Atlantic, Battle of the
ATLANTIC, BATTLE OF THE
ATLANTIC, BATTLE OF THE, the 1939–1945 struggle between Allied shipping and German submarines and Luftwaffe. Although the United States was officially neutral in World War II before November 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's pledge of "all aid short of war" to the Allies had antagonized the Germans, obligating U.S. naval patrols to protect pro-Allied merchantmen plying the broad neutrality zone. After several inclusive skirmishes, a German torpedo sank the American destroyer Reuben James into the waters south of Iceland on 31 October 1941. Before the American declaration of war, the Axis had sunk 2,162 ships totaling 7,751,000 tons. One month after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a damaging U-boat attack in American waters convinced U.S. military planners to organize the Tenth Fleet to bring all antisubmarine activities under a single command. An interlocking convoy system gradually developed across the Atlantic, forcing German Admiral Karl Dönitz to withdraw his U-boats to mid-ocean. U-boats had great success against Russian convoys. Most destructive was the concerted air and U-boat attack on Convoy PQ-17, which lost two-thirds of its thirty-three ships in July 1942.
However, burgeoning U.S. naval strength, as well as scientific advances, operations analysis, and improved radar, soon began to thwart U-boats. The development of support groups to aid endangered convoys was decisive. Shaken, Dönitz largely abandoned attacks on convoys. U.S. hunter-killer groups using "jeep" aircraft carriers had increasing success also. U-boats could never regain the initiative. Overall, U-boats destroyed 2,775 ships, at a loss of 781 of the 1,175 completed U-boats. By the last months of the war, the U-boats were nearly impotent.
Blair, Clay. Hitler's U-Boat War. New York: Random House, 1996–1998.
Morison, Samuel E. History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. Volume 1: The Battle of the Atlantic, September 1939–May 1943. Volume 10: The Atlantic Battle Won, May 1943–May 1945. Boston: Little, Brown, 1947–1962.
Syrett, David. The Defeat of the German U-Boats: The Battle of the Atlantic. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1994.
Henry H.Adams/a. r.
Atlantic, battle of the
R. A. C. Parker
Atlantic, Battle of the