Submarines of World War Two

Submarines have a long history. In 1580, a British innkeeper, William Bourne, actually drew a diagram of a submarine. In 1623, a Dutchman named Cornelius Drebbel built a working submarine for King James I. in 1654, a Frenchman named De Son built a submarine called the Rotterdam Boat and was used by Belgium to attack the British Navy.

Submarines have been used in the United States military as far back as 1776. The first one was named the Turtle and used during the American Revolution by the colonists in an attempt to sink a British ship in New York Harbor.

Submarines are boats that can dive under the water. The Germans had the most advanced submarines in the war, but other countries for the Axis and the Allies also had submarines. The subs had diesel engines and could only travel under water for a limited time. The diesel engines helped them to move quickly when on the surface. When the submarines were under water they used electric powered motors and they had a short life span.

Axis Submarines

The Axis powers in World War II were made up of Germany, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Japan.

German Submarines

The Germans called their boats U-Boats. The U stands for the word Unterseeboat, which means undersea boat. Their submarines were the letter U and then a number, such as U-200. Their focus was on finding and sinking merchant boats coming from the United States that were carrying supplies for the Allies. When several U-boats traveled together, this was called a Wolfpack. Ultimately 743 German submarines were sunk and approximately 30,000 men died when they sunk. U-123 was one of the most famous German submarines and sunk over 27 Allied vessels.

sub-1 German UBoat

Japanese Submarines

The Japanese Imperial Navy also had submarines during World War II. While they had less submarines than the Germans and many of the Allies, they did have a few famous hits by submarines. I-168 was the Japanese submarine who sunk the USS Hammann and the USS Yorktown at the Battle of Midway.

The submarines of the Japanese Imperial Navy were very diverse. They had actual manned torpedoes, small submarines called midget submarines, medium range submarines, long range submarines, submarines with fast submerged speed, and various other types of submarines. They had a total of 174 submarines, but lost 128 of these during battles.


Italian Submarines

The Italian Navy had a 107 submarines during World War II. They also introduced a midget submarine called the 600 series in 1938. They were used in the Atlantic Ocean to help the German Uboats, as well as in the Mediterranean Sea. In the Atlantic they were able to sink 109 Allied merchant ships. The Italian Navy was called the Regia Marina.


Allies Submarines

The original members of the Allies were Great Britain, France and Poland. Other countries such as the United States joined later and there were some smaller countries that were also members.

United States Submarines

Submarines for the United States only made up 2% of their Navy, but this small percentage sank over 30 percent of the Japanese Navy. And also sunk five million tons of materials that were on Japanese merchant ships. Many of these supplies were to be used by the Japanese military. The Wahoo was one of the most famous US submarines. It was called a Gato-class and was assigned to the Pacific. In 1943, she was sunk in the Sea of Japan. Her skipper was Lt. Commander Morton.


British Submarines

The Royal Navy of Britain lost 79 submarines. The last one that was sunk was named the HMS Seal. It hit a mine in Norwegian waters. Only one British submarine was ever captured by Axis powers during the war. British submarines sunk 12 German U-boats during the war.

sub-5HMS Seal

French Submarines

The French Navy had 78 submarines during World War II. While they did not have many submarines and did not have a lot of success against the Axis submarines, the French Navy of World War II is known for having the biggest submarine in the world. It was called the Surcouf and had been built before the war in 1929. It had a crew of 150 people. It was sunk near Panama in 1942.


Polish Submarines

The Country of Poland had only three submarines. It fought in conjunction with other Allies navies since it was a smaller navy. Two of the three submarines were sunk in battle. The Orzel is famous for having been captured by the Germans, and then escaping from the Germans. It was also the first Polish submarine to have a successful torpedo attack during World War II.


Polish submarine Orzel