U-boats that survived

A survey of those German submarines captured and interned during World War II, as well as those which surrendered at the end of the War and those raised afterwards

by Derek Waller

This article was written in 1969, and was originally published in the June 1970 edition of Warship International - the journal of the International Naval Research Organisation (INRO)

There are currently six ex-German wartime U-boats in use in five different Navies of the World, as follows:

West GermanyHECHT
Ex U-2367
Ex U-2540
Spain G 7Ex U-573
YugoslaviaSAVAEx U-IT-19

And at various times since the War, there have been considerably more. The stark official war statistics make little mention of this, and give the impression that May 1945 marked the official end of all the U-boats. This is not so, and this survey is written as a historical record of those German-built and German-commissioned U-boats which were interned and captured during the War, those which surrendered at the end of the War,and those which have been raised since.

A total of 156 German U-boats surrendered to the Allies at the end of the War. Of these, 155 were German-built U-boats, and one was a Dutch submarine used by the Germans (UD-5). Of the 155 German-built boats, one (U-760) had actually been interned at Vigo in Spain since 8 September 1943, but was handed over to the Allies in late 1945. When the War against Japan ended in August 1945, seven of their submarines which surrendered were ex-German-built or German-commissioned U-boats, and this survey will also consider their disposal. The total number of U-boats which surrendered is therefore 163. Two U-boats were captured during the War, U-505 and U-570, one being scrapped in 1944, and the other being used after 1945. This survey also considers the U-boats which were raised after the end of the War, and which were either used or scrapped after being raised.

Of the two U-boats which were captured during the War, U-505 was renamed USS NEMO and used by the US Navy until 1953 when they discarded her. In 1954 she was placed outside the Chicago Museum of Science & Industry where she still is as a historic exhibit. U-570 which was captured by UK forces was renamed HMS GRAPH on 29 September 1941, and used operationally by the RN during 1942 and 1943, ending up with the Battle Honours 'Biscay 42', 'Arctic 42/43', and 'North Sea 43'. She was numbered P.715 and placed in reserve in February 1944, and then sent to the scrap yard in March 1944. While on the way to the scrap yard on 20 March 1944 she was wrecked on the Island of Islay off the west coast of Scotland after breaking adrift from her tow during a storm.

The first of several U-boats to be raised and taken back into service were U-1406 and U-1407, which were two advanced design Hydrogen Peroxide powered U-boats scuttled on 2 May 1945 in the mud off Cuxhaven on the German North Sea coast. As these two were raised in 1945 very soon after the War ended, they were included with the U-boats which surrendered when it came to sharing them out between the Allies.

On 8 May 1945 all U-boats at sea had been ordered to surrender and to proceed to collecting centres on either side of the Atlantic, and as a result of this order a total of 33 U-boats put into Allied harbours or surrendered to Allied forces at sea. The last two U-boats to surrender were U-530 and U-977 both of which made for the Argentine, but which were handed over to the USA after their arrival there. Of the remaining 123 U-boats which surrendered, 122 gave themselves up to the Allies in Norwegian and North German ports, and so in mid-May arrangements were made to send across to Britain all those which could be made fit for sea. These surrendered U-boats were initially taken to Scapa Flow where they were inspected prior to being escorted on to Loch Ryan or to Lishally Northern Ireland. By the end of June 1945, 114 seaworthy U-boats had been brought across the North Sea, and only eight remained in German and Norwegian harbours.

The 155 German-built U-boats which surrendered and the two raised boats (U-1406 and U-1407) were reviewed by the Allies in 1945, and it was formally announced in a Tri-Power Allied Agreement in early 1946, detailing the disposal of the remaining vessels of the German Navy, that 10 U-boats should be allocated to each of UK, USA, and Russia, and that the remainder of the German submarine fleet was to be destroyed.

The ex-Dutch U-boat UD-5 which had surrendered in Bergen in May 1945 was handed back to the Dutch Navy at Dundee on 13 July 1945 and re-commissioned as 0-27 (which was its original designation before capture) on the same day. 0-27 was used by the Dutch Navy until 14 November 1959 when she was struck from the active list and sold for scrap.

In accordance with the Tri-Power Allied Agreement (UK, USA, and USSR) 10 U-Boats were formally handed over to each as follows:

  1. UK U-190, U-712, U-953, U-1108, U-1171, U-1407, U-2326, U-2348, U-2518 and U-3017.
  2. USA U-234, U-530, U-858, U-873, U-889, U-977, U-1105, U-1406, U-2513 and U-3008.
  3. Russia U-1057, U-1058, U-1064, U-1231, U-1305, U-2353, U-2529, U-3035, U-3041 and U-3515.

After this, the UK and USA put in hand plans to dispose of the remaining U-boats. The UK plans involved the sinking of 116 U-boats off Malin Head, Northern Ireland between November 1945 and 20 January 1946 in "Operation Deadlight". The U-boats disposed of in this way were as follows:

U-143, U-U-145, U-149, U-150, U-155, U-170, U-218, U-244, U-245, U-249, U-255, U-278, U-281, U-291, U-293, U-294, U-295, U-298, U-299, U-312, U-313, U-318, U-328, U-363, U-368, U-369, U-427, U-481, U-483, U-485, U-516, U-532, U-539, U-541, U-637, U-668, U-680, U-716, U-720, U-739, U-760, U-764, U-773, U-775, U-776, U-778, U-779, U-802, U-806, U-825, U-826, U-861, U-868, U-874, U-875, U-883, U-901, U-907, U-928, U-930, U-956, U-968, U-975, U-978, U-991, U-992, U-994, U-997, U-1002, U-1004, U-1005, U-1009, U-1010 1019, U-1022, U-1023, U-1052, U-1061, U-1102, U-1103, U-1104, U-1109, U-1110, U-1163, U-1165, U-1194, U-1198, U-1203, U-1230, U-1233, U-1271, U-1272, U-1301, U-1307, U-2321, U-2322, U-2324, U-2325, U-2328, U-2329, U-2334, U-2335, U-2336, U-2337, U-2341, U-2345, U-2350, U-2351, U-2354, U-2356, U-2361, U-2363, U-2502, U-2506, U-2511 and U-3514.

The USA's action was to sink their two surplus boats, U-805 and U-1228, off the east coast of the USA on the 4th and 5th of February 1946 respectively. This action by the UK and the USA thereby accounted for 118 U-boats, and so together with the 30 allocated to the Allies, 148 of the 157 U-boats had been disposed of.

Of the remaining nine U-boats the one (U-510) which surrendered from sea to St. Nazaire in France in May 1945 was kept by France, even though outside the Allied Agreement. The other eight were all too unseaworthy to be transferred to the UK with the others which were destroyed in "Operation Deadlight", and of these, four were taken over by Norway (U-926, U-995, U-1202 and U-4706), and four (U-310, U-315, U-324, and U-1197) were broken up in the ports in which they surrendered. The Norwegian Navy in fact surveyed U-310, U-315, and U-324 with a view to taking them over, but found that it would be too costly to renovate them so they were scrapped in March 1947. U-1197, which surrendered in Wilhelmshaven, had been badly damaged in an air attack on Wesermunde on 25 April 1945, and was unfit for removal to the UK. She was, therefore, scrapped on site.

U-boats in the Japanese Navy

The seven U-boats which surrendered under the Japanese flag in August 1945, were all destroyed under the terms of the Japanese surrender document. This stated that all submarines which surrendered (58 in all) were to be demolished, scuttled, or otherwise destroyed. These seven U-boats, and their details were as follows:

U-boats allocated to the Russian Navy

The 10 U-boats allocated to Russia were delivered at Libau in November 1945 by British crews, or under tow by British warships. They were used by the Russian Navy until their own submarine designs made the ex-German ones obsolete. U-123l was renamed N.25 until she was scrapped in 1960, and the others, U-l057 (S.8l), U-l058 (S.82), U-l064 (S.83), U-1305 (S.84), U-2353 (N.3l), U-2529(N.27), U-3035 (N.28), U-3041 (N.29), and U-35l5 (N.30) were scrapped in 1963.

U-boats allocated to the US Navy

The 10 U-boats allocated to the USA were used by the US Navy for various trial purposes until eventually they were scrapped or destroyed in tests when of no further use; their actual disposal details are as follows:

U-boats allocated to the Royal Navy

Of the 10 U-boats allocated to the UK, one, U-190 which had surrendered at sea in the Bay of Bulls off Eastern Canada, was given to the Royal Canadian Navy and sunk by them on 22 October l947 during target trials. Two others were given to France. Of these, U-2326 was used by the French Navy for schnorkel trials, but was lost with all hands on 6 December 1946 when she failed to surface after a deep diving test off Toulon. The other boat, U-25l8, was renamed ROLAND MORILLET, and is still in use with the French Navy. The other seven U-boats allocated to UK were used for various trial purposes by the Royal Navy until they were disposed of after ship target trials in 1949. Of these boats, u-1407 was renamed HMS METEORITE for the period that she was in service. The seven U-boats were sold for scrap as follows:

U-boats taken over by the Royal Norwegian Navy

The four U-boats remaining in Norway were all taken over by the Norwegian Navy in 1948 with a view to future use. One of them, U-4706 Which had been renamed KNERTEN, was not found to be suitable, and was sold to the Royal Norwegian Yacht Club on 14 April 1950 for use as a storeroom. The other three were commissioned as follows:

After 10 or more years use by the Norwegian Navy, these three ex-U-boats were disposed of as follows:

U-boats taken over by the French Navy

The U-boat acquired directly by France, U-5lO, was renamed BOUAN, and served with the French Navy until she was scrapped in 1958. France was also responsible for raising three U-boats and putting them into service with her Navy. They were U-123 which had been paid off and abandoned by the Germans at Lorient in August 1944, U-471 which had been sunk in an air raid on Toulon in August 1944, and U-766 Which had also been paid off and abandoned at La Pallice in August 1944. These three U-boats were given the French names BLAISON, MILLE, and LAUBIE respectively, and served for many years in the French Navy. BLAISON (U-123) was discarded in 1957, MILLE (U-471) was withdrawn from service in August 1963, and LAUBIE (U-766) was scrapped on 17 October 1962 after being seriously damaged in a collision.

During the War, two French submarines, L'AFRICAINE and L'ASTREE, were taken over by the Germans, but although they were given the U-boat numbers UF-l and UF-3 respectively, they were never completed and commissioned by the Germans. After the War, the French resumed the construction of these two submarines, and they were commissioned into the French Navy. L'AFRICAINE was withdrawn from service on 1 July 1961 as worn out, and L'ASTREE was struck from the active list and scrapped in December 1965.

U-boats raised by Russia

There are two U-boats known to have been raised by the Russians and put into service with their Navy for training purposes. These were U-18 and U-24 Which were originally scuttled by the Germans in August 1944, when they evacuated from the Black Sea area. These two U-boats were used by the Russian Navy until 1960 When they were finally scrapped. The Russians also took over quite a number of unfinished submarine hulls in the Baltic ports at the end of the War, but it is unlikely that they ever completed them to service standards.

U-boats raised by West Germany

West Germany has raised and put into service three U-boats which were used in the War. These are U-2365 which was scuttled in the Skaggerak north-west of Denmark on 8 May 1945, U-2367 which was sunk on 5 May 1945 by an air attack in the Grober Belt between the Danish Islands, and U-2540 which was sunk by an air strike on 2 May 1945 in the south of the Kattegat in the entrance to the Baltic. U-2365 was raised in June 1956, and commissioned on 15 August 1957 as HAI, and U-2367 was raised in August 1956, and commissioned on 1 October 1957 as Hecht. HAI was used by the W. German Navy until 14 September 1966 when she was lost in the North Sea, off the Dogger Bank. She was raised a week later, but was not rehabilitated and scrapped instead. Hecht is still being used for training purposes. The other U-boat (U-2540) was raised in 1957, rebuilt at Kiel during 1958 and 1959, and re-commissioned as WILHELM BAUER on 1 September 1960. Since then she has been used for experimental purposes by the West German Navy.

U-boats raised by East Germany

East Germany has raised two U-boats, but not put either into service. A Type VII C boat was raised in 1953 and taken to Stralsund in the/Baltic where it was broken up in 1954/1955. (This was probably U-923 which had been sunk in February 1945 by a Russian mine between Kiel and Travemunde.) The other was U-2344 which had been sunk in the Baltic off Heiligenhaven on 18 February 1945 after a collision, and was raised in June 1946 for intended use as a training submarine. U-2344 was taken to Rostock for refit, but was found to be beyond repair and so was completely broken up.

U-boats in Yugoslavia

Yugoslavia is currently operating U-IT-19 in her Navy under the name of SAVA. U-IT-19 was one of the Italian submarines taken over by Germany in 1943, and was sunk in Pola during an air attack on 9 January 1944. After the War, she was raised by Yugoslavia and taken into service. There were reports in the 1950’s that U-81, which had been sunk in Pola on the same day as U-IT-19, had also been raised and put into service with the Yugoslav Navy. However, these reports were not confirmed, and it is most likely that she was raised and then scrapped as beyond repair.

U-boats in Spain

Two U-boats were interned in Spain during the War. U-760 was handed over to the Allies at the end of the War, and then sunk in "Operation Deadlight". The other was U-573 which had been interned after being damaged by air attack, in the western Mediterranean on 1 May 1942. This U-boat was purchased by Spain from Germany in 1943, and since then has been in service with the Spanish Navy as G-7. U-167, which was sunk near the Canary Islands on 5 April 1943, was raised by the Spanish Navy in 1951, but was scrapped as being of no further use.

U-boats in Italy

Italy has been responsible for raising several of the sunken Italian submarines which were given U-IT numbers after she surrendered in 1943. However, most of the U-boats were raised during harbour clearance, and only one, U-IT-7, was found to be of any further use. U-IT-7 was sunk at Monfalcone during an air raid on 16 March 1945. She was raised in 1945, but it was not until 1953 that she was taken in hand for reconstruction and modernization. She was relaunched as BARIO (her original Italian name) on 21 June 1959, had her name changed again to PIETRO CALVI in March 1961, and has been in service with the Italian Navy ever since. As far as can be-determined at least seven other U-boats were raised and subsequently destroyed during the clearance of the Italian harbours after 1945.

When the War ended there were very many U-boats in or near French, Norwegian, and German harbours which had been destroyed, scrapped, or scuttled during the course of the War. Obviously these U-boats had to be cleared from these harbours, and either broken up for scrap metal or sunk in deep water. As a result of this clearance there were several reports that U-boats other than those specifically mentioned above have been raised since 1945. However, very few of the reports are supported by more than one source, and it is considered that no significant historical fact is ignored by discounting them.

Footnote: When this article was written in 1969 the Internet did not exist, most original source evidence was not in the public domain, and very few authentic books had been written about the subject. Since then much has changed, and Derek Waller is now in the process of producing an updated and corrected version based on all the new information which has appeared in the past 40 years.

This article was published on 30 Jun 2010.

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