World War Two German U-Boats Almost the Same as Great War U-Boats

In his magisterial work, Neither Sharks Nor Wolves: the Men of Nazi Germany’s U-boat Arm, 1939-1945, naval historian Tim Mulligan writes about the very small differences between German U-Boats in World War One and World War Two. I came across this last night when I was re-reading Mr. Mulligan’s book and it quite surprised me. During the first war, the Germans designed a type of submarine they designated the: Ms-Boote class. Three of these submarine were launched in the summer of 1916. This design became the prototype for the Type VIIC which formed the backbone of the German U-Bootwaffe in World War Two. According Mr. Mulligan, the only difference between the two was the Type VIIC had more powerful diesel engines. He gives the following statistics and I must say the similarity between the two types is shocking. It’s as if nothing changed in the ensuing 24 years between the end of WW One and the beginning of WW Two.

Ms-Boats (WW 1) Type VIIC (WW 2)
Surface Displacement (tons) 768 769
Length (meters) 67 67.1
Beam (meters) 6.3 6.2
Max Surface Speed (knots) 16.5 17.7
Max Submerged Speed (knots) 8.4 7.6
Range (nautical miles/knots) 11,400/8 8500/10
Torpedoes Tubes (bow/stern) 2/2 4/1
Fuel Capacity (tons) 128 113.5
Diving Time (seconds) 30 30

At the end of World War One, the German Navy was substantially ahead of the Allies in submarine technology. Under the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was forced to divest herself of her U-Boat fleet. According to Mr. Mulligan, the US Navy and the Royal Navy took their share of the German U-Boat fleet and studied the boats with great care noting all areas where the German boats were superior to Allied submarines. Those technologies in which the Germans were superior were incorporated into new Allied submarine designs.

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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