How Hitler's Nazi U-boats terrorised the seas during World War II

Kriegsmarine hitler naziBundesarchivHitler salutes the ‘Kriegsmarine,’ the navy of Nazi Germany.

“The only thing that ever really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril,” British Prime Minister Winston Churchill reportedly said reflecting on the Second World War.

By the end of the war, Hitler’s Kriegsmarine, the navy of Nazi Germany, built 334 U-boats, which is short for the German word “Unterseeboot,” or undersea boat.

In the fall 2015 issue of Weapons of World War II magazine, Marc DeSantis explains how the U-boats terrorised the seas during World War II. 

At the beginning of the war, the commander of the German U-boat fleet, Karl Dönitz, said that if he had 300 U-boats, 'he could strangle Britain and win the war.'

The U-boat was not a true submarine in today's sense of the word, more of a submersible craft. The diesel engines required air, so while underwater, the craft was powered by 100 tons of lead-acid batteries, meaning it had to surface every few hours when air and battery power were exhausted.

The battery power made the U-boats exceptionally slow underwater, clocking in at 8 knots (9.2 mph), compared to 17.2 knots (19.8 mph) above water on the VII-B models.

Ed Caram

Source: Weapons of WWII magazine

The boats were manned by up to 44 men ...

The U-boat featured a fearsome 88 millimetre cannon on the deck, as well as a 20 millimetre anti-aircraft gun. Here's the cannon in action:

U-boats were also equipped with torpedoes for underwater attacks.

However many early torpedoes fired by U-boats did not function properly, either exploding prematurely or not at all.

By 1943, Allied forces began fiercely hunting U-boats at sea. Here's an Allied pilot bombing a U-boat.

Towards the end of the war, the U-boats were death traps. Of 40,900 men who manned U-boats, some 28,000, or 70% were killed. Here's a photo of US troops boarding a captured German U-boat.,_1944.jpg

Source: Weapons of WWII magazine

German U-boats sank more than 2,600 Allied ships carrying supplies during World War II.

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