The German U-Boat was a very effective World War One weapon. In fact in strange paradox you can say that these submarines almost won the war for Germany, by
devastating the allies merchant shipping, and at the same time say they lost the war for Germany by being the reason the U.S. entered the war on the side of the
allies. It was the sinking of the British ocean liner the Lusitania, killing numerous passengers including 128 Americans, and the sinking of several U.S. merchant
ships by German U-Boats that prompted the U.S. to join the allies and declare war on Germany on April 6th of 1917. In the list of interesting facts below you will find
information on why these weapons were so effective, where they were deployed, and what effect U-Boats had on WW1.
Interesting World War One U-Boat Facts
U-Boat is the abbreviation for "undersea boat". The abbreviation in German is U-boot for Unterseeboot.
Germany built several different classes and types of U-Boats during World War 1 varying in length, speed, and crew capacity; the typical one was over 200 feet long,
carried 10 to 20 torpedoes, could stay submerged for about 2 hours at a time, and had a crew of between 30 and 60 sailors.
Although German U-boats were somewhat effective against weapons against enemy war ships their main impact was against enemy merchant shipping.
At the beginning of WW1 Germany had about 38 U-Boats and by the end of the war they had built 334. There were never more than about 60 active at one time although at
their peak, in October of 1917, there were 140 active.
About 178 German U-boats were sunk during WW1.
At the outset of WW1 Germany obeyed an international agreement dubbed "prize rules" which set forth rules for attacking ships during times of war. These rules did not
allow for the sinking of any passenger ships and protected merchant ship crews stating they must be placed in a safe place before their ships could be sunk. Germany
soon abandoned the "prize rules" and declared the seas around England a war zone where all ships, even those of neutral countries like the U.S., could be attacked.
Due to pressure from neutral countries and out of fear the U.S. would enter the war on the side of the Allies Germany ended its unrestricted submarine warfare for a
while but on February 1st 1917 Germany once again began its unrestricted submarine warfare.
To combat the German U-Boats the British built antisubmarine submarines. These submarines sank 17 German U-boats during WW1.
In an attempt to combat U-Boats the depth charge was invented during WW1. These explosives were set to explode at a specified depth. At first they were rolled off of
ships into the water and later devices were invented to shoot them off of the ships. Although they created powerful explosions they were not very effective due to the
fact they needed to explode close to the U-boat, approximately 10 to 20 feet to sink it.
In 2013 forty one sunken German World War One U-boats were discovered off the coast of England. They were found at a depth of about 50 feet (15.24 meters).