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Yolurne 9

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oIWb dWbrll

While not achieuing the notoiety of the German fuolf packs',

Allied submarine forces nonetheless mad,e significant

contributions to the war effort. In Euzope they were active from Nonyay to the Mediterranean, and in the Far East the

collapse of the lapanese economyinthelastyears of thewar

was largely due to the US submarine blockade.

Submarines sighted in the Atlantic durrng World War II were, very

}ikely, those of the Germans, for the area was largely devoid of targets for

Allied boats, The British, reinforced by such submarines as were able to escape their various countries' rapid collapse, concentrated therr efforts

in European waters, where the Axis had to risk surface movement, Thus,

submarlne attack was used effectively in the Norwegian campaign,

agarnst transltting U-boats and in the long struggle in the Mediterranean,

Shortage of boats, as rn everything else, obliged the Brltish initially to a virtual denuding of the Far East of larger submarines for use ln con- stricted waters where they were both unsatisfactory and vulnerable. When, eventually, the Far East itself was engmlfed in war, the British

submarlne presence was minimal, many of the diverted boats having been lost. Only with the Mediterranean sea war effectively coming to an end with the surrender of enemy forces in North A-frica could the Royal

Navy redeploy rts improved 'T' class boats to the eastern theatre, where

the submarine war against Japan was already dominated by the Amer-


A British submarine flotilla nestles aJongrside its depot ship. HMS Upriqht s econd from the

right, had the unusual dktinction

of including a floating dock and

an aircraft amongst her victims.


mercantile marine was analoqous to that between the Germans and the

The position of the American submarine arm vis-d-vis the

British, Both maritime-based emplres depended upon their seaborne trade; if this could be throttled the empire would lnevitably coliapse,

British were prepared, they survived the

Because the experienced

onslaught (allreit narrowly)

shortcomlngs, The American skipper

proved to be determined, adaptable and highly rnnovative, devising

original and botd attack technrques, Hts fleet organization gave hrm fuli backing with temporary advanced bases and tenders used to the full to follow the war's advance, shortening transit times and maximizinq time on patrol,

but the Japanese were wide open and

blinkered to the truth of their

HMSTakumakes herway atclosetoher

The B ritish' T' class was larger than most Roy

maximum surface speed of lS kts.

al N avy

bo a ts, a n d hence more

suited to the Far East campaign. Such was the need for boats closer to home

that even these large craftwere used in Europeanwaters.

'Saphir' class


:-i-sirong -<: class of minelayingt

::-:lues, the 'Saphir' class

l:ese were much smaller than the

ihe Royal Navy, the French had a


of 1925-9,


boats, being qeared to

l.lectterranean operations.

:,-re capable

of being

:-:, been



-,-:llrcal chutes were

Aqain, as a


:::ugh a standard torpedo tube had

developed, the hull design

had been produced




of 1914-B: 16

butlt into the

,','- domrnated by the mine stowage

-:-e design for thrs

:he well-known submarine builder,


1.,:mand, but was based on that of the

:pace between the widely-separated

i:rble hulls, in four groups of four, and

:aoh chute could accommodate


:--res. though a weakness of the


was that these were of

:cecial manufacture, The British had

-:andoned the system

:a'],rng over the stem

ln favour of

with the mines

s.:-.'.'ed wrthrn the upper casing.

I3[t"o"r class

LI:si of the major maritime nations at

-a:::retrne or other experimented wtth

:-= rdea of the cruiser submarine, All

-r;:re larger than usual, with an excep-

:::al surface armament and gtood en-

r'-rarce Some carried an aircraft to

i::rease their effective search radius.

l::: cnly design to combine, reason-

all these features in


::e hnll was the Surcouf. Ordered


the 1926 progrramme as the first

-: a class of three, she was destlned to

:= -re only unit of the 'Surcouf class,

:he largest submarine in the world :errs of displacement, though shor-





both the American 'Narwhal'

--ne Japanese


-:-:'ire trme of

'A' boats,

the Washington Treaty

:-:3nnshMJ toM3 had3O4.B-mm (12-

:- ;;rs and, to prevent further escala-


:r this direction (though even

overlarge and totally un- the treaty limited future sub-

-:.s: .ffere


:-:r::es to 203.2-mm (B-in) weapons,

:r--,- -!e French ever fltted the latter,


iese to the Surcou{ paired in a

pressure-tight turret. This

containing a



:r.a-.Je was farred into a pressure-

- :angar' abaft it and

s;=:-ally-desiqned Besson M.B.41 l

' : r::lane. This had to be taken out and

:-: ,',.:gs attached before it could be

-- ,'.=:ed Lnto the water,

a time-

:::-s::lnq and hiqhly risky business


while acceptable in 1926, was

,-:::a:ily not in 1939-45, Only the

::::-:h could ever have specified the

Surcoul seen h ere in the ClYde


war concept of the 'cruiser

was a product of the inter-

sltb marine', espous ed by m anY na-,nes. Sfte wa s the closest of all such

desigms to being a success, without

ever having the chance to be



against enemY merchant

Four stretched versrons, continuing

the lewei' names as the'Emeraude'

class, were scheduled to follow in 1937-8 Lenqthened by nearly 7 m


ft), they would have carried 25

per cent more mines, but only the

nameship was ever Iaid down and she

was destroyed on the slip at the


Of the

'Saphirs', three (Nautilus,

Saplur and Turguoise) were

taken by

the enemy at Brzerta and one (tre Dj'

amanf) was scuttled at Toulon The


andPer/e operated for the dura-

latter was sunk in

tion of the war (the

error by British aircraft rn

in April



under the Free French flag, The /?ubls

operating with the British Home



Norwegdan waters, Between then and

1940, Iaying mines in

torpedo tube fit. This comprised four

550-mm (21,6S-in) tubes set in an ortho-

dox bow arrangement, wtth six re-

loads; one


550-mm train-

able mountinq in the

ters aft;




and a quadruple

(15.75-rn) trainable

mountingr in the

casing right aft, wrth four reloads. The suggested mode ofoperation of submarines such as these was always

rather woolly rest of her

and the Surcou-{ like the

kind, was never to find a

proper role. Seized in Plymouth in

1940, she was operated


by a Free

French crew on several Atlantic pat-

the end of 1944 she carried out no less

than 22 successful minelayrng opera-

tions, most to lntenupt the enemy's


mercantile routes, The

total of 15 ships known to have been


on her mines included

several Scandinavians carrying Ger- man ore cargoes, a minesweeper and four small anti-submarine vessels, She also torpedoed and sank one more, a



'Saphir'class Displacement: 76I tons swfaced and

925 tons submerged

Dimensions: lenqth 65,90 m (2 16.2 I ft );

beam 7, 12 m (23,36 ft); draught 4.30 m

(14, r I ft)

rols. In December 1941 she partici-

pated with three French coruefles r,r

the seizure of the Vichy islands oi St

Pierre and Miquelon, in the St Lar';-

rence estuary, In February 1942 she

sank in the Caribbean after a colhsiol



Displacement: 3,270 tons surfaced ari 4,250 tons submergred Dimensions: lenqth I 10,00 m

(360,89 ft); beam 9,OO m (29,53 ft):

drauqht 9.07 m (29.76 ft) Propulsion: two diesels dehverLng


Propulsion: hvo dresels delivering

969.4 kW (1,300 bhp) and two electric motors delivering 820,3 kW (1,100 hp)

to two sha-fts

Speed: 12 kts surfaced and 9 kts


Endurance: 12970 km (8,059 miles) at 7 5 kts surfaced and l4B km (92 miles)

at 4 kts submerged

Armament: one 75-mm (2,95-in) gun,

three 550-mm (2l.65-in) torpedo tubes

(two bow and one stem), two 400-mm (15.75-in) torpedo tubes in a trainable

mounting, and 32 mines


The mostsuccessfu I minelaying

submarine of the u/ar, Rubis was

r e s ponsible in her

patrols for the sinking of at least I 5 vesse/s. These included five

warships aswell as yesseJsrunning

iron ore in coastal convoys to Germany.

2 2 minelaying

5667.3 kW (7,600 bhp) and two electric

notors delivering 2535.4 kW

(3.400 hp) to hvo shafts

Speed: 18 ktsswfacedandB,S k1s

srrbmerged Endurance: 1853l km ( I 1,515 miles) at l0 kts sMaced and I I 1 lcn (69 miles)

at 3 ktssubmerged

Armament: trruo 203, 2-mm (B-in) Wns,

.i:,.o 37-mm guns, eight 550-mm (21.65- n) torpedo hrbes (four bow and four in

a tralnable mountinq),

nm (15.75-in)

and four 400-

torpedo tubes (ina

:ainable mountingaft)



Axis Anti-Submarine Warfare

inWorld Warll

Of the Axis powers only


had devoted


serious effort to

anti-submarine warfare, and so Allied submarines were to

face tough opposition in the Mediterranean.

German and J apanese ASW preparation was weak and.


Japan's maritime empirewas to pay dearlyfor thiserror.

It was fortunate for the Allies that the major enemy powers had not put as much

effort into their prewar ASW preparations as into their submarine arms. As far as the British (at least) were concerned, this favourable balance was somewhat offset either by having to operate in poor 'submarine country' such as the North

submarines such as

the 'O' class boats in Mediterranean waters. To illustrate the former point, the

frrst three British submarine losses attributable to enemy action all occurred in

days. The German

the shallow Heligoland Bight within the space of only three

ships involved were non-specialist auxiliaries, and

Sea and the Baltic,

or initially being obliged to use unsuitable

their lack

of sophisticated

gear was compensated by the initial fallure of the British to appreciate the

dangers of operating in such areas. German surface ships were to enjoy little

further success in

North European waters and it was in the Mediterranean that

the British suffered


far the greater number of their losses. The much

in their 'torpedo

maligned ltalian navy had developed excellent ASW

boats' which, like similarly-categorized


German vessels, were really light des-

troyers, Both they and defensive minefields were

ing between them for possibly 39 Britlsh boats. lnterestingly, only four boats

used imaginatively,


were officially listed as lost to enemy submarine actlon, suggesting far better discipline in surface navigation than that common in the enemy's boats. The end

Swcouf' class (continued)


of the Mediterranean warvirtually marked the end of Brltish submarine losses to

d irect enemy action. Of those boats transf erred to the Fa r East

two or th ree

weredestroyed directly by Japanese forces. The Germans, partiiularly, lacked

cause: the teciinology,

the co-operation between aircraft, carriers and escorts

intelligence that was kept a secret so well. Paradoxically, the Germans also

above all, tihe

on ly

the AS organization

that was so necessary to the Allied


lacked the great convoys that proved such magnets to submarines, catalysts to

activate the killing grounds where


the escorts operated.

I hough they could never afford to take chances with Japanese AS forces, the

nothing unusual in their armoury Witfr US

submarines operating on the surface at night, they were open (as wele those of

the Germans) to radar-aided counterattack, but the Japanese

Americans learned.early that they had

kept their escorts

a low priority for the equipment and airborne sets were not cbmmon before


Having early developed a radar emission detector, the Japanese were

to use their own radar in case their enemy might, in turn: detect them

often loth

through it.

The,Japanese expe-rimented with exotica such as circling AS

intelligent use of standard

of too few escorts of too nigh quality.


of submarines

by theJapanese. The

these, with the result

that the Japanese



an early airborne MAD


and plenty of deptn cnarges. The latter, however, were reduced in effe6tiv'eness

by the building Possibly most


significant of all was the corisis{ent over-optimism concernino

Americans did nothing to cont.ra"-

(Magnetic Anomaly Detector) but siored best with the


such ds deep-laid

mines at strategic

always underestimated the impiove their measures to

weapon that was thronling them and did little to

counter it.

Lett: A German sailor inscribes his mine with a suitably facetious dedication. German minelaying was to cause British submarines much inconvenience in nor thern w aters,

butGerman surface vessels proved

unable to defeat the underwater


Above: Depth charges ready for action aboard a German escort. As

the G erm an army w a s s te adily

pus hed b ack by lft e Russr'ans, so

control of the Baltic coast assumed

greater impottance and the Germanswere faced with an

incre as ingly effe ctive S ovie t


Amongst the largest submarines offter lr'mg Surcouf was unigue ln

possessing twin 8-in

(203-mm) Wns. She r,rras a/so fittedwith

was hangared immediately behind theconning tower.

an aircraft, which





ae the 'O'and 'R' classes,



l-designed 'S' class

::ats were

well represented

the World

(or 'Sugar') in the US

been put

time, US submarine

out to competition,

At this

practice was

dominated by the companies owned by Holland and Lake; each tendered,

with the Portsmouth Narry

Three prototypes were built to

the designs, the 52 by Lake being



thought unsatisfactory,



Group l,


hveen 1918and

In total, 25 Hol-

known as the'S'

were launched be-

1922 followedbysxof

an improved version known as the 'S'

class Group

boats were

built by

3, The 15'S'class Group 2 to the naval design (some

Lake's yard), and these were

followed by four lmproved


4 boats, Though




they varied

'S' class

had about

the same speed, armament and com-

greatlY in s?e

somewhat, in endurance. All

iiavy in December 1941, when the

-SA iound itself in World War I1. Sixty- ::-Lir of these boats were still available,

:cugh many



::m havinQl


had for years been in-

in training,

All suffered

at a time

been designed

was still re-

the submarine

:a:ded by

the US Navy as a weapon

-:: i:se in the defence of home terri- :::y None, therefore, had adequate

::iurance for the Pacific operattons

--:--r wrth Japan as an ally in 1914-8, had

:-:: been foreseeable. The 'O' and 'R' boats were fitted with l:l-mm (18-in) torpedo tubes and had

endurance, and the general sPe-


:-ication for the improved 'S' class had

S28 asslre appeared

she, alongwithfters$ters,

in 1943. One of theHolland-designedboats'

sal4. actionearly in thewar, and at

that timewas notdevoidof success.Whilemostof ffie ciass was

replaced by 1 943, 528 was lost in I 944.

'Narwhal' class

-:e two 'Narwhal' class units USSJVaT-

whal andNautilus must be classed as



with the USS Argonaut that







German transport submarines

worked the eastern US seaboard ::-ng World War I made a great im-

::=ssion on an oceanically-minded

,-='.1, and the early




i92Os saw desigrns

for a minelayet (V-4, lalet

and two cruiser submarines (V-5) and .lr'autulus (V-6),

,:-er' were all larqe, even the latter



20 m/]0,5 ft the shorter) being

lengrth than the monstrous







-= : -irough

Surcouf As a minelayer, the

load 60 mines, which were two tubes exiting beneath

ira llunter,

:::,'vard of the after bulkhead of the room the 'Narwhals'were near-




a{1 in



. -::s



mounttnq two torpedo

place of the mine stowage,

demand on sPace that

for their shorter lengrth, To


rne boat's endurance,

::-:,alre was on a grand scale, up-







ci 36 beinq carrted both within and the casrng topside. To ihem even further, two 152 4-


deck gn-rns were mounted,

::-= iargest in any American sub-

:,::-::e Scouting

for targets was the

small seaplane, the plans for


-:r a



lriere, however, dropped.

All were considered slow bY US

standards but, though all were due to

be re-engrned,

so modtfled

only'autrJus was

the outbreak of war,


The latter was fltted also with two extra tubes in the after casing and the other

two gained four, all in the amidships


two firing

forward and tvvo aft.

US fleet's shortage of

Despite the

submarines in 1942, these three boats were considered too slow and I'ulner- able for combat patrols and were mod- ified in various degrees for clandestine




personnel and

The ly'auiiJus had facilities for

refuelling long-range

echo of

never so used during operated particularly

seaplanes, an

practtce, but was

hostilities, AII

between their


west Australian bases and the Philip-

pines. The -l'iauflus finished off the


Midway, and


carrier Soryu after

landed personnel on an



island near Tarawa to

a secret airstrip. Other raids

were carried out on Makin Island and Attu in the Aleutians. The Argonaut

was lost in 1943.


'Narwhal' class (as built) Displacement: 2,730 tons surfaced and 3,900 tons submerqled Dimensions: length 112.95 m

L'55 Nautrlus rnpre-war trim. The two'Narwhals'were

ttought to be too slow

for fleet submarine work during

the war. and were oftenused for clandestine operations,

a:lhougrh if was

dler Midway.

Nautilus frallln ished off the stricken

*. t





- :j--;-1';"+-":r


.,.,.,., :












: r:



:.2: .::.:



were of double-hulled design, one

carried a seaplane

for an experimental

period, and four were fltted with an

extra tube aft.

Sx were transferred to the Royal

Navy early in the war, one then being

passed on to the Poles, AslheJastrzab

she was sunk in error by the British in

the course of a convoy actron in 1942;

by tragdc irony, one of the escofis con-

cerned was also ex-American, the

'four-piper' HMS Sl.Albans, Most of the

American 'S' class boats in the Far East

had been replaced by newer boats by late 1943, but some had success, Be-

fore the Savo Island action, for inst-

ance, Mrkawa's approach was sighted

and reported by the S3B, and the,S44

exacted a toll ofthe vrctors by sending

(370.58 ft); beam I0, 13 m (33.25 tt):

drausht 4,80 m (15,75 ft) Propulsion: combrnation dnve l'.'rih

four diesels delivering 4026,8 kW

(5,400 bhp) and two electnc m!:ors

deliverinq 1894. I kW (2,540 hp) to two


Speed: 17 kts surfaced arid B !:s submergted Endurance:33354 k-n (20.725 mrles) at

10 kts surfaced and 93 kn (58 mtles) at

5 ks submergred Armament: two single I 52. 4-rLm (6-m)

the Kako to the bottom. In October

1943 this old veteran's luck ran out and

she was sunk near the Kamchatka



Old'S' class (first


Displacement: 854 tons surfaced and

1,065 tons submerged

Dimensions: length 66,83 m (2 19,25 ft);

beam 6,30 m (20.67 ft); drausht 4.72 m (15 5 f0

Propulsion: two diesels delivering 894,8 kW (1,200 bhp) andtwo electric

motors dellering I 1 18,6 kW

( 1,500 hp) to two shafts

Speed: 14,5 kts surfaced and 1 I kts


Endwance:9270 km (5,760 miles) at

l0 ktssurfaced

Armament: one 101,6- or 76,2-mm (4-

or 3-in) gn:n and four or f,ve 533-mm

(2 f-in) torpedo tubes (all bow or four bow and one stern) for 12 torpedoes


Narwhal and lrer sis terc were the

larg es t subm ar ines rn US servjce until the arrival ofthe nuclear

submarines of the I I 50s. I n a scene

trom the happier pre-war days,

Narwhal;'s seen towing a seaplane

with engine trouble back to Pearl Harbor.

gnrns and sx 533-mm (2l-in) torpedo

tubes (four bow and two stern) later

increased to 10 tubes for 40 torpedoes Complement: Bg

StrsngEflng Scpcn

Far all the efficiency and courage o{theJapaneselmperialNavy,

pre-war planning


meant that when the mighty American war machine got into its

stride they had no answer to the three-pronged attack on, above and below the sea.

af allthearmsof theUS Navy, itwas

thesubmarine that btroughtJapanfo jtsknees.

Sc great an rmpression

rng oi


Japan make

drd lhe nuclear bomb-

in Augusr 1945 that iL is

because it had no

assumed that this weapon won rhe war.

It drd nor. The rambtLng Japanese empire had

already been defeated

answers to the assaults ol the fast carrier

grodps, tc :he

cutflankrng amphibious


trcns and to the iron rino oI the submarin-o

blockade, One reason for

called 'Greater

Japanese creaiion of the so-

Co-Prosperity Sphere'was


rhe cam-

gain access to raw materials, coal, iron ore, oil, tin, rubber, etc., wrth which the home rslands

empire was

were poorly provided This wrder

created raprdly and efficiently by

paigns of early 1942 but thereafter,

sustainrng it 1ay in the free movement ol mer- cenriie traffic, ooth in the transporl oI commod-

Lhe key to

tties and


The Japanese high command had garnbled

on the Western states acceptinq a fart accomoli

the support of the many necessary

USA, and rhe UK rhough

after Pearl Harbor They underestimared the

oiitrage caused rn the

down was far from out. The UK had long suffered assauits on her

vital and vulnerable mercanlile manne and the stiil-recent submarine olfensive bv the Kaiser's

fleer had barely been weathered The

lessons were well learned and were also well

appreciated by the US Nar,.y whrch, yel unab.e

to undertake the vasL operations ol a few years

hence, resolved to strike at the

Japanese commerce with the only effectrve weapon at its disposal, its submarine arm.

busy network of

For their part, the Japanese operated a su-

UK's Grand

Fieet oi World War L thrs was drilled to think

ollensively against rhe day oI rhe Armageddon

of a sea battle that would decide the

perb suriace fleet but, like the

mastery of

the Pacrfic. Its ccnsiderable submarine arm

existed to scoLlr lor the fleet and to ambush that ol the enemy, Submarine assauit on merchant

shipping, despite its critically rmportant rm-

p-icatjons, was nor in iine-with offensive

strategy. Conversely, it seems not to have been considereci that an opponent would aciopt jusr

these tactrcs and

with no plans

for convoy, few escorts and 11ttle


thus started tiosiitilies

preparalon lor the rapid replacement of lost


Parldoxically, the Amencan submarine arm

had been built on the twin

precepts of home

defence and 'go i:r the waishipsi It took the

assauit on Pearl Harbor to force the clecision to

adopt unrestricted submarine warfare, Imtial- ly, boats worked our o1 both the Phihppines and

of the

Pearl Harbor but, with the overrunhinq

former, the 28 survivors of the Asiatri Fleet

boars 'ell back on Ausrraha and Hawaii

As yet rnexperienced and overwhelmecj bv the scale of the onstaught rhey couid do tinle

but hinder the

enemys olans bur the IJSS

Swordfish s srnking of the Alsutusan Maru


(8,660 grt) was to be the flrst drop 1r',-,':,

become a deluge,

-.': _:,

Filty :' .r

for deployment. Though at hrst s;:==-t :.

they soon


to concenLrote a .







they could exploil the Japenese

sailing unescorred and sing-y o:--:. :

situation obtarning until about

Aprir -:=:

I -:.:

f,rst enemy warship k,ll by SucPrt







on 27


1942, when the USS G:-:;::_-.



her small silhouet:e -: I : -- -

sank the surlaced submarinel- 173. C: 3 :

ary the o1d'piq-boat' USSS-37useC rre :3r:.:

trick of exploiting

taced nrght atrack, sinking tne dos---

sushro in rhe Macassar Srrait.