The Battle of the Atlantic
The Battle of the Atlantic
The Battle of the Atlantic
In the fall of 1931, the Atlantic Ocean was the boiling point of a criminal battle between the British and Germans. Most people think that the Battle of the Atlantic may have decided World War II’s outcome. This battle was the dominating factor throughout the war. The Battle of the Atlantic was a violent and destructive battle. Many people lost their lives fighting in this battle. New technology was one of the major factors in the Allies winning the long and crucial Battle of the Atlantic.

Just the Beginning
Immediately, the Battle of the Atlantic began when “the British announced a naval blockage of Germany” on September 3, 1939(“World War II” 391). Eight days later the Germans ordered a “counter-blockage” of the Allies(“World War II” 391). The Germans hoped to stop the shipments of war supplies and food to the countries of France and Britain. After only four months into the war, German U-boats, mines, airplanes, and surface raiders had destroyed more than 215 merchant ships and two of Britain’s largest warships. Over 1,500 people had been killed in this short time. “It was clear that despite the lull on land, a long war lay ahead on the world’s water” (Pitt 8).

Indeed, Hitler’s plan to defeat the Allies with U-boats was looking very good. For some unknown reason the Allied ships could not defend against the U-boats. With Hitler in control it looked like the Axis powers were going to drive the Allies out of the Atlantic and win the Battle of the Atlantic. With Hitler taking over most of England, and Great Britain trying to hold the Germans off, the United States decides to send war aid to Britain. The United States gave the British fifty old American destroyers (Von Der Porten 171).

The Happy Time
More important, the Allies needed to come up with an effective strategy. Organizing their cargo ships into convoys, or groups for mutual protection was the Allies plan of action. Air patrols helped protect convoys by covering much of their routes (Pitt 129). This strategy caused problems because with all the ships in a convoy, the U-boats could sink them much easier and more at a time. “Wolf Packs,” a group of U-boats which was the new strategy that Hitler developed to help in the attack of the Allies convoy. With this tactic the Germans would attack the Allied ships in different directions using several U-boats (Humble 4). This tactic worked for awhile. “Between July and October, 1940, the U-boats sank 217 ships. Each U-boat sank on the average of eight ships per month” (Sulzberger 191). The Germans would call this “the Happy Time” (Sulzberger 191).

The Bismarck
Meanwhile, the Germans launched the Bismarck, which was Germany’s most powerful battleship, in 1939. “The Bismarck was the most nearly unsinkable ship of the Battle of the Atlantic. A British fleet with its planes pouring ton after ton of shells and torpedoes into her, could not even send her down” (Sulzberger 195). In May of 1941 the cruiser Dorsetshire hit the Bismarck with three torpedoes. Finally, the Bismarck slowly turned over and sank (“World War II” 195). The Bismarck attack was the turning point for the German forces in the Atlantic. After her loss the major German warships were inactive.

The First One
Furthermore, “on October 31, 1941 the Reuben James, a United States destroyer, was torpedoed by a German U-boat” (Bailey and Ryan 205). Reuben James was one of a group of five United States destroyers who was escorting a convoy of forty-four ships. Reuben James was the first American naval vessel to be lost by enemy action in this battle. Only forty-five of the one hundred and sixty men on board survived the battle (Bailey and Ryan 205).

New Weapons and Strategies
In addition to all the ships being produced the Americans were also coming up with newer weapons to use against the U-boats. These weapons would be used by both planes and battleships. Some of the aircraft

“were fitted with powerful searchlights, Leigh lights, to spot U-boats on the surface at night” (Humble 12). When World War II started the only weapon available was the depth-charge. During the Battle of the Atlantic warships were fitted with mortars, known as Hedgehog and Squid. “These fired a number of bombs which hit the water in a wide cluster, each exploding on contact with a U-boat” (Humble 13). “A later aid in hunting for U-boats was narrow beam radar, which could find even the small target of a submarine on the surface” (Humble 13). “There was also a high frequency direction finder which could determine a U-boat’s position from

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German U-Boats And Battle Of The Atlantic. (April 2, 2021). Retrieved from