Hitler's Secret Pirate Fleet: the Deadliest Ships of World War II

Hitler's Secret Pirate Fleet: the Deadliest Ships of World War II

Hitler's Secret Pirate Fleet: the Deadliest Ships of World War II

Hitler's Secret Pirate Fleet: the Deadliest Ships of World War II

Synopsis

They were the deadliest ships of World War II-nine German commerce raiders disguised as peaceful cargo ships, flying the flags of neutral and allied nations. In reality these heavily armed warships roamed the world's oceans at will, like twentieth-century pirates. They struck unsuspecting freighters and tankers out of the darkness of night or from behind a curtain of fog and mist. For almost three years they led the Royal Navy on a deadly chase from sea to sea and sank or captured more than a million tons of allied shipping. Masquerading as unarmed merchantmen, the raiders carried an awesome array of weapons cleverly hidden behind false structures and concealed inside empty packing crates on their decks. They fed off their unsuspecting targets, pumping fuel from their prey into their own tanks and taking food from captured pantries to feed their own crews and the thousands of prisoners that they picked up along the way. These secret ships also acted as supply ships for U-boats, helping their fellow hunters remain at large for longer periods. At sea for months-or even years-those raider sailors lucky enough to survive were hailed as heroes when they returned home. In this fascinating and high-tension account of the German Navy's "pirate" fleet, James P. Duffy provides detailed descriptions of each of the nine raiders, presented in chronological order based on the date each ship first sailed, revealing a significant but little-known aspect of World War II naval history

Excerpt

Attacking and sinking, or taking as prizes, cargo ships of enemy nations is a practice as old as naval warfare itself. During the American Civil War, Confederate commerce raiders sank so many Union merchant ships that the American Merchant Marine never fully recovered from its losses. During the First World War, Imperial Germany put several raiders to sea in an effort to disrupt the shipping routes on which Great Britain relied. The first of these were primarily warships. Costly to operate and difficult to hide from the Royal Navy, they met with limited success. Most were either sunk or botded up and made impotent by British warships. These were followed by raiders disguised as cargo vessels. Their success rate was much greater than their predecessors, and most returned home safely after their cruises. Then the face of naval warfare changed with the introduction of submarines. Suddenly ships carrying valuable cargos could be sunk by an enemy that could not be seen.

With the approach of World War II, Admiral Erich Raeder, Commanderin-Chief of the German Navy, hoped to be able to build a world-class navy around a fleet of batdeships and aircraft carriers. With the limited resources available to him, his desired navy never materialized; instead he had to rely on a small number of batdeships, cruisers, and destroyers to fight against what was the largest and most powerful navy in the world, Great Britain's Royal Navy. Limited access to the world's oceans was another problem for Germany, one that was made more difficult by Britain's ability to put dozens of ships on blockade duty. Unable to challenge the supremacy of the Royal Navy, Raeder . . .

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