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Book Review, NRJ 67.1

February 11, 2023 4:21 PM | PAUL R MITCHELL (Administrator)

U-Boats in New England: Submarine Patrols, Survivors and Saboteurs 1942-1945

Eric Wiberg

Two infamous days standout in the history of the United States: December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor where 2,403 people were killed and September 11, 2001 in New York City where 2,994 people lost their lives. Both events have been studied extensively due to their high visibility to the public. Eric Wiberg, a renown nautical author and historian, offers another series of events that are comparable to those mentioned above: the use of U-boats in guerre de course in the Atlantic theatre during World War II. He states that during the war the United States Navy was neglectful in securing the New England seaboard, leaving it exposed to a tirade of attacks. This led to thirty-eight vessels being sunk and over 5,000 lives lost during the war off the New England shoreline.

Wiberg brings together accounts of the known U-boat attacks off the New England coast. One event that stands out in this work is the insertion of saboteurs at Amagansett, Long Island on June 13, 1942. In this instance U-202 ran aground while deploying saboteurs. The tide left the U-boat stranded for several hours, making it a prime target for capture by the United States Navy. However, it was a capture that never took place and was never considered by the United States Navy. Wiberg describes this as a strategic error that contributed to the continuation of U-boat attacks, hence directly supporting his case that the United States Navy displayed a lack of effort in defending the Atlantic seaboard.

In the subsequent chapters, Wiberg presents strong evidence showing that the United States Navy did not heed the advice of the British and Canadians in regards to their experience with U-boats. Both the British and Canadians employed the tactic, convoy and escort, when it came to merchant trading vessels traveling across the Atlantic. It was not until much later in the war that the United States Navy implemented this strategy and in turn developed their hunter-killer groups that ultimately expelled the U-boats from New England waters. Wiberg does an exceptional job navigating and presenting the multitude of source material on this specific point, allowing for a clear understanding.

Scholars of World War II maritime history, specifically those concerned with U-boats, will want to add this book to their library. The structure of this work is a chronological narrative that flows sinuously, making it both an enjoyable read and easily comprehendible. The author has assembled a plethora of sources, such as firsthand accounts and naval documents, he uses throughout his work that allows for a detailed analysis of this subject. In addition to this, Wiberg provides a valuable resource with tables in the appendices that detail the fates of ninety U-boats, vessels sunk buy U-boat, ports where survivors landed, burial locations of eight U-boat sailors, and the fates of U-boats after the war. This latest perspective on U-boats in New England and the accumulation of source material will undoubtedly prove useful for academics and future research.

  • Stroud: Fonthill Media, 2019
  • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, 416 pages
  • Photographs, maps, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. $55.00
  • ISBN: 9781781557204

Reviewed by: Raymond Phipps, East Carolina University

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