German U-boat Losses in World War II

World War II had many different theaters of war in which operations and battles took place. The battle of the Atlantic was less a theater of war where large scale battles occurred, but more one in which there was a constant threat of attack. This chart shows the German U-boat losses in World War II.

German submarines were nicknamed “U-boats” after the German word unterseeboot. Translated literally this means “under sea boat”.

The U-boat was one of the most feared weapons in the German arsenal in World War II. Their ability to appear out of nowhere and strike deadly blows then disappear again in a rapid succession proved devastating to allied plans in the Atlantic. U-boats decimated not only allied military vessels, but their commercial supply ships as well.

German U-boat Losses in World War II

German U-boat Losses in World War II chart

At the onset of the war the U-boats proved extremely effective and lethal to British navy. Some historians believe the Destroyers for Bases deal in 1940, upon which the US sent 50 reserve destroyers to the British for access to British bases, was in part due to their fleet being decimated by German U-boats.

The allies changed their strategy to better cope with the U-boat threat as the war progressed. Convoys emerged that always had escorts to more easily find and eliminate the U-boat threat. In response, U-boats began to roam in groups, or “wolf packs” to more easily attack and sink these convoys.

Eventually radar technology improved enough to neutralize the stealthiness of U-boats. After nearly crippling the allied Atlantic supply lines, they lost effectiveness and were virtually nonexistent in the Atlantic by the end of the war (though were still active in other theaters).

In all there were 785 U-boats destroyed of the 1,162 total constructed during the war. Though they inflicted many casualties to the allies in ships and loss of supplies, U-boat crews had a casualty rate of over 75% – a staggering number.

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Source: War History Online

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