Weapons and Defences of the Submarine and Anti-Submarine War
The art of Gunnery, and its weapons, be it for Surface engagements, or for Anti-aircraft protection, played an important role for the Submarine.
To attack Merchant shipping, the Submarine would surface and engage the target with its deck gun- the result could be devastating, and many Merchant Ships came to an untimely end through this medium. Surface attack using Gunnery did assist in conserving the Torpedo.
Only limited Anti-aircraft guns could be fitted in Submarines, and the major tactic against any aircraft sighted was the "crash dive," to quickly disappear beneath the waves.
(b) The Torpedo.
All Submarine Fleets during this war relied upon the Torpedo as their main weapon. The Torpedo, its method of propulsion, the weight of war head carried, its size, and the method employed to explode it could vary within wide limits, dependent upon the country of its origin..
At the outbreak of war, the German U-Boat, utilized an air driven Torpedo which was very similar to its British counterpart. The German Torpedo proved to be quite unreliable. It had erratic depth keeping qualities, and the magnetic pistol for exploding the war head was also a problem.
After consulting with his U-Boat Captains, their Commander, Admiral Donitz, commented "I do not believe that ever in the history of war have men been sent against the enemy with such a useless weapon."
Germany now developed a trackless electric Torpedo which was fitted with a contact fired war head. This weapon proved its effectiveness with increasing tonnages of Allied Shipping being destroyed.
It is an interesting fact that American Submarine Captains commenced their war against Japan after the infamous attack on Pearl Harbour with a similar problem of poor performance of their Torpedoes.
German Accoustic (Zaunkonig T5 or Gnat) Torpedo
In September, 1943, U-Boats introduced new tactics, and a new weapon, an accoustic torpedo designed to home on to the noise of the Escorting Ship's propellors. "Down the throat" shots from an attacking U-Boat were encountered, the first victim was the sIoop "Londonderry," a huge explosion occured and her stern just collapsed.
Some escorts had their bows blown off by an Accoustic Torpedo - the quickest path to the noise of the propellors seemed to the Torpedo's listening device to be through the Escort's bows.
This Torpedo was designed by the Germans for U-Boat use against Merchant ships. It was fired ahead of ships and could be programmed as a "Curly Torpedo" to alter course to twist and turn during it's run.
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