• Your thoughts?

  • 2021 '20 '19 '18 '17 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    I think the effect would have been a slight increase in Allied shipping losses, but not to a degree that would have been worth writing home to Mother about.  The Type XXI’s sophisticated features mainly had the benefit of making the sub harder to detect; this increased its survivability, but not necessarily its killing power.  By late 1943, the Allies had gotten their act together in the Battle of the Atlantic and could count more and more on the key technologies that defeated the U-boat: centimetric radar (both shipborne and airborne), long-range patrol planes like the Liberator (augmented by technologies like the Leigh Light), escort carriers, and the Hedgehog and Squid depth-charge systems.  Add to that other helpful factors like proper training for corvette crews, the development of effective escort tactics by the likes of Johnny Walker, the code-cracking operations at Bletchley Park, the introduction of frigates (“twin-screw corvettes”) and destroyer escorts, plus the mass-production of Liberty Ships (“build 'em faster than they can sink 'em”).  The Type XXI wasn’t enough to offset these developments, even though its high speed did improve its ability to position itself for a torpedo attack compared with the Type VII.

    In the early days of the war, the Allies (or more accurately the British) had been too focussed on the goal of sinking U-boats.  By the middle of the war, however, they had figured out that the real priority was to force U-boats to operate submerged for as long as possible: this reduced their speed and their patrol endurance, and made it more difficult for them to attack convoys (U-boat skippers having discovered early in the war that nighttime surface attacks were the ideal tactic from their viewpoint).  The Liberator was especially useful in this regard because U-boats tended to crash-dive as soon as they saw an airplane appear.  So the fact that the Type XXI could operate submerged for a long time wouldn’t have bothered the Allies too much because that’s precisely where they wanted U-boats to stay: submerged.

  • Moderator 2022 2021 '20 '19 '18 '17 '16 '15 '14 '13 '12

    Afternoon Worsham.
    Have just looked at the Type XXI on Wiki. Did not realise so many ships were launched.
    I loved the line: they even had a freezer!
    I can see how potent it was and how it could have changed things in the Atlantic if more were made or just a fraction earlier. Not sure it was a war changer, but would have caused problems if more Condors had been produced to work alongside them.
    Thank you for the poll.

  • '17 '16 '15 Organizer '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    Simple. By 43 the war was already lost. Of course it would have caused more shipping loses but for what point? Nothing could change the war in 1943.

    If they had them in say 41, you got a game changer.


  • How does late 1943 & 1944 Allied War effort get hampered if the German U-Boats continue to sink 500,000 to 800,000 tons of shipping per month?

    I believe 700,000 tons per month was the Germans “magic number.”

  • 2021 '20 '19 '18 '17 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @ABWorsham:

    How does late 1943 & 1944 Allied War effort get hampered if the German U-Boats continue to sink 500,000 to 800,000 tons of shipping per month?

    I believe 700,000 tons per month was the Germans “magic number.”

    I don’t know what the sinking tonnage figures were at that point of the war, so I can only give a partial answer, but the “continues” part of “if the German U-Boats continue to sink 500,000 to 800,000 tons of shipping per month” implies that the Germans were actually sinking that amount of shipping at some point in 1943.  I don’t know if that was actually the case.  But a key consideration is the date.  The loss of 500,000 tons of British shipping in late 1943 would have had a much less serious impact than the same loss in late 1940, when Britain was fighting alone with very limited resources both quantitatively and qualitatively.  I mentioned the Liberty Ship in my previous post, and I’d say that it was one of the many game changers in favour of the Allies.  A total of 2,710 Liberty Ships were built during the war (from 1941 to 1945).  If you multiply that number by their capacity of 10,856 tonnes you get a total of 29,419,760 tonnes – in other words, just under 30 million tonnes of added Allied shipping capacity.  At the sustained rate of 500,000 tons sunk per month, it would take Germany about 59 months to destroy that much Allied shipping.  That’s nearly five years, which is just about the length of the entire Second World War.  It’s not surprising that, as far as the Allies were concerned, a Liberty Ship was considered to have paid for itself if it made just a single successful crossing from America to Britain.  And note that these figures don’t even include the 531 Victory Ships that the Allies built as a follow-on design to the Liberty Ship.


  • It was a tight knot around Britain’s neck
    A few more weeks of German bombing and Churchill said it would have been all over, fight in the streets on the shore in their back yards…now I have to go look up that speech
    If the subs could have been more potent this would mean more tonnage sunk and it could of been a back breaker
    Thank God it ended the way it did
    I dont think the Britt’s would like speaking German


  • XXI was a war winner IMO.  Without allied seaborne support, the Soviets could not have kept the war machine churning.  Combine that with no western front to tie down German troops and it’s game over for the Soviets.


  • I wonder how the combination of the XXI boats and the G & T series homing torpedos would have worked against the North Atlantic Convoys?

    Older model U-boats would have been used against softer targets, coastal convoys, and distant shipping routes had the XXI been in production early in the war.

  • 2021 '20 '19 '18 '17 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @ABWorsham:

    I wonder how the combination of the XXI boats and the G & T series homing torpedos would have worked against the North Atlantic Convoys?

    The acoustic homing torpedo had a brief initial period of success, when it caught the Allies by surprise, but they soon figured out how to neutralize it by trailing mechanical noisemakers behind their ships as acoustic decoys.

  • Customizer

    Earlier deployment and perhaps a variant of Japanese designed torpedos may have been more helpful. I sometimes think had the Germans delayed the war 5-7 years WWII may have played out much differently in part because of technology like the Type XXI.

    This combined with better leadership and more logical rather than ideological strategy would have greatly helped the Axis. It was the Teutonic, viking and samurai spirit gone haywire. Great motivation but not the technology to match as the war progressed. The shear volume of weaponry that the Allies had at the end overcame the fighting spirit of the Axis.

    Had the technology been as superior as the willingness to attack against large numbers the Axis may have won IMO.

  • 2022 2021 '20 '19 '18 '17

    It’s hard to say which developments would have taken place had the war started later, but one ongoing process was the modernization of agriculture. Modern equipment, scale advantages and  fertilizer have increased the agricultural production of countries like Britain to a level well above self-sufficiency, so at present it would no longer be possible to starve them into submission by blocking their food imports. I don’t have the numbers at hand on how fast that development went though, so I’m not sure how much of a difference 5-7 years would have made, but it would have been a factor.
    On a side note, I don’t think the Axis could have ever won the war. They were fighting the three most powerful nations in the world…. and just about everybody else, too.

  • 2021 '20 '19 '18 '17 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @Herr:

    It’s hard to say which developments would have taken place had the war started later, but one ongoing process was the modernization of agriculture. Modern equipment, scale advantages and fertilizer have increased the agricultural production of countries like Britain to a level well above self-sufficiency, so at present it would no longer be possible to starve them into submission by blocking their food imports.

    This would indeed have been a great help to Britain, but even without having to import so much food the UK would still have had to import all its oil.

    The question of whether Germany and Japan would have been better off to delay the war by 5 to 7 years is interesting.  In Japan’s case, the answer is almost certainly no. When the US imposed an oil embargo on Japan in retaliation for (as I recall) the Japanese occupation of French Indochina, Japan was placed in a position in which it would exhaust its oil reserves in about two years – so Japan had to act quickly to secure new oil supplies.  In Germany’s case, the situation is more complicated but I think the answer is probably no.  Germany would have grown militarily more powerful over a 5-to-7 year span (the naval Plan Z being a good example), but its potential enemies would have had time to do so too.  Germany had had the advantage of starting to re-arm earlier than Britain and France and the US and the USSR, so in that sense it was to Germany’s advantage to go to war early while its potential opponents were still playing catch-up.  It’s also possible that loss of political momentum might have been a problem.  Hitler had built up an intimidating image as someone who could achieve territorial gains without getting Germany into an actual war: the reoccupation of the Rhineland, the absorption of Austria, the annexation of the Sudetenland, the occupation of the rest of Czechoslovakia – all in fairly short order.  This intimidation factor was also heightened by the show of military force he made through his involvement in the Spanish Civil War.  So if he had suddenly called a halt to German expansionism for half a decade or more, he would have lost this momentum: he would have started to look less threatening and less unstoppable, and his potential enemies might thus have been encouraged to finally stand up to him rather than cowering in terror.

  • Customizer

    Good points HK and Marc.

    I don’t think Japan could’ve continued it’s campaign in Asia and delay war with the west. I do think Germany could’ve waited at least 3-4 years. Longer had the Soviets become the greater of evils in Europe.

    I think the ideology of the Axis power’s leadership was considered by themselves to be the superior weapon and it was thier downfall. Had they had more technology to back this they may have been able to win.


  • The Type XXI U-Boat had a rubber coating, making it difficult to detect. Also, its streamlined design allowed it to move faster underwater than it could while surfaced. It had a sophisticated electronics system.

    Also, if you’re giving Germany the Type XXI U-boat in 1943, then you should also give it the kinds of torpedoes it had available in 1945.

    The standard-issue torpedo of WWII used a diesel engine. Air was stored aboard a pressurized container in the torpedo; allowing the diesel engine to operate. Torpedoes like this were noisy, making them easy to detect and evade. They also left a telltale trail of air bubbles–a trail which could lead people back to the ship that had launched them. At night in the South Pacific, this trail would glow, due to the presence of glowing algae.

    The Japanese had developed a process by which to separate oxygen from the non-oxygen components of air (such as nitrogen). Their torpedoes contained tanks of oxygen-only; thereby multiplying their torpedoes’ range while greatly reducing the visibility of the air bubble trail. Their Long Lance torpedoes were much better than Allied torpedoes.

    Germany tackled the problems associated with conventional WWII torpedoes in a different way: by going electric. An electric torpedo produces almost no noise; making detection very difficult. Also, there is no air bubble trail to lead people back to the sub which launched it. However, early versions of electric torpedoes had very short ranges: considerably shorter than standard-issue diesel torpedoes. Germany steadily increased the range of its electric torpedoes as the war progressed. By the time the war ended, the range on German electric torpedoes was still not comparable to Japan’s Long Lance torpedoes. But they had caught up with–or perhaps slightly exceeded–the range associated with standard-issue diesel torpedoes.

    While the Type XXI U-boats didn’t see action before the war ended, a smaller version of this submarine did. IIRC, none of these smaller submarines were destroyed by enemy action. They sank several enemy ships. The stealthiness of this design and of its mode of attack allowed it to seek out and destroy enemy targets, without itself being subjected to return fire.

    Had the Type XXI been deployed in large numbers in 1943, the result almost certainly would have been a massive increase in British and American shipping losses. A staggering increase. While that wouldn’t have changed the long-term strategic equation for Germany; the destruction of so much Allied weaponry on the oceans might have slowed the Red Army’s inexorable advance westward; while also potentially delaying the D-Day invasion by one year.

  • Moderator 2022 2021 '20 '19 '18 '17 '16 '15 '14 '13 '12

    Great post. Thank you.

  • 2022 2021 '20 '19 '18 '17 '16

    @KurtGodel7:

    The Type XXI U-Boat had a rubber coating, making it difficult to detect. Also, its streamlined design allowed it to move faster underwater than it could while surfaced. It had a sophisticated electronics system.

    Also, if you’re giving Germany the Type XXI U-boat in 1943, then you should also give it the kinds of torpedoes it had available in 1945.

    Hmm maybe the underwater launchable Do-Werfers as well, too?!
    German had some successful underwater launchings with, I think 15 or 28cm Do-werfers ,in 1942 near the Penemünde area.

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