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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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on May 25, 2011
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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on December 2, 2011
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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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.


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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on June 20, 2011
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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on May 20, 2011
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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on July 21, 2013
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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VINE VOICEon September 11, 2015
Interesting how the Allies finally dealt with the killer U-boats. Plenty of inside information but it too thorough for me and becomes quite boring to read. This would be wonderful book for a WWII buff, or an old sailor that has lived the saga. Hats off to the military -- THANK YOU
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on February 13, 2012
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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on May 15, 2015
The war started too soon. Another year of production and upgrades to Uboats & the battle of the Atlantic could have delayed DDay and Russia may have just stopped fighting as their losses were horrific.
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