Although Donald's growing suspicions about Hans Mohring and other Europeans cross the line into obsession, some American readers may be surprised to learn just how active German U-boats were in Canadian waters during World War II. (U-boat is the anglicized version of unterseeboot, meaning undersea boat, i.e. a submarine).
During 1942, the German military mounted a series of strategic attacks on individual ships in the waters off the coast of Canada. These submarine attacks were intended to break up the formation of convoys and to disrupt the potential of North American naval activity in European waters. Because Canada had already committed a large proportion of their forces to fight overseas and their warships to escort convoys, they didn't have many defenses close to home, leaving ships such as tankers and ferries vulnerable to attack.
During the first half of 1942, a series of concentrated attacks known as Operation Drumbeat resulted in the sinking of 198 ships by German U-boats - the start of what became known as the Battle of the St. Lawrence. The worst loss of life was the sinking of the ferry Caribou (pictured right), recounted in Norman's novel, in October 1942 which resulted in 142 deaths. Although attacks eventually became intermittent, German U-boats patrolled Canadian waters right up until the end of World War II.
This article was originally published in July 2010, and has been updated for the
May 2011 paperback release.
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