- Paperback: 528 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1st edition (June 25, 1991)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060920882
- ISBN-13: 978-0060920883
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.2 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 242 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,546,925 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Operation Drumbeat: Germany's U-Boat Attacks Along the American Coast in World War II Paperback – June 25, 1991
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Historian Michael Gannon argues that the systematic assault by German submarines on merchant tankers and freighters along the U.S. eastern seaboard in 1942 "constituted a greater strategic setback for the Allied war effort than did the defeat at Pearl Harbor." The case for the claim is intriguing and includes a damaging assessment of the U.S. naval command, which ignored information that might have allowed it to avert the disaster, but Gannon never lets his argument distract from the compelling wartime story. Through original interviews and archival research, he describes the exploits of U-123 and its 28-year-old Lieutenant Commander Reinhard Hardegen, who terrorized American home waters on two separate missions. Operation Drumbeat presents a remarkable picture of life on the U-boats. (Fans of the movie Das Boot especially won't want to miss it.) Gannon's book eventually may become a classic work of naval history; for now it's a great book on a particular aspect of the Second World War. --John J. Miller
From Publishers Weekly
Interviews with a U-boat skipper, former German crew members and U.S. and British military personnel help explain why the Allies lost nearly 400 ships to U-boat attacks; evidence suggests that well-informed British intelligence was disregarded by the Anglophobic U.S. chief of naval operations. "The book will be of enormous interest to sub warfare buffs," said PW. Photos.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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=== The Good Stuff ===
* While it gets a little overly detailed, I found the book captivating and ended up reading it in a couple sessions. There is a fair amount of detail on how a U-Boat operated, including torpedo handling and launching, the rigors of the U-Boat environment, naval tactics and US Navy actions.
* Michael Gannon captures some of the "human" side of the U-Boat wars. At times we find U-Boat commanders going out of their way to help survivors by giving them water and a course to land. At other times, we find them coldly sailing away as men are stuck at sea with little chance of rescue. Both are just a part of WWII as fought at sea, but the story is certainly worth capturing.
* Gannon concentrates on one boat, U-123, and we meet the captain and a few of the officers, although only the character of the captain really comes out. There are a few tales from other boats, just enough to round out the story. The amount of named characters stays small, and you can concentrate on the story without getting wrapped up in a recitation of facts.
=== The Not-So-Good Stuff ===
* I would have rated this a 5 star book, if only someone had bothered to proof read the Kindle edition. I got the book very cheaply, but I was sorely tempted to ask for my money back. While Kindle editions usually have a good number of errors, this book was ridiculous. The name of the U-Boat was U-123, but it was a rare event to actually have the name printed correctly. The typos really got in the way of reading the book, both from breaking my concentration and making it difficult to decode what the author was really ralking about. My personal favorite is this gem-"Hoffmann had not yet introduced him. £ 5 macht nichts-- Vs/ e\\, it was probably all right." I honestly have no idea.
* The same guy that scanned the text must have also worked on scanning the graphics. The photos, and especially the map, was just about useless. It would have been nice to have more maps, but since it wouldn't have been readable, there was no reason to include them.
* Parts of the book get a bit carried away, especially when the narrative turns from relating events to analyzing the motives and morals of the men involved.
=== Summary ===
The book was great, but the scanning was so bad that it really detracted from the experience. It is a shame that his level of incompetence is considered acceptable, both by the publishers and Amazon. I would recommend the book to Naval history fans, but only as a hardcopy.
U-123, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Reinhard Hardegen, serves as the book's narrative focal point. Gannon recalls 123’s near-sinking at the hands of a Norwegian factory ship, its encounter with the Q-Ship Atik, and the infamous torpedoing and shelling of the tanker Gulfamerica just two miles from Jacksonville, Florida. Operation Drumbeat also takes us inside the offices of the British Operational Intelligence Centre and Bletchley Park, where the German Enigma ciphers were decoded. Gannon discusses how the OIC kept track of the five Drumbeat boats with extreme accuracy and passed the information along to the American Office of Naval Intelligence, who were regardless taken completely by surprise when they finally arrived. The third major element centers on the United States Navy’s unpreparedness at the beginning of the war and the perceived dereliction of Admiral Ernest King.
Although there are moment when the level of detail gets a little out of hand, "Operation Drumbeat" is thankfully anything but a stodgy top-heavy academic history. It reads more like a Tom Clancy novel set during World War II, complete with last-second evasions, accurately reproduced radio transcripts, detailed descriptions of military hardware, and men in tiny offices moving flags around. It's also a thought provoking work which asks many difficult questions about America's initial lack of preparedness in anti-submarine warfare. Why didn't the USN take advantage of accurate signals intelligence, and do something to stop the initial wave of U-boats? Why wasn't the convoy system implemented until after hundreds of ships were sunk off the coast? Why did Admiral King throw 27 months of hard-won British experience in ASW right out the window? Gannon also seems to understand how things worked on a WWII submarine, and what it was like to live and work aboard, giving the book a wonderful sense of verisimilitude beyond the "boat goes up, boat goes down" type descriptions many authors resort to.
If you're going to read this book (and everyone serious interested in the Battle of the Atlantic should), I implore you to ignore the Kindle version and go straight for a hardcopy. As other reviewers have pointed out, the spellchecking and editing in the eBook are absolutely hideous. I wouldn't be surprised if the publisher just scanned the original book through a 10-year-old OCR program and didn't bother correcting any errors afterwards. If you took a shot of whiskey every time "U-123" was written a different way, you'd probably be drunk by page 50.