The Rise and Fall of Franklin Delano Roosevelt

By Robert Underhill | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 14. TROUBLED WATERS

“Sending ships out to be sunk by submarine wolf packs is
like pouring water into a leaky bathtub.”

—Secretary of War Henry Stimson

__________________________

As the year 1941 began, the war overseas was at its darkest for the West. France had fallen in the previous summer, and the fate of Great Britain appeared hopeless. British cities were subjected to ever heavier bombings from the Luftwaffe, and German U-boats using “wolf-pack” tactics were exacting grim tolls everywhere in the Atlantic. Henry L. Stimson, Roosevelt’s Secretary of War observed, “sending ships out to be sunk by submarine wolf packs is like pouring water into a leaky bathtub.”

Nazis planes had been unable to win control of skies over Britain, and in 1941, Adolf Hitler switched plans for the invasion of that island to attempts in cutting its Atlantic lifeline. In retrospect and fairness, it might be realized that it made no sense for Germany to bomb or destroy munitions, railroads, factories, and industries in the British homeland if those same military supplies were permitted to be imported by an ally from abroad. Accordingly, U-boat attacks increased, and American ships were further endangered. During the first six months of 1941, U-boats sank 756 merchantmen bound for English ports and damaged another 1,450 vessels.

In a two-month period, the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau—two German surface warships—sank or captured 22 Allied vessels (115,000

-101-

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