Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

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Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

Post by Benjamin » Sun Feb 03, 2013 5:22 am

Here is an interesting article by Siegfried Breyer.

Could the War have been Won with the New U-boat?

This question has been asked repeatedly, but the answer can only be: No. Under the assumption that a sufficiently great number of well-developed Type XXI U-boats could have been ready for service at the right time, the U-boat war could have been brought to new life. The enemy defenses would have had a hard time with it: the previous means and methods of defense used by the ships (usually not fast enough) that escorted convoys would have failed against the fast U-boats that now operated underwater, and they could not be detected from the air by radar as long as they were under the surface. Thanks to their considerably improved capabilities, the new U-boats would once again have been capable of attacking convoys and sinking ships successfully. This would have forced the enemy to seek new ways of counteracting them. As long as that was the case, the Type XXI U-boats would at least have been able to cut down the tremendous stream of war materials of all kinds across the Atlantic, if not to halt it altogether, provided that their numbers were great enough. Their sinkings certainly would have been able to influence the war on the land fronts. Without these war materials, the Red Army certainly would have had a much harder job forcing the German troops to retreat out of the Soviet Union, and without the readiness of war materials and troops in Britain, it probably would have been all but impossible to carry out the invasion in the spring of 1944. The "Fortress of Europe" dominated by the Germans would have been able to hold off the enemy much longer. Such a development would not have stopped the Allies. If they had not been able to succeed on the sea or set foot on the Continent, then there would have been just one choice for them: The first atomic bombs would not have been dropped on Japan, but on targets in Germany, though it is uncertain whether the Germans would have surrendered as did the Japanese, who in the summer of 1945 had been seriously weakened and had lost their military prospects. As long as the atomic bomb was not yet available, the Allies would have had to concentrate on new focal points for their strategic air warfare: U-boat shipyards, the fuel industry, supplying firms and the like would have become their primary targets. In their determination to destroy "Hitler's Germany", all the enemies agreed completely, thus it can scarcely be presumed that they would not have attained this goal. It would only have taken one or more years longer and led to even greater losses. The other side always had greater resources for waging war, while Germany's supplies sufficed for only a short period of time. From this perspective, the new U-boats could only have prolonged the war, for a decisive turnaround was no longer possible as of the middle of 1943 at the latest. No matter how successful the development of these new U-boats had been, they were doomed from the start by the words "Too late!"

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Re: Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

Post by alecsandros » Sun Feb 03, 2013 7:40 am

If the KGM managed to keep the XXi0-s resupplied and to cover them well when back into port, they could have had a devastating impact, provided at least 150 of them were built by early-1943. Thus, a continous push by 50 operational U-boats would have crippled the arctic convoys and do much damage to the other convoy routes.

The convoys could have been even cancelled for a while, at least until a new countermeasure was developed.
But, due to their small sonar signature, these boats were extremely difficult to locate, and because of their speed, could get out of the bombed areas before the A/S charges got to their depth.

In my opinion, these weapons would have done great damage to the USSR in 1943, and would probably allow for a successfull operation at Kursk by the Wehrmacht.
Alll in all, by cuting Russian ressuply routes and choking British islands armament for D-DAy, they may have prolonged the war by 1,5 - 2 years, IMO.

It's a matter of debate IF either country could have waged war for another 1,5-2 years, given the economical, social and material constraints... [weren't the USA and Britain almost bankrupt in Aug 1945 ?]

And of course, the ever-present question would remain: what if those 2 extra war years would have allowed the Germans to build a bomb of their own... ?

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Re: Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

Post by LeopardTooth » Sun Feb 03, 2013 1:20 pm

Allied physicists and engineers showed themselves to be generally adept at coming up with anti-submarine technologies as the months and years of WW2 went on. If Type XXIs had been deployed in 1943, I imagine that more Allied R&D resources would have been deployed towards detection and destruction technologies.

Not sure how large a part the materials delivered by Arctic convoys played in the Soviets turning the tide against the wehrmacht. I believe that the main factors for Soviet victories were industry beyond the Urals increasing production, mobilization of large amounts of manpower, decreased political interference in military affairs, and learning from mistakes.

Really, I think the axis militaries fought as hard and successfully as anyone could have asked from them. The axis was inevitably doomed, it would seem, both by demographics (~200 million axis taking on ~1.7 billion allied) and economics (see, for example, http://www.combinedfleet.com/economic.htm).

I think that the only cutting-edge weapon system that Germany could have come up with that would have given them a chance to actually win the war would have been, by mid-1944 at the latest, large numbers of nuclear bombs coupled with either a fleet of jet bombers (ie something like the Arado E.555, or some other contender from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amerika_Bomber) or V-9/10 ICBM rockets (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aggregate_series#A9).

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Re: Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

Post by alecsandros » Sun Feb 03, 2013 1:39 pm

Russia depended massively on Allied ressuplies; there were 3 routes however, 1 through the Arctic, another through Vladivostoik and another via the persian coridor.

The shortest was the arctic.
According to research, without this help, the russians couldn't possibly have stopped the advance, and could not hope to launch any kind of offensive.

There are several discussion about this on this forum, which include plenty of bibliography...

===

Type 21 could obtain 18kts submerged, while the corvettes had 16kts max.

Because they didn't need to surface in order to recharge, they could remain underwter for weeks, thus making Allied air superiority and surface-search radars useless.

Worst yet, their weapons systems were vastly improved, and a single ship could launch 22 torpedoes in less than 1 hour.

===

An effective response woudl probably rely on some sort of guided anti-submarine torpedo, or guided-mine. But this would take alot of time, and critical moments would be lost.

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Re: Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

Post by Benjamin » Sun Feb 03, 2013 7:52 pm

Had the new U-boats been operating in large numbers, 100 operational at the front lines by the beginning of 1944, I think the Normandy landings would have been postponed , and Rommel has more time to strenghten the Atlantic wall. In the Eastern front the Germans would obviously do better without a second front to fight in France, but I don't know how much that would have affected the Soviets because they obtained most of the western supplies from the Iran route.

So, the war last longer (unless the Allies drop nuclear bombs on Germany).
I can see German jet fighters gaining the edge over the skies of Germany, and London suffering badly from Hitler's missiles.

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Re: Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

Post by alecsandros » Sun Feb 03, 2013 8:08 pm

Benjamin wrote:
So, the war last longer (unless the Allies drop nuclear bombs on Germany).
I can see German jet fighters gaining the edge over the skies of Germany, and London suffering badly from Hitler's missiles.
Are you sure about the Iran route ? That was the longest road...

The war could last longer, and London could get bombed by very bad things, such as V-2 rockets with chemical weapons on board.

Not to mention the possibility of a nuke over the British isles...

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Re: Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

Post by Dave Saxton » Sun Feb 03, 2013 8:42 pm

The time that a weapon like the Type XXI could have been mosted useful and when they really needed it was earlier in the war. By the time it became available as you rightly say it was far too late. Really after Nov 1942 I'm not sure that more advanced naval weapons could have made enough difference. Could the Type XXI shut down the Pacific and southern re-supply routes to Stalin? If so then that could be significant. The German Navy succeeded in shutting down the Murmansk route for the better part of a year by simply deploying the Scharnhorst with the Tirpitz. Yet it made no difference to the outcome of Kursk and the continued loss of inititive on their eastern front.

If on the other hand the Type XXIs can help shut down these alternative routes and the surface fleet can keep the northern route more or less shut down, then it may not matter what happens to the western Invasion preparations. The key to the west was re-gaining air superiority over Western Europe and that may have been possible if the war to the east progressed more favorable for the Germans-so that the Luftwaffe wasn't so over stretched.

It still boils down, at least in my opinion, that Hitler lost the war one way or the other on June 22 1941.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

Post by alecsandros » Sun Feb 03, 2013 9:01 pm

Dave Saxton wrote: The German Navy succeeded in shutting down the Murmansk route for the better part of a year by simply deploying the Scharnhorst with the Tirpitz. Yet it made no difference to the outcome of Kursk and the continued loss of inititive on their eastern front.
Yes, but convoys were redeployed to Arhanghelsk, and the northern route remained operational.

And by the way, it also seemed extremely dubious to me how did the Japanese navy allow for supplies crossing into Vladivostok.

At last, as I said, the Persian coridor was by far the longest road, and I don't know how well delivery through that chokepoint might have worked for the soviets.

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Re: Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

Post by Benjamin » Sun Feb 03, 2013 10:05 pm

alecsandros wrote:
Benjamin wrote:
So, the war last longer (unless the Allies drop nuclear bombs on Germany).
I can see German jet fighters gaining the edge over the skies of Germany, and London suffering badly from Hitler's missiles.
Are you sure about the Iran route ? That was the longest road...

The war could last longer, and London could get bombed by very bad things, such as V-2 rockets with chemical weapons on board.

Not to mention the possibility of a nuke over the British isles...
yes Iran route was longer, but much safer and most of the material went that way and via Vladivostok too. I think the Artic convoys only represented a small fraction of the lend & lease deliveries to USSR.

I'm not sure Hitler would have used chemical weapons. In fact Germany had considerable reserves of chemicals in 1944-1945 and Hitler didn't make use of them perhaps afraid of reprisal attacks of the same kind by the Allies. Nuclear bombs I think were out of reach for Nazi Germany and in any case the USA had the bomb first by August 1945.

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Re: Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

Post by LeopardTooth » Sun Feb 03, 2013 10:56 pm

"Hitler lost the war one way or the other on June 22 1941"

I think a case could be made that the Nazis, if they were smart, should have made sure to finish off the UK before ever choosing to tangle with the USSR, or perhaps even never initiated Barbarossa at all.

On the other hand, I think that "Mein Kampf" and other pre-war documents reveal that the Nazis had minimal desire to fight with Britain or France at all, and that conquest to the East, gaining "lebensraum" and toppling the bolsheviks, was their whole ultimate point of Naziism and of their going to war, possibly even more central that re-capturing land lost in the Treaty of Versailles or removing Jewish influence from Deutschland.

Also, there is some substantiated evidence that the Soviets were making final preparations for their own intended offensive westwards when Barbarossa hit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_off ... ontroversy. Even if this were not so, I'd say that some sort of showdown between the bolsheviks and nazis was inevitable eventually, and the Germans initiated it on their own terms as much as possible. (well, they could have skipped invading the Balkans and jumped Barbarossa off on May 1st instead of late June so as to give them more of the Summer campaigning season - but besides that)

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Re: Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

Post by Dave Saxton » Mon Feb 04, 2013 1:19 am

alecsandros wrote:Yes, but convoys were redeployed to Arhanghelsk, and the northern route remained operational.
No, this is incorrect. The northern route was completely shut down from late Feb to late Nov 1943. No convoys passed through the northern route during that time frame. It was one of the most successful examples of a fleet in being in modern naval history.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

Post by alecsandros » Mon Feb 04, 2013 6:38 am

Dave Saxton wrote:
alecsandros wrote:Yes, but convoys were redeployed to Arhanghelsk, and the northern route remained operational.
No, this is incorrect. The northern route was completely shut down from late Feb to late Nov 1943. No convoys passed through the northern route during that time frame. It was one of the most successful examples of a fleet in being in modern naval history.
Aaa, 1943.

I was thinking 1942.

By fev 1943 there was little need for further ressuplying, as the Red Army as amply equipped already for the summer offensive.

I doubt the convoys were stopped due to GErman surface ships - the only time they did something was on PQ-17, and plenty of convoys followed up nonetheless.

More likely it was a combination of Allied warships concentrated in the Mediteranean for the Italian landings, and in the Pacific to drive out the Japanese forces, coupled with little need to transport extra cargo to the USSR and maybe with the need to reduce convoys during the artic summer, so as the Luftwaffe
couldn't do much damage.

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Re: Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

Post by Dresden » Mon Feb 04, 2013 7:06 pm

One of the biggest advantages to stopping or slowing the Allied convoys would be slowing down the influx of trucks to the Red Army (the entire Studebaker run was designated for the Red Army). Without these trucks it would have been impossible both for the infantry to keep up with the armor and for the Red Army to keep the front line units fully and rapidly supplied (a la the Red Ball Express). Thus the pressure on the front line German units would have been lowered, and the Soviets unable to "blitz" at more than a local level, and the level of attrition increases.

The potential ramifications are interesting to ponder.

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Re: Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

Post by Dave Saxton » Mon Feb 04, 2013 8:20 pm

alecsandros wrote:I doubt the convoys were stopped due to GErman surface ships - the only time they did something was on PQ-17, and plenty of convoys followed up nonetheless.
Actually only three east bound convoys passed between the PQ17 disaster in June 42 and March 43. PQ18 was delayed until Sept, because Tovey felt he didn't have enough battleships on hand to deal with Tirpitz, with KGV re-deployed to the Med.

In Sept Tovey had two battleships at his disposal.The Germans transfered their cruisers to Bogen as a jumping off point to attack PQ18, but Hitler would not consider including TP, despite the fact that it was known that the British had no full sized aircraft carrier in the artic at the time (there was a CVE with the convoy). Without TP, the Germans were just kind of seeing if British would yield to the threat of surface ships once again, but the British did not once it was clear that TP was staying put. PQ18 suffered at the hands of the JU-88s losing ten ships to air torpedoes, and three more to U-boats. QP14 was finally allowed to sail for home at the same time, but it also lost six ships to JU-88s.

The British postponed any further convoys for the time being, but sent a Convoy in late Dec 42, because it was proven that Germans were re-fitting TP at Trondheim. This resulted in the Battle of Barents Sea. Then there was one convoy sent prior to SH arriving in mid March.

I think the German Navy could have shut down the Northern Route in 1942, if Hitler had not issued his "no risks" orders greatly hindering the operations of heavy ships.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

Post by alecsandros2 » Mon Feb 04, 2013 9:12 pm

Dave Saxton wrote:
alecsandros wrote:I doubt the convoys were stopped due to GErman surface ships - the only time they did something was on PQ-17, and plenty of convoys followed up nonetheless.
Actually only three east bound convoys passed between the PQ17 disaster in June 42 and March 43. PQ18 was delayed until Sept, because Tovey felt he didn't have enough battleships on hand to deal with Tirpitz, with KGV re-deployed to the Med.
There was also the JW51A, a few weeks before the more famous JW51B, that was engaged in the Barents Sea.
I think the German Navy could have shut down the Northern Route in 1942, if Hitler had not issued his "no risks" orders greatly hindering the operations of heavy ships.
Maybe with Scharnhorst deployed to Norway in Sept or Oct 1942, they could...
As it was, they were to thin on warships to attempt to provoke the covering force of a convoy

PQ-18 alone had some 40 destroyers, 7 cruisers, 2 battleships and 1 light carrier, plus a host of smaller escorts, in various layers of protecting the convoy...

Worst still, the British submarines were on constant alert, and they could do much damage to the German heavy ships.
Gneisenau, Lutzow, Prinz Eugen, were all torpedoed by submarines at various parts of their careers... Tirpitz was discovered and attacked by submarines almost each time it sortied...

===

With good supplies, at least 12 destroyers, Lutzow, Hipper, Scharnhorst and Tirpitz all operatiional, I guess the northern route could have been sealed off...

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