Paid Advertisement
Historynet/feed historynet feedback facebook link Weider History Group RSS feed Weider Subscriptions Historynet Home page

How the Allies Left U-Boats Dead in the Water

By Stephen Budiansky 
Originally published by World War II magazine. Published Online: July 30, 2010 
Print Friendly
2 comments FONT +  FONT -

A black plume meant a depth charge hit more than water.
A black plume meant a depth charge hit more than water.

Just before noon on June 12, 1943, the crew of the U-118 was enjoying a welcome moment of idleness. Three days earlier they had been sent scurrying northward in response to an urgent call from a sister ship: the U-758 had been caught on the surface, attacked, and seriously damaged by American fighters and torpedo bombers southwest of the Azores. Eleven of its crew were injured, its diesel compartments were awash and its motors stalled, and it was leaking oil. It had taken two days of frantic effort first to locate and then assist the crippled U-boat. A doctor aboard the U-118 was rowed over to tend to the wounded, and spare parts were shipped across.

Subscribe Today

Subscribe to World War II magazine

Leaving the U-758 to limp back home, the U-118 had parted company on the morning of the 11th after taking on 40 tons of oil the U-758 would no longer need on its abbreviated cruise. The U-118 was a tanker—a Milchkuh, or "milk cow," as the Germans called them—built to refuel and resupply other U-boats at sea; they were Adm. Karl Dönitz's masterstroke, allowing his hunter-killers to extend their time tracking prey in the mid-Atlantic and avoid the perilous transit to port across the Bay of Biscay, now swarming with Allied air patrols.

Midday on the 12th found the U-118 back at the rendezvous point where it was to meet other boats scheduled for refueling. The sky was cloudless; several men had just left the deck where they had been sunning to go below for a meal. Suddenly a watch on the bridge shouted a warning cry: "Flieger! Flieger!" Out of the sun dove an American F4F Wildcat, its guns ripping across the deck from stern to bow. The U-boat's commander, Werner Czygan, gave the order to dive and the men on watch duty, three of whom had been hit by the fighter's bullets, dragged themselves into the conning tower and shut the hatch behind them.

The tower was still cutting through the surface when a TBF Avenger torpedo bomber, following immediately on the Wildcat's tail, roared 50 feet overhead and dropped four depth charges, which straddled the submarine amidships. Lights blinked off and seawater poured in through the exhaust valves as the U-boat's engineer frantically called for men to rush forward to restore the boat's trim. More depth charges exploded around them, knocking out the steering system and wrenching the rudder loose.

With no choice but to fight it out from the now-helpless boat, Czygan ordered the sea water in the ballast blown out to send the sub shooting upward, and shouted to the crew to be ready to man the antiaircraft guns on deck as soon as they broke the surface. But when the men jumped out of the conning tower, they were shocked to see eight planes circling the ship. Nearly every crewman who tried to reach the guns was cut down by the strafing fighters. One of the diesel engines burst into flame as depth charge after depth charge exploded just feet away. Twenty-five minutes into the battle, an Avenger dropped two depth charges that detonated directly under the submarine. A fountain of twisted metal rose into the air. Then the U-118  broke in two, disappearing forever beneath the waves.


Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

2 Responses to “How the Allies Left U-Boats Dead in the Water”


  1. 1

    [...] How the Allies Left U-Boats Dead in the Water German Submarine U-505 Crewmember Hans Goebeler REcalls Being Captured During World War II [...]

  2. 2
    Christopher Walter says:

    Gentlemen,

    As an avid student of history, I am wonder where I can obtain, Royal Navy, Kreigsmarine and US Naval Maps of the Battle of the Atlantic. One would think that these should be readily available on the Internet, but I have been having a difficult time obtaining the convoy maps.

    In order for the convoy to sail, such maps would have had to been prepared, and with so much time under our keels declassified.

    I have been able to obtain the written accounts of the convoys and of the U-Boats, but nothing of the maps.

    Any help that can be provided would be greatly appreciated.

    Sincerely,

    Christopher Walter



Leave a Reply

Human Verification: In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.


Related Articles

History Net Images Spacer
Paid Advertisement
Paid Advertisement
History Net Daily Activities
History net Spacer
History net Spacer
Historynet Spacer
HISTORYNET READERS' POLL

Which of these wars resulted in the most surprising underdog upset?

View Results | See previous polls

Loading ... Loading ...
History net Spacer
STAY CONNECTED WITH US
RSS Feed Daily Email Update
History net Spacer History net Spacer
Paid Advertisement

Paid Advertisement
What is HistoryNet?

The HistoryNet.com is brought to you by Weider History, the world's largest publisher of history magazines. HistoryNet.com contains daily features, photo galleries and over 5,000 articles originally published in our various magazines.

If you are interested in a specific history subject, try searching our archives, you are bound to find something to pique your interest.

From Our Magazines
Weider History

Weider History Network:  HistoryNet | Armchair General | Achtung Panzer! | StreamHistory.com
Today in History | Ask Mr. History | Picture of the Day | Daily History Quiz | Contact Us

Copyright © 2014 Weider History. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
Advertise With Us | Subscription Help | Privacy Policy