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In the movie U-571 (IMDB) there's a scene where two U-boats fire torpedoes at each other, at close range, while both submerged.
I always imagined U-boats would fight one another while on the surface, with their deck guns. Use of torpedoes underwater adds the problem of the third dimension, thus hitting an underwater target would be very improbable and a waste of ammunition.
I am sure modern submarines have no problem firing at each other in 3D space, but I'm not convinced that the scenario I describe has never happened with their WW2 predecessors, however unlikely.
Are there any references to this tactic?
There is a famous book/movie, "Run Silent, Run Deep", which involves a submarine duel based loosely on real events.
Submarines can and will hunt and kill each other. In WWII torpedoes did not have active seekers, but relied on contact fusing, which means you would have to set the depth of the torpedo and make a direct hit. This would be very difficult to do because the other sub is a much smaller target than a ship. Nevertheless, in specialized scenarios it is possible. For example, if you are directly following an enemy sub and right behind him, you can load up and just wait for him to turn, then fire, he is 95% dead, even with no active homing.
The main reason this almost never happened in WW2 is because in that war submarines neither were designed to attack each other, or had that as their mission. They were designed as ship killers only, and that is what they did. Run Silent, Run Deep only occurred because the Japanese had specially tasked one of their subs to hunt American subs in a limited, high-importance area. Because of that special mission, a sub duel was likely.
Wreck of Nazi Germany’s Most Advanced U-Boat Discovered
Earlier this month, searchers from the Sea War Museum Jutland in Denmark located a little-known but very important shipwreck from World War II in Skagerrak, the strait between Denmark and Norway. As George Dvorsky at Gizmodo reports, U-3523 was a type XXI U-boat, the Third Reich’s most advanced long-range submarine. Some researchers have speculated that the wreck could have been used to transport valuables and even high-ranking Nazis to South America in the waning days of the war.
According to a press release, the submarine was located by the research ship Viña, which was scanning the seabed near the town of Skagen when the unmistakable profile of the submarine appeared on its sonar. The ship sits under 404 feet of water with its nose buried in the seabed and its tail facing upward at about a 45 degree angle.
U-3523 was designed to run quietly to avoid detection and, most importantly, it may have been capable of crossing the ocean from Europe to South America underwater. However, it was not bomb-proof. On May 6, 1945, just two days after Nazi troops in Denmark and the Netherlands surrendered , the fleeing sub was located by a British Liberator bomber, which dropped depth charges, sinking the submarine and killing 58 crew and any additional passengers who may have been onboard.
“This was the most modern submarine the Germans built during the [Second World War],” director of the Sea War Museum Jutland, Gert Normann Andersen told a Danish outlet, as Brandon Specktor at LiveScience translated. “Only two of the 118 that were ordered actually entered service.”
David Grossman at Popular Mechanics reports that the type XXI, which was nicknamed Elektroboote, German for electric boat, was a marvel of engineering. It was designed by the Hellmuth Walter, the same engineer who designed the engines for the first and only operational rocket-powered combat aircraft. The sub had two conventional diesel engine but also four battery-powered electric motors, allowing it to stay quietly submerged for days at a time. After the war, both the United States and Soviet Union based submarine designs on the type XXI and the later type XXIII, using those ships until the 1980s.
Dvorsky reports that, though the submarine was sunk, its wreckage was never located. That fueled rumors that continue to this day that the U-3523 escaped to Argentina carrying Nazi gold, high-ranking officials, Hitler himself or a combination of the three. According to the press release, the sub was likely missed by previous searchers because of its depth and because it was nine nautical miles west of the position reported by the bomber crew in 1945. While there’s no evidence U-3523 made it to South America, at least one Nazi sub did. At the end of the war the captain of U-977 fled to Argentina where he and his crew were captured.
So will we be able to open the ship up and see if it's full of gold or Nazi high-rollers? Dvorsky reports that since it is considered a war grave, signs point to no. Especially when you consider that the depth and position of the wreck would make it extremely difficult to explore.
This isn’t the first sub the Sea War Museum Jutland has found. Over the years the institution has located some 450 wrecks in the North Sea and Skagerrak straits, including nine German-made U-boats and three British submarines.
In recent years, there have been some other exciting U-boat discoveries that have surfaced, too. In 2014, researchers found the remains of U-576 off the coast of North Carolina, and just last year, the notorious German World War I U-boat UB-29 was found off the coast of Belgian.
About Jason Daley
Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.
Underwater U-boat battles [duplicate] - History
By Nicholas Varangis
When most people think of World War II battle sites, North America seldom comes to mind. But the recent find of a German U-boat 30 miles off Cape Hatteras on the Carolina coast serves as a reminder of the naval combat that took place just off the shores of the United States.
In 2014 the location of the U-576 wreck was discovered, but it remained merely a blip on a radar screen for two years. This past week was the first time anyone had set eyes on the ship since it went to the bottom in 1942.
The search began in 2009 as part of a broader NOAA program to search for lost vessels and U-boats off the Carolina coast, which started in 2007. The program combined a number of government and academic institutions, including East Carolina University (ECU) and the Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Researchers at ECU narrowed down the location of the wreckage by recreating the fateful last battle of U-576 using a 3-D model, utilizing ships’ logs, after-action reports, historical weather data and detailed mappings of the sea floor.
This research could not be exact, because of the unreliability of the data collected in 1942, but it did provide the basis for NOAA’s search during the summer of 2011. NOAA searched for years with specialized sonar equipment before finding two long underwater objects in 2013 that matched the length of U-576 and a merchant ship sunk in its last engagement. A more in depth sonar analysis in summer 2014 gave a 3-D rendering of what was indeed a U-boat: U-576 was found.
Now, two years later, utilizing an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) named Nomad equipped with real-time cameras, researchers have a real look at the vessel which lies 700 feet under.
The Battle of the Atlantic
U-576 would be just one casualty in the broader Battle of the Atlantic: Nazi Germany’s attempt at cutting off the Allied supply routes to Britain and the Soviet Union from the United States. The scale of the ‘battle’ is astounding. Estimated casualties for the Allies were 30,000 men and 3,000 ships, for the Axis 28,000 sailors and 783 U-boats.
Allied convoys could be well-defended. Convoy escort ships, aircraft, and freighters staffed with Naval Armed Guard made U-boat attacks risky, something U-576 would discover the hard way.
Last Combat Patrol of U-576
The commander of U-576, Kapitänleutnant Hans-Dieter Heinicke, had much to consider as he pondered whether to sail to a friendly port in France or find another victim for the Nazi naval campaign in the Atlantic.
After an earlier run-in with Allied aircraft, U-576 had sustained damage to its ballast tank. However, U-576 had also just discovered a large, 19-ship convoy heading to Florida from Hampton Roads, Virginia (the site of the famous duel between the CSS and the USS Monitor). U-576 was without a kill for its most recent patrol, and had a torpedo room full of ‘fish’. Would the captain turn his ship around, or chase after another prize?
The rash and young Heinicke, a 29 year-old son of a fallen cavalryman on World War I’s Eastern Front (also one of the oldest men of the crew), chose the latter. Perhaps for fear of the shame of returning empty-handed or for the reckless pursuit of glory, Captain Heinicke had made a terrible mistake.
With the convoy in his sights, Heinicke fired a 4-fish salvo. The torpedoes streamed toward the convoy, striking the Bluefields, Chilore, and J.A. Mowinckel once apiece, with only one miss. The Nicaraguan merchant ship Bluefields went down within minutes, though the crew managed to escape. Chilore and J.A. Mowinckel would both survive the engagement.
This was when Heinicke learned a valuable lesson in physics. William Sossorosi, one of the researchers who located the wreck sight in 2014, describes how “the combination of the damaged ballast tank and the sudden loss of weight from firing off four torpedoes brought U-576 to the ocean’s surface.”
Fully exposed, U-576 came under fire from the Unicoi, an armed merchant ship, and two Navy Kingfisher aircraft that were patrolling in support of the convoy. One depth charge even came into direct contact with the U-boat, striking the hull and rolling off before exploding. U-576 quickly sunk, 240 yards away from the Bluefields. However, unlike the Bluefields, U-576 went down with all hands.
A Forgotten Battle
U-576 is not the first U-boat to be found near the Carolina shore. Three other U-boat wrecks are known to be off Cape Hatteras: U-701, U-352, and U-85, all sunk between April and July, 1942. A total of 90 ships were suck in the region, at the cost of 1,600 men, 1,100 of them merchant sailors, from January to July, 1942. In spite of the high toll, the Battle of the Atlantic remains a largely forgotten chapter of World War II.
The recent underwater investigations of U-576 with bring to surface new details of the sinking of the submarine. It will also, hopefully, renew appreciation for the Battle of the Atlantic, the battle that saved the British war effort from starvation, and the closest that the East Coast came to the war on Continental Europe.
World War I saw the first widespread use of four game-changing weapons: aircraft, tanks, machine guns and submarines. Of the four, subs were by far the most advanced system for their time and were remarkably similar to the boats with which the United States and Germany, particularly, entered the next world war. Had early 1940s airplanes been as similar to their 1918 counterparts, American pilots would have gone to Guadalcanal with fabric-covered open-cockpit biplanes rather than F4F Wildcats.
Like airplanes and moon rockets, submarines had been imagined, postulated and fictionalized for centuries by inventors, dreamers and spacey writers, though rarely did anyone build an actual sub. The few that did make it into the water were basically boats that sank (occasionally to resurface) and then stumbled about blindly at minor depths.
In 1897 Irish-American John Philip Holland—on his sixth try at building a submersible boat—took sub technology in a new direction. He launched in New York a cigar-shaped, 75-ton craft with a gasoline engine that ran both the boat and a generator on the surface and an electric motor that propelled the vessel while submerged, powered by batteries the engine had charged. The vessel was also fitted with diving planes, like an airplane’s elevators, allowing it to dive and surface just as a fish would. At the time, Holland’s main competitor, American naval architect Simon Lake, insisted subs should sink and then bob back to the surface in a level attitude, which never caught on.
By the time Germany’s Krupp Germaniawerft shipyard laid the keel of Forelle, the first true unterseeboot (“undersea boat”), or U-boat, in 1903, all the basic features of what would become the classic World War I submarine had been developed and tried by someone, somewhere, sometime. Electric motors for underwater propulsion storage batteries and engine-driven generators to charge them double hulls in which a pressure vessel was enclosed by a light, external streamlining shape ballast tanks dive planes pneumatically expelled torpedoes—none was a secret.
Yet the Germans got it right from the start. U-1, commissioned in 1906, was a fully functional, no-excuses submarine. It was not a visionary leap by the German Imperial Navy, the Kaiserliche Marine, but the amalgamation of a half-century of innovation, the fortunate application of advanced German internal-combustion technology and the use of the Krupp shipyard in Kiel, which had been busily building submarines for the Russians. Ironically, the Germans based U-1 on an earlier design by French maritime engineer Maxime Laubeuf. Krupp later funded and built the experimental Forelle for the Imperial Russian Navy and sold three follow-on Laubeuf-type subs to Russia. Finally, in 1904 the Kaiserliche Marine, which had been buying small foreign subs of limited utility, ordered U-1.
The internal-combustion technology destined to be Germany’s major contribution to submarine development— and which set the precedent for submersibles until the advent of nuclear power plants in 1954—was the diesel engine. A major improvement over gasoline engines of the era, the diesel power plant provided excellent fuel efficiency and, therefore, greater range and eliminated the considerable danger (and sickening odor) of volatile gasoline fumes in an enclosed space shared with electric motors and batteries. The twinscrew U-1 was powered on the surface by two 200-hp Körting kerosene engines and while submerged by two battery-powered 100-hp electric motors.
Like nearly all submarines that would follow it, U-1 was double-hulled. The strong inner hull held pressure when the vessel submerged, while the thin outer hull held fuel and ballast tanks—the latter of which were flooded to submerge the boat and blown empty to surface—and provided a hydrodynamic shape for efficiency. An ancillary advantage was that engineers were able to place all of the structure needed to strengthen the inner pressure hull on the outside of the vessel rather than consume interior space.The outer hull also shielded the pressure hull from at least some depthcharge damage. A disadvantage, however, was that semiexternal fuel tanks often sprang leaks during depth-charge attacks, creating slicks that could betray a sub’s position.
U-1 had a single bow torpedo tube and carried three rounds—one “up the spout,” or in the tube, and two reloads. The torpedo was, of course, the development that made U-boats so effective. Essentially miniature, unmanned submarines, torpedoes are such fearsome weapons because they’re large enough to encapsulate an enormous amount of explosive energy yet compact enough to be carried by a relatively small and simple vehicle able to attack from well within the range of even the largest naval rifle.
The sub had a crew of 22 and could dive to a depth of almost 100 feet. Maximum surface speed was just short of 11 knots, with a surfaced range of 1,500 nautical miles at 10 knots. The boat’s submerged speed was said to be 8.7 knots, with a range of 50 nautical miles at 5 knots. And U-1 looked like a proper U-boat: Its small, streamlined conning tower sported a classic periscope, and an aggressive “beak” on the barrel-like hull cowled the torpedo tube’s muzzle. Nor did it hurt that Germany’s superior optics ensured the nation’s subs were fitted with the best periscopes the world would see for many decades.
Despite such innovations, U-1 never went to war. Submarine technology moved rapidly enough in the early 1900s that the pioneering vessel was obsolete by 1914 and was used solely for training. Rather than being the prototype of a class of identical boats, U-1 was the first of a rapidly improving series of submersibles soon equipped with proper diesel engines. One of U-1’s direct descendants, U-9, sank three British cruisers in less than an hour in September 1914 and in a couple of weeks killed more British sailors than Lord Nelson lost in all his battles.
In an era when nuclear subs dive as soon as they clear their homeport breakwater and don’t resurface for months, it’s sometimes forgotten that from World War I until the 1950s, underwater warships were not precisely submarines but submersibles— surface boats that dived briefly now and then but spent 99 percent of their time at the surface. Until 1944 and the first operational use of the snorkel—an intake/ exhaust tube that extended to the surface and allowed diesel propulsion and battery-charging while underwater—U-boats submerged only to attack or hide, and then not very deep.
So surface speed and seakeeping were a U-boat’s assets. After all, many of the vessels had to sail vast distances just to reach their patrol areas—not something you’d want to do at 5 knots. A World War I U-boat was basically a torpedo boat hull with a conning tower instead of a superstructure, atop and around the pressure vessel suspended below it. The Germans learned that if you did build a streamlined cigar with underwater speed in mind, your crew would be beat into insensibility on the surface by fierce pitching and rolling. U-boats’ large conning towers bristled with railings, ladders, jackstaffs and coamings. And their big deck guns, typically 86mm to 105mm, had high-drag teak decks and rigging for ease of surface operation.
Battery power didn’t last long running underwater, so U-boat captains had to calculate when and where to dive and best intersect their target within torpedo range. That’s why the simple tactic of zigzagging—frequent, irregular course alterations—was so effective for surface ships: A single zig or zag could nullify a U-boat commander’s careful calculations. When your top speed underwater is 5 or 6 knots, there’s no way to chase or maneuver to develop a new firing solution and sink a 10-knot freighter, much less a warship doing 20.
Thus, U-boats did their most fearsome work on the surface. Hollywood once had us believe a U-boat’s deck guns were for fending off furious destroyer attacks after a crippled sub was forced to surface, but the truth is that powerful deck ordnance was a far more effective and less expensive way to dispose of merchant ships, which were the World War I U-boat’s primary target. No sub commander would waste a torpedo—of which he had only a limited number—on a trudging collier or rusty banana boat.
One of the most remarkable World War I U-boats was Deutschland, named rather than U-numbered, initially, because it was an unarmed commercial vessel, crewed by the Norddeutscher Lloyd steamship line. It was the world’s first submarine freighter, an enormous, beamy, 1,875-ton (submerged) miniZeppelin. In 1916 Deutschland made two trips to the United States, first to Baltimore and then to New London, Conn., carrying hard-to-get chemicals and aniline dyes to the States and returning to Germany with a variety of strategic war materiel, mainly nickel, tin and rubber.
Deutschland was a blockade-runner. It cruised on the surface at 16 knots for most of the trip but submerged to pass unnoticed beneath the British-enforced North Atlantic blockade, which was otherwise quite successful at starving Germany of food and supplies. It also eluded a Royal Navy cordon off the U.S. East Coast. After Deutschland’s second cargo voyage, Germany converted the sub into U-155, sending it and six sister boats to war as long-range merchant raiders armed with particularly large-caliber deck guns.
U-155 wasn’t the only U-boat to call at an American port. U-53 popped into Newport, R.I., in fall 1916. For a few hours on October 7, its captain, Hans Rose, paid visits to U.S. naval officers and entertained visitors aboard U-53. Early the next morning, Rose sailed U-53 just out the harbor and quickly sank five Allied ships—three British, one Norwegian and one Dutch. All were in international waters, albeit within sight of the lightship Nantucket.
A special class of U-boats—UCs— were built as coastal minelayers, perhaps better termed minepoppers, since they popped the mines into place while submerged rather than laying them from the surface. While effective (U-boat mines sank nearly 3 million tons of shipping), they were deathtraps for their crews: Most were lost either to premature detonation of their own mines or from hitting other German mines in the fields they were servicing.
World War I U-boats were state of the art in every way but one: Naval experts who assessed the Kaiserliche Marine’s surrendered boats found that comfort, space and accommodations—”habitability,” they called it—were better on U.S. Navy subs of the era. But the fact remains, those comfy American boats sank not a single merchant ship during World War I. U-boats, on the other hand, sank 5,708 ships totaling about 11 million tons—roughly a quarter of all the world’s merchant shipping at the time (admittedly at a cost to the U-boat fleet of nearly half the 370-plus subs Germany built during World War I). U-35 alone accounted for 224 ships totaling more than 500,000 tons—most sunk by its deck gun. It averaged nine kills per patrol, making U-35 the highest-scoring submarine of either world war.
The source of the Kaiserliche Marine’s spectacular submarine successes was Germany’s unilateral decision early in 1915 to wage unrestricted submarine warfare. Until that time, various conventions and accepted principles of maritime combat ruled that a warship could only attack a noncombatant ship once the warship commander had irrefutably determined the merchant was carrying supplies to an enemy, and furthermore, that the commander must make provisions for the safety of its civilian crew. In fact, naval experts widely assumed early on that submarines would never be effective weapons against shipping, as they lacked the room to carry either prize crews (to sail a seized ship to a friendly port) or prisoners (if they sank one).
But Britain was starving Germany with its surface blockade, and the Kaiserliche Marine felt it had no recourse other than to return the favor— not by blockade, since Germany’s surface navy wasn’t powerful enough to do that, but by sinking the ships supplying Britain with food and war materiel.
As the U-boats couldn’t risk surfacing while carrying out the niceties of classic navy-versus-merchant confrontations—particularly since the introduction of heavily armed Royal Navy Q-ships, which masqueraded as tramps and trawlers specifically to lure enemy subs to the surface—Germany simply warned the world it would sink any ship (innocent, neutral or combatant) that entered a war zone.
The British were shocked. “Blockade and death by slow starvation are hallowed by use and wont,” one British naval commander oddly rationalized. “Speedy death by drowning is not.” The British despised submarines, one admiral famously calling them “underhand, unfair and damned unEnglish.” Said another Royal Navy admiral in 1914, “No country in this world would ever use such a vicious and petty form of warfare!”
Given a little more time, Germany’s U-boat plague conceivably could have forced the British to negotiate a peace. Instead, it helped force the United States into the conflict, sealing the Second Reich’s doom.
A popular misconception is that U-20’s May 7, 1915, sinking of the British liner RMS Lusitania with nearly 1,200 civilian casualties, including more than 120 Americans, was the major reason President Woodrow Wilson sent the American Expeditionary Force to Europe. But what actually pushed Wilson over the edge was the infamous January 1917 “Zimmerman Telegram,” intercepted and decoded by the British and gleefully shared with Washington.
German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmerman had cabled his ambassador in Mexico City, alerting him that the unrestricted U-boat campaign was about to escalate, that it would subdue the British within six months as long as America stayed neutral, and that if America were to respond, the ambassador should seek an alliance: Mexico was to attack the United States, thus distracting it from the European war, and in return Germany would help Mexico reclaim Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Zimmerman’s grasp of foreign relations apparently extended no farther than his bedside nightstand. As military historian Thomas Parrish writes in his excellent book The Submarine, Zimmerman didn’t seem to understand that “reintegrating Texas into Mexico would be as impossible as restoring the virginity of the Kaiserin.”
What finally beat the U-boats was the reinvention of the convoy system, whose history stretched back to the Spanish treasure fleets. At first glance, it might seem convoys would be self-defeating. After all, why collect all of a U-boat’s targets in one convenient flotilla? The truth is that spotting one 30-ship convoy in the immensity of the Atlantic was vastly more difficult than finding any one of 30 separate vessels scattered between North America and the British Isles. Convoys also presented a U-boat with target overload. A commander could get off only so many torpedo shots before the convoy was out of range or, more likely, its escorts put an end to further attacks. Convoy losses accounted for no more than 1 percent of all convoyed vessels, against 10 percent losses for ships sailing solo. Germany had lost the gamble it could starve England into submission before the Yanks arrived.
In 1919 postwar America began to crank out its first serious submersibles—the S-class, or S-boats, the first U.S. subs designed by the Navy rather than civilian inventors and contractors. The S-boats weren’t much good at first, but things began to look up when the Navy acquired several U-boats to reverse-engineer. Said the chief of the Navy’s Bureau of Engineering in 1927, “We find in general that departures from German practice [of U-boat construction] get us into trouble, and that trouble can generally be cured by strict adherence to German practice.”
In 1928, when the Navy began building its next sub class, it used as its prototype U-135, a boat already a decade old. The United States entered World War II with the resultant Gatoclass “fleet boats.” Imagine the U.S. Air Force capturing a 1939 Messerschmitt Bf 109 and in 1949 using it as the prototype of its next-generation fighter. That’s how advanced the Germans were in the undersea world.
For further reading, Stephan Wilkinson recommends: The Submarine: A History, by Thomas Parrish, and U-boats of the Kaiser’s Navy, by Gordon Williamson.
Originally published in the September 2010 issue of Military History. To subscribe, click here.
Photos: WWII Shipwrecks Found Off NC Coast
A merchant freighter called Bluefields and the German U-boat U-576, both of which went down on July 15, 1942 during World War II, were discovered on floor of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North Carolina by a team of researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Here's a look at what they found. [Read full story on the WW II shipwreck discovery]
U-576 Sonar Image
A sonar image of the German U-boat U-576, which was sent to the bottom of the Atlantic by U.S. Naval forces after attacking a guarded merchant convoy on July 15, 1942. The site of this shipwreck, the grave of 45 German crewmen, was lost until August 2014, when researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management rediscovered the wreck site. The U-boat sits only a few hundred yards away from the wreck of the merchant ship Bluefield which it sunk only moments before also going down. (Credit: NOAA & SRI International)
Kapitanleutnant Hans-Dieter Heinicke
Kapitänleutnant Hans-Dieter Heinicke, the captain of the German U-boat U-576. On five deployments between 1941 and 1942, U-576 sank four Allied merchant ships and damaged two others, one irreparably. The first three were the British merchant vessel Empire Spring, the U.S. freighter Pipestone County, and the Morwegian merchant ship Taborfjell. (Credit: Ed Caram)
U-576 crew on deck
The crew of U-576 on deck. On its fifth deployment, U-576 damaged its main ballast tank. Its captain, Hans-Dieter Heinicke, prepared to limp back to Germany. Before the U-boat could leave U.S. waters, however, it ran into a convoy of 19 merchant ships guarded by five Navy and Coast Guard escorts. Heinicke couldn't resist the opportunity and fired four torpedoes into the convoy. Two hit the merchant ship Chilore. Another hit the J.A. Mowinckel. The last hit the Nicaraguan-flagged Bluefields. (Credit: Ed Caram)
U-576 getting underway
U-576 leaves port. The U-boat was one of many deployed to patrol the waters off the coast of North Carolina in an attempt to disrupt Allied shipping routes. NOAA estimates that between January and August 1942 alone, U-boats sank more than 50 vessels in this area as part of the broader Battle of the Atlantic. (Credit: Ed Caram)
U-576 crew gathered around the conning tower
The crew of U-576 gathers around the conning tower, a structure still visible on sonar images of the sunken vessel today. The ship and her 45-man crew met their fate on July 15, 1942. After attacking an Allied convoy, the U-boat came under simultaneous fire from the deck guns of the merchant vessel Unicoi and depth charges from U.S. Navy Kingfisher aircraft. Mere moments after sinking the merchant Bluefields, U-576 went down as well. (The ships Chilore and J.A. Mowinckel stayed afloat, but Chilore was so badly damaged that it was towed and beached. That ship would later capsize and sink during a towing attempt near Chesapeake Bay.) (Credit: Ed Caram)
The bow of the U-576 during rough seas
The bow of U-576 cuts through rough seas. The U-boat was 220 feet (67 meters) long and about 20 feet (6 meters) wide. (Credit: Ed Caram)
U-576 at the dock
U-576 docked. U-boats spent most of their time on the surface, submerging only for evasive maneuvers and attacks. At least 55 U-boats attacked merchant ships off the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico beginning in 1942, according to the UNC School of Education's Learn NC. By July 1942, U-boats had sunk or damaged 397 ships, killing more than 5,000 people. The most dangerous spot for merchants was the busy shipping route off of North Carolina's Outer Banks. (Credit: Ed Caram)
U-576 crew, informal
An informal shot of some of the men who crewed U-576. According to the U-boat reference uboat.net, U-576 never lost a crew member until the day she sank, when all 45 onboard died. (Credit: Ed Caram)
U-576 crew, informal
An informal shot of more of U-576's crew. The bodies of these men rest at the newly discovered wreck site. There are no plans to salvage the U-boat or recover the bodies under international law, the site is a war grave, protected from disturbance. (Credit: Ed Caram)
U-576 & Bluefields battlefield site sonar image
A years-long collaboration and seafloor surveys about 30 miles (48 kilometers) off the coast of North Carolina eventually turned up the final resting places of U-576 and Bluefields, the last ship the U-boat sunk. This sonar image shows outlines of each vessel resting only 240 yards (219 meters) apart. (Credit: NOAA & SRI International)
Bluefields sonar image
A sonar image of Bluefields, the merchant marine sunk by U-576's torpedoes. It only took the ship 12 minutes to sink, according to NOAA, but the crew all escaped with minor injuries. (Credit: NOAA)
The USS McCormick, photographed in early 1944. This ship was one of the military vessels escorting the merchants in convoy KS-520, which was attacked by the German U-boat U-576. The skirmish claimed four Allied lives, including one naval gunner, one merchant sailor, and two crewmen on a tugboat that struck a mine while attempting to salvage ships damaged in the fighting. (Credit: NAVSOURCE)
The USS Ellis, photographed in late 1943. This ship was one of the five assigned to protect the 19 merchant vessels in the KS-520 convoy. The convoy was attacked at about 4:15 p.m. on July 15, 1942, resulting in the sinking of the merchant ship Bluefields. (Credit: National Archives)
The USS Spry, photographed in June 1944. Along with the USS McCormick, the USS Ellis, the USCG Triton and the USCG Icarus, the USS Spry was escorting 19 merchant ships along the North Carolina coast when the convoy came under U-boat attack on July 15, 1942. Gunners aboard the merchant Unicoi fired on the U-boat, and U.S. Navy aircraft dropped two depth charges on it, sinking the submarine. (Credit: NAVSOURCE)
U-576 watch crew in conning tower
The watch crew of U-576 in the U-boat's conning tower. The area off the North Carolina coast where U-576 rests is known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic because of the number of WWII-era ships that rest on the ocean bottom. (Credit: Ed Caram)
U-576 coming into St. Nazaire
The U-boat U-576 pulls into the harbor at Saint-Nazaire, France, in this undated photograph. U-576 was deployed five times between September 1941 and July 1942. It left Saint-Nazaire on June 16, 1942, for its fifth and final deployment, during which it would be sunk by U.S. Naval forces. (Credit: Ed Caram)
Formal picture of U-576 crew
A formal portrait of the 45-man crew of U-576. (Credit: Ed Caram)
U-576 crew gathered around 88mm gun
The crew of the U-boat U-576 gathers around the submersible's 88mm gun. U-boats could fire torpedoes in undersea attacks, or attack from the surface using deck guns. (Credit: Ed Caram)
Underwater U-boat battles [duplicate] - History
WWII UNDERWATER DEMOLITION TEAMS
Underwater Demolition Teams were the answer found during World War II to the problem which led to heavy Marine Corps losses in the invasion of Tarawa in the Pacific in 1943, and which faced the Allied Expeditionary Force before the invasion of Normandy in 1944.
The waves of landing craft carrying troops of the famous Marine Second Division onto the beaches of Tarawa , went aground on a submerged coral reef which had not been revealed by aerial reconnaissance photos about a mile and a half from the beach, thus forcing the troops to wade the long stretch in hip deep water under withering Japanese fire. Losses were thus tragically high before the landing force was even afoot on the Island . It was painfully apparent to staff planners of all services that the success of future amphibious invasion of Japanese held territory would be in jeopardy if there was to be no way of knowing what obstacles, both natural and man-made, lay to seaward of the beach, and if there were no way of clearing such obstacles.
In the meantime the plans were nearing completion for the invasion of the German held Normandy coast by the Allied Expeditionary Force. It was evident that the Germans' initial line of resistance would be mines and underwater obstacles designed to stop the invasion craft. Navy planners therefore conceived the Combat Demolition Units, which would go in with the first wave at Normandy and supplement the Army beach sappers who were faced with the problems of clearing gaps through barbed wire, walls and tank traps.
The first personnel were garnered from the CB's, the Navy Construction Battalion Men, and from the early Navy/Marine Scout and Raider Volunteers who were rugged and capable physically and who had previous swimming experience. They were collected together at Fort Pierce , Florida , in the early summer of 1943. An intensive physical training program was devised, apparently based on the theory that a man is capable of about 10 times as much physical output as is the normal conception. Demolition work was emphasized and non-restricted. Methods were developed for demolishing the type obstacles expected at Normandy . Grueling nighttime problems conducted in the snake and alligator infested swamps of Florida produced a specimen of man who was at home with mud, noise, exhaustion, water, and hostile beings, human or otherwise.
The graduates of the school were organized into small 6 man units, which were called Navy Combat Demolition Units, and a large number were sent to England to join the large invading force in the winter of 1944. No one there knew exactly what they were or what to do with them and it was only after many weeks of being shipped around to various stations and being used merely for watches and guard duty, that they were finally able to settle down for training and invasion rehearsals. Additional men were picked up to swell the units from all sorts of commands, and though previously untrained, these men were fitted into the six man and one officer units.
These men were our original ancestors and no amount of honor bestowed upon them will be excessive they will always have a place in the rank of history's gallants. The story of the two American beaches at Normandy , Utah and Omaha , has been recorded in detail and is available in many sources. Operations on Utah beach proceeded with relative ease and pretty much as planned, but at the same time Omaha Beach was like the entrance to Hell. The NCD Units accompanied the assault infantry in the boats of the first wave.
The NCDU men did not anticipate any swimming, for the clearance was to be conducted at low tide. They wore impregnated, hooded, canvas fire fighting suits, with field shoes and long stockings, also impregnated. A protective mask covered the bare part of the face this garb was in anticipation of a spray of mustard gas.The invasion force was wet and seasick after the two day delay on the rough channel. As they neared the beach it was obvious that the preliminary bombardment had been made and lifted on schedule, but the cloudy skies had made it impossible for planes accurately to hit the enemy strong points.
The Germans had reserves available at Omaha and immediately replaced losses at bombarded bunkers. As the boats neared the beach the enemy fire began to fall. Within minutes the water was littered with debris and wrecked craft, and many demolition units were wiped out altogether. An example of the discouraging losses in this H-Hour period was the fact that out of some 20-30 amphibious tanks which were to give supporting fire, only four were seen in action. The Demolition Men proceeded nevertheless to set up charges at their assigned gap spots. There was no shelter on the side sand field, and the men worked as though in a rainstorm, only instead of rain there was shrapnel. The disorganized and misplaced infantry were seeking shelter behind some of the charged obstacles, and were tripping over the detonating cord lines laid out between obstacles. In four places however, they heeded the purple warning flares, and four gateways to France were unveiled with tremendous triumphant explosions. The NCDU losses at Utah were 30%, and at Omaha about 60-70%, giving an over-all average loss of 41% men lost in the assault.
The survivors of this great day were shipped to the Pacific to form the nucleus of the great force being formed. They had not utilized their swim training in Europe but were now to do so. The lessons of Normandy were applied to the amphibious problems of the Pacific Islands , and the basic tactics were developed that still are the basis for operational procedure today. The concept of 6-man NCDU was changed to embrace a structure of Underwater Demolition Teams, consisting of 100 men and 13 officers, two or three of which comprised a unit ,and in turn, several of these units comprised squadrons.
Basic training was still conducted at Fort Pierce , Florida , followed by six weeks of advanced training at Maui , Hawaii , which became a staging area for advance operations. The main story of UDT comes out of the Pacific operations which were all done in approximately the same manner. The highly developed methods made UDT operations an effective and well invested weapon and after the Normandy operation until the end of the war, losses were only about 1%. 28 or 29 Teams were now in combat operations Borneo , Peleliu , Saipan , Tinian , Guam , Lingayen and Leyte Gulfs, Iwo Jima , and in conclusion, Okinawa . At the end of the war there were 34 teams in commission, about 3500 men in all.
They were all combined into 5 tremendous teams designated A, B, C, D, and E for purposes of demobilization. The thousands of fins, coral shoes and face masks were stored in warehouses and the reservists went back home to their civilian occupations and lives the others were sent to duties on ships and stations as their individual rates called for.
The above history was written in 1960 by W.H. Hamilton, Jr., Commander Underwater Demolition Unit TWO
During WWII there were 32 individual UDT Teams with over 3,000 men total. If you were one of them, your teammates would like to hear from you.
UDT-3 teammates will be happy to know that Clarence " Mullie " "Moe" Mulheren , Jr., USNR, Ret. published a newsletter, THE SEA BREEZE, and coordinated annual reunions of teammates.
Clarence " Mullie " Mulheren , UDT-3
(Mullie passed away October 27, 2009)
UDT-6 (second Team SIX) formed in 1945teammates are encouraged to contact Bob Broxholme , 1544 11th Avenue , Escondido , California 92029 .
UDT 8, 9 , and 10 teammates are encouraged to contact William P. (Pete) Katsirubas or Wright Travis for information about the whereabouts of former teammates. Write to William Katsirubas , 7126 Merrimac Drive , McLean , Virginia 22101 or Wright Travis, 1270 Harwood Drive , Libertyville , Illinois 60048
UDT-19 teammates are celebrating the 53rd anniversary of the formation of the Team on November 20, 1944 , and their motto is "Over the sea for '53". For information contact Phil Koehler, 1341 Kukila Street , Honolulu , Hawaii 96818 .
UDT-22 teammates may want to contact Hank Ostendorf for more information about former teammates.
The U-boat was spotted for the first time by amateur scuba divers in late January and they had contacted the authorities.
Archaeologists associated with Niagara University and master divers from the U.S Coast Guard were mobilized on the site to determine what it was, and they soon realized that they were dealing with a German submarine that sank during World War II.
A wreck recovery vessel of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society was mandated to refloat the ship and bring it back to Niagara Falls, where it must be restored before becoming a museum ship.
The delicate recovery operation took nearly 30 hours to complete, but the submarine was finally brought down on the bank with relative ease.
The divers of the U.S. Coastguard braved the frigid water temperature to go attach cables to the wreck for the recovery operation.
The submarine was identified as the UX-791, a unique experimental German submarine, based on the U-1200 model, and known to have participated in the “Battle of the St. Lawrence”.
It was reported missing in 1943 and was believed to have been sunk near the Canadian coast.
Professor Mark Carpenter, who leads the team of archaeologists, believes that the U-boat could have traveled up the St-Lawrence River, all the way to the Great Lakes, where it intended to disturb the American economy.
A report from the dated from February 1943 suggests, that the ship could have attacked and destroyed three cargo ships and two fishing vessels, even damaging the USS Sable (IX-81), an aircraft carrier of the U.S. Navy that was used for training in the Great Lakes, before finally being sunk by anti-sub grenades launched by a Canadian frigate.
“We have known for a long time that the Nazis had sent some of their U-boats in the St-Lawrence River, but this is the first proof that they actually reached the Great Lakes,” Professor Carpenter told reporters.
“This could explain the mysterious ship disappearances that took place in the region in 1943, and the reported “Battle of Niagara Falls” which had always been dismissed as a collective hallucination caused by fear.”
The restoration of the submarine could take more than two years , but once completed , the museum ship is expected to become one of the major tourist attractions of the region.
Wreck of WWI German Submarine Sunk by 'Sea Monster' Found Off Scotland's Coast
The underwater resting place of a German U-boat used during World War I has been discovered by marine engineers working on a project off the coast of Scotland.
Crews had planned to lay cables for the Western Link project, a venture between ScottishPower and National Grid that would take renewable power from Scotland to homes and businesses in England and Wales, but the discovery of the ship stopped them in their tracks, according to a release from the power company.
Spotted approximately 394 feet from the planned cable route, the vessel is about 147 feet long with debris spilling from its stern end. Sonar images show the century-old ship still largely intact, which helped experts to draw the conclusion that it is possibly the UB-85, a submarine that, according to folklore, was attacked by a sea monster while it prowled Scotland’s coastline towards the end of World War I, the release also reports.
Reports from the time of the vessel’s disappearance say it was caught on the water’s surface on April 30, 1918, and sunk by the HMS Coreopsis, a British patrol boat. However, the story long associated with the boat and its commander, Captain Krech, describe a “strange beast” with “large eyes set in a horny sort of skull” rising from the sea. It also reportedly had a small head, and “teeth that could be seen glistening in the moonlight.”
It is said that Krech attributed his crew’s capture to this creature.
“Every man on watch began firing a sidearm at the beast,” said Krech, quoted in the release. The battle with the beast left the sub’s forward deck plating damaged, meaning it could no longer submerge in the water. “That is why you were able to catch us on the surface.”
Historian and archaeologist Innes McCartney says their capture was due to more technical issues.
At a Glance
- Marine engineers came across the underwater resting place of a World War I German U-boat.
- Folklore says the vessel was sunken after being attacked by a sea monster.
“In reality, the real sea monster was the U-boat, here trying to sink ships,” McCartney told BBC. “The submarine was caught on the surface at night, recharging its batteries. It saw the patrol ship coming. It attempted to do a crash dive to get away.
McCartney believes that once the submarine was underwater, it quickly began flooding, leaving the crew with no option but to come to the surface and surrender.
While today some may feel Krech’s story sounds more fictitious than fact, Official Sightings Register of the Loch Ness Monster keeper Gary Campbell believes the captain’s story is entirely feasible.
“History has shown that there have been consistent reports of large ‘monsters’ not just in lakes and lochs like Loch Ness but out in open waters as well,” said Campbell in the release. “For many years the giant squid was known as the fearsome Kraken and given the size of the oceans, it wouldn’t be a surprise if many large species were still to be discovered. The area of sea where the attack took place has a history of sea monster sightings. What the German Captain said could well be true.”
Though there’s discord about how the boat got damaged, McCartney says he believes they are one step closer to solving the mystery of UB-85.
“In the waters of the Irish Sea there are at least 12 British and German submarines known to have sunk and potentially others whose actual sinking area remains a mystery,” said McCartney in the release. “The features of this particular wreck, which is largely intact, confirm it as a UBIII-Class submarine, of which we know of two which were lost in the area – the more famous UB-85 and its sister boat UB-82.
“Unless a diver can find a shipyard stamp, we cannot say definitively but yes, we’re certainly closer to solving the so-called mystery of UB-85 and the reason behind it’s sinking – whether common mechanical failure or something that is less easily explained,” he added.
The planned subsea marine cable is almost 240 miles long and will run from Ardneil Bay in Scotland to the Wirral peninsula in England, according to the release.
"The Western Link is a very significant project for the UK and has required careful planning in all aspects, but particularly in the laying of high voltage cables in the sea, where we are working hard to minimize our impact on the environment,” National Grid spokesman Graham Edwards said in the release. “During construction, we take great care over archaeology, whether on land or at sea, and it's always exciting to record a significant find and help to shed new light on our history – especially one with such a good tale involved!”
Underwater U-boat battles [duplicate] - History
The USS Wahoo pictured in July 1943 off Mare Island Navy Yard. Commanded by Dudley “Mush” Morton, Wahoo was one of the most successful American submarines warfare Commander of World War II. Four months after this picture was taken she was lost with all hands while attempting to exit the Sea of Japan after sinking four ships for a total of 13,000 tons. Her wartime total was 60,038 tons.
The American fleet submarine may arguably be called the most successful naval weapon of World War II. The aircraft carriers got all the publicity, but it was the submarine fleet that destroyed most of the Japanese merchant fleet, isolating the home islands, crippling Japanese industry, and preventing resupply and reinforcement of Japanese island garrisons.
From America’s entry into World War II after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, until the Japanese surrender was signed on 2 September 1945, American Navy submarines were responsible for sinking more than half of all Japanese tonnage. This, despite the fact that the submarine forces comprised less than 2% of the Navy, and spent the first 18 months of the war battling the Navy bureaucracy over defective torpedoes.
Submarines were widely used by both sides in both World War 2 as well as World War 1, as they were able to inflict great damage by sinking merchant ships and warships. These attacks made it difficult to transport goods resulting in severe shortages of materials and troop transfers. In a submarine, a small crew of sailors could do more damage than a battleship and at significantly less cost. Additionally, the WW2 submarine was able to sneak into enemy territory to transport agents and important cargo undetected.
While we’re still a long way from achieving it, our goal at fleetsubmarine.com is to create the most comprehensive web resource on the American submarine forces in World War II. This will include an information page on every submarine that was active during the war—including the older boats restricted to training duty—a brief biography of every commander, technical information on the submarines and equipment, patrol lists, and so on. The discussion forum is up and running. We have a good start on a comprehensive Links collection and are actively searching for related sites.
One of the consequences of a massive project such as this one is that there will, inevitably, be errors. If you run across something on one of our pages, please let us know. If you served in one of these boats and would like to add something to her page, we’d welcome the contribution.
Here are some common questions people have today on WW2 submarines that we can briefly answer:
What was the average cost of a WW2 submarine?
While this is difficult to answer because there were several shipyards producing subs and prices varied by shipyard, the average cost of a U.S. submarine was about $3 million according to Navy documents.
What was the use of submarines in WW2?
In WW2, U.S. attack submarines inflicted heavy damage to Japan. While comprising less than two percent of the U.S. Navy, they sunk over 30% of Japan’s navy, including 8 aircraft carriers. During that time submarines strangled Japan’s economy by sinking 60% of the Japanese Merchant Marines which was a total of 5 million tons of goods.
Why did WW2 subs have to surface to recharge their batteries?
Diesel-electric submarines that were used in that time ran on batteries underwater and those batteries had to be recharged by the onboard diesel engines. The diesel engines had to be run on the surface because of the exhaust.
How many American submarines were lost in World War II?
52 submarines were sunk and 3,500 men were lost in WW2.
Did the submariners bathe on WW2 military submarines?
There was very little room on WW2 submarines and there was one water closet, which was seldom. It was more important to ration fresh water for drinking. When the sub surfaced to recharge the batteries, the crew would bathe in the ocean.
How long can a World War II submarine stay underwater?
The limit would depend on the size of the sub and the number of people aboard, but the limit would probably be 48 hours, though 24 hours would have been unpleasant due to CO2 buildup.
How did submarines in WW2 fire torpedoes accurately while submerged?
Periscopes were used to observe where the enemy was located. Calculations were made as to how far the ship was and how fast it was traveling. Since the calculations aren’t an exact science, a number of torpedos would be fired in sequence a few degrees apart to hit the target.
How did WW2 submarines escape enemy ships chasing them?
Subs would use a series of evasive maneuvers and/or drop below the thermoclime which is where the water is colder and denser due to salinity and is also more reflective making it harder to see the sub.
Why were not WW1 and WW2 submarines painted blue to help avoid aerial and surface detection?
Even if a sub could be painted the same color as the water, the wake would give up its location.
In WW2, what were the advantages of American submarines over the British, Japanese, and Germans?
The most important advantage was the SJ surface search radar that gave an ability to track the enemy up to 25,000 yards.
Does a torpedo explode?
On the nose of a torpedo, there is a projecting pin that upon impact will explode the contents in the head of the torpedo.
Why is the German U-boat not called a submarine?
The U-boat was an abbreviation for the German word “unterseeboot” which means “submarine” or “under the sea boat”.
Eerie Nazi shipwreck discovered in America with bodies of Hitler's soldiers locked insideLink copied
Nazi submarine and U.S ships are found by the North Carolina coast
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Amazing underwater footage has revealed for the first time the gunned-down Nazi shipwreck off the coast of the US.
The sunken German U-Boat was discovered at the bottom of the ocean, more than 70 years after it was destroyed in the Battle of the Atlantic during the Second World War.
In the haunting clip, the remains of the Nazi submarine are explored for the very first time &ndash with the 45 Nazi soldiers bodies likely entombed inside.
German U-Boat found 30 miles off the coast of North Carolina 72 years after it sank
The U-576 crashed to the bottom of the sea after months of sinking US merchant ships and allied naval vessels along the American coastline.
Its military campaign came to an end on July 15, 1942, after it fired at the SS Bluefield 35 miles off the coast of North Carolina.
The battle that ensued resulted in the sinking of both ships. The two vessels had been lost at the bottom of the sea until their discovery in 2014, just 200 yards apart.
The Nazi officers on the doomed U-Boat
The amazing scene, just miles off the American coast, is a stark reminder of how close the Nazis came to the US.
Footage from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reveals the sunken remains of the German submarine lying on its starboard side.
Maritime archeologists are hoping the examination will shed light on a little-known Second World War battlefield.
David Alberg, superintendent of Monitor National Marine Sanctuary said: "The significance of these sites cannot be overstated.
"This is where the war came home to us.
"When we work to preserve the U-boat and the U-boat story, it&rsquos really preserving American history and a dark chapter in American history that is really not very well known."
Fish among the Nazi shipwreck
This is where the war came home to us
David Alberg, Superintendent of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary
Joe Hoyt, a NOAA Maritime Archaeologist, told the Washington Post: "It&rsquos sort of unreal.
"I knew the story, but the moment that we get in there and it comes out of the gloom at you. It was humbling.
"It&rsquos all there, just as it went down in 1942. One of the things we&rsquore looking for is what happened to the crew.
"Did they try to get out the escape hatches? Did the ship flood catastrophically?
"Were they on the seabed for some period of time, disabled with air still in the sub?"
Mr Hoyt added that the remains of Nazi sailors are likely lying inside the vessel, as the hatches are still sealed.
The wrecks were discovered two years ago 35 miles offshore resting just 200 yards apart
The sinking of the submarine in 1942 followed an intense Nazi campaign to wreak havoc on US merchant routes.
Following Pearl Harbour and the US decision to enter the war, the German navy killed hundreds of people along the American coast.
The Nazi sailors destroyed merchant ships and caused chaos along trade routes to sabotage the war effort.
The victory of the Allies in the Battle of the Atlantic was a critical factor in their ultimate victory in WWII &ndash allowing them to supply Britain and then mainland Europe with arms and supplies.