Blair, Clay.


2 Vols., 1st.eds., 1997 & 1999. Vol. I : Xxxi + 809 pp., 28 photo-plates, 7 maps, & a cutaway drawing. Vol. II : Xxxi + 909 pp., 72 photo-plates & 7 maps (4 double-page). Both in d.j.'s. 24 x 16cm. FINE. When the first volume of this study was published - the result of nine years of research - it was hailed as the definitive account of the German submarine war in the Battle of the Atlantic. The second volume followed two years later to cover the last years of the naval war in Europe when the Allies overcame the U-boat threat. For almost six years, German U-boats attempted to blockade and isolate the British Isles in the hope of forcing Britain out of the conflict. This would have had a major impact on the war and prevented the Allies from bombing German cities and launching the invasion of occupied France. The U-boats failed in their objectives. They sank 2,800 Allied merchant ships while the Allies sank almost 800 U-boats. Thousands of sailors lost their lives on both sides. The top-secret penetration of German naval codes played a major role in the Allied victory. Until recent years the official code-breaking and U-boat records were withheld by London and Washington so that no complete assessment could be attempted until now. The author claims that earlier accounts are incomplete, contain errors, false interpretations and conclusions, and led to the myth that the U-boats came within a whisker of defeating the Allies ' this work sets out to prove the opposite. In his review when the second volume appeared, the late Ludovic Kennedy described it as a work of "academic excellence". With a total of over 1,700 pages, almost every one of nearly a thousand operational U-boats are covered with painstaking thoroughness, reconstructing target-by-target the whole course of the U-boat war. Superior technical developments and the breaking of the Enigma intercepts by both Great Britain and the United States brought about the eventual (and the author argues, inevitable) defeat of Donitz's submarines. A FINE set in two volumes.

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