Suppliers of the "Grey Wolves"
The Story of the German Submarine Tankers 1941-44
To the Allies they were target number one - the German submarine tankers.
The Allied hunter-killer groups had express orders to sink the tankers first.
The enemy knew that the German submarine tankers made it possible for
U-boats to operate off the east coast of the United States, South Africa,
the west coast of Africa and the Caribbean. Unlike conventional tankers,
these large Type XIV submarines, also known as “milk cows”, could reach
their areas of operation without being discovered. The submarine tankers
carried sufficient fuel, provisions, torpedoes and spare parts for up to 24
U-boats, doubling or tripling their normal endurance. The “milk cows” also
carried a doctor who could treat sick or injured crewmen.
In 1942 the submarine tankers were able to rendezvous with the combat
submarines at prearranged locations largely undisturbed. In 1943, however,
all this changed. From the beginning of the year, the Allies succeeded in
decoding German radio transmissions and from these intercepts learned
where the tankers and operational boats would be meeting. From then on
the tankers were hunted down relentlessly. Wherever the “milk cows” surfaced,
Allied anti-submarine groups were waiting. Rapid transfer of supplies, often in
bad weather, rendezvous points changed at the last minute, and attacks by
Allied ASW aircraft became a part of everyday life for the “milk cow” crews.
They often worked to the limits of their physical and mental endurance to
complete their mission. In the end, all of the submarine tankers were sunk
by the Allies, the last in the summer of 1944. Hundreds of men went down
with the submarines.
The story of the ten German submarine tankers in the Second World War
has never been thoroughly documented in words and pictures. This book
describes the difficult submarine tanker operations and the war waged by
the crews against the power of the sea and the Allied anti-submarine forces
and thus fills a significant gap in the history of the German submarine arm.
Large format 23.5 x 28 cm (9.25 x 11 inches) – 336 pages –
305 photos including 5 in colour – 33 colour maps - 9 colour profiles - Data CD with detailed supply data and a total index for the book