On December 11, 1941, days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Adolf Hitler addressed the Reichstag to declare war on the United States. Although American efforts to assist Great Britain were well underway, Hitler’s declaration officially brought the country into the European theatre. The United States was at war on both fronts.
By early 1942, the United States had drastically increased their naval presence in the Atlantic and presented a distinctive challenge to German U-boats who previously had patrolled with little resistance. This newfound challenge coerced U-boats to find less militarized areas to patrol and harass. The Nazis turned their attention the Gulf of Mexico. Heavy traffic from New Orleans and the consistent flow of oil from the region made the waters a prime target. The Gulf Coast was unprepared to defend against Nazi submarine attacks. The Nazis felt they could significantly undermine the American war effort if they could successfully disrupt the free flow of oil.