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Naval Warfare Against Russia: An Adjunct to Operation Barborossa

A senior air warrior, graduate from the Staff College and a PG in military studies. He is qualified to write on war and allied matters

historical-fact-u-boats-in-the-black-sea

A look at the map of Europe will show that the Black Sea can only be reached through a narrow strait. Both sides of the strait are controlled by Turkey which was neutral during World War II. After Hitler had launched his operation against Russia on 22nd June 1941, he came to the conclusion that he needed a flotilla of submarines in the Black Sea. This was not an easy task, ss the German Navy did not have the necessary strength to take their warships or submarines from their ports on the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.

In a conference with Admiral Raeder Hitler projected the requirement to position U-boats in the Black Sea. The C in C of the Navy was not enthusiast about this possibility As he was aware that it was next to impossible for the U-boats to travel all the way from the Baltic Sea, through the Strait of Gibraltar, and then cross the Bosphorus.

Hitler called his armament minister Albert Speer and he suggested a plan to transport the U-Boats overland from Kiel to the Romanian port of Constanta on the Black Sea. It was an audacious plan as it involved dismantling the submarines and taking them overland in lorries and trucks through Dresden to Romania, which at that time was an ally of Nazi Germany.

The transportation of the submarines by road and barge in a dismantled condition was incident-free as the British at that time did not have the long-range bombers to bomb Germany. In addition, the entire project was shrouded in secrecy and nobody knew about it.

The Germans in all transported six submarines and called it Flotilla -30. The submarines were then reassembled by engineers in the Romanian port and made seaworthy. The Germans transported the submarines initially by the canal and river, and road.

The entire operation was complete by early 1942. Command of one of the submarines was given to the submarine ace Otto Kretschmer. He had the nickname 'silent Otto' because of the innumerable kills carried out by him with U-Boats under his command.


Transportation

Engineers at the shipbuilding yards in Kiel received instruction to dismantle six submarines in such a way that they could be transported to the Romanian port of Constanta and then reassembled there. Such an operation had never been carried out before, by any country in the world.

The boats were dismantled and taken by barges through the canal from Kiel to the Elbe. From there they were taken upstream to Dresden. Now came the tricky part and the U-boats were further dismantled and taken by Lorries to Ingolstadt on the Danube. The Danube is a feeder to the Black Sea.

From Ingolstadt, they were taken by ferry downstream to the port of Constanta. There was no problem as Romania was an ally of Nazi Germany. The U-boats were meticulously reassembled and made seaworthy.

Operations

The navy now commenced operations in the Black Sea. The Russians were taken by surprise and they had little or no defense against the U-boats. The subs played havoc on the merchant ships and tens were torpedoed and sunk.

By 1944, the tide of war had turned against the Wehrmacht. Worse was to follow as Romania switched sides and broke the alliance with Germany. The U-Boats were now left without a base to operate from and all they could do was to keep sailing in the waters. During these operations three of the six U-boats were sunk and towards the end of the war, only three U-boats were left.

In April 1945, instructions were passed to the commanders of all the three U-boats to scuttle the submarines and escape by boat to the mainland. This was like the last hurrah as the U-boats had no place to replenish themselves and also could not leave through the Strait of Bosphorus. They were trapped in the Black sea and in the end, Hitler's gamble had failed. The crew of the three submarines which had been scuttled were caught by the Turks and interred. They were later handed over to the Allies


Final chapter

The submarines were scuttled and they rested at the bottom of the Black Sea, close to the Turkish seacoast. Nothing was heard of the submarines for many decades. In 2008, a Turkish marine engineer named Selcuk Kolay decided to try and locate these submarines. He interviewed one of the commanders of the U-boat Rudolph Arendt who was captain of U-23 and was able to pinpoint the location of one of the submarines.

Subsequently, Koley could detect the remains of two other submarines. In 2019 With the latest technology available he video graphed the subs at the bottom of the Sea. Mike Williams secretary of the Nautical Archeology Society in a statement has said that the U-boats were all scuttled so they were intact like a sealed tube and they are unique survivors of the war. One can finally conclude that almost all the ideas of Hitler which looked promising ultimately withered away. The Black Sea fleet also ceased to exist and is now a footnote in the history of World War II.


Comments

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on January 23, 2021:

Thanks, Tom you really have a lot of knowledge on the subject and your comments are so many that is difficult to pick and answer. The clue to this enigma was the loss at Stalingrad, that really cooked the goose for Hitler.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on January 23, 2021:

Thank you, Pamela, for your comment.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on January 23, 2021:

Peggy, yes what a pleasure you commented. This was an engineering feat without parallel.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on January 23, 2021:

Thank you, Bill, for sparing time and commenting.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 23, 2021:

A fascinating article about a fascinating time in history! Well done!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 23, 2021:

What an interesting footnote to history! Thanks for writing about this operation. Dismantling and then putting submarines back into service would have been quite a feat in the middle of that war.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on January 23, 2021:

I think it is interesting that they were able to locate the subs. Of course, I am glad that Hitler's plan ultimately failed. You write very interesting historical article, which I appreciate.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on January 23, 2021:

Liz, Thank you for your comment. The videography helped and I believe one of the subs was pulled out.

Liz Westwood from UK on January 23, 2021:

Modern technology is useful in finding objects such as these. It's amazing that after so many years they have been located at the bottom of the sea. These submarines definitely have an interesting history, which you have recounted well in this article.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on January 23, 2021:

Thank you Cmdre Isaac for sparing time to comment.

Cmdre Isaac on January 22, 2021:

A nice short article on the German operations in the Black sea. Credit should be given to Hitler that he could plan it but then the loss of Romania spelled the end of the operations in the black sea.