The wolf pack military strategy is a term that refers to the mass-attack tactics used by submarines against convoys of enemy ships during the Second World War. It was employed mainly by the German U-boats in the Atlantic Ocean and by the American submarines in the Pacific Ocean. The idea behind this strategy was to concentrate the firepower of several submarines on a single target, overwhelming its defenses and increasing the chances of sinking it.
How did the wolf pack strategy work?
The wolf pack strategy required a high level of coordination and communication among the submarines involved. Typically, a group of submarines would patrol a certain area of the ocean, searching for enemy convoys. When one of them spotted a convoy, it would report its position, speed, course, and composition to the others. Then, it would follow the convoy at a safe distance, waiting for nightfall or bad weather to launch an attack. Meanwhile, the other submarines would converge on the location of the convoy, forming a line across its path. The attack would begin when the first submarine reached the convoy, firing torpedoes at the most valuable targets. The other submarines would follow suit, attacking from different angles and creating confusion and panic among the enemy ships. The submarines would then withdraw, reload their torpedoes, and repeat the attack until they ran out of ammunition or the convoy escaped.
What were the advantages and disadvantages of the wolf pack strategy?
The wolf pack strategy had several advantages over the single-submarine attack. It allowed the submarines to exploit their numerical superiority and surprise factor, increasing their chances of hitting multiple targets in a short time. It also reduced the risk of being detected and counterattacked by enemy escorts, as they had to deal with multiple threats from different directions. Moreover, it enabled the submarines to share information and coordinate their actions, improving their efficiency and effectiveness.
However, the wolf pack strategy also had some drawbacks. It required a high level of skill and discipline from the submarine crews, as well as reliable communication and intelligence systems. It also depended on favorable weather and visibility conditions, as well as on finding suitable targets. Furthermore, it exposed the submarines to greater danger, as they had to operate closer to the enemy and in larger groups, making them more vulnerable to detection and attack by enemy aircraft and surface ships.
How successful was the wolf pack strategy?
The wolf pack strategy was used with varying degrees of success by both sides during the war. The German U-boats used it extensively in the early stages of the Battle of the Atlantic, inflicting heavy losses on Allied shipping and threatening their supply lines. However, as the war progressed, the Allies improved their anti-submarine warfare capabilities, developing better radar, sonar, depth charges, escort vessels, and air cover. They also broke the German naval codes, allowing them to anticipate and avoid U-boat attacks. These factors reduced the effectiveness of the wolf pack strategy and increased the casualties among U-boats.
The American submarines used the wolf pack strategy more sparingly in the Pacific War, as they faced different challenges and opportunities than their German counterparts. The Japanese shipping was more dispersed and less protected than Allied shipping, making it easier for single submarines to find and sink targets. However, some American submarine commanders experimented with wolf pack tactics, especially in 1943 and 1944, when they encountered larger and more heavily escorted convoys. They achieved some notable successes, such as sinking several Japanese carriers and oil tankers. However, they also faced some difficulties, such as poor communication and coordination among submarines, lack of intelligence on enemy movements, and interference from friendly aircraft.
The wolf pack military strategy was a novel and innovative way of using submarines to attack enemy shipping during World War II. It had its advantages and disadvantages, depending on various factors such as weather conditions, target availability, enemy defenses, and submarine capabilities. It was used with different degrees of frequency and effectiveness by both sides during the war. It demonstrated that submarines could be a powerful weapon of naval warfare if used properly and creatively.