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U-Boats

U-Boats : World War II Submarines - Stories and discoveries.
Latest hand-picked WWII news. See also: US Submarines, WWII Wrecks, Graf Spee, Nazi Medals, WW2 Movies, U-Boat Aces.

The Third Reich`s Electric Submarine Fail: The Type XXI U-boat cost more than it was worth
On May 4, 1945 one of the most advanced submarines in the world crept up to a British Royal Navy cruiser. U-2511 was one of Germany`s new Type XXI-class `wonder` submarines, and she was hunting for Allied ships. She also represented one of the Third Reich`s biggest failures. More than 250 feet long and displacing 1,620 tons, the Type XXI had six hydraulically-reloaded torpedo tubes capable of firing more than 23 stored torpedoes. But the real improvement lay deep inside the U-boat`s bowels. There rested an advanced electric-drive engine that allowed the submersible to travel underwater at higher speeds—and for longer periods—than any submarine that came before.
(medium.com)

Wreck of Nazi submarine U-486 found off Norway (includes a link to underwater images)
The wreck of a German World War II submarine that was sunk with 48 people on board has been found off Norway's coast during work on an oil pipe, a Bergen maritime museum official said. The "U-486" was torpedoed and broken in two by a British submarine in April 1945 after leaving the western Norwegian town of Bergen. There were no survivors, as all 48 men were dragged to a watery grave. The submarine, which lies at a depth of 250 meters (820 feet), had a special coating on the hull, designed to significantly reduce its radar signal.
(thelocal.de)

Sunken World War II submarine U-550 found 70 miles off Nantucket
The U-550 was found by a group organised by New Jersey lawyer Joe Mazraani. Using side-scan sonar, the 7-man team located the wreck listing to its side in deep water 70 miles south of Nantucket. On April 16, 1944, the U-550 torpedoed the gasoline tanker SS Pan Pennsylvania, which had lagged behind its protective convoy. The U-boat slipped under the doomed tanker to hide. But one of the tanker's three escorts, the USS Joyce, saw it on sonar and damaged it by dropping depth charges. The Germans, forced to surface, manned their deck guns while another escort vessel, the USS Gandy, returned fire and rammed the U-boat.
(telegraph.co.uk)

German submarine U-1206 rediscovered by divers 70 years after it was sunk by its crew
A group of divers have filmed the wreck for the first time at the spot where it has lain off the Buchan coast for the past 70 years. The wreck of U-boat 1206 was originally found in the 1970s, but documents pinpointing her location were lost. Now after a search lasting more than a decade, a group of divers have rediscovered her off the Collieston coast. Mike Wilcox from Buchan Divers said: "It was absolutely stunning, we've dived a number of wrecks and pieces of rock thinking that this was the final wreck and to actually get on and find her was superb." The U-boat sunk just 3 weeks before the end of WWII, after suffering a leak after the vessel's toilet was operated improperly.
(stv.tv)

Revised edition of Milk Cows: The U-Boat Tankers at War 1941-1945 by John F White
A revised edition of John White's comprehensive 1998 look at the one of the most unusual and innovative aspects of German U-boat operations during the Second World War, the submarine tanker program.
(strategypage.com)

Restoration starts on rusting WW2 submarine HMS Alliance in Gosport, UK (video)
The £6.5 million overhaul of HMS Alliance, the only World War II submarine open to the public in Britain, has been launched at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport. The rusting icon, which was built in 1945, was given a £3.4 million Heritage Lottery Fund boost amid fears its corroded outer structure might fall into the sea.
(bbc.co.uk)

Merseytravel U-boat Story gets full-scale replica of conning tower (photos)
A full-size replica conning tower is the latest addition to Merseytravel's U-boat Story - which features the German U534 - in Wirral, Liverpool. The tower - recreated using original photographs - and lifted into place at Woodside by crane, will allow visitors to climb up top, as well as go inside to get a sense of being in a real submarine.
(liverpooldailypost.co.uk)

A project to restore the last surviving British WWII submarine - HMS Alliance - given go-ahead
A £7-million project to restore HMS Alliance has been approved and the work on the vessel - the UK's only remaining World War II submarine - will begin in May 2011. So far £4.9m has been raised for the project.
(portsmouth.co.uk)

Full-sized conning tower replica to be added to the U-boat Story -exhibit, which features U-534
At the present moment glazed panels allow visitors to see inside the German submarine U-534 from viewing platforms in the U-Boat Story exhibit, located at Woodside Ferry Terminal in Woodside (Birkenhead, Merseyside, England). Planning approval has now been given for a full-sized conning tower replica to be built to give visitors and history buffs the chance to stand on the bridge and look through the periscope. Neil Scales, of Merseytravel, said: "We would have liked to allow visitors to climb the conning tower of the U-534, but given the age of the vessel... this new attraction will be the next best thing."
(wirralglobe.co.uk)

70 foot long German U-boat replica cruises on British canal (photos)
Dark and menacing, it prowls the water, torpedo tubes at the ready. But this German U-boat's captain will never have to order: "Dive, Dive, Dive", because it is a replica canal boat. The 70 foot long U-boat replica was photographed on Leeds-Liverpool canal at Botany Bay near Chorley, Lancashire. It is the project of "Admiral" Cyril Howarth, who was inspired by the WWII films to build a replica of the craft which sank 3,000 Allied ships. His craft, U-8047, moves at 3 miles an hour. Cyril spent £25,000 on the shell of a traditional narrow boat and engine - plus £25,000 for a U-boat superstructure.
(dailymail.co.uk)

The HMS Alliance Appeal: A restoration project aiming to raise £3m for a WWII submarine
People of Gosport were urged to save a piece of British military history. The rallying cry came from the former commanding officer of WWII-era submarine HMS Alliance. The HMS Alliance Appeal, a restoration project aiming to raise £3m, was launched at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport. Commander Rob Forsyth, commanding officer of HMS Alliance from Jan 1970 to Aug 1971, called on the people to save the historic submarine. He said it would boost tourism: "It is a vital part of our heritage. She is also a great example of what submarines were like during that era." [http://submarine-museum.co.uk/]
(portsmouth.co.uk)

Discovery of 6 U-boat wrecks rewrites the history books - More subs sunk by mines than thought
The wrecks of 6 German U-boats sunk in the last months of World War II's greatest naval conflict have been identified. And maritime experts say the wrecks (U-400, U-102, U-326, U-325, U-1208, U-650) force historians to reconsider the battle of the Atlantic. Many U-boats - claimed to be sunk by Allied air and naval forces - were in reality sunk by mines. The findings reveal that coastal minefields were 3 times more effective than British naval intelligence gave them credit for. For example U-1021 was sunk by mines - hundreds of miles away from location where the Royal Navy reportedly sunk it with depth charges.
(independent.co.uk)

"The Grey Wolves of Eriboll" covers mass surrender of Nazi U-boats (book review)
For 65 years a Scottish village has obeyed the wartime warning that "loose lips sink ships". But now they have decided to speak out to tell the story of the mass surrender of Nazi U-boats. The surrender of German submarines in Loch Eriboll in Sutherland was one of the strangest episodes at the end of World War II. It has been believed that only 2 or 3 crews gave themselves up in the inlet. But a new book reveals that 33 U-boat commanders surrendered in 12 days (May 10 - May 25, 1945) - including U-532 which had just returned from Japan. David Hird has spent 2 years researching "The Grey Wolves of Eriboll".
(telegraph.co.uk)

Deep-sea mission off Fujairah shores reveals new details behind sinking of WW2 Nazi submarine U-533
The Gulf of Oman have given up secrets of the sinking of Nazi submarine U-533 during the World War II. Several years after the discovery of the U-boat on the seabed 108 metres below by shipwreck hunter William Leeman, a new deep-sea mission to the U-boat has confirmed a fatal blast hole was ripped into her rear port side, sending the U-boat and 52 crew members to the abyss. Leeman and his team of divers discovered the 2-metre gash near her propellers, confirming reports by RAF Squadron 244 that a British light bomber (Blenheim) had scored a direct strike on the submarine on Oct. 16, 1943. Only one U-533 survivor escaped to safety from the submarine.
(gulfnews.com)

Two WW2-era Japanese attack subs, designed for a stealth attack on the U.S. East Coast, discovered
Two Second World War-era Japanese attack submarines have been discovered near Pearl Harbor. Designed for a stealth attack on the American East Coast the "samurai subs" were fast, far-ranging, and in some cases carried folding-wing aircraft, says Dik Daso, curator of modern military aircraft at the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum, speaking in the new National Geographic documentary film "Hunt for the Samurai Subs." When the war ended the U.S. Navy took over the Japanese fleet, sinking 5 samurai submarines to keep the technology out of the hands of the Soviet Union. The military didn't record where the boats had been sunk.
(nationalgeographic.com)

British wireless operator claims: The British Army sank its own submarine, HMS Thunderbolt
Before publishing his memoirs "Just a Tick," Harold Donnell had never revealed the incident which happened while he was working in World War II and led to the British Army sinking its own submarine, which he thinks was HMS Thunderbolt. In 1943 Donnell was working in Libya when a submarine was detected in the path of a British convoy. They transmitted its position and within half an hour it had been sunk. "We were called into our officer's tent ... recommended for immediate promotion. But later we were called back in and told that subject to the Official Secrets Act we were never to mention what had happened." The submarine had been a British vessel.
(flintshirechronicle.co.uk)

120 photographs of WWII submarine Vesikko - The prototype of German Type II U-boat
Vesikko was a submarine of the Finnish Navy in World War Two. Built in 1933 in Turku, it served as a prototype (CV-707) for German Type II U-boats. 1933-1934 the German Navy carried out trials with the sub in the Turku Archipelago. In 1936, the Finnish Navy bought it. Vesikko saw service during WWII, patrolling the Gulf of Finland during the Winter War against the Soviet Baltic Fleet. During the Continuation War, Vesikko continued her patrolling career but there were few targets due to huge minefields laid by Finnish and Germans forces on the Gulf of Finland, which blocked the Soviet ships in their ports. In 3 July 1941, Vesikko torpedoed Soviet merchant ship Vyborg.
(flickr.com)

Germany's Last Mission To Japan: The Failed Voyage of U-234 by Joseph Mark Scalia
In 1945, just weeks before surrendering, Nazi Germany sent cargo submarine U-234 to Japan with a load of latest technology. The manifest included jet aircraft, radar sets infrared tracking devices and samples of German aircraft engines. Since Nazis included blueprints, the u-boat's value to Japan was incalculable. The submarine also carried raw material (like lead, mercury and optical glass) that Japan desperately needed. Also aboard were 1,200 pounds of uranium oxide and two Japanese officers. Even the U-234 was valuable: It was equipped with a snorkel, a secret device that enabled a sub to run its diesel engines while submerged.
(galvestondailynews.com)

Finding Nazi U-boat off the Jersey coast
The Nazi U-boat that once hunted near New York and New Jersey lay undiscovered for 45 years just 60 miles off the Jersey coast. It wasn't until 1991, when shipwreck diver John Chatterton surfaced from 230 feet, holding two plates with a swastika and the year "1942" engraved on them, that anyone even knew the submarine was there. It would take 6 years to id the German u-boat. The proof finally came in the form of 3 tags with the number U-869. The search was chronicled in book "Shadow Divers" by Robert Kurson, and in the PBS documentary film "Hitler's Lost Sub."
(gmnews.com)

The first attack by Nazi Germany on Britain when U-Boat sank passenger ship in telegrams
Three WW2 telegrams reveal the cruel sinking of a defenceless British passenger ship by a Nazi U-Boot only hours after World War II started. The Athenia carrying 1,103 passengers was torpedoed in Sept. 3rd 1939 when the German captain mistook her for an armed merchant ship. Her sinking led to the deaths of 118 people. The first telegram was sent to all shipping at 12.18pm: "war has broken out with Germany". The second, sent 10 hours later, read: "SOS from British steamer Athenia. Torpedoed - 1.400 passengers some still aboard sinking fast."
(dailymail.co.uk)

Norway: Nazi u-boat U-864, which contains 65 tons of mercury, to be raised   (Article no longer available from the original source)
The Norwegian Government has decided that the wreck of the WWII German submarine U-864 which contains 65 tons of mercury, is to be raised, and that the seabed be overlaid with clean sand. The wreck, located off the Norwegian west coast, near Fedje, has long been viewed as an environmental hazard. However, experts have disagreed on whether or not the wreck should be raised or if it would be better to build a sarcophagus which would isolate the mercury from the marine environment. The head of the Marine Safety Directorate, Magne Roedland, decided the u-boat wreck should be raised.
(norwaypost.no)

Commander remembers sinking 5 captured Japanese submarines
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Allen B. Catlin had a hand in the sinking of 5 Japanese submarines off Barbers Point in 1946. The subs were rounded up at the end of the war, brought to Pearl Harbor for review, and then torpedoed. The I-201 and I-203 were designed to run at high speeds with their 4,500 batteries (compared to 256 in a U.S. sub), while the mammoth I-400 and I-401 (with their rails and a catapult) were designed to disgorge 3 Aichi M6A Seiran aircraft. At the time the American Mk-4 torpedo had a magnetic exploder, supposed to explode beneath a ship. "But it was a failure, and the guys would... see the torpedo go under the target."
(usna.com)

Surveying Nazi U-boats sunk off North Carolina during World War II
NOAA will lead a research expedition to probe the wrecks of 3 German subs sunk by U.S. forces in 1942 off the coast of North Carolina. The team will survey and photograph visible sections of U-352, U-85 and U-701 using non-invasive methods as the submarine wreck sites are war graves. The German U-boats are located in an area known as the "Graveyard of the Atlantic," which has shipwrecks from both sides of the Battle of the Atlantic at recreational diving depths (less than 130 feet). The wrecks are popular dive sites, but unfortunately U-352 and U-85 have been damaged by salvage operators and relic hunters.
(sciencedaily.com)

60 tons of mercury in wreckage of WWII U-boat U-864 could create disaster   (Article no longer available from the original source)
In 1945 the German submarine U-864 was traveling just west of Norway on its way to Japan. The secret mission of the specially outfitted vessel: to deliver 60 tons of mercury to the Axis ally for use in explosives. But the British military detected the sub's task through Ultra and sent submarine HMS Venturer to intercept. U-864 and its cargo were sunk. 60 years later the Norwegian navy located the wreck and discovered signs that the steel canisters that hold the mercury are corroding. U-864 is almost impossible to reach, its ruins are spread out over 10 acres, and a third of the 1,857 mercury canisters are scattered on the seabed.
(statesman.com)

Third Reich U-boat base Valentin for sale - The largest existing Nazi bunker
Built by slave labourers, the vast concrete complex known as Valentin near Bremen is for sale - to anyone needing a building with 7m-thick walls. Nazi Germany's submarine factory is the largest surviving bunker from the Third Reich. The price is not clear but officials say that they could be adapting, because the place has become a millstone with its upkeep cost of 800,000 EURs a year. Adolf Hitler, worried that Nazi Germany was losing the edge in the war for the sea lanes, ordered the construction of the factory with the aim of building a new U-boat, the advanced XXI model, every 56 hours.
(timesonline)

Nazi U-boat U534 sails to final resting place in Wirral [video]
In spite of the predictions of howling gales, one of the most unusual removal tasks got under way. The fate of the historic submarine U-534 had hung in the balance after the closure of the Historic Warships collection, until Merseytravel bought it up, planning to use it as the basis for a visitor attraction at Woodside ferry terminal. But first the submarine had to be moved, all 900 tonnes of it, causing one of the most unusual engineering operations for those involved. Neil Scales was relieved to see the first and heaviest section of the U-Boat lifted by the Mersey Mammoth floating crane and start its journey.
(liverpooldailypost)

Engineers to break up the U-534 : The only WWII German U-Boat in UK
German U-Boat U-534 is being moved to Mersey Ferries' Woodside ferry terminal in Birkenhead. Visitors will be able to walk through parts of the U-boat after it's cut into 4 pieces using a diamond wire cutter. Presently the submarine stands at Mortar Mill Quay, where it was part of the Historic Warships Museum, closed 2007. Merseytravel purchased the vessel to turn into a tourist attraction. Neil Scales said: "There are only 4 U-Boats left. One here, two in Germany and a sister boat of the U-534 in Chicago. It's a really important piece of history." See also: In Pictures: U-boat operation
(bbc)

Adolf Hitler's lost fleet found in Black Sea: Three German U-boats
The location of 3 German U-boats (U-19, U-20, U-23), "Hitler's lost fleet", has been discovered at the bottom of the Black Sea. The vessels, including one once commanded by U-boat ace Otto Kretschmer, formed part of the 30th Flotilla of 6 submarines, taken by road and river from Nazi Germany's Baltic port at Kiel to Constanta, the Romanian Black Sea port, to attack Russian shipping. In 2 years the fleet sank dozens of ships and lost 3 own u-boats. But in August 1944, Romania switched sides, leaving the 3 last vessels stranded. Mike Williams: "...these U-boats were all scuttled, so they should be intact, like a sealed tube. They are unique survivors of the war."
(telegraph.co.uk)

Japanese Submarine I-52 had 2 tons of gold and other valuable cargo   (Article no longer available from the original source)
"Battleground Atlantic: How the Sinking of a Single Japanese Submarine Assured the Outcome of World War II" by Richard Billings tells the story of the I-52, and the salvage efforts by Paul Tidwell. The I-52 carried with it the hopes of bringing victory to Japan. The cargo (gold and liquid opium) was to be used as payment for Nazi engineering that would help bring the Japanese submarine fleet up-to-date, and to bring back to Japan technology for a superweapon - thought to have been a radiological bomb. Billings cites decoded inventories that show uranium oxide aboard the I-52 to back up his argument that Japan was close to launching such a bomb against American targets.
(montgomeryadvertiser)

Derry council plans to put Nazi submarine U-778 in maritime museum
60 years ago the Nazi U-boat fleet that menaced Atlantic convoys and threatened Britain with starvation was scuttled off the north-west coast of Ireland. The sunken hulls and rusting torpedo tubes are encrusted with coral. Salvage plans are being explored to see whether one of the German submarines could be raised. The vessel and its technology could be put on display as the central attraction for a new maritime museum in Derry. The wreck of U-778 which lies 16 miles north-west of Malin Head, has been identified as the best candidate for recovery from among 116 U-boats that litter the ocean floor off the northern Irish coast.
(guardian)

Soviet sub SC305 found - Sank after being rammed by Finnish sub
A research team has discovered a Soviet submarine SC305 at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. It was sunk in 1942 by the Finnish navy during a World War II battle. Bjorn Rosenlof says the 8-member team, using sonar equipment, found the vessel at a depth of 136 metres between the Swedish east coast town of Grisslehamn and the Finnish Aland Islands. The sub is "in very good condition, aside from a hole in the hull where it was hit." All 38 crew members died when the submarine sank after being rammed and hit by cannon fire from a Finnish submarine. The military has been informed of the discovery, but it's unclear whether the submarine will be raised from the seabed.
(reuters)

New generation german U-Boat too little, too late for Third Reich
In the waning days of WW2, U-2511 under Adalbert Schnee puts to sea from Bergen. It marks the first and only combat patrol by German U-boat Type XXI Elektroboot. Had the boat been accorded a higher priority in the armaments pecking order the Battle of the Atlantic might have turned out differently. U-2511 closed to within 500 meters of the British cruiser HMS Norfolk without being picked up by sonar. The Type XXI, displacing 1,620 tons and armed with 6 forward torpedo tubes, would be used as a prototype for the Cold War U.S. and Soviet subs. There were also quantum leaps in sonar and radar technology - where Nazis had lagged throughout WW2.
(wired)

How a Japanese Submarine Cruised Through Gilroy During WWII
(Q) Did a Japanese submarine travel through downtown Gilroy during World War II? (A) The day was Nov. 19, 1942. Called a "Tojo Cigar," the 2-man sub on top of a flat-bed truck stopped for a few hours in front of Gilroy's City Hal. The Imperial Japanese Navy's midget submarine Haramaki 19 was captured by the U.S. Navy on Dec. 8, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor. It was in good enough condition for the U.S. Treasury to send it on a tour across the nation to encourage Americans to buy war bonds. After World War 2, the submarine spent the next 24 years as an exhibit at the Key West Lighthouse Museum.
(hollisterfreelance)

Ambitious plan aims to raise World War II U-boat
There is a plan to raise a U-boat from the seabed off County Donegal. The aim is to house the boat in a museum where people can get a glimpse of one of the iconic vessels from WWII. A number of U-boats lie 70 metres deep off the coast of Donegal. Even in the murky depths the outline of the U-boat is quite clear, with the aerials and periscopes are still intact. Diver Geoff Millar who has been examining the wrecks of Adolf Hitler's Wolf Pack said he had been surprised they were in such good condition. So far only two U-boats have been brought up from the seabed and preserved for display in Europe.
(bbc)

Futuristic X1 submarine was scrapped in 1936 Wales
A welsh historian Roger Cook is hoping to solve the "political murder" of one of the most advanced submarines of its time. The X1, a triumph of British naval engineering, would have been a major force in World War II. But it was dismantled before the conflict even got under way. Mr Cook, who has become fascinated by the history of the X1, on which he is writing a book, is now hoping people from the Milford Haven area may still be able to offer clues. He says he has discovered that, despite its size and awesome firepower, politicians were always a much bigger threat to the craft than a depth charge could ever be.
(icnetwork)

U-boats off the North-East - Submarine Wrecks of the UK   (Article no longer available from the original source)
Covering the entire East Coast this meticulously-researched account has separate chapters for the North-East and Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. The authors have pieced together the stories of the 16 U-boat wrecks so far located - 7 off the North-East coast, 9 off Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. They provide full technical details of the vessels, describe the events leading up to their loss, and list the victims, including, where available, those on ships attacked by the U-boats prior to their own destruction. The present state of the wreck, established by divers, completes the remarkable record.
(thisishertfordshire)

U-boat hit by the B24 Liberator bomber - Victoria Cross for Pilot
Submarine commander Oberleutant Clemens Schamong, who held an Iron Cross 1st class, ordered to open fire when an Allied B24 Liberator caught the German u-boat on the surface. Cannon shells from two 20mm anti-aircraft guns on the U-boat hit the B24 Liberator, which caught fire and the Germans thought it would turn away. Despite many more direct hits, Pilot Lloyd Trigg ran the burning bomber toward the u-boat, dropping 6 depth charges before the plane plunged into the Ocean and blew up. All men aboard it were killed. Two of the depth charges exploded alongside the U-boat, fatal strikes which had the submarine sinking. Trigg was decorated with the Victoria Cross.
(northernadvocate)

Hobby map where u-boats battled now the definitive source   (Article no longer available from the original source)
He grew up in World War II on the coast watching German U-boats burning in the Gulf of Mexico and went on to research them for the rest of his life. Carl Vought loved U-boat research so much he did a comprehensive map on where they battled and who captained them. It's so accurate, a copy of the map resides as the definitive source in a German U-boat museum and the World War II Museum in New Orleans. "He wound up tracing all the U-boats in that era, had their courses, who their captains were, logos on their towers, all charted on a map. If you called the Navy archives, they would have referred you to him."
(huntsvilletimes)

Only four intact WWII German U-boats in museums worldwide
When the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago recently took the step of relocating its U-boat to a underground exhibit hall, it also revamped the entire exhibition. As with the physical exhibit, the U-505 website guides visitors through a historical context related to the main attraction: the U-Boat Menace in the Atlantic Ocean, the US Navy's response in the form of Hunter-Killer Task Groups, and the role of Intelligence and code breaking in the war against the subs. A 6-part series on Capturing the U-505 follows.
(csmonitor)


See also:
US Submarines
WWII Wrecks
Graf Spee
Nazi Medals
WW2 Movies
U-Boat Aces.