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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Five COMPELLING Stars! A sweeping, very detailed, often action-packed portrait by author Ed Offley of the Battle of the Atlantic, describing activities within the five phases of the "longest and deadliest naval conflict in world history" stretching from 1939 to 1945: the "crucial naval battle of the Second World War." Along the way, he places the battle into historical context and gives a detailed picture of the treacherous Atlantic ocean routes, made all the more dangerous because of the weather. The book describes crucial battle encounters between the Allies and the Axis forces on the high seas and in coastal waters as U-boat 'wolf packs' pursued Allies' vital supply convoys across the Atlantic ocean. The author looks at both the strategic and tactical points of view, using diagrams and photographs. The book's opening engagement between the HMS Hersperus on 12 May 1943, hunting the trailing Nazi U-boat, U-223, which was stalking the 24 merchant ships of SC (Slow Convoy) 129 is mesmerizing and just a foretaste of what is to follow, such as the carnage of The Battle of St. Patrick's Day, with its heroes and its fainthearted. The book is loaded with detail on the ships and subs, their weaponry, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing forces, with input from crew member's postwar interviews. Superbly researched and well written with great attention to detail, linking the Battle of the Atlantic to the land and air wars and the political climate of the time, "Turning the Tide" gets my Highest Recommendation. Five HISTORICAL Stars! (This review is based on a Kindle download, in text-to-speech, Mac2, and iPhone platforms. 14 Chapters with numerous pictures and diagrams; Epilogue; Appendices of critical convoy ships, U-boats, and Escort warships; bibliography; and a very helpful glossary of acronyms and unique terminology.)
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on May 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover
At only 18 my father Deane was a stoker/trimmer on one of the many cargo vessels lost to U-boats in the action covered by this book; his recollections, along with those of many other participants, help to give it a real sense of immediacy. It's fair to say that but for this family connection I would probably not have come across 'Turning the Tide', but I found it hard to put down. The details and frustrations of convoy management, the tactics and experiences of the U-boat crews, the desperate need for air cover, the on-shore politics, the crucial role of communications and code-breaking, and the staggering statistics of loss on both sides, are all well-described in a compelling read which leaves me in awe of the events described, and of the author's task of researching and recounting them.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is a compelling and moving account of the last months of the Battle of the Atlantic. Offley does a marvellous job of bringing to life the tension, horror and bravery of those on both sides who fought in this terrifying part of WWII.
The first half of the book deals principally with the fate of two convoys: HX229, a 40 ship eastbound "fast" Atlantic convoy, and SC122, a 52 ship eastbound "slow" Atlantic convoy. The casualty rates for these two convoys were staggering (HX229 lost 13 ships and SC122 lost 9 ships; the Axis lost one U-boat). If that same rate had continued then the Battle of Atlantic would surely have been lost and Britain would have been forced to seek terms. A key part of Offley's tale is the hour by hour, day by day, attack by attack detailed recounting of what happened to the merchant ships, escorts and u-boats. It is a fine and terrifying piece of writing.
The second half of the book tells the equally harrowing but ultimately victorious story of escort group B7 and its shepherding of westbound convoy ONS5, a 45 ship convoy largely in ballast and SC130, a 37 ship "slow" eastbound convoy. The Allied losses for ONS5 were again steep with 13 ships and 62,000 tons lost. However, the new tactics and the escort commanders leadership led to the sinking of 8 u-boats with a further 7 seriously damaged. SC130 fared much, much better with zero losses against 4 u-boat sunk and 1 damaged.
This turnaround was due to a host of inter-related factors. Inter service rivalries over the use of long range specially equipped bombers were finally ended which allowed for a dramatic extension of air cover for the Atlantic crossing. The size of the escort groups were increased enabling them to adopt more aggressive tactics and to go over to the attack. German codes were again easier to read, enabling appropriate evasion tactics. Escort vessels became increasingly competent in the use of HF/DF detection techniques and were equipped with "invisible" to the enemy shorter waved radar.
After May of 1943 Doenitz essentially gave up trying to destroy N. Atlantic convoys with massive wolfpak tactics. By the end of the war less than 30% of those serving on U-boats were alive (11,500 survived out of 39,000), 711 of 1149 commissioned U-boats were sunk or otherwise destroyed.

All in all this is an outstanding book. It is extremely well-researched and well-written. The appendices are very valuable.

The one caveat is the issue raised by one other reviewer. In telling the story of HX229, Offley relates an incident where a merchant ship twice declined to pick up the survivors of ships that had been sunk. The identity of the captain of that ship needs to be carefully determined.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I have read a fair amount of naval history of WWII, an interest of mine, and looked forward to reading this book. I came away mostly impressed, but somewhat disappointed. If you only read one book on this all-important battle, this would be a good candidate.

===The Good Stuff===

* The book is a nice history of the battle, and touches on many aspects of its strategic and tactical importance. Offley touches on the importance of supplying both civilian and military Britain with supplies, the inter-service rivalries that affected the resources available, U-Boat tactics and limitations, convoy strategies, and the technical and personal aspects of the battle.

* The story is not a happy one, either for U-Boat crews or Allied merchantmen. The casualty rates of the U-Boat crews were about the highest of any theater in the war, and the merchantmen and their escorts suffered as well. Offley doesn't shy away from the harsher aspects of the war-namely ships being forced to choose between stopping to rescue survivors (and risk further attacks), or steaming past survivors in the water.

* Offley does an excellent job of describing individual battles between U-boats and Allied convoy escorts. He does an excellent job of capturing the technical aspects of the battle as well as the actions of the individual commanders and crews. The harsh conditions and terror these men dealt with comes across quite clearly.

===The Not-So-Good Stuff===

* While Offley writes well, he is prone to long paragraphs. I find these to be tiring to read, especially on a Kindle.

* While the book is well-researched, Offley seems to get a little carried away with detail. Some of the minutia could easily have been skipped or moved to an appendix. Several times the narrative was "interrupted" in the middle of a battle while detains of a commander's personal life were related.

* While there is a map included in the Kindle edition, I have long ago purchased a large globe which is a tremendous help in reading any sort of naval history. Especially when dealing with high latitudes, a globe is far superior to any sort of map.

===Summary===

If you are going to read one book on the Battle of the Atlantic, this is probably as good as any you will find. While the writing style can get a little dry and overly detailed, for the most part the narrative is quite descriptive of the battles, and a good amount of other factors such as commander skill, technology and political considerations are also discussed. I'd recommend the volume to any WWII Naval history buffs.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 20, 2011
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I'm not really a student of the 2nd world war but i do enjoy reading a book that shows how much research the author has done. Mr. Offley has over-achieved in this very well written book. The absolute hell the sailors and merchant marines must have gone through as night drew near that the ship they were on would not make it through the night. Mr. Offley put facts in right beside setting the stage of how personal the battle was between the U-boats and escorts. If you like to read books with a punch, you could do no better than this.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 20, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This book is not only very educational but interesting from the human aspect of the people involved. You can easily tell that a lot of research has been given to this subject. "Turning the Tide" should be of interest to readers in the US, UK and Germany. Very well done and a tribute to those who died at sea.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon April 27, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This book details the battles between German U-boats and Allied Convoys during the period of mid-March 1943 to the end of May of 1943. Mid-March saw some of the worst losses of merchant ships to U-boat attacks, which were largely defeated by the end of May. The book thus details some of the greatest successes of the U-boats and some of their greatest defeats. The book goes into detail of why the German successes were not sustained and why they lost the U-boat war. It is well written and contains graphic descriptions of life on merchant ships and U-boats, U-boat tactics and the tactics used to defeat them.

My only reservation was that the book contained errors regarding the work at Bletchley Park to decipher the messages sent to and from the German U-boats. While I am not an expert in this field, I have done enough reading to know that
the British Bombe machine did not produce readable German text, rather they were used to determine the Enigma machine settings, which were then used by other machines did the actual message deciphering, producing the German plaintext. There are a few other errors of this sort that while not critical made me wonder what other errors were in the book; errors in areas that I was not sufficiently knowledgeable about to catch. I nonetheless recommend the book, with the proviso that it may contain some errors about specific details.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 13, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
There is alot of good technical detail regarding weapons, detection and tactics. Just when you think it will be dry as dust, the narrative goes into a detailed description of several convoys that truly illustrate the guts and determination it took to ride it out. You also get to see the formation of the convoys and the names of the ships sunk, brings home these were real people dying to provide the means to end world war 2. The convoys and escorts also show the evolution of the anti submarine warfare. The first phase with the subs having it all their way, and ending with the allies developing to stop the slaughter. Our modern systems make it easy to forget there was a time weather could sink a ship as quick as a torpedo. There was no gps and the ships were dangerously close together, hard to manuver in clear weather let alone raging seas or blinding fog.

Maybe not the best read, but certainly the most accurate exhaustive I've read so far.
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Format: Hardcover
It is sad to recognize that nearly all the men who took part in the great struggle known to a diminishing number as “The Battle Of The Atlantic” are dead or soon will be. It makes me even sadder to know that the children of America, by and large, are being taught about the vents themselves, but are being taught to dismiss patriotism and the other qualities that brought these men to the defense of their nation.

Britain, the Soviet Union, France (before it surrendered), China, Australia, and much of the still free world were dependent on seaborne deliveries.

The Germans under the leadership of Admiral Karl Donitz made a determined effort to cut off the flow of supplies from the United States to the British Isles through submarine warfare. As in so many other cases, the Germans initially wrote the book and for a few years sank one allied ship after another. In the most important area, the Atlantic, the Germans sank 2,919 Allied merchantmen and more than a hundred warships
Yet brave men went to war as seamen on freighters and tankers that might be sunk, leaving them to die in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic. In fact, 36,000 did die in this manner or were burned to death, blown to bits or by other horrific means. A like number of Naval crew died in a similar way.
The U-Boats – the German submarines – ruled the Atlantic. Had Hitler taken Donitz more seriously there might have been hundreds or even a thousand more German submarines and, quite possibly, the Soviet Union and Britain might have been forced to seek peace with the Germans.

Ed Offley tells the story of how, bit by bit, building upon lessons learned In blood and fire, the American and British navies learned how to fight the submarines, how new technologies and tactics were developed and how victory was wrested from the Germans. Eventually three of every four German submariners died as the battle was progressively lost.

Offley tells the story with attention to detail and respect for the combatants, Allied and German. Every page has new detail, every page a story of valor and heroism. Only once in the book does Offley offer a story of cowardice – a European freighter captain who refuses to fulfill his designated role to pick up survivors – twice.

There are many stories, unfortunately of how petty jealousies and lack of imagination delayed efforts to turn the tide of battle, thus needlessly causing men to go to their deaths.

It is a pity that we have lost almost all these heroes – and still more the pity that our children are not being taught the true of America, its one-time strength and idealism, the patriotism and bravery of its people and the genius that allowed it to prevail.

This would be a good book with which to start a child’s real education in the virtues of America.

Jerry
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on July 21, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I highly recommend this book both for the reader who knows little about the subject or the reader who knows a lot. For both types of readers there are excellent descriptions of the tensions and horrors experienced by all participants in this amazing ocean front of WW2. This book excels in shedding light on the experiences of merchant sailors, a group who usually are overlooked in most books about the Uboat war. In many books merchant sailors are just listed as numbered losses or are seen by Uboat men leaping into the freezing North Atlantic. This book shows them as real men who suffered horrendously to bring materials over to England.
It likewise excels in showing the drama of the tactical moves between the convoy escort ships and the Uboats. The book spotlights a few personal stories from the ranks of merchant seamen, naval commanders and Uboat men and weaves them into the drama of a few specific convoy battles. The convoy battles he describes were a watershed in the battle of the Atlantic where the the Allies' superiority of weapons,warships, tactics, training and willpower had reached a tipping point where the Uboats were being destroyed at an unsustainable level. The Germans essentially sent their Uboat force on suicide missions thereafter until the insane leaders of Germany were finally annihilated.
There are descriptions of some key technological aspects of the anti-uboat war but they are necessary for a newcomer to the subject. Unlike some other reviewers, I do not feel they are too technical or detailed. Still, a newcomer needs to know about these things in order to appreciate how the Uboats were defeated.
This book is very good and very entertaining. I am convinced that it will spark interest in a reader to seek other books on the subject. You do not often see such excellence in a popular history book. Get this one.
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