Monday, September 3, 2012

WWII Myths - U-boat tankers and ULTRA intelligence

Several books and articles mention that in the summer of 1943 the Allies were able to sink the majority of the German U-boat tankers thanks to decrypted Enigma messages. I have to admit I thought it was a historical fact. However it seems it is not true.

From Hitler's U-Boat War: The Hunted, 1942-1945 by Clay Blair, p356
Many historians of the Battle of the Atlantic write that the Allies, acting on naval Enigma decrypts, wiped out the U-boat tanker force in the summer of 1943, thereby crippling the operations of the Type VIIs. This is a myth. The Allies did indeed virtually wipe out the U-tanker force that summer, sinking nine of twelve boats at the front (including XB minelayers). However, according to a recently declassified top-secret postwar American study, only two of the nine U-tankers were sunk with the help of Enigma decrypts. Most boats were sunk or forced to abort by Commonwealth and American aircraft engaged in the intense Bay of Biscay anti- U-boat campaign (Derange/Musketry/Seaslug) and by American "jeep" carriers, mostly as a result of ill-advised personal orders from Karl Donitz for all U-boats to remain surfaced and fight back if detected and attacked by aircraft.

Blair was referring to Special Research History SRH-368 ‘Evaluation of the Role of Decryption Intelligence in the Operational Phase of the Battle of the Atlantic, U.S. Navy OEG Report #68, 1952’.

These are the relevant pages from that study:

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