This mammoth book concludes the two-volume set that began with The Hunters, 1939-1942. If the first installment charted the rise of the U-boat, this one describes its downfall as the United States became fully engaged in the Second World War. A careful scholar, Blair never overstates the impact the U-boats played on the war's final outcome, even though they sank roughly 3,000 ships. He is, above all, comprehensive. Rather than a breezy overview, this book describes, spread out over nearly 900 pages (including 20 appendices!), almost every U-boat action in the second half of the war. Some readers will find this level of detail exhausting, but others will revel in it, and The Hunted is sure to be regarded as a standard in its field. --John J. Miller
"A triumph of naval history-writing." --The Times (London)
"An admirable and important book.... Should become the standard history of the Unterseeboote for many years." --Russell F. Weigley, The Washington Post
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Clay Blair has completed his masterful account of the German submarine war in WWII. While it is extremely thorough, the level of detail can become cumbersome to the amateur historian. Mr. Blair outlines every mission undertaken by a German submarine during the entire war; a blessing for other researchers in naval history but a curse to the lay reader. The author does a commendable job outlining the major campaigns and summarizing the effects of the submarine war. While the first volume covers the early, successful years of the German effort, the second details how superior allied technology and tactics decimated the German submarine fleet and removed it as a factor in the war. This account rounds out his conclusion that the feared "wolf packs" and the submarine war in general never posed the serious threat that the Allies believed it did. Perhaps the most interesting portion of the book is the chapters devoted to describing the development of submarine/ASW technology and the encryption/decoding efforts of both sides. The author does an average job as far as the "characters" are concerned. For most people he simply describes their military careers and follows their progression through various commands and notes the awards they receive. Very few players get the background coverage that makes them come alive and seem like real people. I highly recommend this book for any reader of history interested the German submarine war. However, the casual or amateur reader will do well to skim through the endless details.
Near the beginning of the movie "Crimson Tide", there is a debate among crew members as to what is the best submarine movie of all time, "The Enemy Below" or "Das Boot." If you understand that debate, then this two volume definitive history of the Battle of the Atlantic is for you. Using de-classifed documents previously not available to past historians, such as the documents concerning the breaking of the German Naval Code, and the subsequent use of the code breaking materials in anti-submarine warfare, along with a detailed analysis of the statistical numbers, Clay Blair rewrites the main conclusion of most previous histories of the U-Boats. Simply put, he concludes, with irrefutable logic and detail, that the U-Boats never came close to severing the Atlantic supply lines. They were too few in number, and when their numbers rose, they were technologically inferior to Allied anti- submarine initiatives and weaponry. Even in their best months, the U-Boats never sank more than 5% of Allied merchant shipping, and frequently were well below that figure. Rather, the U-Boat, he concludes, was more a propaganda menace, misunderstood by the Allied leaders who fought and ultimately conquered the U-Boats. It is also a tale of courage and fortitude on the high seas. The fact that the U-Boats never came close to their goal does not diminish the ardor and courage displayed on both sides of this cruel war. Volume 2 is a particularly fascinating study of a proud naval force literally disintegrating under the overwhelming onslaught of Allied anti-submarine warfare. As Blair himself admits, the final year of the U-Boat war is mostly glossed over in the histories, and Blair corrects that injustice.
If you were persevering enough to finish volume one (the hunters) of Clay Blair's great historical account of the German u-boats during World War II, you will be delighted by the reversal of fortunes of the u-boats in this volume. Where once the u-boat was invincible, each run becomes a 50/50 suicide run, worse odds that playing Russian roulette with a pistol. Blair notes that it took him 11 years to complete his research and write this book, and it shows. You could not ask for a more complete assessment of u-boat activity during the war than Blair provides. However, it's not for the weak reader. Reading this book requires stamina, but the reader is rewarded in the end with getting a very good "feel" for the u-boat situation in general. It's almost as if Blair, by hammering in each individual sailing, sinking, or abort, gets you to see the "big picture." I like the author's interjection of ancillary material from time to time: the possibility of losing Enigma decrypts; the land invasion of Europe; where the boats went when the end of the war was announced, and so on. I also like Blair's outspoken opinion on various contemporary subjects such as the overbearing Brits, the vote-concerned politicians, the "unfair" war crimes trials, and so on. Exceptional reading; the author knows his stuff.