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Chapter 6

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Navy's Air War

by
the Aviation History Unit OP‑519B, DCNO (Air)

Harper & Brothers Publishers
New York and London
1946

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
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Chapter 8
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p58  Chapter 7

The Navy's Air War on the "Wolf Pack"

With the establishment of Fleet Air Wing 15 at Port Lyautey, French Morocco, in March, 1943, the ring of American land‑air bases encircling the Atlantic was complete. During that same month, sinkings of Allied shipping in the Atlantic reached the total of nearly 600,000 tons — the third highest monthly figure of the war up to that time — yet the tide was beginning to turn in our favor. The defensive phase of the war was over and the Allied offensive to destroy the enemy both on the high seas and in his home waters was well begun.

As the ring of American air bases became tighter, preventing the U‑boats from launching more than occasional attacks in coastal waters, the Nazi high command began to utilize a different mode of attack. Although group tactics had been sometimes used as early as 1940, the U‑boats now formed "wolf packs" designed to operate against convoys out of the range of land-based air cover. While huge wolf packs struck savagely at convoys carrying supplies and troops to Britain, American aircraft based in Iceland, French Morocco, Newfoundland, and the West Indies flew hundreds of patrol hours with negligible results in terms of U‑boat sightings and attacks.

Our answer to the new German tactic was to assign several small carriers of the converted type to anti-submarine duty in the Atlantic. The first of these "baby carriers" to enter the struggle was the Bogue, which got under way for Argentia, Newfoundland, on 24 February 1943, escorted by the Belknap and the Geo. E. Badger. During its fight against the sub the Bogue compiled an impressive record. Of twenty-five U‑boats attacked prior to the end of November, 1944, she is credited by the Navy with 9 sinkings, 3 probable sinkings, and the inflicting of damage on 7 others. Shortly after the Bogue began operations, her efforts were augmented by those of the Card. That the enemy was completely  p59 unprepared for this development is indicated by the fact that these CVE's achieved astonishing results in terms of U‑boat kills. During the grim days of February, March, and April, several attacks were made by TBF's flying from the carriers and by destroyer escorts accompanying the carriers. The pattern of organization and the tactics of the hunter-killer group were becoming well established. The group was normally composed of one CVE and four to six destroyer escorts, with a composite squadron, composed of fighters and torpedo bombers, based aboard the CVE. So successful was this unit in combating the underwater menace that other CVE's as they became available, were assigned to Atlantic duty. These were the Core, Croatan, Block Island, Mission Bay, Guadalcanal, Solomons, and the Tripoli. Although operating in constant danger, only one of them, the Block Island, was sunk. This fine record reflects credit on the vigilance and ability of the personnel, nonflying and flying alike.

In April, 1943, three moves in the American anti-submarine campaign took place. First, in order to facilitate the shift of American air power to the East for use against the enemy in home waters, control of operations in Canadian coastal waters was turned over to the Canadian Air Command, and Commander, Fleet Air Wing 7 prepared to move his main units to Iceland. Second, anti-submarine air forces in the northern and southern approaches to the European theater were reinforced by the arrival of Ventura and Liberator aircraft units in Iceland and French Morocco. As will be seen, this event marked the beginning of greatly increased anti-submarine activities by land-based units. Third, the establishment of the Anti-Submarine Development Detachment at Quonset Point, R. I., gave great impetus to the already active effort on the part of the United States Navy to provide its men with the best possible tools and techniques to use against the U‑boats.

In April and May, 1943, U‑boats again made a determined effort to break down the supply lines between America and Britain. Some wolf packs operating on the Atlantic convoy lanes sank merchant vessels, mostly stragglers, but were so roughly handled by long-range aircraft flying from United Kingdom, Iceland, Newfoundland, Bermuda, and Africa and by three CVE hunter-killer groups ranging the central Atlantic, that ship sinking began to decline. The fiercest convoy battle of the month of May and probably of the war to that time, involved a slow west-bound convoy, ONS‑5, which ran into heavy gales, snow, hail, icebergs, and an estimated twenty-five U‑boats. During the night the U‑boats attacked in twos and threes using regular tactics. During the  p60 day they approached from ahead of the convoy center and fired torpedoes from between columns. Little air coverage was available because of bad weather, but surface craft did outstanding work making forty counterattacks in which at least eighteen U‑boats were sunk or damaged.

Shortly thereafter, on 21 May 1943, a major engagement between carrier-based aircraft and enemy submarines took place in the mid‑Atlantic out of reach of land-based aircraft. Within twenty-four hours six promising attacks, one resulting in the destruction of a U‑boat and capture of twenty-four survivors, were made by Avenger aircraft flown from the USS Bogue. The convoy, though endangered on every side, passed through the area safely.

In June the enemy apparently had withdrawn from the North Atlantic theater to lick his wounds. His main concentration appeared to be shifting to the southwest of the Azores where about thirty U‑boats were estimated in mid‑June to be patrolling the convoy lanes to Africa.

While in the Moroccan Sea Frontier area U‑boats were still clearly on the defensive, a new German technique which had been developing in the spring became increasingly evident: the use of snooper aircraft for spotting convoys moving up or down the coast of Spain. Ever since the fall of France yielded Bordeaux and other major airport facilities in southern France to the Germans, Focke-Wulf 200's and Dornier 217's were occasionally seen by convoys passing between the Azores and the Iberian Peninsula. It was not, however, until May that the enemy aircraft did more than locate the convoy, radio its position to enemy U‑boats, perhaps attempt homing procedure, then drop its bombs halfheartedly and return to base.

Beginning on the twenty-second of May, however, viciously aggressive attacks were made on practically every convoy moving through the area. Generally heavy antiaircraft fire thrown up by the convoy and its escorts drove off the attackers; yet on some occasions merchant vessels were sunk or damaged by bomb hits or near misses.

This sudden increase in air activity apparently was designed to accomplish important results. First, the work of the submarines would be vastly simplified if convoy positions were frequently and accurately reported to them; moreover, there is nothing like a straggler or a convoy slowed down to a snail's pace by a damaged merchant vessel to please the eye of a U‑boat commander. Secondly, strong aircraft activity most certainly would tend to divert the attention of British and American anti-submarine aircraft from their primary duties.

The relative ineffectiveness of the German U‑boat fleets apparently  p61 led Admiral Doenitz, in July, to order his submarines to adopt aggressive tactics and to stay on the surface and fight back if they could not safely submerge. The first evidence of this change of policy was felt by aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 15 when, on 2 June, the approaches to the Straits of Gibraltar were invaded by enemy submarines. Army and navy squadrons between 5 June and 15 June, made 16 attacks which resulted in 5 U‑boats sunk and 6 U‑boats damaged. British aircraft operating out of Gibraltar at the same time sank 5 and damaged 1 undersea raider. In all but one case the U‑boats remained surfaced and poured a hail of shells at the attacking aircraft, damaging three B‑24's and one PBY‑5A. At the end of that period, the battered remnants of Doenitz' flotillas limped north along the Spanish coast and into the bay ports.

While aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 15 were blasting the enemy off Africa, British and U. S. Army anti-submarine squadrons were mounting an offensive of their own against U‑boats entering and leaving their lairs in the Bay of Biscay.

Meantime, the USS Bogue transferred from the North Atlantic to United States-Gibraltar convoy duty, broke up a large assembly of U‑boats lying directly across the path of a convoy. Four separate attacks were made in forty-eight hours. Three days later a submarine only ten miles from the convoy was attacked and badly damaged by air attack. Before three more days had passed, a U‑boat was discovered and sunk by co‑ordinated air‑sea assaults. No further incident occurred, and the convoy reached port safely.

Allied air successes in the Bay of Biscay and off Morocco, however, were achieved in the face of great enemy air opposition. During this period practically all flights from the United Kingdom encountered groups of two or more JU88's, long-range German fighters, while clashes between FW‑200's and Liberators and Catalinas of Fleet Air Wing 15 were commonplace. A most unusual combat took place on 12 June 1943 between two navy Catalinas and two FW‑200's. The navy planes were sent to provide air and anti-submarine protection to the Port Fairy, a British merchant vessel en route to Casablanca, French Morocco, with survivors of a previous air attack. Shortly after reaching the ship, Lieutenant (jg) Drew, pilot of one of the Catalinas,a sighted FW‑200's apparently on a bombing run. Ordering the second pilot to provide close anti-submarine coverage against the two U‑boats believed to be shadowing, Lieutenant Drew climbed as quickly as possible but could not prevent the completion of the run. One bomb struck the stern of the Port Fairy. The navy pilot, however, stayed in the fight and succeeded  p62 in breaking up all other attacks by flying collision courses and forcing the enemy to change course whenever bombing runs were attempted. Many shots were exchanged between the Catalina and the FW‑200's, no damage, however being sustained by the former. After the enemy craft were driven off, the Port Fairy continued on its way to port.

The new German submarine tactic of fighting back on the surface was the occasion for a flare‑up of American air successes in the Caribbean where planes of Fleet Air Wing 11 made several successful attacks both day and night against moderate to heavy antiaircraft fire. In the Eastern Sea Frontier area, aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 9 did not encounter submarines fighting on the surface until August. Heavy antiaircraft fire through which American planes plunged to drop their depth charges marked the final phase of active anti-submarine warfare in American waters.

In order to provide protection for the slow bombers, Commander, Eastern Sea Frontier, instituted the fighter-bomber team. Before this combination could become effective, however, Doenitz withdrew his forces and countermanded the "stay on the surface and fight" order which had proved so costly.

Summer in England brought with it increased anti-submarine operations in the Bay of Biscay. It was believed that by compelling U‑boats, based in French bay ports, to make a large part of their passage through the bay in a submerged condition the length of the effective patrol of each U‑boat would be reduced materially. Besides, the necessity for U‑boats to run the gauntlet of heavy air attack for several days both on leaving and on returning to base was sure to react unfavorably on the morale and general aggressiveness of U‑boat crews. That intensified bay operations were feared by the enemy was indicated by strenuous attempts to break up air patrols by long-range fighter interception.

To aid the hard-pressed coastal command aircraft and to relieve army Liberator squadrons for duty over Europe, plans were made to send several navy squadrons of Fleet Air Wing 7 to England. On 23 July 1943 the first navy squadron of MAD‑(Magnetic Airborne Detectors) equipped Catalinas, VP‑63, arrived at Pembroke Dock, England, and began an intensified training and familiarization program in this type of submarine detection. Operations were begun in the bay at the end of July and one day later the first VP‑63 plane was shot down by enemy fighter action.

Shortly thereafter, two navy Liberator squadrons, VP‑103 and VP‑105, landed in England and were based temporarily at St. Eval, Cornwall.  p63 Commander, Fleet Air Wing 7 who was to direct their operations under over‑all British control, established his headquarters at Plymouth, England, on 21 August. Though the Navy's commitment was at that time only a temporary reinforcement of Allied anti-submarine effort in the bay, long-range planning envisaged the throttling of the U‑boat menace in the western Atlantic preparatory to invasion of the Continent. Ten days later, the full-fledged navy patrol squadron got under way with the beginning of the operations of PB4Y‑1 Squadron, VP‑103.

August was the most successful month of the war for Allied anti-submarine forces in the Atlantic. Only two merchant vessels were sunk by submarine action — off the coast of Brazil — in areas patrolled by U. S. or Allied aircraft. Meantime the bay offensive netted four U‑boats sunk out of ten attacks, and CVE's escorting convoys or operating as separate task forces destroyed 10 submarines in 12 attacks west of the Azores. Scattered contacts with enemy U‑boats were made by aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 9 and Fleet Air Wing 11 — one of the latter resulting in the sinking of a U‑boat in the Curacao-Aruba area.

By the end of the month almost all enemy U‑boats were en route to French bases with practically none left to operate offensively on main shipping lanes. The tactics also had by that time become much less aggressive than in July. The CVE's operating in the central Atlantic reported that U‑boats were now more prone to submerge at the first favorable opportunity than to remain on the surface and fight it out with attacking aircraft. Whenever, however, a U‑boat was surprised on the surface, the aircraft always could expect to receive a burst of heavy aircraft fire. Another change in tactics brought about by the effectiveness of aircraft operations was becoming apparent in the Biscay area. Previously, the U‑boats proceeded to and from their French bases in groups of three to five for mutual protection; but this practice was later abandoned in favor of individual passage, the U‑boat remaining submerged during daylight hours.

September saw U‑boat concentrations move out to the North Atlantic convoy lanes. There a wolf pack of approximately twenty U‑boats attacked the ONS‑18 and ON‑202 convoys for six days. Land-based coverage from Iceland and from Newfoundland was provided for four days but the convoys were without support for forty-eight hours. Three escorts and six merchant ships were sunk before the battle was over. Convoy escort craft destroyed three U‑boats and damaged several.

U. S. Navy aircraft sank no submarines in the Atlantic during September despite intensified efforts by planes of the air wings ranging  p64 that ocean and by the CVE escort and "killer groups." This can be attributed in part to the reduced activities of U‑boats early in the month but mainly to the use of superior defensive search radar by the submarines.

Although it is not at all certain that this decided fall‑off in aircraft sinkings was due essentially to the use of radar rather than to a combination of circumstances, it does illustrate well the ever-changing aspects of the anti-submarine war and the need for continuous effort to overcome the temporary gains made by the enemy through introduction of new equipment or tactics. Countermeasures to minimize the effectiveness of U‑boat radar were, however, well under way. New equipment designed and developed by the Anti-Submarine Warfare Operations Research Group (ASWORG) and the Anti-Submarine Development Detachment, Atlantic Fleet (AsDevLant) was becoming available to aircraft for the detection of U‑boat radar. Aircraft tactics were revised and undergoing tests through exercise against our own submarines. Likewise, two detection devices, Magnetic Airborne Detector and Sono-buoy, were already coming into operational use. Rocket projectiles were soon expected to be used against the enemy in the Battle of the Atlantic.

Most of September was spent by navy squadrons of Fleet Air Wing 7 in training for the specialized warfare of the Bay of Biscay. This involved a substantial amount of what was known as fighter affiliation training, for the enemy was at that time using large numbers of ME‑110, 210, 410, and JU‑88 fighters. The latter, most commonly encountered, were long-range two‑engined fighters which often operated in groups of six to twelve and seldom attacked PB4Y‑1's unless they outnumbered them by at least six to one. The RAF endeavored, with some success, to intercept enemy fighters with Spitfires, Mosquitoes, or Beaufighters. But since navy anti-submarine patrol planes were to operate alone and principally in the day, encounters were definitely expected. Each squadron, therefore, when it arrived in England, was given a stiff course in anti-fighter tactics and steps were taken to place the gunnery operations of the planes on the highest level.

By the end of the month, navy PB4Y‑1 squadrons had flown 1,351 hours of anti-submarine patrols over the bay. One U‑boat was sighted but lost before an attack could be made. In battles with enemy aircraft, two navy planes were lost while severe damage was inflicted on four JU‑88's.

The principal U‑boat activity was again in the North Atlantic in  p65 October. On 4 October a pack of twenty U‑boats, while attempting to intercept two westbound convoys, moved within range of Iceland-based squadrons of Fleet Air Wing 7. No sooner had they done so than a series of spectacular air attacks drove them off with at least three of the submersibles sunk and several damaged. Not a ship of either convoy was touched. On 8 October the remnants of the same concentration attacked a small eastbound convoy about six hundred miles west of Iceland. This time a merchant vessel and an escort craft were torpedoed and sunk, but at heavy cost to the enemy. Again Allied shore-based aircraft were sent out to aid the convoy from Iceland and British bases. In the area of the convoy several U‑boats were located and attacked so aggressively that three of them were sunk and a number damaged.

While absorbing this beating from navy and Allied land-based aircraft, the U‑boat fleet in the central Atlantic received an even worse whipping from American CVE‑based aircraft. Of twenty attacks made by TBF's flying from the ubiquitous baby flattops Card, Core, and Croatan, twelve resulted in assessments of submarines sunk or probably sunk.

Besides the highly successful work of land-based aircraft from Iceland and the United Kingdom, there was little glamour attached to the operations of navy aircraft of Fleet Air Wings 7 and 15. Long, exhausting patrol missions were flown during October in the Bay of Biscay and off the Iberian Peninsula with few sightings and no successful attacks rewarding the efforts of navy pilots. They did, however, keep the enemy on the defensive and prevented him from attacking the convoys which sailed in a steady stream between the United Kingdom and Africa. These aircraft were, during the same period, subjected to numerous attacks from German fighters and long-range bombers operating out of French air facilities. In all but two instances, however, the navy craft escaped by skillful evasive tactics.

Toward the end of the month, navy planes of Fleet Air Wing 15 were attacked from another quarter. For almost a year, navy and French patrol aircraft had operated anti-submarine sweeps among the Canary Islands in order to reduce the refueling activities of German submarines in that area. By the fall of 1943, the Spaniards had apparently become quite used to the daily or weekly "Canary Sweeps" of Allied aircraft. Sometimes, if Allied planes passed inside of the three-mile limit, a Spanish antiaircraft gun would fire warning shots, but to all intents and purposes the gun crews did not have orders to "shoot to kill." Suddenly, on the afternoon of 26 October, a Catalina on a routine patrol off Las Palmas was attacked from a cloud by a Spanish fighter  p66 plane. The attack was pressed home vigorously and the American plane returned the fire and dove for the water. This maneuver enabled the Catalina to escape with minor damage — a fact which attests to the poor quality of Spanish planes and marksmanship.

When the same thing happened the following day, two Venturas of the wing were sent to an advanced base at Agadir, French Morocco, to fly the patrol. Needless to say, the two fighter planes that took off when the navy patrol was picked up on the shore radar were disagreeably surprised to find two fast bombers stripped down to fighting trim instead of one slow lumbering Catalina. As they approached the Venturas, about seven miles offshore, the navy pilots peeled off and attacked vigorously. The Spaniards immediately broke off and fled for the beach where both made forced landings.

After this incident enough diplomatic pressure was brought upon the Spanish government at Madrid to cause a cessation of fighter attacks on Fleet Air Wing 15 planes.

October also witnessed a most damaging blow to German hopes for successful operations against Allied convoys in the eastern Atlantic — the establishment of Allied air bases on the Azores. Under cover of an old Anglo-Portuguese agreement, diplomatic entreaty and pressure caused the Portuguese government to grant to Great Britain the use of two airfields, Lagens Field on Terceira Island and Santa Anna Field on San Miguel Island, for anti-submarine bases. Little imagination is needed to visualize the tremendous significance of this move in the U‑boat war. Almost at once long-range aircraft, Fortresses and Liberators, were smashing at the U‑boat concentrations, north, west, and south of the Azores. Convoys were given coverage when necessary 1,000 miles farther west than before. British planes based on the Azores began to escort northbound convoys to the point where United Kingdom aircraft could take over. And most important, CVE groups which hitherto had escorted the huge Gibraltar-bound convoys to within eight hundred miles of the African coast were freed a larger part of the time for independent killer operations in the mid‑Atlantic.

The beginning of a new Allied move against the fleet of Admiral Doenitz was indicated by the sinking of two U‑boats in the Straits of Gibraltar by British surface craft. For some months an occasional U‑boat had sneaked down the coast of Spain, sometimes inside territorial waters, and passed the Straits into the Mediterranean through the gauntlet of British searchlight-equipped Wellington aircraft at night, and American army and, later, navy Liberators by day. Because of the  p67 large number of convoys passing through Mediterranean waters to supply and reinforce the various land operations in that theater, it became imperative that the U‑boats already in the Mediterranean be isolated and destroyed and that others be prevented from passing through the Straits of Gibraltar. At first, surface patrols were instituted in the Straits at night, and British Swordfish and Hudson aircraft swept the Straits and its approaches by day. When the enemy, not deterred by a strong British defense, persisted in his efforts, planes of VB‑127, a PV‑1 squadron of Fleet Air Wing 15, were brought into the struggle. Continuous daily patrols were set up off the immediate approaches in order to attack U‑boats approaching the Straits on the surface or compel them to submerge too far out to avoid surfacing again in the Straits themselves.

In November the over‑all picture was most encouraging. The only merchant vessel sinkings occurred in the Panama Sea Frontier where intense air effort by planes of Fleet Air Wing 3 yielded numerous disappearing radar blips but no sightings. The same condition prevailed in other areas where U‑boats were known to be operating — the Bay of Biscay, and the Gibraltar-Morocco area. This disappointing state of affairs was probably due to excessive caution on the part of U‑boat commanders and to the use of improved radars and special gear for the detection of our radars.

Early in November, the enemy, discouraged by fruitless patrolling, moved the main U‑boat concentration from the Newfoundland area to the region northeast of the Azores astride the Gibraltar-United Kingdom convoy route. There, by surfacing only at night and by employing long-range FW‑200 aircraft to spot the convoys, the U‑boats hoped to avoid damage to themselves and to achieve some ship sinkings. In both those expectations they were disappointed. Land-based Coastal Command and U. S. Navy aircraft from the Azores and England seconded by an aggressive CVE killer cruise destroyed five U‑boats and damaged several. No merchant ships move east-west or north-south were attacked successfully.

Since in the main navy aircraft were limited during this period to day operations, they were compelled to devote most of their time to "hold down" patrols. It was decided, therefore, to send over to the European-African theater navy PB4Y‑1 squadrons equipped with a new type of searchlights. Further, it was hoped that availability of additional CVE's and spare carrier squadrons would soon permit the use of CVE's regularly for night work also, using specially equipped TBM's.

 p68  The enemy, by December, had apparently given up the wolf pack tactic which had enabled U. S. and British killer groups to destroy several U‑boats at a time. A thinly spaced patrol line in the northeast Atlantic brought no results. A second line along the United Kingdom-Gibraltar convoy route was kept on the defensive by constant attacks from Navy CVE‑based aircraft and night-flying Wellington squadrons from the Azores. The only ships sunk by U‑boat action were destroyed by lone submarines operating in four American sea frontier areas.

Submarine sinkings were likewise at a low ebb, during December, except in the Azores area, where a destroyer escort of a CVE group sank a U‑boat, a TBM destroyed another, and a third was hounded to its death by a co‑ordinated air‑sea attack.

From this point on, the U‑boat war became more and more one‑sided. Floods of new equipment, perfected tactics, thoroughly trained replacement crews, faster and more powerful aircraft all played their part. In the mid‑Atlantic, U‑boats operated singly and were at all times threatened by an increasing number of CVE groups whose TBF's were equipped with new types of secret weapons, sono-buoys, and rocket projectiles, and whose escort craft employed every available type of detection gear. Not only did the small carriers account for several sinkings, but, under the command of Captain Daniel Gallery, a hunter-killer group produced one of the most dramatic and daring achievements of recent naval history. On 4 June 1944, in the vicinity of the Azores, the group made a positive contact which a determined attack by the destroyer escort Chattelain forced to surface. Boats from the carrier Guadalcanal and the destroyer escort Pillsbury reached the U‑boat before the scuttling charges or flooding mechanisms could accomplish their purpose, and the United States Navy, in its first successful boarding attempt since 1814, found itself with a real German submarine to study.

For the enemy sub commander who operated close to shore there were larger numbers of patrol planes outfitted with all kinds of complicated, but none the less deadly gadgets. Beginning in February, Catalinas of VP‑63, equipped with Magnetic Airborne Detectors, blocked the Straits of Gibraltar by day, and after 1 June, when the first blimps began arriving, the patrol was extended around the clock. As Doenitz could not reinforce his dwindling Mediterranean fleet with additional submarines, U‑boats became a virtually nonexistent menace by the time of the landings in southern France. At the same time, the continuing offensive in the Bay of Biscay and the bombing of German submarine bases and navy yards by army and Allied Aircraft, greatly decreased the effectiveness  p69 of the French ports as supply and repair bases and hindered new construction and the refitting of obsolete and damaged U‑boats.

Although the anti-submarine war continued to the last day of hostilities with both sides developing new equipment and tactics, and although vigilance could not for a moment be relaxed, the issue was no longer in doubt. It was for the most part a hidden war of nerves and men. On the Allied side it required the co‑operation of scientists and naval leaders, of surface and air components, of British, French, Americans, Brazilians, and others. All put in long hours of tedious, unrewarding labor, only very, very rarely alleviated by a few moments of thrilling action. Naval aviation — both ship- and shore-based — played its part, and it was a distinguished one, but it was not by itself sufficient. The converted French trawler, the British corvette, the little American destroyer escort, the sleek destroyers of many nations, were all just as essential to getting the vital convoys through as were the American and British carriers, the little inshore and large offshore patrol planes or the great silver blimps. It was the triumph of science and technical skill operating through the surface and air forces of half a dozen nations, in which the United States Navy and its air arm did its share.

From this point on, the U‑boat war became more and more one‑sided. Floods of new equipment, perfected tactics, thoroughly trained replacement crews, and faster and more powerful aircraft made it impossible for the U‑boat to approach any Atlantic shore with impunity. The establishment of an air‑sea blockade of the Straits of Gibraltar prevented Doenitz from reinforcing his Mediterranean fleet. Intensification of the bay campaign did much to render overcostly the use of St. Nazaire, Lorient, and Bordeaux as repair and supply bases. The bombardment of those ports and the German sub bases and navy yards by Allied and army aircraft, cut down the supply of new U‑boats and hindered the refitting of antiquated and damaged ones. Those U‑boats which cruised in the mid‑Atlantic in 1944, in general, operated singly and were at all times threatened by the increasing numbers of CVE groups whose TBF's were equipped with secret bombs, sono-buoys, and rocket projectiles and whose escort craft employed every available type of new detection gear. Naval Aircraft had played a stellar role in the Battle of the Atlantic.


Thayer's Note:

a John W. "Count" Drew, assigned to VP‑73.


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