They were the deadliest ships of World War II—nine German commerce raiders disguised as peaceful cargo ships, flying the flags of neutral and allied nations. In reality these heavily armed warships roamed the world’s oceans at will, like twentieth-century pirates. They struck unsuspecting freighters and tankers out of the darkness of night or from behind a curtain of fog and mist. For almost three years they led the Royal Navy on a deadly chase from sea to sea and sank or captured more than a million tons of allied shipping.
Masquerading as unarmed merchantmen, the raiders carried an awesome array of weapons cleverly hidden behind false structures and concealed inside empty packing crates on their decks. They fed off their unsuspecting targets, pumping fuel from their prey into their own tanks and taking food from captured pantries to feed their own crews and the thousands of prisoners that they picked up along the way. These secret ships also acted as supply ships for U-boats, helping their fellow hunters remain at large for longer periods. At sea for months—or even years—those raider sailors lucky enough to survive were hailed as heroes when they returned home.
In this fascinating and high-tension account of the German Navy’s “pirate” fleet, James P. Duffy provides detailed descriptions of each of the nine raiders, presented in chronological order based on the date each ship first sailed, revealing a significant but little-known aspect of World War II naval history
James P. Duffy is a writer and lecturer. His previous books include Target America: Hitler’s Plan to Attack the United States.
“Provides a concise, but surprisingly comprehensive account of the raider’s operations, setting them within the larger context of war by means of clever short side-bars…An interesting book for anyone interested in the war at sea.”—The NYMAS Review
“This book is not for pirate fans per se, but for those who want to see how others took the tactics pirates used and implemented them during a war. Those interested in World War II naval operations will also want to read these accounts. Each chapter includes a map showing the location of where prizes were taken and short sidebars that relate events elsewhere.”—Cindy Vallar, Pirates and Privateers