Admiral Doenitz's U-boat Fleet Scored Some Dramatic Victories
|Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal after being torpedoed about 30 nautical miles east of Gibraltar on 13 November 1941 (colorized).|
|A representation of HMS Royal Oak after being sunk by U-47 on 14 October 1939.|
Top Single Ship Sinkings by U-boatsOn 14 October 1939, U-47, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Günther Prien, sank Royal Navy battleship Royal Oak after a daring entry into Scapa Flow. From the German perspective, this was probably the single greatest victory of the entire U-boat campaign because it served as a real morale boost to the entire Reich. An interesting aspect of this success is that Prien actually may have destroyed two old battleships, but one loss apparently was covered up by the British. This sinking caused a scandal in the UK because of the large number of teenagers who perished, leading to some service reforms.
|USS Reuben James sinking after being torpedoed by U-552.|
|"[This photo was taken] From onboard HMS LEGION, the destroyer that took off the survivors, showing some of the last to leave ARK ROYAL." 13 November 1941 (© IWM (A 6315)).|
|British aircraft carrier HMS COURAGEOUS sinking after being torpedoed by U-29 off the southwest coast of Ireland on 17 September 1939. 518 men were lost, as were all Fairey Swordfish aircraft of 811 and 822 Naval Air Squadrons.|
There were a lot of convoy battles, too many to list here. Probably the most successful for the Germans was the attack on PQ-17, an Arctic convoy. The threat was so bad that the PQ-17 convoy was ordered to scatter, which was very unusual and considered a move of last resort. It also was, at least in the opinion of many historians and some Royal Navy officers guarding the convoy, a mistake. However, the order came straight from the First Sea Lord Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound and could not be disobeyed.
|A U-boat crew using a Focke-Achgelis Fa 330 manned rotor kite (towed, no engine) being used for observation purposes in the Indian Ocean.|
Top U-boat Achievements Against Individual Convoys
|Oblt. Hans-Hartwig Trojer.|
|Kapitänleutnant Joachim Schepke returns to port aboard U-100. While U-boat crews generally exhibited the highest military discipline, shaving was not feasible on long journeys. Thus, crewmen were allowed to break military protocol and grow beards.|
|Werner Henke (left) on board U-515, writing in the war diary (KTB).|
|Otto Kretschmer in November 1940 (Federal Archives Figure 183-L16644).|
The era of convoy destruction was over by May 1943, when the U-boat menace was considered defeated. However. as shown by Oblt. Alfred Eick's success in 1944, U-boats continued to score scattered victories for the remainder of the war.