Naval Warfare Books

Book reviews

U-Boat Versus Aircraft

The Dramatic Story behind U-boat Claims in Gun Action with Aircraft in World War II

Franks, Norman and Zimmerman, Eric

1998, Grub Street, London
ISBN 1902304020
Hardcover, 224 pages

Type. Historical narrative
Pros. Detailed and comprehensive
Cons. Sometimes confusing layout/order

During the war roughly 240 U-boats were sunk by aircraft, mostly bombers such as the feared B-24 Liberator or the slow but sturdy Sunderland seaplane. Most of these kills took place in 1943 and 1944 when the RAF Coastal Command and its sister services from the other allied nations drove the U-boats to remain submerged for most of the time if their intention was to survive.

Listing most of the major battles between the aircraft and their intended victims this is a valuable study into this somewhat overlooked part of the war (as far as books go). It is very interested for reading on just how hard both sides worked to keep on fighting. Severely wounded airmen still pressed on - dropping their payload while crippled U-boats still fought on, often driving off aircraft.

There have been a number of books covering this, including some by Norman Franks himself, but from what I've seen this is the best book on the subject so far.

The book is divided into sections such as the Bay of Biscay, aircraft from escort carriers and actions very far off base including actions from CAM ships.

US National Archives - #6608-1
A Liberator from VB-105 attacking the U-243 in July 1944.

It includes narratives such as the amazing work by the gunner of U-763 when he shot down 2 4-engine bombers and damaged 2 more in 2 days in Feb, 1944.

Another such account is of the U-615 in the Caribbean when the boat beat off an amazing number of American aircraft until finally being sunk a few days later. The fierce and efficient anti-aircraft fire was so heavy that the US authorities refused to believe this to be just one U-boat, concentrating their efforts near U-615 and thus enabling many other U-boats to escape the trap the Caribbean had become.

The book includes an interesting appendix that covers some unresolved claims made by U-boats against aircraft.

This book is well worth it if you are interested in this very special aspect of the U-boat war.

Review written by Guðmundur Helgason.

Published on 22 Mar 1999.

This title is highly recommended.

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