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I am pleased that Captain Enos has changed or mitigated most of his views related to my comments on his review of Hitler’s U-Boats (April 2000 THE SUBMARINE REVIEW, in response to my commentary in the October 1999 issue). Still. Captain Enos states that according to Clay Blair, author of Hitler’s U-Boats, “contrary to Polrnar’s assertions-Allied shipbuilding was replacing losses faster than they were occurring and had been doing so since November 1942.”

According to official documents. my late friend Clay Blair and Captain Enos are not correct. I would cite Captain S.W. Roskill, RN, official historian of British naval operations in the war. In Volume II of his The War at Sea, Roskill wrote (emphasis added):

Although our loss of ships in convoy had never. since the beginning of the war. fallen below our gains of merchant shipping from new construction and other sources. our total losses had so far [May 1943] exceeded our gains. It was … to be precise in July 1943-that the rising curve of Allied merchant ship construction overtook and crossed the more slowly rising curve of sinkings.

Whereas Blair and Enos limited their counting to ships in convoy sunk by Bu-boats, the overall Allied shipping losses were much more significant. For example, in the cited month of March 1943 U-boats sank 72 ships in convoys worldwide (not just North Atlantic), a more significant number than Captain Enos’ “39 ships [sunk] in four eastbound convoys.” Another five ships in convoys were sunk by other causes, mostly air attacks, and U-boats sank 23 merchant ships sailing independently with another two lost to other causes-a total of 102 Allied merchant ships sunk in March 1943.

Thus, Allied merchant construction had to produce 102 merchant ships just to keep even (with some adjustment for increased tonnage of newer ships). But equally important, in the spring of 1943 Britain was hardly surviving as a nation and as a base for the war against Germany. Rationing for British civilians was severe; the merchant ships also were feeding hundreds of thousands of U.S. and Canadian troops being assembled for the invasion of Western Europe (at one point planned for 1943); tanks, trucks, munitions, and the millions of tons of other material needed for such an invasion also was being brought in by ship, as were most of the bombs and fuel needed by the U.S. bombers and fighters already operating over the continent.

Any discussion of the effectiveness of Hitler’s U-boats must take a broader look at the Battle of the Atlantic. As Winston Churchill declared, “The only thing that ever really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril… I was even more anxious about this battle than I had been about the glorious air fight called the Battle of Britain .”


USS BANG (SS 385) 16-19 October 2000 in
Atlantic City, NJ. Contact: Phil Beals, 2127
Oahu Drive, Holiday, FL 34691-3625; phone
(727) 934-9665 e-mail:

USS SKA TE (SSN 578) 18 October 2000 in
Atlantic City, NJ. Contact: Bob Law, 469
Severnside Dr., Severna Park, MD 21146;
phone (410) 987-2164, fax (410) 987-3948; email

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