THE CAPTURE OF U-505: THE US NAVY’S CONTROVERSIAL ENIGMA RAID, ATLANTIC OCEAN 1944
As the first review I have done in a long time (voluntarily!), this short, illustrated book was a largely delightful read. Yet it also left a lingering sense of slight disappointment. First and foremost however, the author has done an excellent job bringing to life the details of an interesting raid by US Task Group 22.3 under the command of Captain David Gallery USN; clearly a commander worth studying in his own right. It is an accessible, easy read that balances detail to engage the professional with anecdotes to entertain the enthusiast.
Memorable moments include Gallery’s decision to close the pilots’ bar after repeated missed opportunities, only reopening it again once they had secured their first success! Also, the description of the final ‘hunt’ for U-505 was well-told, and with sympathy for both Axis and Allied combatants, sailor and senior commander alike. The numerous illustrations enhance the overall understanding of not only general life onboard U-505, but also how it slipped away from the TG, the novel tactics both commanders employed to outwit each other, and ultimately how the U-Boat was captured. I particularly enjoyed the clear analytical sections that encouraged critical thought, along with the useful, clear chronologies. A well-crafted book, it is basically a larger and more factual version of the old ‘Commando’ comics – and as such it has my hearty recommendation.
My one disappointment is the lack of discussion around the U-Boat enigma raids that took place three years earlier!Lardas does of course mention that the Enigma, through Ultra, had already been decrypted, but no more than a handful of times. And there is no mention at all of the numerous daring naval attacks on U-Boats that were critical to Ultra’s success years before this one. At first, this was bemusing. Given this is a book about naval ships trying to capture the enigma off a U-Boat, surely the operation that was successful three years earlier (Op PRIMROSE) would at least get a mention? If not in the main body, then perhaps in the ‘Further Reading’, but no! So bemusement gave way to a bit of disappointment. If you are going to conclude that the capture of U-505 was “one of the most audacious raids of WW2”, then you ought to at least consider how it sits alongside other similar, and successful, raids. Nevertheless, I would still recommend reading The Capture of U-505 but only if one reads about the capture of U-110 as well!!
MAJOR MATT BAYLIS RM
(A book review of The Secret Capture, U110 and the Enigma Story is available in Vol 99, Edition 4, page 436)