U Boot nonsense

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by The Basket, Sep 5, 2016.

  1. The Basket

    The Basket Well-Known Member

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    Just watched a presentation on YouTube by some somehow famous military historian talking total nonsense.
    His main premise is that Germany had 400 u boats at the end of the war but only 40 U boats at the beginning. Not sure about numbers but factual correct. Had Germany had 400 u boats in 1939 then yes it could have decisively defeated the UK by naval blockade. Made sense.
    But how could Germany have 300+ u boats in 1939? Answer is that it couldn't therefore his point is nonsense therefore he is a useless military historian.

    Simply saying it doesn't take into account the sheer impossible of actually making making it happen. If course it could have happened but it would have needed a huge increase in Kriegsmarine personnel resources transferred from either the army or Luftwaffe...not happening...and building 400 u boats in peacetime looks very suspicious! Simply no. So why is this guy a famous military historian? He don't know his stuff.
     
  2. Thorlifter

    Thorlifter Well-Known Member

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    Had we actually carried out the interception of the Pearl Harbor attack wave as shown in the movie "The Final Countdown", then we probably wouldn't have gone to war. Just think of the lives saved. So I guess ultimately, Kirk Douglas is to blame for WWII.

    There......I guess that makes me a historian too! :)
     
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  3. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    I've been seeing alot of "interpretive" history lately and while it makes for an interesting read (as fiction) the sad part is, that a good number of people actually buy into this nonsense.
     
  4. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    It was impossible for Germany to have 300 boats in 1939, but possible for them to have 100+ with another 150 under construction. They would however have needed to have not commenced construction of their Z plan ships, including the two battlecruisers the heavy cruisers and the two battleships as well as the two carriers they had in the pipeline in 1939. Per ton, U-boat construction is about twice as expensive as per ton of surface warship, so in theory, with the average U-boat being about 1000 grt, and the surface tonnage to be not constructed about 175000 tons (of which about 100000 tons was still under construction) the Germans with their already 57 boats in commission might add another 40-50 September 1939, and have under construction another 80-100. historically in 1939 they had just 30 additional boats under construction.

    The massive problem with all this alternate history stuff is that people don't know how the RN is going to react. If the Germans abandon all surface ship construction for U-Boats, that will give the RN at least 5 years to react, and roughly twice that tonnage that the Germans have on which to build masses of ASW escorts. The Brits aren't going to keep building big warships unless their opponents are as well. I haven't done the math, but the brits might be able to have an additional 100-150 escorts on hand if they did this.

    There are other complications to consider. Having 100 U-boats in 1939 will lead to a lower serviceability rate for the Germans as their support echelons will be severely tested. In 1940, with about 40 boats available, the number of boats at sea on average might be 10-15. in 1941, by about September, the number available was well over 200 yet the serviceability rates, whilst climbing steadily was still only about 35. The serviceability rates are not linear, a 500% increase in total numbers yielded a 200% increase in serviceable boats
     
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  5. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    Alternate history is something military planners play at all the time. With computers now available and performance of many combat systems well known, a computer can simulate any number of options really quickly to determine the best solution to a battle problem. there is no limit either on the scale of that problem. depending on the software, it might be as minute as a single ship action, or a full campaign. The more assumptions you are forced to make, the less accurate the prediction, but its a valid way of testing a theory without question. trouble is with the people driving those tools. We all have our pet schemes, and want certain outcomes, so we often just 'make it happen". As soon as we start that the reliability of the simulation is fatally compromised
     
  6. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    I think alot of folks forget that by 1939, the bulk of Germany's U-Boats were WWI designs, too (built from 1934 onward).

    It wasn't until 1942 that the modern U-Boats were coming into service, so the 39 or 40 U-Boats that Germany had at sea when the war started, were the old designs, like the IA, IIA IIB and so on.

    A far cry from the later types.
     
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  7. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    I think its fair to say that the Mk VII which formed the backbone of the fleet for the entire war was a per war design. It was of course updated, but essentially it was a pre war design.
     
  8. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    The first type VIIc which was the workhorse of DKM began to appear from early 1940. The type VIIB was its immediate predecessor, It was the mount of the early aces like Prien and Krestchmer. It was as good as the type VIIc except range. . It still had the range to operate in the western approaches.

    by wars start, nearly all Uboat construction was either Type IX (b then c subtypes) and Type VII (mostly c subtypes). The germans did build a few Type IIs mostly for operations in the north Sea, which were later very useful as training boats.

    Range was the thing that DKM worked on early on . Some increases were due to operational techniques. . not all the increases in range (and endurance) were solely from technology. By accepting absolute minimums in habitability and providing u-tanker support, the type VIIcs could just make it to the US eastern seaboard
     
  9. The Basket

    The Basket Well-Known Member

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    The Kriegsmarine was poorly funded and poorly equipped so to get the u boats it would have to take funding away from the army or Luftwaffe and that is extremely unlikely.
    Raeder was a battleship guy so all surface fleet ships would have to scrapped for u boats. Unlikely.
    The uk was not seen as the main enemy and Germany was a land power. The UK would have to be seen as the main enemy and the Navy would have to be the instrument of war. Doubt that!
    And as stated the ocean going u boats didn't appear until very late 1938 so to get numbers for 1940 is again impossible.
    The only scenario to get 300 u boats is war starts 5 years later and the army and Luftwaffe don't have any say. It's not always about the production and technology it's also about personalities and current fears.
    If your main enemy is the USSR then having 300 u boats is pretty pointless
     
  10. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    DKM in its pre-war planning did consider concentrating on anti-shipping methods, basically U-Boats and long range cruisers. These were rejected in 1937 (I think it was 1937) in favour of a more balanced blue water fleet, which ultimately led to the Z-Plan. Not least in these decisions were the limitations placed on the germans by the Anglo-German naval treaty of 1935, which limited the german fleet to no more than 35% that of britain, except uboats which could have parity with the RN. DKM was actually slightly over that tonnage limit in 1939 for her submarine fleet when she finally repudiated the treaty, triggering a building spree for the RN, who already were building furiously to replace worn out ships.

    A switch to an all uboat policy could only be achieved if the treaty was ditched even earlier, and the germans worried that this would simply swamp them if the RN was allowed to cut loose with their construction.

    It was the treaties rather than Raeder that limited the kriegsmarine to the build choices that they made.......
     
  11. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    Another thing these people forget is that German torpedoes at the outbreak of war were not too reliable. What use is 400 U boats if they can't use their principal weapon?
     
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  12. The Basket

    The Basket Well-Known Member

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    These good answers show clearly our depth of knowledge and our grasp of history.
     
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  13. Elmas

    Elmas Active Member

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    Even 400 U-Boots, sailing and returning from and to Kiel or Bremenhaven could have done, in WWII, not a lot of damage and, in 1939, to have Lorient, Brest, La Rochelle, Bordeaux as bases I think were not even in the most optimistic dreams of Doenitz, much less of Raeder's.
    An U-Boot was (roughly) 800 tons and had a crew of 60 perfectly trained sailors, to act as a single unit. With the same (more or less..) industrial effort, Allied could produce at least a dozen B-24, and with 60 men could crew 8 or 9 of them, of wich only three or four ( two pilots, navigator) had to be trained thoroughly, while the rest (bombardier, radioman, gunners) could have had a much quicker training.
    Not to speak of the centimetric radar....
    U-boot nonsense? Maybe.
     
  14. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    You under estimate the duration of the courses for 'other' aircrew, who were in fact very highly trained. Here is one example.

    "William "Billy" Bates of Dawley, Shropshire , attended No 5 Course of 83 O.T.U. from October 1943 until January 1944.
    As a newly-promoted sergeant, Mr Bates arrived at Peplow from No 40 Course of No 4 Air Gunners School Morpeth, after completion of 17 hours flying in Ansons.
    The O.T.U course began with circuits and landings, with an instructor as captain, the trainee pilot taking command after solo check flights. This was followed by stick bombing and high level practices, making a total of 38 hours day flying on the unit's Wellingtons.
    In early December, night flying training began with further circuits and landings followed by cross country flights, air firing, stick bombing, high level bombing and air-to-sea firing. During the month, Mr Bates and his crew flew a total of 42 hours night flying and 6 hours day flying. Gunnery exercises brought Mr. Bates' total flying time at the O.T.U. to 94 hours by completion of his course in early January 1944."


    This was a four month course at an OTU following basic training (No 40 Course of No 4 Air Gunners School Morpeth, after completion of 17 hours flying in Ansons). This was typically a six week course. To produce a fully operational air gunner required almost six months of training.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  15. Elmas

    Elmas Active Member

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    Of course I didn't say that an air gunner in WWII had not a training.
    But to train a Machinist Mate to dismantle and remount a MAN diesel engine, or check a torpedo gyro, or to repair (and not simply use..) a radio equipment with the tools available in a cramped WWII submarine was certainly more demanding, both for time and resources, than to train an air gunner.
     
  16. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    why is that? people seem to suck up the most ludicrous and outlandish stories quickly and without reservation but refuse to believe what really happened in history even when faced with mountains of evidence. baffles the mind.
     
  17. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    Both sides had serious difficulties in the early years, brought about mostly by a lack of resources for DKM, and for RN, a lack of escorts, near criminal shortages of suitable escorts, non existent command structure to deal with uboats early on. Tactics and training on the allied side were woeful. a good example of this was the formation of so-called "hunter killer" groups caused some rather spectacular losses early on, most notably the loss of the Courageous.

    As far as air power was concerned, it provided virtually no benefit to the ASW efforts until the latter part of 1940, and then only to a very limited extent. The code breaking efforts from June to December 1941 were a significant step forward, but for the whole of 1942, the escorts were again blinded when the enigma codes were changed again. The development of an effective airborne ASW weapon was badly delayed until late in 1941, and proper fleet co-operation between CC and escort command lagged badly until well after the happy time. Even under the most appalling losses at sea, the RAF with its focus on winning the war by bombing alone was very reluctant to hand over any suitable long range and very long range aircraft to help out. Only when directly ordered to do so did they transfer significant resources to this operational area.

    On the German side the glaring weakness was a shortage of training boats. there were just 4 b oats engaged in training in September, with another 4 in work up with a total of 57 in service. By January 1940, with a total of 56 in service, 12 boats were allocated to their training commands and a further 13 were working up. this situation remained more or less the same for most of 1940, which despite the runaway success in the North sea and the Western Approaches (both within range from the german bases) really should be called the year of lost opportunities for the Uboats. New commissionings remained at a trickle, and the allies finally began to get themselves decently organised.

    From early 1941 the BDU really started to receive decent resource levels. In the first quarter , the average uboat availability began to ramp up, from an average of 89 at the beginning of the year to 198 by the end of the year. their training resources also grew during this period, from about 11 boats at the beginning of the year (not including work ups) to nearly 60 boats in December.

    Another aspect of the Germans effort was the abysmal performance of their torpedoes early on. They wanted to utilise their new magnetic exploders, but these were hopelessly unreliable and caused many unnecessary failures. Another shortcoming lay with the LW. There were no specialised minelaying units, and at the beginning no magnetic mines suited to air dropping. In the whole of DKM the magnetic mine stocks was just 1500, a hopeless reserve given the potential of this weapon. There were no specially designed minelaying u-boats, despite a design having been ready for nearly two years. a sustained minelaying campaign would have been a far more dangerous proposition as it would not have evoked any prewar response from the british like increased U-boat production would have.
     
  18. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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  19. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    You are too kind Chris. For fun I clicked on the link and realised I need to go back and re-do those early days in 1939 to the standard format im now using. It was all a bit ragged and hit and miss for a while
     
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  20. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    The internet gives a voice to those who shouldn't have one.
     
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