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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

U-boats after World War II

Due to the amazing response to my first edition of the U-boat history, I decided to follow it up with what happened to the U-boats after World War II.

Near the end of World War II, Germany took a direct approach to hide and even completely destroy its fleet of U-boats before their surrender to the allies. Operation Deadlight was the code name for the destruction of more than 121 U-boats after World War II in abysmal water off Lisahally, Northern Ireland or Loch Ryan, Scotland in late 1945 and early 1946. The remaining 145 U- boats used during World War II were surrendered to the allies.

German U-boat in action 1941

Even after their defeat, the German Bundesmarine still found a way to maintain a navy, even though it was on a smaller scale. They raised two U-boats initially, the Type XXIIIs and a Type XXI, which were repaired. West Germany reentered the submarine market once again in the 1960’s, limited by design criterion including a 450 tonne displacement limit. In an effort to protect against the Soviets in the Baltic Sea, they built smaller submarines enhanced by amagnetic steel to protect against naval mines and magnetic anomaly detectors.

The Type 201 U-boats after World War II, were the first to use amagnetic steel to protect against naval mines. The Type 201 U-boats suffered cracking issues in the hull, sending them into an earlier retirement. The later Type 205 U-boat would use regular steel to combat the issue.

In 1967, 12 Type 205 U-boats were constructed for the German Navy. To maintain their tradition, the first u-boat received the U designation starting with the U-1. The first U-1 was launched in 1906, the boat measuring close to 140 feet long, weighing 238 tons, and could carry 20 men. The new versions were 144 feet long, were 450 long tons surfaced and 500 long tons submerged, and carried 22 men.

The Danish were the first to purchase two Type 205 submarines. When the Type 206 U-boats were assembled, three of them were shipped to the Israeli Navy, thus becoming the Gal class. Germany  realized the power they held in the export business, therefore they continued to develop and improve on each u-boat before the last.

“The 209 diesel-electric submarines were the most popular export-sales submarine in the world from the late 1960s into the first years of the 21st century. With a larger 1,000-1,500 tonne displacement, the class was very customizable and has seen service with 14 navies with 51 examples being built as of 2006.”

The Type 212 U-boats christened the 21st century, making their homes in countries such as Italy, with the Type 214 boats sold to Greece, Turkey, and South Korea. The Type 212 submarines were much safer in design, featuring an air-independent propulsion system using hydrogen fuel cells. This system is cheaper than a nuclear reactor and quieter than both. In July 2006, Germany commissioned its newest U-boat, the U-34, a Type 212.

Final Thought

Many u-boats after World War II were used for scrap metal, however some retired to the many u-boat museums around the world.

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