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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: The Second World War: The War in the Atlantic

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(somber music)

- [Jeremy] Being an island,

Britain had been traditionally reliant

on maritime communications.

It was for this reason

that she had always maintained a large navy.

In fact, Britain had the largest fleet in the world.

Therefore, sea power during World War II

was not significantly different

to that of the first World War.

As with the previous conflict,

the battleship remained the primary component

of the battle fleets.

The primary objective of the Royal Navy

was to destroy the German fleet

before it could cause any significant loss

to merchant shipping.

This meant that the German navy

would have to be strong enough to challenge

the Royal Navy in battle.

Grand Admiral Eric Raeder,

the Naval Commander In Chief,

was firmly convinced that the navy could never match

the British fleet on the surface,

because of the great limitations placed on it

after the Great War.

Instead, he believed that they should concentrate

on cutting the shipping and supply routes to Britain.

The German Naval Expansion Program Plan Zed

therefore represented a compromise.

Hitler was allowed to build a limited number of battleships,

and the first of them, the Bismarck,

was launched in February 1939.

(crowd cheers)

Her sister ship, the Tirpitz,

went down the slipway two months later.

Raeder preferred the smaller pocket battleships,

which were thinly constructed but heavily armed.

Their high speed meant that they were ideally suited

to attacking the convoys.

Plan Zed was never completed,

but German warships were still a great menace

to British commerce.

In late 1939, French and British naval task forces

had to be used to hunt down the pocket battleship,

Graf Spee, which had been sinking merchant shipping

in the Indian Ocean and South Atlantic.

Four British cruisers based in the Fortland Islands

finally corned her at the mouth of the river plate

causing her crew to scuttle her.

In May 1941, the Bismarck played a cat and mouse game

with the British home fleet.

The battle cruiser Hood was her first victim.

Eventually crippled by a torpedo strike

from a British Swordfish,

Bismarck was finally sunk by the Royal Navy.

The British home fleet's attention now

gradually turned to German occupied Norway,

especially once the convoys to Russia had begun

in the late autumn of 1941.

(waves crash)

In January 1942, the German battleship, Tirpitz,

was deployed to Norway

where she hid amongst the many fjords.

The Germans sent other warships.

These included the battle cruisers

Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, and Prinz Eugen,

which in February 1942 took the most direct route

up the English Channel from the French Port of Brest,

where they had been held at the mercy of RAF Bomber Command.

The Royal Navy, the Fleet Air Arm, and the RAF

were unable to stop them reaching the Baltic,

although both the Scharnhorst and the Genisenau

were damaged by mines on the evening of February the 11th.

The threat of these vessels to the Russian convoys

was to keep the home fleet on tenterhooks

until almost the end of 1944,

for it took all this time to destroy them.

(guns fire)

On the last day of 1942,

the strong escort of a Russian convoy

managed to prevent the German cruisers

Hipper and Luetzow from attacking it,

an action that was named the Battle of the Barents Sea.

(waves crash)

So disillusioned was Hitler by this failure

of his surface ships,

that he summoned Admiral Karl Doenitz,

head of the U-Boat Arm to replace Raeder

as Commander In Chief.

While Doenitz had always believed that the U-Boat

was the best means of defeating Britain,

he also realized the value

of maintaining the Norwegian threat

in order to prevent the British home fleet

from acting in other ways against Germany.

The British home fleet continued to use Russian convoys

as bait.

At the end of 1943, it succeeded in tempting out

the Scharnhorst from her Norwegian anchorage.

The British intercepted and sank her

leaving only 36 survivors

in what became knows as the Battle of North Cape.

(guns fire)

With the main threat to the Arctic now removed,

the Tirpitz was the only concern to the British.

In September 1943, the Tirpitz was attacked

by six midget submarines known as X-Craft.

This attack left the Tirpitz with serious damage

to her engines.

April 1944, having been repaired,

the Tirpitz was attacked once more

by British carrier borne aircraft.

(engines whir)

Attacks on Tirpitz continued,

and in September she was badly damaged

when attacked by RAF squadrons with 12,000 pound bombs.

However, it was not until the 12th of November

that Tirpitz finally sank after an internal explosion,

and 1,000 of her crew perished.

Finally, the German surface threat from Norway

had been removed.

(engines whir)

(bombs explode)

In the Mediterranean,

fleet versus fleet actions did take place.

The Royal Navy bombarded the French Fleet

in its Northwest African ports in July 1940

to prevent it falling into German hands.

(waves crash)

It was an act that caused great anger in Vishay, France

against Britain.

(waves crash)

But in November 1942,

the French scuttled their fleet in Toulon

after the Germans occupied Vishay, France.

The main naval action in the Mediterranean,

at least during the first half of the war,

was between the British and Mediterranean fleet

and the Italian navy,

which was determined to make the Mediterranean its sea.

(waves crash)

It was a battle largely hinged on the British efforts

to keep their isolated but crucial

central Mediterranean foothold of Malta resupplied.

The running battle resulted in a large loss of ships.

(cannons fire)

Indeed, the British tactic was to use the Malta convoys

to provoke the Italians into a major fleet action.

Land-based Axis aircraft played a significant role

in harassing British ships.

(engines whir)

But the two most significant naval actions

revealed that it was the British aircraft carriers

that were a key factor,

the Italians having none

of this type of vessel in commission.

(engines whir)

In November 1940, Swordfish aircraft from the carrier,

Illustrious, attacked the Italian fleet base

in Taranto Harbor.

12 Swordfish took part.

Two were shot down, but they succeeded in severely damaging

three Italian battleships.

March 1941 saw the first proper fleet action

in which the Royal Navy had been involved

since Jutland in 1916.

The Mediterranean fleet managed to intercept the Italians

attempting to attack British Greece-bound convoys.

The British had three battleships,

and their warships sank two cruisers and two destroyers.

It was, however, aircraft from the carrier Formidable,

which after some maneuvering,

struck battleship Vittorio Veneto with a torpedo,

crippling the cruiser.

(bombs explode)

The British victory at Cape Matapan

insured that the Italian fleet stayed in port

for the next few months.

Using human torpedoes,

Italian Frogmen did, however,

sink the battleships Queen Elizabeth and Valiant

with limpet mines in Alexandria Harbor in December 1941.

It was the Pacific which really demonstrated

the dominance of the aircraft carrier,

which to this day remains.

Due to the success of the British attack

on Taranto in November 1941,

Japanese Admiral Yamamoto planned a similar surprise attack

on the American Pacific fleet base

at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, known as Plan Zed.

The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941,

destroying much of the US Pacific fleet.

Plan Zed appeared to have succeeded,

but the Japanese missed the two vital fleet carriers,

Lexington and Enterprise,

which were at sea at the time.

It was around these two that the fleet was rebuilt.

The Americans were ready to confront the Japanese

by the Spring of 1942.

The Battle of the Coral Sea in May

and the Battle of Midway in June

faltered Japanese expansion

and enabled some measure of control to be regained

over the Southwest Pacific.

(plane engines whir)

These battles marked the beginning

of a new naval warfare.

Carriers took over from the battleships,

and the opposing fleets never came

within gun range of each other.

(plane engines whir)

There was a distinct pattern to these actions.

First, the opposing fleet had to be located,

done either by reconnaissance aircraft or submarine.

Then the first wave of aircraft was launched.

Dive and torpedo bombers were the two types

of carrier attack aircraft.

(engines whir)

Fighters, like Japanese Zeros,

gave protection to the attack planes.

To give greater range,

aircraft were often fitted with additional fuel tanks.

Carriers were at their most vulnerable

when their aircraft were on the flight deck

being rearmed and refueled.

Should an imminent enemy air attack

be identified by radar,

it was crucial to get the fighters into the air

before it arrived.

Expert judgment was required to decide

which aircraft to have on deck at any particular time.

The great carrier battles eventually

broke the back of the Japanese navy.

(bombs explode)

One of the two major landmarks for the Americans

was the Battle of the Philippine Sea in June 1944,

which resulted in the capture of the Marianas,

known as the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot.

(engines whir)

The other important engagement

was the Battle of Lady Gulf in the Philippines

in October 1944,

which totally crippled the Japanese fleet.

(engines whir)

(bombs explode)

The American third and fifth fleets

succeeded in obliterating the remainder

of the Japanese carrier force over a period of four days,

resulting in the appearance of Japanese suicide pilots.

Japanese Kamikaze, or divine winged aircraft,

were to be the greatest threat to allied shipping

for the last year of the war in the Pacific,

designed to destroy enemy ships by diving onto their decks.

(guns fire)

During the Battle For Okinawa,

from April to June 1945,

nearly 2,000 Japanese suicide sorties were mounted,

25 allied ships were sunk, and over 250 were damaged.

(guns fire)

By Spring 1945,

the British Pacific Fleet had joined the American fleets

in the Pacific

to create the largest armada of warships ever known.

Consisting of over 1,300 ships,

it had a vast fleet train of support vessels

ranging from oilers to dry docks,

everything required to maintain a fleet

many thousands of miles away from its base.

One advantage that the British fleet carriers had

over those of the Americans was armored decks,

which were better able to resist Kamikaze attacks.

The threat of air power to navies

had forced every warship of whatever type

to be armed with an increasing number

of anti-aircraft weapons.

The British even went so far

as to produce anti-aircraft cruisers

with high angled gun turrets, like the Dido Class vessel.

Battleships still had a part to play

despite the increasing use of the carrier.

They had found themselves a new role, shore bombardment,

both in the European theater and in the Pacific.

Their way to fire could prove devastating

in support of land operations.

(guns fire)

To give up one example,

the Germans in Normandy,

during an arf of the allied landings in June 1944,

considered that the weight of naval gunfire

was much more a factor for concern

than the total allied air dominance

over the battle area.

Naval support for ground forces

extended much further than just shore bombardments.

During the early part of the war,

the Royal Navy found itself having to evacuate

allied forces after disastrous campaigns.

The evacuations from France in 1940

and Greece and Crete in 1941

were carried in an environment

in which the Axis had air superiority

and a cost in ships was high.

The Japanese in the Pacific

used light cruisers and destroyers extensively

to keep isolated island garrisons supplied.

The so called "Tokyo Express"

was especially successful in this

during the long battle for Guadalcanal

in the Solomon Islands in the second half of 1942.

But both in Europe and the Pacific,

the second world war came to be dominated

by amphibious operations,

the landing of ground forces on hostile shores.

Indeed, there was no theater of war

in which these did not take place.

The Russians carried out a number in the Black Sea.

(guns fire)

The British mounted them on the Coast of Burma.

The navy's first task in these operations

was to ensure that it dominated the adjoining seas.

The one exception to this was

during the first amphibious landings of the war

by the Germans in Norway in April 1940.

They lost a number of ships to the guns of the Royal Navy,

surprised, however,

enabled them to achieve their objectives.

Many of the major naval actions in the Pacific

were fought to ensure

that the US Navy had this necessary dominance.

(bombs explode)

The British experience in the Dardanelles in 1915

had caused many to believe

that landings on opposed shores were not feasible.

As a result, pre-war policy gave little priority

to amphibious operations.

In 1939, no nation had much in the way of landing craft,

flat bottomed to enable them to be driven up onto a beach,

so that the troops could land

without getting their feet wet.

The momentum came from Britain

with the formation of the Commandos in the Summer of 1940,

in order to carry out raiding operations

against Axis-held coasts.

In conjunction with this,

Churchill set up the Directorate of Combined Operations.

It's title emphasized the fact

that amphibious warfare involved all three armed services,

air, sea, and land.

Through this medium,

a wide range of amphibious shipping was developed.

Once America entered the war,

she was also able to harness a significant part

of her industrial know-how to this field.

Largest were the assault ships

which took troops, equipment, and supplies

from the mounting base to the landing area.

(guns fire)

On arrival to the landing area,

the navy began to bombard the shore

in order to neutralize the defenses.

(guns fire)

The assault ships carried landing craft,

and it was to these that the troops now transferred.

(boat engines roar)

Smaller types, like the landing craft, Assault,

were used for raiding operations.

And there were ocean-going landing ships,

which could put tanks and guns directly ashore

onto the beaches.

There were also landing craft

equipped with guns and rockets

to add to the supporting fire

as the landings took place.

(guns fire)

Once the landings had taken place,

the beaches themselves needed to be properly organized.

If not, chaos would very quickly be the result.

The British formed the Royal Navy Beach Head Commandos

for this task.

The US Navy's Construction Battalions, the Seabees,

were adept at clearing beach obstacles

and opening up harbors and building air fields.

By 1945, the western allies had overcome

the complexities of amphibious warfare

and developed it into a fine art.

The main key to success

was the close coordination of land, sea, and air forces.

Indeed, in no other operation of war

was and is this more vital

from the planning stage, the landing stage,

and through to the subsequent operations on the land.

(waves crash)

The successful conduct of amphibious operations

became the cornerstone of allied strategy

in the second world war.

As American General Douglas MacArthur later said,

"the amphibious landing is the most powerful tool we have."

The throttling of maritime communications

was pursued by navies in the second world war

with an even greater intensity

than during the first world war.

The Germans recognized,

as they had done during the Great War,

that the one way to bring Britain to her knees

was to paralyze her trade routes.

Her second Battle of the Atlantic was waged.

It opened with the sinking of the liner, the Athenia,

on the third of September 1939.

It did not end until after the sinking

of two British merchant vessels

off Scotland's east coast on the seventh of May 1945.

It was the longest campaign of the second world war.

At the beginning, the German submarine fleet was small

with only 57 U-boats in commission,

and just a third of these at sea.

But Hitler also believed that his major surface warships

could play a significant part

in attacking merchant shipping.

Indeed, the Graf Spee and the Deutschland

had sailed from Germany before the outbreak of war

for this very purpose, and was soon sinking ships.

(guns fire)

The Royal Navy, on the other hand,

had grown complacent between the wars

over their trek to trade.

Their institution of convoying

and the invention of ASDIC,

called Sonar by the Americans,

averted the danger and led to the defeat of the U-boat.

Convoying was instituted as soon as the war broke out,

but there was a grave shortage of escort vessels

with most commissioned to other tasks,

such as escorting the British Army across to France.

Consequently, transatlantic convoys

were restricted to vessels with a speed of nine to 15 knots.

Then their sole support was often no more

than a single armed merchant cruiser.

The U-boats were thus able to concentrate

on the numerous vessels sailing on their own.

(eerie music)

By the end of 1939,

the U-boats had sunk over 100 vessels,

while the British had little success

in hunting them down.

Their attempts to use carrier routes against the U-boats

were especially disastrous,

with one carrier sunk and a near miss on another

in the first weeks of the war.

In the meantime, the Graf Spee in the South Atlantic

and Deutschland in the North Atlantic

were joined in November by the Scharnhorst

and the Gneisenau.

By the end of 1939,

they had accounted for 15 merchant vessels.

(eerie music) (waves crash)

The severe winter weather reduced operations,

as did the Norwegian campaign in spring 1940.

(eerie music) (waves crash)

Mine warfare was also used extensively

by both sides from the outset of the war.

Each played its part in the campaign against trade,

accounting for 79 allied vessels

during the first four months.

The magnetic mine was the cause of many casualties.

(eerie music) (waves crash)

This mine was initially very difficult to sweep,

except by vessels with all wooden hulls.

(eerie music)

To counter a magnetic mine,

the British had to run electric coils

around the hulls of their ships

in order to cancel out the magnetic signature

which detonated this type of mine.

This was known as degaussing.

The next major phase of the Battle of the Atlantic

began in the summer of 1940 after the fall of France.

This enabled the Germans to deploy their U-boats

to the French Atlantic ports

and radically reduce the time used

to deploy them into the Atlantic,

meaning that many more U-boats could be on patrol

at any one time.

This period was the beginning

of what the U-boat Skippers called "the first happy time."

(eerie music) (waves crash)

The British were still dreadfully short

of escort vessels,

even though the American donation of 50 World War I

force attacker destroyers in September 1940 did help.

The Germans, too, had positioned a squadron

of huge Focke Wulf Condors on the French Atlantic coast.

These were able to guide the U-boats onto the convoys,

besides accounting for

a significant number of ships themselves.

(engines whir)

(bombs explode)

There was also the surface threat

with the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer

sinking no less than 17 vessels during one cruise

in November 1940.

Early in 1941, the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau

disrupted the entire British convoy system.

(guns fire)

The Germans also employed commerce raiders,

merchant vessels armed with obsolete 150 millimeter guns.

(guns fire)

Most successful of these was the Pinguin.

She sank no less than 26 vessels

using her Arado 196 float plane to locate her victims.

(engine whir)

Royal Navy ships searched for her in the Indian Ocean.

In May 1941, the Pinguin was finally intercepted

by the cruiser Cornwall,

who succeeded in causing her to sink.

(guns fire)

By this time, more escort vessels were becoming available,

basing some in Iceland and using the increasing resources

of the Royal Canadian Navy,

enabled convoys to be given much more protection

than before.

Aircraft, like the American-built Lockheed Hudsons,

were deployed in Iceland

to provide more air cover over the Atlantic.

There was also the surrender of the U-11O.

Before she sank, the British managed to seize her

Enigma Cipher Machine.

This enabled them to read U-boat signals,

and hence, re-route convoys.

The net result of all this was that by July 1941,

shipping losses had fallen to a fifth

of what they had been in March.

In the meantime,

RAF Bomber Command was attacking the shipyards,

building U-boats, but without much success.

Likewise, the reinforced concrete pins,

in which they were housed in the French ports,

proved to be resistant to bombing.

(engines whir)

President Roosevelt gave increasing help

as 1941 wore on,

even though the United States were still at peace.

Unlike many Americans, he believed that sooner or later

his country would get drawn into the war.

In July, US Marines began to relieve

the British Garrison on Iceland.

This meant that the US Navy could legitimately

escort convoys there.

Later, Roosevelt extended this by declaring

that he would provide escorts for any land-leased convoy

across the Atlantic to as far west as level with Iceland.

It was virtually inevitable that US warships

would be attacked.

On the 17th of October, the destroyer Kearny, seen here,

was badly damaged by a U-boat.

Two weeks later, another destroyer, Reuben James,

was sunk.

But it was Japan, and not Germany,

that forced America into the war

through the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

(bombs explode)

This precipitated the second happy time

for Germany's U-boats.

Admiral Karl Doenitz, their commander,

turned his eyes on the poorly protected

American eastern seaboard,

and especially on the tanker traffic from South America.

He deployed a number of his ocean-going Type IX boats,

and in January 1942, they launched Operation Drum Roll.

That month alone, they sank 40 ships in these waters.

(water sloshes)

Worse, on the first of February,

the U-boats adopted a new Enigma Cipher,

codenamed Tritan,

which the British were unable to decode

until the end of that year.

Not until April was a blackout of lights

on American eastern seaboard instituted

together with a proper convoy system.

Thereafter, the U-boats moved to the Caribbean,

where there were equally rich pickings to be had.

Doenitz also began to deploy U-boat tankers,

known as Milk Cows,

which could carry 600 tons of fuel, torpedoes,

and other supplies to keep the U-boats resupplied.

This enabled him to deploy the more numerous,

but shorter ranged, Type VIIs.

Doenitz was convinced that his U-boats

would be at their most effective

if they were concentrated in what he called Wolf Packs.

Not until 1942 did he have sufficient operational U-boats

to be able to put this into wide scale practice.

The Wolf Packs would form a patrol line,

with the boats usually positioned at five mile intervals.

They will then sweep eastwards and westwards

until they contacted a convoy.

But the escorts in the convoys themselves

were becoming better organized.

Convoys were graded fast and slow,

with only fast troop ships

being allowed to travel on their own

since they could outrun the U-boats.

Their hub of operations was Headquarters Western Approaches,

based in the English port of Liverpool.

Their convoy commander was usually

a senior retired naval officer.

And before the convoy set off,

he would brief the merchant captains.

On both sides of the Atlantic,

local escorts saw the convoys and their columns of ships

out of coastal waters.

The ocean escorts then took over.

These usually consisted of some six destroyers,

corvettes, and sloops.

By the second half of 1942,

they were becoming well drilled

and able to carry out combined attacks on U-boats

on a single code word.

Sonar remained the main means

of detecting a U-boat underwater,

but escorts were now beginning to be equipped with radar

to locate a surfaced U-boat.

High Frequency Direction Finding, or Huff-Duff,

enabled them to pinpoint a U-boat's position

from its radio transmissions.

In the early part of the war,

escorts could only fire depth charges over the stern,

which meant that they first had to pass

over the U-boat.

(bombs explode)

This gave the U-boat more time to take evasive action.

By mid 1942, however,

anti-submarine attacks could be made over the sides

and bow of the escort,

which increased the chances of a kill.

(waves crash)

But it was recognized by now

that air cover was essential

to ensure the safety of a convoy.

Even with new maritime patrol aircraft,

like the resilient American-designed PBY one,

called the Catalina by the British,

there was still an area of the North Atlantic

that was not under land-based aircraft coverage.

This was known as The Black Gap.

To overcome it,

the British initially introduced

Catapult-Armed Merchant Men, known as CAM Ships.

These carried a single hurricane,

which could be launched from the deck,

but on return,

this had to ditch alongside its parent vessel.

Later, escort carriers smaller than the fleet carrier

were built in large numbers

by both the Americans and the British.

It was not, however,

until 1943 that the Black Gap was closed

when very long range B-24 Liberator were deployed,

but sinkings were continuing to outstrip

the build of new merchant vessels.

American Industrial Organization came to the rescue

with shipyards on both sides of the Atlantic,

bursting at the seams to meet the now very varied

allied naval demands.

The Americans came up with a new idea

for constructing merchant vessels.

They were allowed to be built at factories inland

in sections.

These would then be taken to the coast and assembled.

The first Liberty ship, the Patrick Henry,

was launched from Baltimore Naval Dockyard

as early as September 1941.

Thereafter, production increased rapidly,

and by the end of 1942,

it was beginning to have a very real effect

on the Battle of the Atlantic.

The winter of 1942-43, with its Atlantic gales,

helped to reduce shipping losses.

So too, did the fact that the British

had finally cracked the U-boat Tritan Engima Cipher.

In January 1943, at the Allied Conference

held at Casablanca,

it was agreed that winning the Battle of the Atlantic

must be a top priority.

At the same time, Doenitz,

who had now taken over as Commander In Chief

of the German navy,

ordered his U-boats to concentrate

just on the fully-laden convoys

crossing from North America to Europe.

Sinkings in the North Atlantic now rose alarmingly.

The real crisis came in mid March,

when no less than 37 U-boats hurried to east-bound convoys,

sinking 21 ships.

(waves crash)

A total of 540,000 tons of allied shipping

was lost during the month.

(waves crash)

Only the arrival of the spring gales

put a break on U-boat activity.

(waves crash)

In desperation, the British halted their convoys to Russia

in order to provide more escort vessels for the Atlantic.

Some of these were formed into support groups

which could reinforce convoys under severe attack.

Once the gales ceased,

Doenitz deployed an increasing number of U-boats.

Their climax came at the beginning of May 1943,

when no less than 40 U-boats

attacked the west-bound convoy, ONS 5,

sinking 12 ships in 36 hours,

but losing two of their own.

(waves crash)

(guns fire)

But then the escorts struck back,

sinking four more U-boats

and damaging several others without loss.

This sudden change in allied fortunes in the Atlantic

was to continue for the next two weeks.

More and more U-boats failed to return to their bases.

Eventually, on the 24th of May,

having lost a staggering 31 U-boats so far in the month,

Doenitz decided to temporarily withdraw his Wolf Packs

from the Atlantic.

It was the major point in the battle,

but by no means the end of it.

In September 1943, the U-boats returned to the Atlantic,

this time equipped with a new acoustic torpedo.

But the Allies were able to counter this with a drogue

designed to reproduce the noise of a ships engine,

and which was towed by an escort vessel.

The Germans then introduced snorkels on their U-boats,

which enabled them to spend more time under the water.

Finally, in mid 1944, came the new Electroboat,

capable of underwater speeds of up to 17 knots,

but this and the even faster Walter Boat,

which was driven by hydrogen peroxide when submerged,

appeared too late to altar the course of the campaign.

The cost of the Battle of the Atlantic

was high for both sides.

Of the nearly 1,200 U-boats commissioned during the war,

no less than 65 percent were lost,

yet 23 million tons of allied shipping had been sunk,

15 million of it in the North Atlantic.

The Mediterranean, too, saw much submarine activity

during the first half of the war.

Axis submarines concentrated on ravaging

the weak British supply line to Malta

and had some notable successes.

In November 1941,

German U-boats accounted for their carrier, Ark Royal.

12 days later, U-331 sank the battleship Barham.

In turn, British submarines hurried

the Axis sea communications to North Africa.

By the autumn of 1942, they had,

with the help of aircraft,

almost severed fuel supplies to Rommel's Army,

and forced him onto the defensive.

(waves crash)

In the Pacific, the submarine also played a key role.

The Japanese entered the war with 64 boats,

more than the Germans had in 1939.

A further 126 were built during the war,

but almost 70 percent of their total build was lost,

sinking less than a million tons of allied shipping.

The main reason for this poor performance

was that the Japanese placed priority

on attacking warships,

rather than defenseless merchant and supply vessels.

They also generally organized their submarines

in rigid groups,

and allowed their skippers

very little attitude or initiative.

Many Japanese submarines were also lost

in carrying out resupply missions to isolated garrisons.

And as many as 20 at a time were used

to keep their own forces supplied

during the long battle for Guadalcanal.

Most of these subsequently fell victim

to American warships.

If the Japanese submarine fleet failed

to make a significant contribution to the war effort,

the American submarines most certainly did.

Recognizing that Japan's war industry

was totally dependent on the import of raw materials,

the US Navy decided to concentrate submarine operations

on attacking Japanese merchant shipping.

This resulted in serious problems

with malfunctioning torpedoes.

These problems were not resolved until 1943.

Even so, during 1942, American submarines sank

180 Japanese merchant vessels.

(waves crash)

Two years later, with the underwater fleet having expanded,

the Allies were able to operate from forward bases

in the Pacific,

and American submarines sank a colossal total of 600 ships,

and then began to run out of targets.

This reduced Japanese imports by 40 percent,

including oil supplies,

so that the Japanese main fleet had to base itself

in the Dutch East Indies,

rather than home waters,

in order to insure that it continued to receive fuel.

Japanese war production, as a whole,

was halved by spring 1945,

and oil shortages had crippled the transportation system.

In contrast, because of the American success,

the US Submarine Production Program

was drastically cut back in 1944.


the American submarines in the Pacific succeeded,

where the German U-boats in the Atlantic had failed.

(somber music)

The Description of The Second World War: The War in the Atlantic