The Last Year of the Kriegsmarine: May 1944 - May 1945
The Second World War began five years too early for the newly rebuilt German Navy, and by mid-1944 its deficiencies in equipment and crucially in strategic morale were painfully apparent. The Battle of the Atlantic, once the greatest real danger to Britain's survival in the war, had effectively been lost after 1943, and, although U-boats still sortied against the ever increasing convoys, the augmented Allied air and sea defences meant fewer and fewer U-boats made it back to home ports.
For the larger heavy surface units, the war had been a series of disappointing frustrations: increasingly confined to remote Arctic ports but denied offensive opportunities by fuel shortages and High Command indecision, the 'fleet in being' tied down Royal Navy units and attracted regular air attacks, but achieved little else.
Like the Luftwaffe, however, the Kriegsmarine entered its last year of war with real hopes that new weapons would break the deadlock, regaining the initiative at sea and offering the chance to alter the course of the war.
This is the first time the story of those final 12 months has been attempted. V. E. Tarrant reveals the increasing desperation as Allied industrial bombing, superiority at sea and German technical delays ensured that the new 'wonder' weapons never delivered their potential. Unable to prevent the Allied invasion of Europe, the Kriegsmarine could only rely on small battle units - E-boats, the odd destroyer or U-boat, and bizarre semi-suicide weapons - to attack the vast amount of invasion shipping off Normandy.
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A Belief in Miracles
The Development of
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45 English Channel 45 Scuttled Flensburg 45 Scuttled Travemunde 45 Surrendered 8th Flotilla Allied aircraft April 45 ASDIC Atlantic attacked a convoy August battleship Biber Biscay Blohm & Voss Bombed by Allied Bombed by RAF Bombed by USAAF Bomber Brest Cherbourg coast coastal Command craft crew decrypts Depth-charged by RN destroyers Donitz Electro-boats enemy English Channel Enigma escort feet fire Flensburg forces four frigate German Group Hamburg Havre Hellevoetsluis Ijmuiden inshore campaign invasion Irish Sea July June K-Verband Kapitanleutnant Kiel knots Kola Inlet Kriegsmarine launched Linsen March merchant ships miles mines Minesweeping Molch MTBs naval night North Channel Norwegian operational area patrols periscope ports radar RAF aircraft raid RN destroyer RN frigate sailed sank Scheldt Seehunde Sept 44 sighted snorkel sorties Squadron St-Nazaire surface Tirpitz tons torpedoes Type XXI Type XXIII U-boats USAAF aircraft vessels warships