Operation Drumbeat: The U-boat War Off America's Coast, 1942
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Operation Drumbeat: The U-boat War Off America's Coast, 1942

The story of Germany's dramatic attack upon American tankers and freighters by U-boats during the Second World War
4.7 (42 ratings)
Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a course's star rating by considering a number of different factors such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
4,287 students enrolled
Created by Gerald Franz
Last updated 8/2015
Price: Free
  • 2.5 hours on-demand video
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
What Will I Learn?
  • By the end of this course, you will be able to describe Operation Drumbeat, including its purposes and results.
  • In this course, you will learn about the capabilities of the German U-boat during World War 2.
  • In this course, you will learn how Operation Drumbeat dramatically affected American shipping on the East Coast in 1942.
  • In this course, you will learn how the Americans eventually learned to counter the U-boat threat off their Eastern Coast.
View Curriculum
  • Students need just the ability to watch and listen to video, and the ability to open a pdf document to read the bibliography.

This course will present the history of the German U-boat attack upon the American East Coast during World War 2, especially from January to June, 1942. The course will use nineteen lectures and present over 400 Powerpoint slides to illustrate the lectures. The course also features extra video links that illustrate some of the lectures. There are also lecture notes and optional quizzes. The entire course contains about 2 1/2 hours of course lectures.

Who is the target audience?
  • This course is for persons high school age and up, who enjoy historical adventure stories
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Curriculum For This Course
19 Lectures
Background (September 1939 - January 1942)
3 Lectures 21:44

In this short lecture, I will introduce myself and the course, including the many supplements, like notes and quizzes.

Introduction to the Course

This lecture will introduce the German Navy and in particular, their U-boat division. Because of a shortage of U-boats, the Germans needed an excellent strategy in their new war in the Atlantic against the United States. Out of this need came Operation Drumbeat!

Background (September 1939 - December 1941)

The United States Navy did not consider the American East Coast a high risk area, and hence did not allocate many resources for its defense. This lecture will outline the meager resources Admiral Andrews had to work with against this new alleged threat of U-boats headed to the American East Coast from Europe.

The American East Coast in 1942
Operation Drumbeat
8 Lectures 01:02:41

The opening months of Operation Drumbeat were catastrophic to tankers and freighters carrying vital supplies and fuel to war-torn England. The German U-boat commanders were taken aback at how little resistance there was to their continued presence on the very coast of the United States.

Operation Drumbeat Begins (January - June 1942)

This lecture will consider what it was like to be on a ship that was sunk by a U-boat, and also what was the experience of many in their lifeboats. This lecture will share many of their experiences trying to survive the elements and the lack of food and water.

Stories From the Lifeboats

In this lecture, we'll follow the experience of one U-boat as it attacks a ship. We will also take up the topic of how most U-boat captains and their crews responded to the obvious needs of those from the stricken ships. Was the propaganda correct concerning the U-boats?

U-boats and Survivors

Both the Americans and British were frustrated with the new attack. The Americans did not have the resources or strategy to effectively counter the U-boats, and the British were losing many of their supplies and fuel. The lecture will also add some more accounts of vessels sunk.

Operation Drumbeat Continues

This lecture will focus on three short topics. First, we will look at another U-boat commander and his interesting record in Operation Drumbeat. He and his crew will be the first captured by the Americans. Second, Germany sent 8 spies via U-boats to the American East Coast. These spies were supposed to bomb strategic places in the U.S., but that never happened. Finally, Admiral Doenitz sent mine-laying U-boats that successfully mined three important East Coast harbors, but the action was most successful at the Chesapeake Bay.

Peter Cremer and the U-333

This lecture will survey the work of the German U-Boats in the Gulf of Mexico, which was a very busy area for tankers and freighters, many of them using the mouth of the Mississippi River. We will especially discuss the U-Boat U-166 and its adventures and misadventures in the Gulf.

U-boats in the Gulf of Mexico

In this lecture, we will discuss some of the important statistics concerning January to June, 1942 with Operation Drumbeat. Several illustrate charts will help us realize the profound impact of this military operation.

Drumbeat Statistics

In this lecture, the German U-Boat commander Hellmut Rathke will be a case study because his experiences are very different than many of the other German U-Boat commanders. The Americans will take a great amount of encouragement from these events.

Hellmut Rathke and the U-352
Special Missions
2 Lectures 13:21

This lecture will focus on eight spies via U-boats to the American East Coast. These spies were supposed to bomb strategic places in the U.S., but we'll see what happened. We'll also discuss a second attempt to land two spies who were to collect important military data. There is a good reason why a lot of people have never heard of these events.

Saboteurs to America

This lecture will describe the mine-laying missions of three U-boats, especially the U-701 in the Chesapeake Bay. Imagine the audacity to bring a U-boat in right to the edge of an important naval base and leave mines behind for them. How will the U-701 do in this midnight adventure on a moonless night?

The Mining Missions
The American Response (Summer 1942-)
3 Lectures 31:08

By the Summer of 1942, the Americans were finally able to respond effectively to the U-boat threats. This lecture will outline the many strategies taken that successfully chased most of the U-boats away.

The American Response (Summer 1942-)

This lecture will continue the discussion concerning those strategies that chased the U-boats from American shores. In this lecture, we'll take up the technologies of radar and sonar, and their effect in the U-boat war.

Radar and Sonar

In this last of three lectures highlighting the strategies and technologies used against the U-boats, we will discuss the German code called Enigma, or Ultra. The U-boats used this code effectively, but after it was solved by the British, the intelligence was effectively used against the Germans, including against their U-boats. Huff Duff enabled the Allies to understand where the U-boats were hiding, which was one of the great strengths of the U-boats.

Enigma and Huff Duff
3 Lectures 27:22

This lecture will quickly summarize the final defeat of the German U-boats in the Atlantic theater, a lot due to the strategies and technologies described earlier. However, Germany will develop their own innovations, but in the large picture, they were not enough for victory. Captain Reinhard Hardegen will manage to survive the 'iron coffin' though. By May, 1945, Germany will surrender and U-boats were instructed to cease hostilities.

The End of the Atlantic Conflict

This lecture will share more statistics concerning all of the U-boats and their crews during the war. We will also discuss the statistics concerning the Merchant Marines and note the impact of Operation Drumbeat upon this group.

Final Statistics

This final lecture will provide an epilogue and conclusion concerning the main players in this conflict that we have discussed. What happened after 1942?

About the Instructor
Gerald Franz
4.7 Average rating
418 Reviews
11,573 Students
9 Courses
Professor of history

Dr. Franz has been teaching history for 32 years in various colleges, and sometimes to high school students. He has written a number of historical dramas for his history students, and after one season's performance, he received a letter of commendation from former president George Bush, Sr. for making history alive to students today. He has also taken history students on a number of field trips to various important historical locations. He hopes to continue putting short history courses on Udemy in order to share his favorite historical events. He currently teaches many online history courses for various universities, along with various live classes in his area.

He has been married for over 33 years to Wendy, and they have a son and daughter, both adults. They also have a few cats and a big German Shepherd dog. In their spare time, they love to walk, jog, swim, and ride their bikes.