Prien U-47 Sunk by Own Torpedo

Kapitänleutnant Prien 6534-40
Kapitänleutnant Gunther Prien photo taken September 1939 German National Archive

 

Years ago a special panel of Bundesmarine officers headed by Flotillenadmiral Otto Kretschmer evaluated all data from German sources and data from declassified Royal Navy.

The consensus was good odds that U-47 sank herself with a circular running torpedo. According to logbooks, position reports and individual memories of veterans who participated in that convoy action, U-47 was on the opposite side of the battlefield from HMS Wolverine, making it impossible for HMS Wolverine to have sunk U-47.

This panel concluded that U-47 was sunk by a circular run of her own torpedo and not by HMS Wolverine doing at this time? Prien sank dozens of Allied ships and was great for the Allies that he was killed early in the war.

U47 returns to post after a successful patrol. (German National Archives)

It Stinks In Here No Bathing Facilities on U-Boats

“It stinks in here!”

In every memoir I have read about the UBootwaffe every author mentions how disgusting the boat smelled after a week at sea and that they never got used to it.

dasbo01h_0

This still photo from the German film “Das Boot” gives you an idea of how cramped was the interior of a U-boat. This particular shot is of the engine room with the two 12 cylinder MAN diesels usually found in German U-Boats of the era. “Das Boot” translates as “The Boat.” In German, “boot” is pronounced “boat.”

Freshwater was rationed and the men only received one cup a day for personal use such as brushing teeth. Most men drank the water because they were often thirsty.

Because there was a limit to the amount of fresh water a UBoat could carry, the men were unable to bathe unless they used sea water. Boats were supplied with special soap to use with salt water but they didn’t like it and rarely used it.

Many U-Boat crewmen developed skin rashes, boils, and other types of skin diseases. The UBootwaffe had a special medical department which did nothing but study the skin diseases of Uboot crewmen. (Tuberculosis was also a major problem due to the constant damp.)

Commander of the boat sweats as do all the men around him as he maneuvers the boat to avoid British depth charges. The “old man” is actually Heinrich Lehman-Willenbrock, commander of U-96. The author of Das Boot made one war patrol on the U-96 and years later fictionalized his experience in his novel.

Also contributing to skin diseases among the men was the sickening miasma of air inside the uboat which clung to their skin and often infected their lungs. When boats returned from patrol and the flotilla engineers went aboard to make an inspection, they usually vomited because of the horrible smell.

U-boats were not well ventilated so when they were on the surface, the only way to get fresh air into the boat was to keep the bridge hatches open, close the outboard air intakes to the diesels, open the e-motor interior hatch and interior engine room hatch. This allowed the diesel engines to draw air from the outside through the open hatchways.

This arrangement didn’t help as much as one might think since there was no way to vent the bad air except by opening the engine room deck hatch or the forward hatch to the deck in the crew compartment. This was never, ever done at sea except in an emergency.

So the fresh air coming in helped but it did not expel the bad air. The author of every U-Boat memoir I have ever read remarks on the horrible fugue of noxious air and the disgusting smell which no one ever completely adjusted to.

Sweating men without fresh water to bathe will soon have the boat smelling like a locker room uncleaned for years.

This smell was a combination of the body odor of 45 or more unwashed men, their exhalations, rotting food, diesel oil, cooking odors, and worst of all, the smell of urine and excrement in the bilges.

While the most common types of uboat, the type VII, and type IX had two toilets or water closets, one was always used for storage and wasn’t available. So one toilet had to suffice for more than 45 men. The controls were so difficult to operate that each boat had one man specially trained in how to work the controls and he was known as “the toilet fuhrer”).

Below 25 meters the toilet did not work because the water pressure was such that one could not open the outboard toilet valve to discharge the contents of the toilet.

The outboard toilet valve was a weak spot which could compromise comprise the water-tight integrity of the boat when it was used. So the men used cans or buckets to urinate or defecate. As you might imagine, in the heat of action or action drills, these containers were often kicked over or in an emergency dive tipped over, spilling their contents which seeped into the bilge.

Being in a Uboat was like serving time in a public latrine that was never sanitized in spite of constant efforts by the crew to keep the interior of the boat clean.

****

As an aside, the founder of the U-Boot Archiv in Cuxhaven, the late Horst Bredow, an officer in the UBootwaffe, had made one war patrol in the last months of World War Two. He had to be hospitalized upon returning to port because he had developed a skin rash covering his entire body. Another officer replaced him on his Uboat. The boat was sunk with all hands on her next war patrol. (The Archiv has changed its name from “U-Boot Archiv” to Deutsches U-Boot Museum.)

The link to their site is here:  www.dubm.de

copyright(c) 2018 by Charles McCain

I am the author of the World War Two naval epic, An Honorable German.

Kindly consider purchasing a copy of my novel on Kindle because the book is out of print and I only receive royalties on Kindle purchases.

https://tinyurl.com/AnHonGermanKindleLink

 

SAYS NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLING AUTHOR NELSON DeMILLE

“A truly epic and stirring tale of war, love, and the sea. An Honorable German is a remarkable debut novel by a writer who…seems he was an eyewitness to the history he portrays in such vivid detail. An original and surprising look at World War II from the other side.”

To purchase a signed and personally inscribed copy of a first edition hardback go here:

https://tinyurl.com/NewcopyfromMcCainAmazon

then page down to seller Charles McCain then the order comes to me.

 

for Nook click here:

http://charlesmccain.com/

 

 

My entire website, this entire blog, and this blog post are Copyright (c) 2018 by Charles McCain. If you repost one of my blog posts, please be so kind as to have the courtesy to tell me.

Terror of UBoats Royal Navy Biplane Swordfish

FAMOUS BIPLANE SWORDFISH ENTERED OPERATIONAL SERVICE IN 1936 IT ISN’T FROM WORLD WAR ONE
A FAIREY SWORDFISH IN FLIGHT (TR 1138) Close-up of a Fairey Swordfish Mark II, HS 545 ‘B’, in flight as seen through the struts of another aircraft, probably while serving with No 824 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, 1943-1944. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205188676

 

HMS_Activity

Escort carrier HMS Activity in Firth of Forth 1942

Like a number of escort carriers, HMS Activity was a merchant ship converted to an aircraft carrier. After the war, the landing deck was removed and the ship returned to merchant service. Often these small carriers only carried a handful of Swordfish but aircraft patrolling over convoys proved critical in the Battle of the North Atlantic and the overall war against U-Boats.

While we think of U-boats being sunk by convoy escort ships, almost half of U-Boats sunk in the European Theatre were sunk by U-boats. (Doenitz deployed a handful of U-Boats in and around Singapore).

 

THE BATTLE OF ATLANTIC, 1939-1945 (A 19718) A batman uses signal bats to guide the landing of a rocket-firing Fairey Swordfish of No. 816 Squadron Fleet Air Arm on board HMS TRACKER in the North Atlantic, September-October 1943. Note the rocket projectiles under the wings. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205186701

 

Swordfish were usually embarked aboard escort carriers on North Atlantic convoy duty. They made excellent U-Boat hunters once the proper type of radar was installed.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 24986) Three rocket projectile Fairey Swordfish during a training flight from St Merryn Royal Naval Air Station This operational squadron was ommanded by Lieutenant Commander P Snow RN. Note the invasion stripes carried for the Normandy landings on the wings and fuselage of the aircraft. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205016147

 

While originally built as a prototype for the Greek Navy, they turned it down in the mid-30s and Fairey Brothers Aircraft offered it the Royal Navy primarily for use on aircraft carriers. After design changes the plane went into production as the famous Royal Navy Swordfish which served multiple roles: patrol and reconnaissance, torpedo bomber, tactical bomber to support infantry and U-boat hunter/killer. The plane was oddly effective in all of these roles and was used operationally for the entire war.

RAFCC1939-1945 IWMCL2277

Armourers unload 250-lb GP bombs in front of a line of Fairey Swordfish Mark IIIs of No. 119 Squadron RAF, undergoing maintenance at B83/Knokke le Zoute, Belgium. The Squadron flew anti-shipping patrols, principally against German midget submarines, in the North Sea, and off the Dutch coast.

(Photo CL 2277 IWM. Taken by Flt. Lt. B.J. Daventry, Royal Air Force Official Photographer. Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum).

 

IWM 4090 Swordfish_on_HMS_Victorious_before_strike_on_Bismarck

Swordfish torpedo bombers on the after deck of HMS Victorious before the attack on the Bismarck. Date 24 May 1941. This is photograph A 4090 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums now in the public domain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nazi Saboteurs Landed In America by German U-boats

German uboats touched american soil three times during world war two

nytsaboteurs

In reality, the leader of the group, George Dasch, turned all of them into the FBI. laimed all the credit but only when Dasch called the FBI did they have any idea German saboteurs were in the country.

In spite of many tall tales, German U-boats only touched American soil three times and they didn’t stay very long. Approaching an enemy coast to land agents was extremely dangerous since the boat had to go into shallow water and close an enemy coast with no intelligence.

Since the only real protection a U-Boat had was going deep underwater, being in shallow water made this impossible. Officers and crewmen intensely disliked missions such as this because it put them in such danger.

Over the years, dozens of people have told me how they had heard about German U-Boat coming ashore in the US to shop, go to the movies, have a beer, you name it. Absolutely none of these stories are true. A work colleague many years ago told me UBoat men used to come ashore for an evening of dinner, drinks, and dancing in Palm Beach. His grandfather met many of them. This is impossible but stories like this abound.

I have asked the two top U-Boat historians in the world Jak P Mallman-Showell and Dr. Timothy Mulligan if any of these stories are true and they both said, “no.” And gave me permission to quote them.

 

NEW YORK TIMES 10 December 1945

Aircraft and many other key armaments, relied on aluminum. As rugged as they seem, you could punch a sharpened pencil through the side of a B-17. Aluminum production in the US skyrocketed during the war.  Because it is difficult to make and requires huge amounts of electricity, there are many points in the production cycle which a saboteur could disrupt.