Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. This Week’s Book Review – The Atlantic War Remembered

 

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday.

Book Review

‘The Atlantic War Remembered’ delivers raw memories from those who lived it

By MARK LARDAS

Feb 15, 2020

“The Atlantic War Remembered: An Oral History Collection” edited by John T. Mason Jr., Naval Institute Press, 2020, 512 pages, $45

World War II has entered history. Some veterans are still alive, but fewer with each passing day. Even those born between 1939 and 1945 are retirement age.

“The Atlantic War Remembered: An Oral History Collection” edited by John T. Mason Jr., allows people today to read what those veterans remembered. It collects accounts from participants in World War II’s Atlantic naval war.

Its interviews cover virtually all levels of participation, from senior leaders to individuals at the lowest levels of combat. The book was assembled from interviews collected between 1960 and 1980 by the U.S. Naval Institute or the Columbia Oral History Project. All aspects of the naval war are covered.

There are accounts by the women who headed up maritime women’s auxiliary services (WAVES, SPARS and Marine Corps Women’s Reserves — Navy, Coast Guard and Marines respectively) about the tribulations of organizing them. Other interviews cover technical aspects of the war: how production increases were accomplished and the challenges in developing radar and other operational systems.

There are many combat accounts, including Atlantic actions, and Mediterranean and English Channel invasion support. There are other, more focused accounts. Draper Kaufmann, who later organized the Navy’s World War II frogmen, talks about his work doing unexploded bomb disposal in England before the United States’ entry in the war.

Because this book relies on the memories of those recounting their experiences, it contains errors. These errors illustrate the confusion and fog experienced by participants. Often the name of a ship or place is misremembered or a widely believed but false rumor recounted. In other cases operational security prevented memorialists from knowing the full story.

Daniel Gallery recounts his experience commanding a hunter-killer carrier force sinking U-boats. At one point he marvels at the accuracy of an analyst in Washington in predicting where U-boats were. The Allies were reading U-boat message traffic, informing them where U-boats were. These were passed to Navy commanders as “predictions,” a secret finally revealed years after Gallery’s interview.

The “The Atlantic War Remembered” also captures the attitudes and outlooks of World War II participants unfiltered through the lens of today’s political correctness.

 Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

Published in History
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  1. Kay of MT Member

    Have any books been written about the Merchant Marines? My first husband served from 1943-1954.

    http://www.usmm.org/shipsunkdamaged.htmlAccording to the War Shipping Administration, the U.S. Merchant Marine suffered the highest rate of casualties of any service in World War II. Officially, a total of 1,554 ships were sunk due to war conditions, including 733 ships of over 1,000 gross tons.

    • #1
    • February 23, 2020, at 12:20 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  2. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter

    Kay of MT (View Comment):
    Have any books been written about the Merchant Marines? My first husband served from 1943-1954.

    Several. Earlier I reviewed Painting War and Liberty’s War. Both are memoirs or near-memoirs of participants. 

    • #2
    • February 23, 2020, at 1:00 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  3. Kay of MT Member

    Thank you Seawriter, my ex stated he served on a Merchant Marine Ship, but he was a First Class Radio Officer. Never called himself a Merchant marine. Very protective of his radio room, stayed there 24/7 and didn’t let anybody in, never let another person work at the radio. He did a lot of code work and claimed he didn’t trust anybody else to accept or translate correctly. When he first went in at age 16 they had him stoking coal. While they were sitting in the harbor, the ship next to them was sunk. I think on the New Jersey shore. After his first tour he signed up for radio school. By age 18, he was the chief radio officer of his ship. Fortunately, none on his ships were sunk but several near by.

    I made a mistake on his dates of service, it was from 1943 to 1958.

    • #3
    • February 23, 2020, at 1:40 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  4. Russ Schnitzer Member

    For more on the Battle of The Atlantic, I highly recommend “The Cruel Sea”, a book by Nicholas Monsarrat, a former British naval officer. Written in 1951, the author tells the story of the heroic sacrifices of British sailors during the Battle of The Atlantic.

    After reading The Cruel Sea, I was pleased to find a British film was made in 1953 based on the book. DVD and Blu-Ray are available and the film may be available on Youtube.

    • #4
    • February 23, 2020, at 1:59 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  5. Al French of Damascus Moderator

    Dan Gallery wrote a number of popular and readable books about his war experiences. I have read several, and recommend them.

    • #5
    • February 23, 2020, at 4:58 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  6. Richard Easton Member

    Al French (View Comment):

    Dan Gallery wrote a number of popular and readable books about his war experiences. I have read several, and recommend them.

    His books are wonderful.

    • #6
    • February 23, 2020, at 5:09 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  7. Dan Campbell Member

    I volunteer on the Libertyship John W. Brown in Baltimore. It is one of two remaining working Libertyships in the world. The other is the Jeremiah O’Brian in San Francisco. 2,710 Libertyships were launched in about 4 years, an incredible feat of organization and engineering. Libertyships are cargo haulers of about 8,000 tons. They carried the output from America’s factories to all the fighting fronts. About 200 were lost during the war.

    The Brown was launched at Bethlehem Shipyard in Baltimore on 7 Sept 1942. She is driven by a triple-expansion reciprocating engine with 2 boilers. In addition to the civilian merchant marine crew, each ship also had 20-25 US Navy gunners who manned defensive weapons, 20mm, 3-inch, and a 5-inch gun. I volunteer in the engine room as a fireman/water tender, making steam for the engine.

    The Brown is now owned by a private non-profit. We make 3-5 cruises each year, taking passengers on a 6-hour cruise up and down the Chesapeake. Cruises include WWII-type entertainment (big band, singers, etc.) and an airshow at the turn-around point. The ship has a number of mini-museums, and you can tour the ship’s spaces, including the engine room, radio room, bridge, etc.

    If you’d like to experience something of the WWII merchant marine, please check us out.

    https://www.ssjohnwbrown.org/

     

    • #7
    • February 24, 2020, at 6:38 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  8. J Ro Member

    One shocking truth of the Atlantic War is that when it began the US Navy aviators knew how to navigate long distances over the ocean, but they didn’t have long range aircraft to hunt and kill U-boats in the Eastern Atlantic. The Army Air Forces had long distance aircraft that could put ordinance on U-boats, but they didn’t know how to navigate over the ocean. So for about ten months, the US Army Air Forces were responsible for hunting and killing German U-boats while the Navy waited for its new, more capable aircraft.

    The first phase of the Battle of the Atlantic is covered by AAF historians in The Army Air Forces in World War II published under the auspices of the Office of Air Force History.

    American forces at Pearl Harbor weren’t the only ones dumbfounded in the early days of the war. But Americans learn fast, recover quickly, and managed to get enough supplies and later troops across the Atlantic to secure a victory in Europe. If Hitler had put more resources into his U-boat fleet, perhaps things might have turned out differently.

    • #8
    • February 25, 2020, at 8:20 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  9. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter

    J Ro (View Comment):
    One shocking truth of the Atlantic War is that when it began the US Navy aviators knew how to navigate long distances over the ocean, but they didn’t have long range aircraft to hunt and kill U-boats in the Eastern Atlantic. The Army Air Forces had long distance aircraft that could put ordinance on U-boats, but they didn’t know how to navigate over the ocean. So for about ten months, the US Army Air Forces were responsible for hunting and killing German U-boats while the Navy waited for its new, more capable aircraft.

    I am writing a book about that phase of the Battle of the Atlantic as we speak. It is the sequel to this book, which appeared this month. My sequel covers 1942-45

    • #9
    • February 25, 2020, at 8:43 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  10. J Ro Member

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    J Ro (View Comment):
    One shocking truth of the Atlantic War is that when it began the US Navy aviators knew how to navigate long distances over the ocean, but they didn’t have long range aircraft to hunt and kill U-boats in the Eastern Atlantic. The Army Air Forces had long distance aircraft that could put ordinance on U-boats, but they didn’t know how to navigate over the ocean. So for about ten months, the US Army Air Forces were responsible for hunting and killing German U-boats while the Navy waited for its new, more capable aircraft.

    I am writing a book about that phase of the Battle of the Atlantic as we speak. It is the sequel to this book, which appeared this month. My sequel covers 1942-45

    Cool! Of course the Brits were busy hunting U-boats before and after we entered the war. 

    • #10
    • February 25, 2020, at 8:55 AM PST
    • 1 like
  11. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter

    J Ro (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    J Ro (View Comment):
    One shocking truth of the Atlantic War is that when it began the US Navy aviators knew how to navigate long distances over the ocean, but they didn’t have long range aircraft to hunt and kill U-boats in the Eastern Atlantic. The Army Air Forces had long distance aircraft that could put ordinance on U-boats, but they didn’t know how to navigate over the ocean. So for about ten months, the US Army Air Forces were responsible for hunting and killing German U-boats while the Navy waited for its new, more capable aircraft.

    I am writing a book about that phase of the Battle of the Atlantic as we speak. It is the sequel to this book, which appeared this month. My sequel covers 1942-45

    Cool! Of course the Brits were busy hunting U-boats before and after we entered the war.

    Well, yes, but we joined in during the summer of 1941 – also before we entered the war.

    • #11
    • February 25, 2020, at 9:09 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  12. Taras Coolidge

    Russ Schnitzer (View Comment):

    For more on the Battle of The Atlantic, I highly recommend “The Cruel Sea”, a book by Nicholas Monsarrat, a former British naval officer. Written in 1951, the author tells the story of the heroic sacrifices of British sailors during the Battle of The Atlantic.

    After reading The Cruel Sea, I was pleased to find a British film was made in 1953 based on the book. DVD and Blu-Ray are available and the film may be available on Youtube.

    Excellent movie; starring the great Jack Hawkins as the Captain of a sub hunter.

    The scene I remember most vividly is when he realizes the U-boat is hiding under the survivors of the last ship it torpedoed …

     

    • #12
    • February 25, 2020, at 9:26 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  13. Boss Mongo Member

    Thanks, Seawriter.

    • #13
    • February 26, 2020, at 4:54 PM PST
    • Like