Submarine Warfare

Stephanie Cousineau

in Military History

ISBN: 9780199791279
Published online February 2012 | | DOI:
Submarine Warfare

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Few branches of military service are as captivating, as popularly thrilling and as discomfiting as the submarine service. From its myths and legends to its stealth and questionable legal status, undersea warfare commands attention. Correspondingly, it has been graced with a massive historiography, dominated more by popular, nonacademic works than scholarly studies. But whether the works are academic or not, the focus lies primarily on one state: Germany. The legendary U-boat drives the bulk of scholarship and has helped make submarine warfare so captivating that a relatively large body of reference texts and encyclopedias exist, providing a foundation for the amateur and expert alike. Upon this foundation are built studies of the eras of submarine warfare and their most relevant associated themes, particularly technology and international law. The first school of study begins with the earliest technological coup, when the first submersible dirigible was developed during the American Revolutionary War, though from the 18th century to the 20th century, the story of submarine warfare is predominantly a story of tremendous technological adolescence. Until it gained greater seaworthiness, as it had by World War I, incidences of submarine warfare were few and far between. The German U-boat war of 1914–1918 shocked the world, but in scholarship it has been wholly eclipsed by the cataclysm of World War II. World War I’s descent into “unrestricted” submarine warfare scarred participants and observers so profoundly that rules of submarine warfare commanded statesmen and militaries’ interests alike in the interwar period, as the swelling historiography indicates. The attention was to no avail, and the legal issues that had underscored submarine warfare’s “inhumane” nature remained unresolved. This did not stop two states from planning for the same style of warfare, and Germany and the United States let loose their campaigns almost from the beginning of World War II. In this, they were not alone, they were simply the two largest. With the absence of submarine conflict in the postwar era, works on submarine warfare have returned to the minority, and the outpouring of attention remains fixated especially on the German U-boat, still as popular today as ever.

Article.  7439 words. 

Subjects: Military History ; Pre-20th Century Warfare ; First World War ; Second World War ; Post-WW2 Military History

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