The Atlantic Campaign Essay Research Paper The

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The Atlantic Campaign Essay, Research Paper The Battle of the Atlantic was the most prolonged struggle of World War II. This struggle was easily the one that came the closest to ending the war in Germany s favor. It was a battle that was extremely costly in terms of men s lives as well in terms of resources that affected virtually every continent in the world. It would determine whether England could continue to fight Hitler and whether Hitler would succeed in starving out the island nation. Britain needed to import 55,000,000 tons of goods by sea in 1939. Included in this figure are one hundred percent of Britain s oil, most of its raw materials and half its food. And every day Germany s U-boats were gnawing at England s lifeline. The battle officially began on September 3,

1939, the day Britain and France declared war against Germany. On that day the German submarine U-30 sank the British liner Athenia, which was carrying more than 1,100 passengers. One hundred and eighteen people died, 28 of them Americans. The terror increased when the U-boat surfaced in the moonlit water and fired its deck gun at the sinking ship. Only then did the U-boat commander realize that he had attacked an unarmed liner allegedly against specific orders. Germany denied sinking the Athenia and claimed that the British themselves had sunk her so that they could get American sympathy. Their claim was that Winston Churchill had ordered a bomb to be placed on board this vessel to further aggravate German-American relations. A poll showed that 40 percent of Americans believed

the Germans. Those had to be Americans without a sense of history. For in World War I, the sinking of the Lusitania, a British passenger liner, by a German submarine had helped to propel America into war on the side of the Allies. The Lusitania toll was higher, 1,195 people died, 128 of them U.S. citizens. Now, with the sinking of the Athenia, Germany had done it again. The commander of U-30 was sworn to secrecy; the submarine s log was destroyed, and a new one, with no torpedoing of the Athenia mentioned, was substituted. On Hitler s orders, the U-boats were to follow the protocols, at least for a time. On September 11, to demonstrate that Germany was really following the rules of so-called civilized warfare, the U-48 sank a merchantship and radioed London the exact location of

the lifeboats. Germany had only 26 seaworthy U-boats operating at the beginning of the war. Few as they were, German submarines badly hurt British shipping and naval forces. Two weeks after the war began the U-29 sank the carrier Courageous, which was on anti-submarine patrol; 519 officers and men went down with the ship including the captain. The carrier Ark Royal had a close escape from a U-boat s torpedoes, and the Royal Navy was forced to realize that using carriers and the few available destroyers in U-boat hunting groups was both useless and dangerous. Rather, the grouping of merchant ships in convoys was quickly adopted as the best means of protecting merchant ships. Still, by the end of the first month of the war the U-boats had sunk 41 merchant ships. The following month

was worse, although the average number of U-boats at sea declined to ten as the boats on patrol when the war began had to return to port for supplies and torpedoes. But in October the U-29 sank the battleship Royal Oak within the British base of Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands of Scotland. The ship went down with her admiral and a crew of over 800. The destruction of merchant shipping grew during the rest of 1939 and into 1940. The ships were unprotected targets through most of their voyages. The Royal Navy did not have enough destroyers to escort convoys all the way across the Atlantic. The destroyers provided protection to the merchantmen to a point about 300 miles off Ireland, after that, they were on there own. Britain bound convoys similarly crossed the Atlantic unescorted