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Were there any German submarines sunk after 25th of April 1945? The days just before the fall of Berlin.
More than 20, depending exactly how you count them. U-boat.net has a list of them all.
How to count them is indeed critical.
- A surprising number were taken over by the Japanese after the German surrender. Do they count as German losses?
- U 183 was sunk on April 23th, two days before the date of your question, while running with a German crew and a Japanese flag.
- U 56 was sunk on April 28th, U 286, U 307 and U 1017 were sunk on April 29th, U 879 and U1197 were sunk on April 30th, U 2359 was sunk on May 2nd, U 1210, U 2521 and U 3032 were sunk on May 3rd, U 393, U 711 and U 2338 were sunk on May 4th, U 534 and U 579 were sunk on May 5th, U 853, U 881 and U 3523 were sunk on May 6th (from the German Wikipedia, I might have missed a few).
- An unsurprising number was scuttled after confusing orders from the German naval command. These were sunk, but not by the Allies.
One of the last US warships sunk by a German sub during WWII reveals its secrets in eerie images from seabed
The wreck of one of the last U.S. Navy warships sunk by a German submarine during World War II is revealing its secrets in remarkable images from the seabed.
Patrol boat USS Eagle PE-56 was located by a private dive team just a few miles off the Maine coast last year, ending a decades-long mystery about the ship’s location. The ship’s bow was spotted in about 260 feet of water in June 2018 and its stern the following month. The last pieces of the wreck were found in May 2019, according to diver Ryan King of Brentwood, N.H.
The sinking of the USS Eagle PE-56 on April 23, 1945, was originally blamed on a boiler explosion. But the Navy determined in 2001 that it had been sunk by a German submarine, the U-853.
King and his dive team were able to confirm that an object previously discovered on sonar by undersea search specialist Garry Kozak was indeed the sunken ship. The divers, who worked with the Smithsonian Channel, extensively explored the ship on the ocean floor, five miles off Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
The USS Eagle PE-56 was sunk by a German submarine on April 23, 1945. (Smithsonian Channel)
Only 13 of the Eagle’s 62 crew members survived they were plucked from the water by a nearby Navy destroyer.
King told Fox News about his team’s experiences exploring the ship.
“When the torpedo exploded, she snapped in half – only one man got out of the bow section, 12 men made it out of the stern section,” he said.
The exploration of the wreck will be featured in the three-part series “The Hunt for Eagle-56,” which premieres on Smithsonian Channel Sept. 22 at 9 p.m. EST/PST.
A boot on the seabed at the USS Eagle wreck site. (Smithsonian Channel)
During his dives, King explained that he could clearly see the Eagle’s deck machinery and its massive 16-foot deck gun on top of the forward crew quarters.
“It really is a humbling experience when you’re down there, you’re not just on a shipwreck, you’re on a gravesite,” he said. “We haven’t touched things, we have made a point of staying out of areas where there is evidence of human remains.”
The Eagle’s helm and its telegraph are clearly visible at the wreck site.
“You’re seeing all of this equipment that is part of the wreck,” King said. “There are lockers that are partially opened, the chart table is still there, there were men sitting around that when the torpedo exploded.”
“You realize that many of the men that used that equipment are still entombed in the wreck,” he added.
Only 13 of the Eagle’s 62 crew members survived. (Smithsonian Channel)
On the stern, divers also got a view of the ship’s aft escape hatches, where the ladders had fallen away, as described by Eagle’s survivors.
The dive team also saw crew members’ boots strewn around both the bow and the stern sections on the seabed.
The dive team has to be cautious when dealing with parts of the ship containing its ordnance. On their first dive the hook that they sent down caught on a rack of depth charges on the Eagle’s stern.
“It was exciting!” King quipped. “Obviously, they hadn’t gone anywhere for a few years, but we figured that we would live it there.”
Divers have been exploring the wreck, which was discovered in 2018. (Smithsonian Channel)
Divers have also had to contend with poor visibility at the wreck site, which, on a good day, is just 10 feet.
“It’s incredibly dark, without our lights, you wouldn’t be able to see anything,” said King.
King told Fox News that the team has shared its information on the wreck with the U.S. Navy.
“Once we had a clear picture to bring to the Navy, we brought it to them as quickly as we could,” he said.
In May the Navy wrote to the researchers to tell them that the ship had been placed under the protection of the Sunken Military Craft Act, King added.
The researchers are now working to ensure that the families of Eagle crew members receive the Purple Hearts earned by their loved ones. “Many of the Purple Hearts went out to families in 2004 and 2005,” King told Fox News, adding that officials are still working to get medals to families.
Divers had to contend with limited visibility at the shipwreck site. (Smithsonian Channel)
Earlier this year, for example, the sister of Seaman First Class James Cunningham received his posthumous Purple Heart in a ceremony in Millington, Tenn., Stars and Stripes reports.
“We attended the ceremony – it was a great piece of closure for the family,” said King.
Cunningham, he explained, wasn’t even supposed to be on the ship when it was torpedoed by U-853.
“He was supposed to be on leave – he switched because his friend needed to go home on leave to bury a loved one who passed,” King said.
The diver explained that researchers are working with three families at the moment to help them get their Purple Hearts.
“We have some deadlines, there are family members that are older,” he said.
An item at the USS Eagle PE-56 wreck site. The patrol boat was sunk by the U-853, a German submarine. (Smithsonian Channel)
Research undertaken by Paul Lawton, a Massachusetts attorney, naval historian and diver, played a key role in confirming the Eagle’s sinking by U-853.
“That was a result of Paul’s work and Bernard Cavalcante of the Naval History and Heritage Command,” King said.
The ship’s sinking is also the subject of Stephen Puleo’s 2005 book “Due to Enemy Action: The True World War II Story of the USS Eagle 56.”
Divers approaching the wreck. (Smithsonian Channel)
The U-853 was later sunk off Block Island on May 6, 1945, by depth charges from USS Atherton and USS Moberly. All hands were lost in the sub’s sinking, which occurred two days before V-E Day, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command.
Researchers across the globe are working to locate sites of World War II wrecks. The wreck of an Australian freighter, for example, was recently discovered, as was the wreck of a U.S. B-24 bomber that plunged into the sea off Bermuda in February 1945.
And earlier this year, the wreck of World War II aircraft carrier USS Wasp was found in the Coral Sea, and the RV Petrel discovered one of the first Japanese battleships to be sunk by U.S. forces during the war. Imperial Japanese Navy ship Hiei sank on Nov. 14, 1942, in the Solomon Islands.
The wreck was discovered off the coast of Maine. (Smithsonian Channel)
Wasp was also spotted on the seabed by experts from the vessel RV Petrel, which is part of a research organization set up by the late billionaire Paul Allen.
Allen, Microsoft's co-founder, died in October 2018 from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His research organization has discovered a host of historic military shipwrecks, such as the wrecks of the USS Helena, the USS Lexington and the USS Juneau.
The group’s biggest discovery, however, came in 2017, when Allen and his team found the long-lost wreck of the USS Indianapolis in the Philippine Sea.
Eagle class patrol boat built during World War I. It is similar to the USS Eagle PE-56, which exploded and sank off Cape Elizabeth, Maine, on April 23, 1945, killing most of its crew in New England's worst naval disaster during World War II. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, File)
In a separate project, the wreckage of U.S. B-24 bomber, for example, was found in Papua New Guinea. The plane’s wreck was found in 2018, 74 years after it was shot down during a fierce battle with Japanese forces.
Last summer, a team of scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego and the University of Delaware located the missing stern of the destroyer USS Abner Read, which was torn off by a Japanese mine in the remote Aleutian Islands.
Also last year, a decades-long mystery about the fate of a ship that disappeared during a World War II rescue mission was finally solved.
A plaque at Fort Williams Park at Cape Elizabeth, Maine, on Thursday, July 18, 2019, remembers those killed when the USS Eagle PE-56 was sunk During World War II off the Maine coast on April 23, 1945. (AP Photo/David Sharp)
An extremely rare World War II Spitfire fighter plane flown by a pilot who later took part in the "Great Escape" was also recovered from a remote Norwegian mountainside last year.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said that USS Eagle PE-56 was the last U.S. warship sunk by a German submarine during World War II. The USS Frederick C. Davis (DE-136) was the last warship sunk by a German sub when it was torpedoed by U-546 on 24 April 1945.
Fox News’ Nicole Darrah and the Associated Press contributed to this article.
The detailed sonar scans of the wreck site show that it is without doubt a Type XXI U-boat, of which U-3523 was the only one lost in the Skagerrak and unaccounted for. These were new types of submarines that contained a number of innovations which had the potential to make them dangerous opponents. This was primarily due to enlarged batteries, coupled to a snorkel, which meant they could stay permanently underwater. Part of the RAF’s mission was to prevent any of these new vessels getting to sea to sink Allied ships, and it successfully prevented any Type XXI U-boats from doing so.The Type XXI U-3008. Wikipedia
With the U-boat’s identity correctly established, we now know that it is the grave site of its crew of 58 German servicemen. As such, the wreck should either be left in peace or, more implausibly, recovered and the men buried on land. Germany lost over 800 submarines at sea during the two world wars and many have been found in recent years. It is hopelessly impractical to recover them all, so leaving them where they are is the only real option.
Under international law all naval wrecks are termed “sovereign immune”, which means they will always be the property of the German state despite lying in Danish waters. But Denmark has a duty to protect the wreck, especially if Germany asks it to do so.
Today in History: Born on June 17
Edward I (Longshanks), King of England (1272-1307).
Sir Thomas Overbury, English poet and courtier.
John Wesley, English evangelist and theologian, founder of the Methodist movement.
Ivan Goncharov, Russian novelist (Oblomov).
Henry Clay Folger, American lawyer and businessman, co-founder of the Folger Shakespeare Library.
James Weldon Johnson, African-American poet and novelist (The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man).
James Montgomery Flagg, American artist and author.
Igor Stravinsky, Russian-born U.S. composer (The Rite of Spring, The Firebird).
Blanche Sweet, film actress.
John Hersey, novelist and journalist (Men on Bataan, Hiroshima).
Gail Godwin, writer (The Perfectionists, The Southern Family).
Paul McCartney, songwriter and singer, member of the Beatles.
Chris Van Allsburg, children's author and illustrator (Jumanji, The Polar Express).
Operation Teardrop: The Hunt for Nazi Germany's Top Secret Ballistic Missile Submarine
Thought to be carrying V-2 ballistic missiles, the U.S. Navy hunted for Attack Group Seewolf, a U-boat wolfpack destined for the U.S. East Coast.
In the closing weeks of World War II in Europe, American intelligence determined that a detachment of German submarines had been dispatched to launch a cruise missile attack on the East Coast of the United States. The U.S. Navy deployed forty-six ships and dozens of aircraft to annihilate the incoming submarine wolf pack. The battle that followed saw hundreds of lives lost at sea, and showed American intelligence services at their very best—and worst.
Nazi Germany was the first nation to deploy cruise and ballistic missiles in combat. The V1 “Buzz Bomb” could fly more than 180 miles powered by a pulse jet before slamming into its target. The slightly longer-range V-2 could shoot up to fifty-five miles high in its ballistic trajectory before plunging unstoppably towards the ground. Both weapons killed thousands of civilians in London and Western European cities. However, the United States remained far out of reach.
Nonetheless, the possibility that the so-called “vengeance weapons” might be mounted on submarines and used to sow chaos along the eastern seaboard of the United States did not escape Allied commanders. After the FBI interrogated a German spy rescued from a destroyed U-Boat, J. Edgar Hoover warned Washington on October 25, 1944, that Germany was planning a submarine-launched buzz bomb attack on the United States. Supposedly, reconnaissance photos depicted what appeared to be launch rails on U-Boats penned in Norway. Two more spies, arrested in December 1944, gave similar accounts of a submarine-launched missile program. In Berlin, minister of war production Albert Speer promised that missiles would fall on New York by February.
Most Allied commanders were skeptical that there was a genuine threat to the continental United States—save for certain leaders of the U.S. Navy. In January 1945, the U.S. Atlantic Fleet organized two coastal defense task forces that would operate from a forward base in Argentia, Newfoundland. The fleet’s commander, Adm. Jonas Ingram, warned the press of probable “robot bomb” attacks launched by a “half-dozen submarines” in the coming months.
At the heart of each of the detachments were two escort carriers which could carry two dozen patrol planes each. Antisubmarine aircraft had proven highly effective at detecting surfaced U-Boats, and had sunk more than their fair share.
Accompanying the “jeep” carriers were more than twenty destroyer-escorts (DEs), small antisubmarine vessels equivalent to a modern frigate. Benefitting from sonar, radar and air patrols, the DEs were also armed with Hedgehogs—arrays of twenty-four spigot mortar charges that could be launched up to two hundred meters away. Unlike depth charges, Hedgehogs detonated on contact with a submarine’s hull, often sank the target in one or two hits, and could not be easily evaded after launch.
The U.S. Navy had a key advantage—the British had broken the German’s top-level code way back in 1941 and had been closely following the movements of German submarines since then, with the exception of a ten-month period in 1942 when the Kriegsmarine upgraded its encrypting machines.
In March, the Allies intercepted a message from German Admiral Godt dispatching seven Type IX long-range submarines to “attack targets in American coastal zone” as part of an attack group awesomely codenamed Seewolf. Another intercept message diverted to the U.S. coast the U-Boat of Captain Friedrich Steinhoff, who had earlier commanded U-511 in tests of rocket artillery that could be fired underwater.
The Navy was convinced that these signs all heralded an attack by missile-launching U-Boats, and sprang into action, initiating Operation Teardrop and diverting merchant traffic away from the battle zone. By April 12, the First Barrier force had established a “barrier line” 105 miles from north to south to screen for approaching submarines. A dozen DEs stood sentinel on the line, while the escort carriers and their escorts remained further back.
Meanwhile, the Kriegsmarine continuously micromanaged the approach vectors of its submarines via radio transmissions. These were intercepted by Allied intelligence, giving the U.S. Navy a fairly good idea of where the U-Boats were approach from. However, bad weather prevented the aircraft aboard the escort carriers from patrolling as actively as desired
The diesel-powered Type IX submarines could travel underwater a maximum of only sixteen hours at roughly 4.5 miles per hour before their batteries ran dry. Therefore, the German submarines typically surfaced at night to move at much higher speeds and recharge their batteries—but still did so at a risk.
On April 15, the submarine U-1235 was detected on radar shortly after midnight, about midway between the coasts of France and Newfoundland. Though it quickly submerged, the U-Boat was sunk under a sustained Hedgehog attack by the USS Stanton and USS Frost.
Just a few hours later, U-880 too was intercepted on the surface by the Frost and raked by forty-millimeter antiaircraft guns at short range. Though the U-Boat managed to submerge, it succumbed to a sustained depth charge attack shortly afterwards. Both submarines exploded catastrophically without leaving behind any survivors, reinforcing suspicions that they were carrying missiles.
Another U-Boat was spotted by a B-24 patrol bomber on April 19, but managed to escape, and a fourth submarine managed to dodge pursuing destroyers. However, two days later around midnight, U-518 was detected by sonar and sunk after it was struck by Hedgehogs launched from the USS Neal Scott and Carter.
These losses caused the German Navy to disperse the survivors of Seewolf on vectors towards New York and Hamilton, and divert three additional U-Boats to reinforce their attack. By then, the slightly larger Second Barrier Force had deployed in a line abreast. One of the force’s TBF Avenger torpedo bomber spotted U-881 around midnight on April 23, but failed to sink the vessel with its depth charges.
The following morning U-546, commanded by Lt. Capt. Paul Just, began lining up an attack run on the escort carrier USS Core when the destroyer-escort USSFrederick C. Davis detected it and attempted to intervene. U-546’s acoustic homing torpedo struck the American vessel, breaking it in half in five minutes, losing 115 of its crew of 209. The nearby DEs swarmed around the submerged U-546 and pelted it with Hedgehogs for ten hours, until it finally surfaced. The badly damaged submarine was promptly blown to pieces by vengeful Allied shells.
Nonetheless, thirty-three survivors were rescued, including Captain Just, who was photographed coming on board the escort carrier USS Bogue. American interrogators were convinced that additional U-Boats were still creeping towards the East Coast to unleash a deadly missile barrage—but Just and his officers did not provide any information confirming that.
What followed was one of the few occasions that the U.S. military tortured prisoners during World War II. Captain Just and eight specialists from U-546 were placed in solitary confinement, beaten, deprived of sleep and forced to perform grueling exercise routines. These interrogations continued on U.S. soil until May 12, four days after the German surrender.
Operation Teardrop was not finished quite yet, however. The Second Barrier Force dispersed to cover a wider area and combed the waters westward towards American shores, reinforced by an additional escort carrier group. Shortly before dawn on May 5, sonar onboard the destroyer-escort USS Farquhar detected U-881 underwater. Farquhar promptly dispatched the submarine with a depth-charge attack—claiming the last German submarine sunk by the U.S. Navy during World War II.
On May 8, Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally. Amongst the many U-Boats notified to stand down was U-873, commanded by Friedrich Steinhoff, the man associated with the submarine rocket-launching tests. After surrendering to the USS Vance, Steinhoff and his crew were imprisoned in the Charles Street Prison in Boston. Steinhoff, described as “arrogant” and “menacing” by his Office of Naval Intelligence interrogators, was beaten and slapped until bloody. Two days later, he committed suicide using the cracked lenses of his sunglasses.
As it turned out, there were no U-Boats with missiles. The Kriegsmarine had dispatched Seewolf towards American shores to lower the pressure on its submarine operations in European waters.
The three-hundred-millimeter rockets Steinhoff had tested in 1942 were basically short-range unguided artillery. Though they could be fired from underwater, they were impossible to aim effectively and degraded the submarine’s seaworthiness, so the Kriegsmarine abandoned their development.
Later in November 1944, the Kriegsmarine began designing a launch container for V-2 ballistic missiles that would have been towed by a U-Boat off the East Coast. Construction of the first device theoretically concluded in Stettin around the same time as Operation Teardrop went into action, but like many desperate projects initiated in the final days of the Third Reich, nothing ever came of it. Nazi Germany never had any guided missile-launching submarines.
US ally withdraws warship from a carrier group sent to challenge Iran
Posted On April 29, 2020 15:50:36
A European ally has decided to pull a warship away from a US carrier strike group sent to deter a possible Iranian attack on American interests, according to multiple reports.
The Spanish frigate Méndez Núñez and its 215 sailors are peeling off from the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, a powerful naval force consisting of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, a Ticonderoga-class cruiser, and four Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, as well as support ships.
The Spanish defense ministry announced May 14, 2019, that the country had decided to withdraw its warship because the new mission is inconsistent with the initial agreement. “The U.S. government has taken a decision outside of the framework of what had been agreed with the Spanish Navy,” Acting Defense Minister Margarita Robles said, Reuters reported.
The US Navy vessels were recently rerouted to the Persian Gulf in response to “clear indications that Iranian and Iranian proxy forces were making preparations to possibly attack US forces in the region,” US Central Command explained.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Zachary S. Welch)
The US military has also deployed a bomber task force consisting of four B-52H Stratofortress bombers, a San-Antonio class amphibious transport dock, and a Patriot air-and-missile defense battery to the CENTCOM area of responsibility to demonstrate to Iran that the US is prepared to respond to any attack with “unrelenting force,” as the White House said.
The Pentagon and the White House are reportedly exploring worst case scenarios, which could involve sending as many as 120,000 troops to the region, a force nearly as large as US troops who invaded Iraq in 2003.
Some observers have suggested that this is escalating situation could cause the US and Iran to inadvertently stumble into a conflict, whether they wanted one or not.
The Álvaro de Bazán-class Spanish navy frigate ESPS Méndez Núñez (F 104) pulls into Naval Station Norfolk.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Gwendelyn L. Ohrazda)
Spanish media reported that “Spain wants to avoid being involuntarily dragged into any kind of conflict with Iran,” but while the defense ministry has distanced itself from US actions, the ministry did not specifically identify this as a justification for its decision.
The decision was “not an expression of distaste,” the defense minister clarified, adding that the ship will rejoin the US fleet once regularly-scheduled operations resume, Fox News reported. Spain insists that it remains a “serious and trustworthy partner.”
The incorporation of the Méndez Núñez into the carrier strike group was planned over a year ago, and joint operations were expected to last six months. The initial mission was meant to mark a historic seafaring anniversary, the 500th anniversary of the first circumnavigation of the world, Reuters reported.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
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Nazi Germany's Most High-Tech Submarine Found 73 Years After It Was Blown Up
Two days before the Allied forces declared victory over Nazi Germany at the end of World War II, a high-tech German submarine set out from Denmark on a mysterious mission.
The sub was a brand-new Type XXI U-boat, hailed as the most advanced Nazi submarine of its time. It was deadly quiet, superfast and allegedly capable of traveling from Europe to South America without having to surface. Still, for all its cutting-edge technology, the sub could not save itself from being blasted to the seafloor by a British aerial assault on May 6, 1945. [Images: Missing Nazi Diary Surfaces]
The boat, named U-3523, lay undetected at the bottom of the North Sea for 73 years. This week, researchers at the Sea War Museum Jutland in Denmark finally found the U-boat's wreckage, half-buried and jabbing diagonally from the seabed like a cannon from a turret.
Researchers at the museum are in the midst of doing an extensive scan of the seabed around the North Sea and the Skagerrak Strait (which flows between Denmark and Norway) and have documented more than 450 wrecks so far, according to a statement from the museum. Twelve of these wrecks so far have been submarines (nine of which were German-made, and three of which were British), but the newfound U-3523 represents an especially rare discovery, museum officials said.
"This was the most modern submarine the Germans built during the [Second World War]," Gert Normann Andersen, director of the Sea War Museum Jutland, told the Danish newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad in an interview (translated from Danish). "Only two of the 118 that were ordered actually entered service."
Researchers with the museum found the half-buried wreckage of U-3523 about 10 nautical miles north of Skagen, the northernmost city in Denmark. The bow of the 250-foot-long (76 meters) submarine stabbed into the seafloor some 400 feet (120 m) below the water's surface, slanting upward with the boat's stern floating 65 feet (20 m) above the bottom of the sea.
According to the museum, the boat embarked from Denmark with 58 crewmembers, all of whom perished in the bombing. Their mission remains unknown, but museum researchers suspect that the boat was likely fleeing for safety days after German forces surrendered in Denmark, the Netherlands and northern Germany. Among the vessel's new technology was a battery system that could allow it to remain submerged for several days at a time, making it a perfect getaway vessel, Andersen said.
Following the end of World War II, rumors abounded that high-ranking Nazi officers (including Hitler himself) had escaped to South America on similar long-range submarines. Many of the original 118 Type XXI submarines were captured and dismantled after the end of the war, but countless others still remain missing.
The Peak of German Unrestricted Submarine Warfare
The German blockade of the British Isles, the so-called Sperrgebiet, or “prohibited area,” might be described as a rectangle with cut corners. It ran from 20 miles from the Dutch coast to the Terschelling light vessel, then north to Utsire off the Norwegian coast, and then northwest to 62° N at its most northerly point, dipping to 3 miles south of the Danish-owned Faeroe Islands. It reached its most westerly point at 20° W before angling back to the Continent 20 miles off Cape Finisterre and then extending 20 miles off the neutral Spanish coast to the French frontier. There was also a prohibited zone in the Arctic Ocean, notably the approaches to Archangel and the Kola Peninsula. The Germans declared the waters in the Sperrgebiet closed to traffic, and that all neutral ships entering them would do so at their own risk. The Germans offered to permit one American steamer per week to proceed to Falmouth, provided its hull was marked with prominent red and white vertical stripes and it flew red-and-white-checked flags at each masthead. A daily Dutch paddle steamer with the same markings could also sail between Flushing and Harwich.
The entire Mediterranean was also a Sperrgebiet, except for the area west of a line running southeast from near the mouth of the Rhône to a point approximately 60 miles off the French North African coast. There was also a 20-mile-wide corridor running through the Mediterranean to Cape Matapan and Greek territorial waters. Unarmed neutral vessels were allowed in these waters, although subject to prize rules. The exceptions catered to the maritime needs of neutral Spain and then-neutral Greece. The Germans eliminated the corridor in November 1917.
The Germans soon paid the diplomatic price for their 1 February resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare. President Wilson of the United States felt mere diplomatic protests would no longer suffice, and on 3 February the United States severed relations with Germany. The president was still not convinced war was a foregone conclusion, but German action served to make it inevitable. At the end of February, the president learned of the Zimmermann telegram. This proposal by the German foreign secretary for a German-Mexican and possibly German-Japanese alliance in the event of war with the United States seemed to furnish further proof of Germany’s aggressive intentions. Its interception and disclosure were handled in a masterful fashion by British Intelligence. The inevitable sinkings by submarines also occurred. The Cunard liner Laconia (18,099 tons) was torpedoed and sunk by U.50 160 miles northwest of Fastnet on 25 February. The loss of life was relatively small among the 292 aboard, but there were three to four Americans among the twelve dead. There were also at least five American steamers sunk, including the Algonquin torpedoed without warning on 12 March. The German provocations were sufficient to bring the United States into the war. On 2 April Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war. On 6 April the United States declared war on Germany—but not Austria-Hungary—and the same day seized German ships interned in American ports. The primary question now was whether the German naval and military leaders were correct in their assumption that it would not really matter and that the war would be over before American power could have any significant effect on events.
The priority given by the Germans to submarine construction in 1917 reflects the results of the unrestricted submarine campaign. At first it seemed all the Germans might have hoped for, even if by late spring it was evident the British might not succumb as fast as the Admiralstab’s U-boat enthusiasts had predicted. The losses inflicted by submarines rose from 328,391 tons in January to 520,412 tons in February, 564,497 tons in March, and a staggering 860,334 tons in April. April 1917 represented the peak of German success in the submarine campaign, for Allied losses fell to 616,316 tons in May. They went up somewhat to 696,725 tons in June, but would never again reach the April total. The “exchange rate” went from 53 in February to 74 in March to an astonishing 167 in April. In February, March, and April the Germans lost only nine submarines two of them succumbed to their own mines rather than British countermeasures. Three months of unrestricted submarine warfare had reduced the world’s tonnage by more than two million tons, nearly 1.25 million tons British. The annual wastage of oceangoing tonnage was nearly 23 percent per year, rising to more than 50 percent per year in the last fortnight of April. The chance of a vessel safely completing a round voyage from the British Isles to a port beyond Gibraltar was now only one in four. The tonnage added through new construction or by transfer from foreign flags was simply insignificant in the face of these losses, and if they had continued at that rate, the British would have been compelled to make peace by November. As Henry Newbolt admitted in the official history, “Everything, indeed, combined to show that the Allies were really in sight of disaster.”
The Germans also succeeded at first in their goal of terrorizing neutral shipping. British, Allied, and neutral ports were filled with neutral ships whose owners ordered them not to sail, and for a few weeks there was a general paralysis of neutral shipping. The British countered the crisis with ruthless measures of their own. They detained all neutral vessels in British ports and permitted them to sail for another Allied port only if they had received assurances they would not be laid up or diverted to a neutral port. Vessels trading with a neutral port were released only if they arranged to return with an approved cargo to a British or Allied port. Finally, in dealing with Dutch or Scandinavian ships, the British followed the so-called ship-for-ship policy in which vessels were allowed to sail only on the arrival in a British port of a similar vessel of the same flag.
The intense British pressure on neutral ships to continue trading with British or Allied ports was of little use if the ships were sunk. The German onslaught was now overwhelming the British system for the defense of trade, which was exposed as totally inadequate. Troopships had been specially escorted or convoyed since the beginning of the war. Commencing in early March 1917, ships carrying cargo termed “of national importance” were given special routes through one of three triangles that had their apexes at Falmouth, Queenstown, and Buncrana. The ships were ordered to enter the base line of the triangle at a designated degree of longitude and relied for protection within the triangle on patrolling destroyers, sloops, and trawlers. The method was far from perfect there were only about 20 ships to patrol the approximately 10,000 square miles of each triangle. The loss rate was high from March to June 1917,63, or 7 percent, of the 890 ships routed in this manner were sunk, and in June the loss rate was a disturbing 11 percent. For the great majority of their ordinary shipping the British relied on a system of dispersion and patrolled lanes along coastal routes, which they considered “had sufficed” in 1915 and 1916. Steamers left ports at dusk and made port at dawn, followed dispersed routes far from the main trade routes, and crossed dangerous points in the hours of darkness. Every steamer received its orders from a specially appointed naval officer, and when the number of patrol craft in service had increased to a sufficient point, were directed to follow certain well-defined and closely patrolled routes that, whenever possible, were close to the shore. The Admiralty would act on intelligence of U-boat activity, anticipate the U-boat’s future movements, and divert trade to alternate routes. When all routes appeared to be threatened, the Admiralty suspended all traffic until the submarine had been destroyed or changed its area of operations.
There were flaws in the system for example, owing to the requirements of secrecy, local commands did not always have the latest intelligence available from intercepts. Ships could be diverted only as they left port, and there was no method of controlling them while they were at sea. Inbound ships on the approach routes would be acting on even older intelligence. Furthermore, while the suspension of traffic might have saved ships from being sunk, it also had the effect of enforcing the German blockade. The very detailed technical history produced by the Admiralty after the war made a significant point: “It is important to realize that the Routing System was not an alternative to direct protection, whether by patrols or convoy, but an auxiliary to such methods when such methods were not available, owing to lack of ships, the Routing System could only hope to act as a palliative, and could never be a substitute for proper defensive methods.” Finally, there was another fatal flaw in any system of dispersion. However effective dispersion might have been, there were invariably certain focal points where approach and departure routes converged, and here submarines could count on finding attractive targets.
One of Jellicoe’s first actions after he became First Sea Lord at the beginning of December 1916 was to form the Anti-Submarine Division at the Admiralty. While still commander in chief of the Grand Fleet he had advocated that “a Flag Officer of authority” should preside at the Admiralty over a committee or department charged with the exclusive purpose of developing antisubmarine measures and empowered “to follow through suggestions with all speed and press their execution.” Rear Admiral Sir Alexander Duff was its first head, succeeded when he became assistant chief of the naval staff in May 1917 by Captain William W. Fisher.
The question of what should be done to counter the submarines became the major issue of the naval war by the spring of 1917. For a long time the majority of naval officers, and certainly the prevailing opinion at the Admiralty, was in favor of the system of hunting patrols as opposed to escort or convoy work. The latter was considered “defensive,” as opposed to “offensive” hunting patrols in areas where submarines were known to be operating. Hunting patrols were generally considered the proper role for men-of-war and naval officers. The traffic lanes close inshore were patrolled by the auxiliary patrol, converted vessels that entered service in large numbers during the war. Farther out, the approach routes were patrolled by sloops or Q-ships. The general idea was that no merchant vessel attacked by gunfire ought to have far to steam before a patrol vessel arrived to assist. The fitting of merchantmen with defensive armament had also offered hope earlier in the war when statistics indicated they had less chance of being sunk and a greater chance of escape if attacked. The German switch to ruthless underwater attack without warning canceled that advantage. The initial effectiveness of Q-ships also declined once the surprise factor had been lost and the Germans routinely attacked without warning. There is some evidence the Germans made a deliberate effort to destroy Q-ships in 1917, sinking those that were recognized before they had the slightest chance of defending themselves. U-boat commanders became much more proficient at recognizing through periscopes characteristics such as seams for collapsible plates, which betrayed the nature of the ship. No fewer than sixteen Q-ships were lost to submarine attack in 1917.
The idea of hunting patrols with destroyers or sloops patrolling areas where submarines were known to be operating was also attractive, but the results were disappointing. Naval officers who rode to the hounds ashore sometimes even used the metaphors of fox hunting to describe their goals. But they lacked the “hounds” or tools to pick up the “scent.” Science and technology raised some hopes for defeating the submarine when hydrophones of various sorts were introduced. The hydrophones were first developed by Commander C. P. Ryan, who founded the Admiralty Experimental Station at Hawkcraig, which remained the most important hydrophone research center throughout the war. It was not the only one there were ultimately no fewer than twenty-nine antisubmarine research centers of various sorts in the British Isles and another two run by the British in the Mediterranean. The British established hydrophone stations on shore and eventually fitted with various types of listening devices all sorts of craft, ranging from motor launches to P-boats, trawlers, and destroyers. Special hydrophone hunting units were formed to try to trap a submarine by triangulation. The listening devices generally failed to fulfill the great hopes placed in them. Without entering into the technical details, they were on the whole too primitive to be a serious menace to the submarine. The hydrophone hunting groups might also necessitate all vessels in the area stopping their engines so as to avoid masking the sound of the submarine. Stopping a ship in waters where submarines were known to be operating was hardly an attractive activity for most skippers. After they entered the war, the Americans also lavished a great deal of effort on hydrophones. The results were equally disappointing. Success in the effort to render the oceans transparent was as elusive then as it remains today. The real counter to the submarine offensive was the system of convoys to which the British belatedly turned. Before discussing this, however, it would be well to examine methods on which the British lavished considerable effort with only limited success.
Atomic submarine USS Thresher sinks in the Atlantic, killing all on board
On April 10, 1963, the USS Thresher, an atomic submarine, sinks in the Atlantic Ocean, killing the entire crew. One hundred and twenty-nine sailors and civilians were lost when the sub unexpectedly plunged to the sea floor roughly 300 miles off the coast of New England.
The Thresher was launched on July 9, 1960, from Portsmouth Naval Yard in New Hampshire. Built with new technology, it was the first submarine assembled as part of a new class that could run more quietly and dive deeper than any that had come before.
On April 10, 1963, at just before 8 a.m., the Thresher was conducting drills off the coast of Cape Cod. At 9:13 a.m., the USS Skylark, another ship participating in the drills, received a communication from the Thresher that the sub was experiencing minor problems.
Other attempted communications failed and, only five minutes later, sonar images showed the Thresher breaking apart as it fell to the bottom of the sea. Sixteen officers, 96 sailors and 17 civilians were on board. All were killed.
On April 12, President John F. Kennedy ordered that flags across the country be flown at half-staff to commemorate the lives lost in this disaster. A subsequent investigation revealed that a leak in a silver-brazed joint in the engine room had caused a short circuit in critical electrical systems. The problems quickly spread, making the equipment needed to bring the Thresher to the surface inoperable.
The disaster forced improvements in the design and quality control of submarines. Twenty-five years later, in 1988, Vice Admiral Bruce DeMars, the Navy’s chief submarine officer, said “The loss of Thresher initiated fundamental changes in the way we do business𠅌hanges in design, construction, inspections, safety checks, tests, and more. We have not forgotten the lessons learned. It’s a much safer submarine force today.”
Operational history [ edit | edit source ]
1st patrol [ edit | edit source ]
U-123 ' s first patrol began with her departure from Kiel on 21 September 1940. Her route took her across the North Sea, through the 'gap' between the Faroe and Shetland Islands and into the Atlantic Ocean west of Ireland. She sank six ships in October, including the Shekatika which was hit with no less than five torpedoes before she went to the bottom east southeast of an appropriately named islet called Rockall. Nevertheless, her partial load of pit-props floated free before she went down.
The boat docked at Lorient in occupied France on 23 October.
2nd patrol [ edit | edit source ]
U-123 returned to the same general area for her second patrol as for her first. She was also almost as successful, sending another five merchantmen to watery graves. The voyage was marred on 17 November 1940 when Mechanikergefreiter Fritz Pfeifer was lost overboard. A week later (on the 23rd), after a successful attack, the boat was seriously damaged in collision with an unknown object ("probably a convoy vessel").
She returned to Lorient on 28 November.
3rd patrol [ edit | edit source ]
Her score rose steadily, another four ships met their end one, the Grootekerk, was sunk after a nine hour chase about 330 mi (530 km) west of Rockall. There were no survivors.
4th patrol [ edit | edit source ]
Venturing further west of Ireland on her fourth sortie, the boat 'only' sank one ship, the Venezuela on 17 April 1941. This was another vessel which required five torpedoes to ensure her destruction. There were also no survivors.
Having set-out from Lorient on 10 April, she returned to the same port on 11 May.
5th patrol [ edit | edit source ]
Patrol number five was conducted in the Atlantic, but in the vicinity of the Azores and the Canary Islands. Her first victim this time out was the Ganda, a 4,300 ton neutral registered in Portugal. She went down on on 20 June 1941. Following her sinking with torpedoes and gunfire, it was realised what her status was. On her return to Lorient, U-123 ' s war diary (KTB) was altered on the order of U-boat headquarters (BdU): Α]
The U-boat sank four other ships between 27 June and 4 July, but was depth charged for 11 hours on 27 June and only escaped by diving to 654 ft (199 m). She was also unsuccessfully attacked by convoy escorts west of Portugal on 12 August, although she sustained moderate damage.
6th patrol [ edit | edit source ]
Despite criss-crossing the Atlantic, U-123 found the pickings rather thin, she did manage to damage the armed merchant cruiser (AMC) HMS Aurania on 21 October 1941 and take one crewman prisoner. The ship had been travelling behind Convoy SL-89 with five other AMCs. The vessel was hit by two torpedoes but empty drums in the holds kept her afloat. A 25 degree list was reduced to 15 degrees men had abandoned ship prematurely - hence the POW. The ship continued her voyage, albeit at reduced speed.
7th patrol [ edit | edit source ]
U-123 took part in the opening of Operation Drumbeat, also called the "Second Happy Time" or Paukenschlag in January 1942. She began by sinking the Cyclops about 125 mi (201 km) southeast of Cape Sable, Nova Scotia on the 12th. Moving down the coast, the Norness, the Coimbra, the Norvana, the City of Atlanta and the Ciltvaira all met their end due to the U-boats' presence. She was also credited with sinking the San Jose on 17 January, (this ship was actually lost in a collision). Β] The Malay was only damaged because Hardegen had under-estimated her size and chose to use the deck gun rather than a torpedo. In a reference to American unpreparedness, he commented after sinking the Norvana: These are some pretty buoys we are leaving for the Yankees in the harbor approaches as replacement for the lightships.
U-123 was attacked by an aircraft off New York, but withdrew without any damage being sustained. She also had a lucky escape on 19 January when the Kormoros II tried to ram the boat off Oregon Inlet. At one point the ship was only 75 m (82 yd) away from the German submarine which had an inoperable diesel engine. The U-boat escaped when the recalcitrant power plant was restarted at the last minute and flares were fired at the larger vessel's bridge.
The Culebra and the Pan Norway were also sunk off Bermuda. By now out of torpedoes and in the case of the Pan Norway, the boat used the last of her deck gun ammunition and 37mm AA weapon to destroy the Norwegian vessel. The U-boat then encountered a Greek ship under a Swiss charter, which was directed to the survivors.
8th patrol [ edit | edit source ]
The boat's second Paulkenschlag mission was also successful - sinking the Muskogee and the Empire Steel on 22 and 23 March 1942 near Bermuda before moving closer to the US east coast.
She then attacked the USS Atik, a Q ship. This disguised merchantman was hit on the port side, the crew started to abandon ship on the starboard side. The U-boat moved closer, at which point Atik dropped her concealment and opened fire with all weapons. U-123 ran off, (one man died in the action), but she dived, returned and sank the American vessel with a torpedo. There were no survivors.
The boat proceeded to sink or damage another eight ships many of them resting on the sea bed in the shallow water with parts of their hulls above the surface. One such was the Oklahoma which, although sent below in 40 ft (12 m) of water on 8 April, was re-floated, repaired and returned to service in December 1942. Another vessel, the Gulfamerica was fatally struck about five miles from Jacksonville, Florida on 11 April. The ship had been on her maiden voyage from Philadelphia to Port Arthur, Texas, with 90,000 barrels of fuel oil. Nineteen crewmen were killed in the attack. Γ] Δ] Ε] Ζ] She did not sink until 16 April.
Another victim was the Alcoa Guide, engaged at the relatively close range of 400 m (440 yd) by the deck gun, (U-123 had run out of torpedoes), on 17 April.
The boat then returned to Lorient on 2 May and proceeded to steam to Bergen in Norway before carrying out a series of short journeys to Kristiansand, Aarhus, Kiel and Stettin.
9th patrol [ edit | edit source ]
For her ninth patrol, U-123 left Kiel on 5 December 1942 and returned to the Atlantic. She sank the Baron Cochrane on the 29th after the ship had already been damaged by U-406 and missed by U-591. U-123 also damaged the Empire Shackleton, a Catapult Armed Merchantman north of the Azores. (The wreck was sunk by U-435 on the same day).
The boat returned to Lorient on 6 February 1943.
10th patrol [ edit | edit source ]
U-123 sailed to the West African coast. She sank the Spanish-registered motor ship Castillo Montealegre on 8 April 1943 west of Conakry, French Guinea. As per maritime rules, the neutral ship had the Spanish flag painted in both sides. Commander Horst von Schroeter ordered the shooting of 3 torpedoes and she sunk in less than a minute. The submarine surfaced, the commander confirmed that it just sunk a neutral ship, said "What ship?" and left without giving any assistance to the 40 survivors (five went down with the ship).
A few days later the Hill-class trawler HMS Inkpen rescued 29 survivors from a boat. 11 on a separated raft died. The affair was hushed-up by the government of Franco indeed, the survivors were ordered to shut-up. The career of Commander Horst von Schroeter was unaffected by this affair and after the war he even became a NATO commander . Η]
U-123 was also successful against a British submarine, HMS P-615 100 mi (160 km) southwest of Freetown in Sierra Leone on 18 April. She sank the Empire Bruce on the same day, also southwest of Sierra Leone. She sank three more ships off Monrovia on 29 April, 5 May and 9 May.
11th patrol [ edit | edit source ]
U-123 was depth charged off Cape Finisterre (northwest Spain), by Allied escort vessels on 25 August 1943 - the date is approximate. She was also attacked by a British De Havilland ('Tse Tse') Mosquito of No. 618 Squadron RAF on 7 November 1943. Its 57mm cannon killed one man and created a hole 18 x 6·5 cm, rendering the boat unable to dive.
12th patrol [ edit | edit source ]
U-123 ' s last patrol was her longest - 107 days, but after the incidents of the previous eleven, it was a bit of an anti-climax. She returned to Lorient unable to repeat her success, on 24 April 1944.
The boat was taken out of service at Lorient on 17 June 1944, she was scuttled there on 19 August. She was raised by the French in 1945 after Germany's surrender, and became the French submarine Blaison (Q165). ⎖] She was decommissioned on 18 August 1959.
U-37, a U-boat very similar to U-123 at Lorient in 1940. Note the twin rudders