Cover image for Hitler's U-boat fortresses
Hitler's U-boat fortresses
Bradham, Randolph.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn. : Praeger, [2003]

Physical Description:
xxii, 196 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
D781 .B68 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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The French naval bases at St. Nazaire and Lorient, occupied by the Germans in June 1940, quickly became the homes of massive U-boat fortresses--nearly indestructible submarine pens, built by mostly slave labor. The Royal Air Force began an all-out bombardment of the two ports. Despite their extensive efforts--and those of the Americans who joined them in 1942--the fortresses would survive, surrounded by the decimated French towns and countryside. This is the story of what was, perhaps, the longest ongoing battle in Europe during the Second World War, seen through the eyes of someone who experienced much of it firsthand.

The desperate battle was waged on land, air, and sea. Because the dock at St. Nazaire could house and repair Hitler's powerful warship Tirpitz, British commandos carried out a daring raid to destroy it in March of 1942. They succeeded, but with great loss of life. The defenses of these fortresses were so strong that Eisenhower would ultimately decide to seek containment rather than destruction. The 66th Division, on its way to take up the task, lost its troopship Leopoldville to a German torpedo, with a loss of 802 men. The French underground movement in the area spawned a fighting force of 40,000 men to fight alongside the Americans, but the subsequent German reprisals would ultimately destroy many families in Brittany. Yet the bases stood, and continue to stand today.

Author Notes

Randolph Bradham is a retired thoracic and cardiovascular surgeon who practiced in Charleston, South Carolina, for 40 years. Formerly a staff-sergeant squad leader in Company E, 262nd Regiment, 66th Infantry Division, he fought in Brittany against the Germans contained in St. Nazaire and Lorient



At 2:00 P.M., the Germans launched their third attack on a front covering 2,500 meters, using reinforcements including German parachutists, Georgians, and a tactical deployment group from the 275th Infantry Division. The Georgians gained the chateau through the breach. Automatic weapons then stopped them. In the center, the Germans launched a fierce attack and captured the farm, driving the French forces back 300 meters. Jacques Jacir, a parachutist, described the fighting: The Fritz (Germans) came in great numbers this time but, believing that they were facing a small group of mazuis soldiers, their first patrols were isolated, one behind the other. They were systematically destroyed. Two companies occupy the village of St. Marcel, and from there they approach toward Marienne's position. He stands his guard well. The Germans seem confused and are being killed at an incredible rate. They come forward, standing in the middle of fields, without understanding what is going on. After a while, they react and form a front, a line of battle that gives them a chance to have a good understanding of the opposing forces. They install machine guns and organize firing zones. The farm Bois-Joli is taken by the Germans. They also try to take Chateau of Sainte-Benevieve, as they believe it to be the maquis headquarters, which it isn't. It is still occupied by Madame Bouvard and her children. Her son, Loic, age 15, is fighting with the maquis and has an American rifle. Allied aviation intervened at about 3:30 P.M., after Commandant Bourgoin had requested assistance fo the general of the Special Air Service (S.A.S.). Planes were airborne 70 minutes after the request was transmitted. For almost one hour, fighter bombers struck and bombed enemy positions and columns of reinforcements. Once the planes had left, the battle raged again. Excerpted from Hitler's U-Boat Fortresses by Randolph Bradham All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. xiii
1. 1940p. 1
The Beginningp. 1
Aerial Bombardmentp. 5
U-Boat Menacep. 9
Those Who Would Resistp. 15
2. 1941p. 19
Expansion of the U-Boat Basesp. 19
Bombardment Continuesp. 24
The Resistancep. 25
3. 1942p. 29
U-Boat Destructionp. 29
Operation Chariotp. 31
Evacuation, Bombardments, and U-Boatsp. 45
4. 1943p. 47
Bombardment Intensifies--The Apocalypsep. 47
February 28, 1943--The Apocalypsep. 53
The U-Boats Meet Resistancep. 55
French Forces of the Interior--Originp. 57
5. 1944p. 61
Germans on the Defensivep. 61
The Resistance Mobilizes for Warp. 73
The Resistance Movement in Morbihan and in the Loire Atlanticp. 74
La Nouette, 6 to 18 June, 1944p. 77
The Battlep. 79
6. 1944--July, August, Septemberp. 85
Breakout and Engagementp. 85
General Fahrmbacher's Report Post-War on Preparation of the Defense of Lorientp. 90
Hennebontp. 95
French Forces Mobilize for Warp. 102
83rd Infantry Division Captures 20,000 Germansp. 107
7. 1944--October, November, Decemberp. 111
Ground War--94th Infantry Division Takes Overp. 111
Record of 94th Infantry Divisionp. 111
French Battle Germans South of the Loire Riverp. 120
Sinking of the Leopoldvillep. 127
8. 1945p. 145
Enter the 66th Infantry (Black Panther) Divisionp. 145
French Forces Reorganize and Strongly Hold the Linep. 167
Official Record of the 66th Infantry Divisionp. 169
History of the Pocketsp. 170
Campaign of the Pocketsp. 171
Evacuationsp. 175
9. Surrenderp. 177
Monumentsp. 179
Bibliographyp. 183
Indexp. 187