German U-Boat Losses During World War II, Axel Niestlé

German U-Boat Losses During World War II, Axel Niestlé

During the Second World War over 1,000 U-boats were lost to a wide of causes, from Allied attack to accidental damage or deliberate scuttling. This book provides a complete list of every U-boat, with the most up-to-date understanding of how they were lost.

I did have one concern before reading this book. There seemed to me to be a tendency amongst historians working in this area to concentrate on cases where they could take the credit for a victory away from the British armed forces, and one could be concerned about the motives for this sort of activities. This book has reassured me in several significant ways.

First, we begin with a look at the way in which U-Boat losses were assessed by both sides during and immediately after the Second World War. During the war victory claims required clear evidence, but after the end of the fighting an attempt was made to tidy up the record by linking unexplained losses to known Allied attacks, a method that inevitably produced many erroneous results. The vast majority of changed attributions are from these post-war assessments, and not from the more rigorous wartime credits.

Second, each of the changed attributions is clearly explained in the footnotes, and it is thus possible to see the evidence. Post-war authors have had the advantage of access to German records, which in some cases prove that a particular U-boat was still intact after the date allocated to its destruction (U-253). In other cases an attack credited with the destruction of one U-boat can be proved to have been made against a different submarine (an attack recorded as being on U-209 actually sank U 954). Over half a century of underwater research has also found the remains of some U-boats in a different area, or showing signs of a different type of damage.

Third, many of the changed attributions still involve Allied efforts, just not the effort that was originally given the credit. A number of U-boats that were originally credited to air attack or naval attack were probably destroyed by Allied minefields, or by different attacks.

I only have one quibble with this book. The heart of the book are the reassessments, and the heart of the reassessments are the explanations, but these have been placed in book end notes put in between a series of appendices and a series of lengthy subject indexes. I would have much preferred to see proper page notes, which would have made it much easier to trace the reason for a change of attribution.

Other than that minor quibble, this is an excellent reference work. The book is well organised, with U-boats organised by type, with each individual boat getting a brief entry (and footnote if required), providing date of commission, date and name of last departure from a German controlled port, rank and family name of the commander and finally the details of its loss. These chapters make up the bulk of the book, but are also supported by a series of useful appendices and indexes which help complete the picture.

1 - Principles of U-Boat Loss Assessment during World War II
2 - German U-Boat Numbers and Types, 1935-1945
3 - Loss Register (organised by Type then number)

1 - Chronological List of German U-Boat Losses during World War II
2 - Tabular Monthly Overview of the Causes of U-Boat Losses
3 - Distribution of German Front-Line U-Boats on 8 May 1945
4 - German U-Boats Surrendering or Captured by Allied Forces at the Endof World War II

1 - U-Boat Commanding Officers
2 - Allied and Axis Commanding Officers and Pilots
3 - Allied and Axis Ships
4 - Allied Air Force Units

Author: Axel Niestlé
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 320
Publisher: Frontline
Year: 2014

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