If you’re like me, after watching a film based on history, you desire to dig deeper into the history of the events you’ve watched. No matter how good the film may be, there are always various perspectives to explore about the same event. July 10 was the long-anticipated release of Tom Hanks’ new film Greyhound. Whether or not you’ve been able to see this exciting film about the Battle of the Atlantic, here are some books to help you learn more about the battle and the heroic men who ran convoys between the United States and Europe.
To start is the novel the film is based upon, The Good Shepherd, a 1955 novel by British author C.S. Forester. The book follows fictitious US Navy Commander George Krause, who is in command of a destroyer in the Atlantic. The book highlights the grim reality of convoys being picked off by Wolf Packs of German U-Boats in the early part of the war.
For a deep dive on the six-year Battle of the Atlantic, check out Battle of the Atlantic by Marc Milner, and The Battle of the Atlantic, How the Allies Won the War by Jonathan Dimbleby. While tracing the story of the Battle of the Atlantic, Milner also follows the development of U-Boats and the techniques the Allies developed to combat them. Dimbleby puts the battle into the larger context of the war, delving into the politics that played into the Allied response to the U-Boat threat.
The Allied navies weren’t the only sailors risking their lives to transport vital materials across the Atlantic, the US Coast Guard also suffered losses in the battle against the German navy. In Never to Return,. Randall Peffer tells the story of the torpedoing and sinking of a Coast Guard ship and the greatest single loss of Coast Guardsmen in World War II.
In 1944, the destroyer escort USS Mason (DE-529) was commissioned. Unique among US Navy vessels, it had a predominately African American crew. In Proudly We Served: The Men of the USS Mason, Mary Pat Kelly tells the story of the only African American sailors to take a ship into combat in World War II. The Mason escorted six convoys across the Atlantic, and her crew’s performance influenced President Harry S. Truman’s decision to integrate the US Armed Forces.
If you want to know more about what life was like for the men of the Allied Merchant Navies, pick up The Merchant Navy Seaman Pocket Manual 1939-1945. This fascinating book combines documents, diagrams, and illustrations from archives to give information on gunnery, convoys, and antisubmarine techniques used in the Atlantic, Arctic, and Pacific convoys.
Over half of the German U-Boats sunk in the Battle of the Atlantic by American aircraft were victims of the US Navy. In Sighted Sub, Sank Same: The United States Navy's Air Campaign Against the U-Boat, Alan C. Carey covers the US Navy air campaign against German U-Boats. With over 200 photos, this book richly illustrates the navy’s battle for the Atlantic from the air.
The Battle of the Atlantic is considered the longest continuous military campaign of World War II, running from September 1939, until the defeat of Nazi Germany in May 1945. By 1943, the battle was at its climax. In Critical Convoy Battles of WWII: Crisis in the North Atlantic, March 1943, Jürgen Rohwer details the crisis of March 1943, when German U-Boats destroyed nearly 150,000 tons of supplies and fuel in the Atlantic.
To round out this list of books on the Battle of the Atlantic are two classic texts by Samuel Eliot Morison: The Battle of the Atlantic 1939-1943 and The Atlantic Battle Won, 1943-1945. Morison was a naval officer who, in 1942, was commissioned to write the history of the US Navy in World War II. The result was a 15-volume series published between 1947 and 1962.