Wolf pack

From Academic Kids

This article describes the system of submarine warfare. For other meanings, see wolfpack.

The term wolf pack refers to the mass-attack tactics against convoys used by the submarines of the United States Navy against Japanese shipping in the Pacific Ocean and by the U-boats of the Kriegsmarine during the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II.

Karl Dönitz used the term Rudel, which means "pack" or group of animals, to describe his strategy of submarine warfare. In English it became wolfpack which gave it a more ominous sound.

U-boat movements were controlled by the Befehlshaber der Unterseeboote much more closely than American submarines, which were given tremendous independence once on patrol. Accordingly, U-boats usually patrolled separately, only being ordered to congregate after one located a convoy and alerted BdU, so a Rudel consisted of as many U-boats as could reach the scene of the attack. American wolf packs, on the other hand, usually comprised three boats that patrolled in close company, organized before they left port under the command of the senior captain of the three. "Swede" Momsen devised the tactics and led the first American wolf pack to sea in October 1943.

Wolf packs fell out of use during the Cold War; modern submarines being so much more maneuverable and destructive than those of World War II that there is no need for them to hunt in packs. Instead, the United States Navy deploys its attack submarines on individual patrols, with the exception of one or (rarely) two attack submarines in each carrier group. American ballistic missile submarines have always operated alone. (Soviet ballistic missile submarines operated in well-protected bastions.) However, with the opening shots of the 2003 invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the term "wolf pack" was brought back into use to describe the fleet of American and British nuclear submarines which operated together in the Red Sea to fire tomahawk missiles at Iraq. USS Providence (SSN-719) was the first boat to fire its entire load of missiles and earn the nickname "Big Dog of the Red Sea Wolf Pack."


  • Karl Dönitz, Memoirs: Ten Years and Twenty Days (New York: World Publishing Company, 1958)
  • Peter Maas, The Terrible Hours: The Man Behind the Greatest Submarine Rescue in History (HarperCollins New York, 1999)
  • E. B. Potter and Chester W. Nimitz, eds; Sea Power: A Naval History (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1960)



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