The Battle of the Atlantic
Front page of the St. John's Evening
Telegram, Monday, May 14, 1945
Before World War II began, the iron ore mine on Bell Island,
Conception Bay, Newfoundland had important ties with German manufacturing
companies. Unfortunately, this meant some German submarine captains knew
the waters around Newfoundland very well. These submarines were called
U-Boats ( short for Unterseeboote, the German word for submarine).
U_boats provided one of the greatest challenges of the war in the waters
of the North Atlantic. The fight to defeat the German U-boats is called
"The Battle of the North Atlantic," but unlike most battles, it was fought
over a long period of time. By April of 1942, German U-boats had sunk 198
ships in the North Atlantic. Many of these were supply vessels and even
passenger ships carrying goods and people across the ocean between Europe
and North America.
On October 14, 1942, a German U-boat torpedoed
and sank the SS Caribou, the passenger ferry that carried people between
North Sydney, Nova Scotia and Port aux Basques, Newfoundland. That night,
137 people died in the icy waters of the North Atlantic. In those days,
commercial air travel was rare, and the ferry was the only way most people
could travel between Newfoundland and the rest of Canada. U-boats
dropped off spies and attempted to pick up escaped German prisoners of war.
One set up an automatic weather station in Martin Bay, Labrador, which transmitted
data to the submarine for about three months. They also mined the waters
outside larger harbours such as Halifax and St. John's and torpedoed both
land targets and sea-going ships.
Although the threat of U-boats lessened as the
war progressed, German submarines continued to create problems for the
Allies until the war with Europe ended in the spring of 1945. When Germany
conceded defeat, the remaining submarines surfaced and surrendered to Allied
vessels, just like the one shown in the newspaper at the top of this page.