Britain, an island nation, needed war supplies from overseas in order to continue the fight against Hitler and, to a lesser extent, the Japanese. That meant ships had to bring industrial materials and consumer staples, such as soap and grain, from the colonies and from the United States.
It was the mission of the German U-boats to sink the ships and starve Britain out of the war. The German navy began the war with less than 60 submarines but in the end had ground out more than a thousand. The strategy worked, too. British sandwiches lost their cold cuts and were made with a thin paste. Coffee was difficult to come by and so was real bread.
In the spring of 1943, technological and tactical advances made on the Allied side made the U-boats much more vulnerable and by the end of the war, submarine duty had become suicidal.
This episode, which I watched in English, not German, describes the way the U-boat captains became the kind of heroes that the pilots of World War I had been. This is the story of one captain -- young, handsome, self-confident, and aggressive. His boat was sunk by a PBY off the coast of Brazil and discovered and photographed by a Brazilian entrepreneur with a German last name.
Many of these TV documentaries of the war are quite good, far better than the more popular, early series like "Victory at Sea" and "Crusade in Europe." We not only hear from the German participants but from British military experts, and all the contributions sound authentic and objective. It's good that 70 years have passed and we can look back on such a cataclysmic event as World War II without signs of rancor.
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