Torpedoes in the Gulf : Galveston and the U-Boats, 1942-1943
Overview - At the beginning of America's involvement in World War II, Galveston Island was a recreation center for area servicemen. Every evening throngs of soldiers, sailors, and Marines strolled along the seawall, basking in the warm sun and soft gulf breezes. Read more...
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More About Torpedoes in the Gulf by Melanie Wiggins
At the beginning of America's involvement in World War II, Galveston Island was a recreation center for area servicemen. Every evening throngs of soldiers, sailors, and Marines strolled along the seawall, basking in the warm sun and soft gulf breezes. Red, pink, and white oleanders bloomed in all their glory, sea gulls squawked overhead, and gentle waves swished over sandy beaches. It was paradise on earth. Small wonder that German U-boat commanders couldn't believe their eyes when they stealthily entered the Gulf of Mexico that year. All navigational lights glowed, and towns and cities along the coast shone brightly, illuminating every American ship traveling by. On Galveston Island the summer tourist season had just begun when Harro Schacht, commander of U-507, sailed up to the mouth of the Mississippi River and blew up eight ships. Catching Americans totally unprepared for a Gulf attack, twenty-four German submarines entered the Gulf of Mexico between 1942 and 1943 and attacked both American and Allied ships, sinking fifty-six merchant ships and damaging fourteen more. In May, 1942 alone, the blitz of the "Gulf Sea Frontier" gave German U-boats their greatest victories to that date in the war. From then until peace in 1944, Allied shipping in the Gulf sailed freely, secure from attack--but not until this surprising onslaught raised national patriotism to new heights and brought the war so close to home. Based on interviews with U.S. Navy, Merchant Marine, and German U-boat veterans, translated war diaries, and declassified military documents, Torpedoes in the Gulf tells a fascinating personal story with two sides. Readers will marvel at behind-the-scenes accounts of German U-boat spy maneuvers and as Galvestonians, fearing for their lives, raced to fortify their island, convinced at last that they were truly at war. Melanie Wiggins is a freelance writer living in Galveston. She is a member of the Galveston County Historical Commission and the Texas Gulf Historical Society of Beaumont, and she is the author of a book on the history of Bolivar Peninsula.