Dönitz’s Last Gamble (2008)



B the end of 1943 the German submarine war on Atlantic convoys was all but defeated; beaten by superior technology, code-breaking and air power. With losses mounting, Dönitz withdrew the wolfpacks, but in a surprise change of strategy, following the D-Day landings in June 1944, he sent his U-boats into British coastal waters, closer to home thus nullifying long transit voyages and where they could harass the crucial Allied supply lines to the new European bridgehead.

Caught unawares, the British and American navies struggled to cope with a novel predicament – in shallow waters U-boats could lie undetectable on the bottom, and given operational freedom, they rarely needed to make signals thus neutralising the Allied advantages of decryption and radio direction-finding. Behind this unpleasant shock lay an even greater threat, of radically new submarine types known to be nearing service.  Dönitz saw these as war-winning weapons and gambled that his inshore campaign would hold up the Allied advance long enough to allow these faster and quieter boats to be deployed in large numbers.

The offensive was perhaps Germany’s last chance to turn the tide, yet, surprisingly, such an important story has never been told in detail before. That it did not succeed masks its full significance: the threat of quiet submarines, operating singly in shallow water, was never really mastered and in the Cold War that followed, the massive Soviet submarine fleet, built on captured German technology and tactical experience, became a very real menace to Western sea power. In the way Dönitz’s last gamble set the course for post-war anti-submarine warfare development.

Originally published by Seaforth Publishing, 2008.
ISBN 978 1 84415 714
208 pages
Illustrated throughout.

Available from the Pen & Sword website and other book outlets.

Dönitz's Last Gamble: The Inshore U-Boat Campaign, 1944-45

The author clearly knows his subject well.
Nautical Magazine

This is a fascinating account.
Nautilus UK Telegraph

 A well researched and detailed account…
Warship 2009
Another good read from Lawrence Paterson – give it a go!
Fleet Air Arm Officers Association – May 2009
The tragic final year of Hitler’s once highly effective U-Boat campaign against Allied shipping is graphically and grippingly told here. While his last ditch effort inevitably failed, the tactics and doctrine developed by Donitz and his captains was effective in part. His approach involved quiet submarines operating independently and singly in shallow waters. These faster, quieter boats lurked close to or on the bottom, waiting quietly for victims of which they found quite a few. This very well researched, written and illustrated book comprehensively covers the technological and tactical advances developed by Donitz in that final desperate year.
Work Boat World – Dec 2010