The basic idea of this book is excellent. The author takes Dönitz's memoirs and compares them to the wartime British reports on the U-boat war to see how differently the two sides viewed the progress of the conflict. These British reports were issued monthly and were written for fairly senior officers who were involved in the battle but who generally weren't aware of the Ultra secret and the Allied ability to decode much Enigma traffic. The main document used is the 'Monthly Anti-Submarine Report' and in particular the 'U-boat Offensive' and 'U-boat Countermeasures' sections. There are also extracts from special reports on individual weapons as they were introduced and on the radar and radio wars.
The implementation could be a bit better. It isn't always clear when the author is produced verbatim text from the historical documents and when he is condensing the original or reporting its content. The reader would also benefit from having Dönitz's memoirs to hand, as the sections on his views are rather short. The author's notes on the original text are normally useful, supplying the details of U-boats that were sunk (name and commander) or correcting over-optimistic Allied reports of sinkings.
There are moments when one wishes that the author had kept his opinions about the wider war to himself - the way he writes about errors that have crept into some books on the U-boat was because of wartime and post-war secrecy comes across as verging on the paranoid, as does a suggestion that the British deliberately didn’t issue adequate survival equipment at the start of the war in an attempt to make a propaganda point. As a result when the author does mention something where there is genuine controversy it is hard to take his arguments seriously. Thankfully this hasn’t had an impact on the main business of the book and tends only to appear in the chapter intros. The annotations to the British reports and comments on Dönitz's work remain accurate and useful.
The title is a bit misleading. We don’t really get much on Dönitz, instead the main focus is on the British wartime reports. The result is a fascinating and very valuable contribution to the historical literature on the U-boat war, giving us a clear idea of how the British saw things at the time.
1 - The Start of the War - September 1939-June 1940
2 - The First Ten Months
3 - The Battle in the Atlantic Phase 1: July-October 1940
4 - The Major Turning-Point of the U-boat War - March 1941
5 - Special Intelligence Enters the War - May 1941
6 - Fragmentation of Strength - Summer 1941
7 - New Weapons for Hunting Old U-boats - Summer 1941
8 - Fast-Moving Patrol Lines - September to December 1941
9 - Audacity - Auxiliary Aircraft Carriers Step In - Christmas 1941
10 - American Joins the War: Operation 'Paukenschlag' (The First Thrust) - January 1942
11 - The U-boat Command's Biggest Blunder?
12 - War in American Waters. The Second and Later Thrusts - February 1942
13 - Back to Freetown (Africa) - March 1942
14 - After the American Excursion - after May 1942
15 - The Mid-Atlantic Shock - July 1942
16 - Postscript to the Summer's Battles - September 1942
17 - New Weapons for Outdated Boats
18 - Action in the Mid-Atlantic Air Gap - October 1942
19 - Hedgehog, Mousetrap and Depth Charge Attacks - July/ September 1942 with Additions from Autumn 1941 reports
20 - Luck as Vital Ingredient - October to November 1942
21 - Another Bout of Luck? The Tanker Convoy TM1 - January 1943
22 - New Developments - End of 1942
23 - The Hardest Convoy Battle: The Build-up to the Climax - January and February 1942
24 - The Largest Convoy Battle of All Time - March 1943
25 - Crisis Convoy - April and May 1943
26 - The Summer of 1943
27 - News from the Monthly Anti-Submarine Reports
28 - The Autumn of the U-boats - September 1943
29 - After the Crash of September 1943
30 - Weapons Used against U-boats
31 - The Radio War
Author: Jak. P. Mallmann Showell