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Long Night of the Tankers: Hitler's War Against Caribbean Oil (Beyond Boundaries: Canadian Defense and) Paperback – June 4, 2014
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About the Author
DAVID J. BERCUSON is Director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary. He has published in a wide range of topics, specializing in modern Canadian politics, Canadian defence and foreign policy, and Canadian military history. In 2003, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada.
HOLGER H. HERWIG is the Canada Research Chair in the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies and a professor in the Department of History at the University of Calgary. He has published numerous books and articles on World War I and other topics in military history.
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Long Night of the Tankers gives a very detailed description of the life aboard German submarines operating in the Caribbean Sea and south Atlantic and the operations that the allied forces used to eventually bring them under control.
The authors did an excellent job in relating the history of how US bases came to be established in Trinidad and other Caribbean islands, their relationship with the citizens and the affect on the local economies.
My only "negative" comment would be the lack of detailed maps.
Thomas E. Gnibus
LtCol USMC, Retired
The co-authors not only organization a great amount of material for an understanding of the chronology of the warfare in the region and a perspective on it, but also focus on factors favoring one side or the other at different times, how the Allies gradually gained the upper hand, the place given to the Caribbean theater in the German military outlook, technological developments of planes and ships, down to the actions of individual U-boats and activities regarding certain Allied merchant and naval ships and individuals connected with them. They even go into the diplomatic maneuvering complicating initiation and continuation of military operations because of shifting sympathies of nations in the Caribbean and throughout Latin America.
The book satisfies the interests of popular military history buffs and also historians and researchers looking for a complete picture of the Caribbean naval conflict during World War II based on extensive research as reflected in the text and recorded in the back matter of notes and bibliography.
The authors cover the issue from many directions. There is the expected coverage of the planning and decision making within the German military as well as descriptions of U-Boat deployments, specific operations and engagements, and conditions for the crews. The feeble initial Allied defenses are discussed, and their frantic attempts to counter the highly successful early attacks on tankers and other merchant shipping. The debate on attack strategy that went on and on at the highest levels of the German military and government is well presented: attack only tankers? concentrate attacks on refinery facilities and ports? sink anything that floats? The chosen target strategy was crucial, because U-Boats didn't carry very many torpedoes to start with, and a high percentage of those malfunctioned.
There were other aspects to the Battle of the Caribbean I would never have considered, which are very well explained. The politics of the islands with refineries and later military bases, the living conditions and delicate cultural balance of the islands' residents, and the massive strife and resentment and economic and environmental upheaval that ensued when thousands and thousands of engineers and troops descended onto a small island and created ports, runways, bases, and housing. Also, within the U.S. there was suddenly no way to get oil to the northeast in anywhere near the needed amounts and strict rationing took effect. The result was a crash campaign to build a major pipeline all the way from the gulf coast, as well as waiving various anti-trust laws to allow rail companies to work together to begin transporting oil products.
All this is explained in detail and in a logical progression. So why am I rating this book only 3 stars out of 5?
Because of a massive omission. There are constant descriptions of locations of ports, bases, islands, shipping routes, military engagements, pipeline routes, and more. And incredibly, in the entire book, there's not one single map or location diagram to assist the reader in assimilating the material. The closest is a blurry reproduction of an original grid map used by the German military, which is too fuzzy to read and was included simply as an interesting artifact rather than as a useful tool. Reading all these descriptions without being able to visualize distances and directions and locations was frustrating. The experience could have been so much better if only they'd assigned a couple grad students to churn out a few simple maps.