chapter  7
26 Pages

The U.S. Navy and Operation Roll of Drums, 1942

WithRobert W. Love

The reasons for the success of the German Navy's Operation Roll of Drums in 1942 remain one of the most controversial aspects of the US Navy's conduct of the Second World War. From the US Navy's viewpoint, moreover, the German's mid-1918 submarine minelaying campaign off the northeastern Atlantic coast of the US was an embarrassing, desperate, and ultimately futile operation that resulted in the loss of relatively little shipping tonnage. The Navy Department watched, and the Admiralty watched much more attentively, the German naval renaissance after 1934 with trepidation, but neither London nor Washington focused on the rebirth of the U-boat arm. Operation Roll of Drums off the Atlantic coast in early 1942 succeeded largely because the US Navy was committed to other tasks: transatlantic escort-of-convoy operations, defending troop transports, and maintaining powerful, forward-deployed Atlantic Fleet striking forces to prevent a breakout by heavy German surface forces.