German U Boats WW2 Facts : From Predator to Prey

German U Boats WW2 Facts : From Predator to Prey

German U Boats WW2 Facts : From Predator to Prey :

The fleet of U-boats deployed by Nazi Germany throughout World War II is usually thought of as a formidable force that terrorized the Atlantic Ocean and disrupted the Allies’ supply lines.

However, recent research has shown that U-boats were much less effective than previously thought, with 99.4% of Allied merchant ships traveling in convoys reaching their destinations in Europe intact from 1942 to 1945. The U-boat threat was unable to prevent the massive amounts of resources sent across the Atlantic by America and Canada to aid their fellow Allies, ultimately leading to the defeat of the Axis powers. 

Not only was the U-boat threat largely ineffective, it turns out that the U-boats themselves were the ones in greater danger, with 75% of U-boats sent out on missions being destroyed. By the end of the war, an estimated 32,000 German sailors serving on submarines never returned. As a matter of fact, U-boat crews suffered the highest rate of death of any group in the war. German Admiral Karl Doenitz has been criticized for continuing U-boat campaigns despite the danger those crews faced as he essentially sent many young men on suicide missions.

While U-boats found initial success, after around 1942, Allied forces adapted by breaking Nazi code, developing a convoy system, building thousands of new ships, and coordinating attacks. They were soon able to protect their merchant fleet by anticipating submarine attacks in advance then using their superior air and sea power to sink them.

Allied navies hunted down any U-boats they could find and systematically dismantled attempts to slow their supply lines. Part of why it was so difficult for U-boats to evade attacks was that they had problematic snorkels that would force them to surface, after which they were easy targets for missiles and air strikes. Over the war, millions upon millions of tons of food, clothing, weapons, and other resources were delivered to Great Britain from North America, which allowed them to hold off the Nazis for years. 

However, though the U-boat threats significantly lessened after Allied adaptations, the total casualties caused by U-boats at the end of the war was quite significant. An estimated 30,000 to 40,000 merchant seamen, naval personnel and airmen were ultimately taken out by submarine attacks.

The convoys protecting the merchant ships also required valuable battleships that could have been employed elsewhere in the world. U-boats were an incredibly interesting weapon in World War II that has been the interest of many studies on the war. 

It’s believed that even if the Germans had improved their snorkel technology and introduced their electric submarines sooner, it still wouldn’t have had a major impact on the outcome of the war due to the superior naval tactics of the Allies and their sheer amount of production the United States could output.

Though the Germans tried their best to restrict Allied supply lines, at the end of the day, the U.S. just provided too many resources and their production would lead them to eventually go on the offensive and defeat Nazi Germany.

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