Even before the United States entered World War II, Allied forces were battling the Germans for the waters of the Atlantic. This titanic struggle lasted the duration of the war in Europe. To help tell this story and explain its significance, the American Battle Monuments Commission has released the Battle of the Atlantic online interactive. This free, digital tool covers all aspects of the battle, and allows the user to determine what they want to learn about and to what extent. From maps showing the locations of U-boat sinkings to narrative videos to an encyclopedia of people, places and equipment involved, theBattle of the Atlantic online interactive provides comprehensive insight into this critical World War II endeavor. It allows the user to better understand the competence, courage and sacrifice of those who fought it.
In 1939 German U-boats began stalking Allied merchant ships with the goal of cutting vital shipping lanes. In the first months of the war the Germans had limited success due to Allied control of the waters surrounding northern Europe and critical passages through them.
Once the Germans seized control of Norway and France in 1940, the dynamic shifted. The Germans controlled much of the English Channel and North Sea coasts, and had easy access into the greater Atlantic. They soon adopted “wolf pack tactics”, traveling and attacking in groups rather than hunting alone. When the United States entered the war in December 1941, shipping lanes along its east coast became key target areas for the U-boats, which inflicted terrible losses.
The heaviest fighting and climax of the Battle of the Atlantic occurred in late 1942 and early 1943. The advantage shifted to the Allies as they massed manpower and equipment, refined their escorted convoy system, deployed air coverage, and utilized new technologies to track and destroy U-boats. By 1944 the threat from German U-boats had been dramatically reduced, and the Allies maintained control of the waters of the Atlantic until the end of the war. Allied ships, troops and supplies sped across them uninterrupted.
Veterans of the Battle of the Atlantic are honored in many ABMC cemeteries and memorials, but they particularly shape the story at the Cambridge American Cemetery and at the East Coast Memorial.