A Cryptologic Veteran’s Analysis of The Battle of the Atlantic and Signals Intelligence, 1941 – 1945

Reviewed by George McGinnis

This British book, published in the United States, contains a record on a daily basis of the general location and numbers of German U-boats beginning in December, 1941, until the end of WW II.

The data is largely based on translation of German Enigma messages by the British organization G.C.H.Q. located at Bletchley Park, England, and by the companion United States Naval organization OP-20-G, however other sources also contributed. The information is presented as a statistical weekly U-boat situation report, or U-boat trend, with daily information presented in textual form. The material was written during WW II by RADM J. W. Clayton, RN, head of the Admiralty’s Operation Intelligence Center and by CDR Rodger Winn, RNVR, head of the Submarine Tracking Room.

In addition, there is a 24 page summary of how the Allies handled the U-boat offensive system during WW II. This summary covers intercept, translation, and distribution of the ULTRA material to the tracking rooms, how the U-boats were plotted on both sides of the Atlantic, and how ULTRA was distributed to and used by the various commands.

Some of the weekly U-boat situation reports, or U-boat trends, are as short as a single page, others contain multiple pages. The number of U-boats in various parts of the world’s oceans is tallied when known.

This is truly an amazing record gathered together in 628 pages. If you want to know which U-boat attacked which convoy, including its location, the skipper’s name, and other statistics, this is the place to look. Likewise, if you want to know the number of U-boats involved in a specific action on a specific day, the information is usually available. The text is annotated with things like specific U-boat hull numbers, facts about that U-boat, names of British and U.S. naval ships involved in U-boat attacks, and various other informative data. The statistical information gives you a very good idea of the value of COMINT during the U-boat portion of the war.

Primarily a source book, it will be valuable to researchers, and laymen alike. I enjoyed recalling and identifying some U-boat encounters I was aware of during my tour in Recife, Brazil, for example.

Thanks to the publisher, Ashgate Publishing Company, for making the book available for review.

Publishing Information

The Battle of the Atlantic and Signals Intelligence, 1941 – 1945; Navy Records Society, Ashgate Publishing Co. Brookfield, Vermont, ISBN 1-84014-295-2, 628 pages.