U – U-boat

U-boats easily were the most successful pieces of the German Navy.  U-boats were used during both of the two world wars, but were extensively used during World War II.  U-boat comes from the German word Unterseeboot, German for under sea boat.   Germany’s submarine fleet was far larger than any of the other Allies.  U-boats gave the Germans a large advantage.


The most common U-boat tactic was called rudeltaktik, German for wolfpack.  Under the wolfpack method, U-boats would patrol in convoy lines, similar to zone defense.  Once an Allied convoy of ships was found, a U-boat would shadow the convoy.  The U-boat would report the location and speed of the enemy ships to German headquarters.  Then, an attack would planned and other U-boats would join the shadowing U-boat.  Once there were enough U-boats present, the Germans would try to torpedo the enemy ships all at once, to prevent being attack.  Wolfpacks were very effective, but the Germans could not use this method constently, because it required a large amount of active U-boats.

U-boats in America

Many people don’t realize how close the Nazis came to the United States.  The rugged coast of New England was very hard for the US Navy to defend.  Maine, in particular, presented a large vulnerability.  Maine has one of the longest coast lines in the United States, with its numerous inlets and coastal islands.  The U-boats were known  to sink several civilian fishing boats off the coast of Maine.

German U-boat surrendering at Portsmouth, NH

German U-boat surrendering at Portsmouth, NH

There also have been accounts of U-boats coming ashore in the middle of the night and raiding people’s kitchens for food.  It is also known that the Germans had a whole fleet of U-boats that patrolled up and down the East Coast.

Germans aboard U-boat watch as they are tugged ashore in Portsmouth, NH

On V-E Day, which marked the end of the war in Europe, several U-boats surrendered at Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  The press had a hay day. Many U-boats were stationed near Portsmouth, since Portsmouth Naval Shipyard was the center of US submarine production.  During the war, there was a submarine net at the mouth of the harbor to prevent unwanted subs from entering.  Years later, a highly accurate map of Portsmouth Harbor was discovered in Germany, which was written in German and published during the war era.  Not surprisingly, it is speculated that the U-boats were able to enter Portsmouth Harbor.