), high power jamming adapted for frequency shifting by the British, and other innovative measures. What this incident suggests to the American submariner is the similarity between this “Channel Dash” and a Soviet “First Salvo” strategy for the initiation of a general war at sea. What might our submariners expect? A short term flooding of the oceans around battle groups with “noise” and false targets. A jamming of active sonar transmissions wherever possible? A rapid destruction of communication satellites? An all-out jamming of VLF transmissions? Radio deceptions to cause our submarines to initiate broadcasts of information? Deception to cause our submarines to act overtly and give away their location? The obvious lesson in this chapter is that the effect of EW in battle cannot be underestimated and that effective countermeasures must be preplanned and mustered so that response is not paralyzed in the opening moments of a naval operation.
The U-boat battles in the Atlantic detailed in another chapter, pointed up the failure of a German strategy which directed German submarine operations from a far removed, land-based command center. This required long messages which could be DFd by the allies with their loop directionfinders sufficiently locating the German submarines as to make them fall prey to a concentrated allied ASW effort. Squirt transmissions late in the war only provided a short respite for the U-boats, as the DFing stations quickly learned how to make a quick “fix” and expand the compressed messages for their rapid decryption.
The lesson of both minimizing the length and the overtness of submarine communications as a principle of sound submarining may be overly emphasized today — as it virtually denies coordinated operations with other forces. Compromise, such as was demonstrated by underwater communication between submarines in WW II, still seems to apply for joint or combined operations today, despite the added risk imposed. Significantly, the present Soviet strategy for employment of their submarines by remote command and control, seems to offer a valuable us EW opportunity to capitalize on what could be — at least it was to the Germans in WW II — a critical weakness.
In the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the author suggests that the Israelis, overconfident because of their highly successful past uses of electronic warfare, failed to properly estimate their enemy’s EW capabilities. The total surprise gained by the Arabs in their attack on 6 October was near fatal to Israel. The need to properly and comprehensively understand enemy EW measures which can affect submarine operations and the requirement to evaluate the possible technological innovations which might be brought into play are evident from the accounts of EW in the ArabIsraeli Wars. What is more, it is shown that technological innovation “no matter how marginal” is effective in its initial use.
The author’s account of the Arab-Israeli missile-boat battles in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, tells a good story of Israeli EW countermeasuring actions against incoming Arab Styx missiles -“None of the 52 Styx missiles launched against Israeli units hit their target.” The subsequent Israeli hitting success with their shorter range Gabriel missiles also showed a good grasp of EW.
The Israeli’s version of first, the battle against Syrian boats, and then 2 days later against Egyptian boats was to the effect that they first passively detected the Arab boats’ search radars then when the Arabs’ firing signals were intercepted, the Israelis knew the Styx missiles were on the way and the Israeli boats were able to activate their ECM systems and confirm the direction of missile attack by passively tracking the Styx’s homing radars — and decoying away the attacking missiles. Then by closing at high speed, the Israelis were finally able to pick up the Arab boats on their radars and accurately launch their Gabriel missiles. The Arab boats, with inadequate ECM systems could not respond with the same level of missile countermeasuring action — with fatal results. What is indicated for submarines using antiship missiles, like HARPOON or TOMAHAWK, is the need to be covert in firing such weapons so as to maximize surprise in the missile attack and thus minimize the effectiveness of enemy ECM measures.
The author mentions the extensive electronic intelligence gathering effort of the Soviets at sea, using their large fleet of ELINT ships -ever-present at U.S. fleet exercises, wherever. Many submarine emissions are thus likely to be monitored by the Soviets. Even in peacetime it must be recognized that the Soviets are waging a form of electronic warfare.
A chapter on “Infrared” alerts the submariner to the increasing use of passive infrared detection systems. For the submarines close to the surface? the wake of thermal torpedoes? periscopes at night? Definitely. detection of For detection of For the use of Etc.
The final chapter on “Electronic Warfare in Space,” in addition to delineating Soviet efforts to develop an anti-satellite kill capability, tells of the efforts to develop high energy lasers and charged particle beam weapons — probably to destroy an enemy’s nuclear warhead ballistic missiles in flight, as well as u.s. satellites. That the author says there have been 8 experiments involving the propagation of particle beams from the Soviet manned space station SOYUZ, and that there is additional evidence that an attack on a U.S. target satellite using a high energy laser was made from SOYUZ. The U.S. realized, the author states, “that they are 10 years behind the Russians in the field of killer satellites.” This is certainly sobering evidence that the Soviets oppose President Reagan’s SDI program, primarily because they don’t want the u.s. to close their present lead. In this light, submarines offer a means for “strategic defense” against an enemy’s submarine launched ballistic missile threat by developing the means to neutralize SLBMs before or while in their boost phase in inner space.
Clearly, potential present submarine commanders, those developing new submarine technologies, and electronic warfare specialists, would be well advised to keep this book close at hand as a reminder that, in the words of Admiral Arcangelis, “Electronic Warfare is an irreplaceable instrument of success both in offensive and defensive operations.”
W.J.R.[Ed. Note: Comments submitted on this Book Review are included herewith:
“Perhaps the reason why submariners have less opportunity to use EW measures is due to little present effort to coordinate submarine tactics with other friendly forces at sea.
“The reviewer’s discussion of minimizing message length and maximizing covertness of communications makes two points: (1} The U.S. Navy’s emphasis on reduced submarine communications may have caused it to give up too much in the way of coordination of submarine operations with those of other friendly forces. It should be added that if and when our navy decides to enhance coordination of the operations of aircraft, ships and submarines, then attention will have to be paid to EW; (2} Submarines used underwater communications during WW II. During WW II, the U.S. Navy also developed wolfpack tactics for two and three-submarine wolfpacks. In the 1950’s, such wolfpacks, operating submerged, conducted many exercise attacks against friendly carrier task groups. This involved acoustic and radio communications by these submarines and provided some opportunity for prosub activity.
“The last paragraph closes with the enjoinder that people who design and operate submarines and those who plan submarine operations should keep EW in mind. To this I add a hearty, “Amen,” and the hope that perhaps even more emphasis on the submarine aspect of EW in this Book Review might help make this point.”]
The Naval Submarine League has obtained some very good colored pictures of nuclear submarines suitable for framing. They range in size from 8 1/2 x 11, 11 x 14, and 24 x 24. These photographs are available free to NSL members . The primary intent of this program is to judiciously distribute the photographs to locations where they will have a reasonably large viewing or to give them to individuals or organizations in return for their expressions of support. The photograph supply is limited but their effective use and distribution is part of the mission of the NSL. Additional supplies will be obtained if a positive feedback is received. Contact Pat Lewis with your orders. P.O. Box 1146, Annandale, VA 22003. Or call (703) 256-0891.