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What if Germany built 100 Type VII U-boats instead of Bismarck and Tirpitz?

Discussion in 'What If - European Theater - Western Front & Atlan' started by vonManstein39, Dec 19, 2002.

  1. vonManstein39

    vonManstein39 Member

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    What if the Kriegsmarine decided that building large, expensive battleships was pointless for Germany, and built 100 Type VII U-boats instead of Bismarck and Tirpitz?

    (NB: the figure of 100 is based on the tonnage of Bismarck - which is about equal to 50 U-boats. But 50 U-boats might cost more than Bismarck, I'm not sure about that.)

    Anyway, the U-boats did far more damage to Britain than Bismarck and Tirpitz ever did. The big battleships were scarcely cost-effective.

    Even together, and with Scharnhorst and Gneisenau as well, Bismarck and Tirpitz had no chance of beating the British Home Fleet in a Jutland-type fleet action - they were far too heavily outnumbered for that. And as commerce raiders they were overkill - the pocket battleships were good enough for that.

    But having an extra 100 U-boats available in late 1940 might have tipped the Battle of the Atlantic in Germany's favour - since at that date Germany only had about 60 historically, which was nowhere near enough to cripple Britain's trade.

    Opinions?
     
  2. AndyW

    AndyW Member

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    Let's compare the production costs:

    Bismarck: 196.8 million Reichsmark (RM)
    Tirpitz: RM 181.6 million
    Gneisenau: RM 146.2 million
    Scharnhorst: RM 143.5 million

    TOTAL: RM 668.1 million for four battleships.

    Production costs of a Type VII C U-Boat:RM 4.8 million.

    However, one has to keep in mind that the difference in building a battleship and a u-boat are like paying, let's say $ 150,000 for a TOW-Anti-Tank System and $ 5,000,000 for a M1 Abrams MBT. Complete tactical differences.

    Cheers,
     
  3. redcoat

    redcoat Ace

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    Hindsight is a wonderful thing :D

    However if Germany had started building an extra 100+ U-boats instead of the Bismarck and Tirpitz, it would have told the British in the 1937-8 period that Germany was indeed looking to fight Britain.
    This in my view, would have made Britain stand up to Hitler far sooner than it did, maybe as soon as the annexation of Austria, and almost certainly at Munich.
    If the British had stood up to Hitler, the French would almost certainly have followed, and Hitler would have been either forced to fight a war which his army was unready for, or back down.
    Also the British on seeing the U-boat build up would have increased the building of escort ships at the expense of their heavy units. So while the Germans would have more U-boats the Convoys would have been better protected.
     
  4. vonManstein39

    vonManstein39 Member

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    Good points, redcoat. However, Britain can't cancel her battleship program easily, because Italy and Japan are building 4 fast new battleships between them, and Britain needs to counter them, since she can't rely completely on either France or America to help protect the British Empire if it is attacked by Italy and Japan.

    Britain couldn't afford to cancel more than 2 of her 5 King George V class battleships, and even that is taking a big risk. Still, for each cancelled battleship, Britain could probably build about 20 convoy escorts.

    The Royal Navy was much better prepared for war than the Kreigsmarine at the time of the Munich crisis in September 1938. The British Army was very small and had few modern tanks but was more or less ready - while the German tank arm had about 1500 light tanks, and about 100 Pzkpw III's and IV's.

    However, the main issue for Britain was the Luftwaffe, which was larger and much more modern than the RAF, which in 1938 had only 3 squadrons of Hurricanes and 1 squadron of Spitfires, while all other fighter squadrons still had Gladiator and Gauntlet biplanes. It was the same story in the bomber squadrons - the Battle, Blenheim, and Hampden had only just started to enter squadron service. Whereas Germany had hundreds of Bf109s, Ju87s, Do17s and He111's in service. Also the British radar network was incomplete and still suffering teething technical difficulties.

    The British believed that the Luftwaffe could deliver a knock-out blow to London and that the RAF would not be able to prevent it. This was a mistaken assumption, but because the RAF Marshals wouldn't guarantee the air defence of Britain yet, they advised Chamberlain that Britain wasn't ready to fight, and that war in 1939 was militarily far preferable to war now, in 1938.

    This was a prime reason Chamberlain appeased Hitler at Munich in September 1938 - his military chiefs had advised him to.

     
  5. Sniper

    Sniper Member

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    Good points Redcoat. Germany building 100 U-Boats instead of Bismark and Tirpitz would have alerted Britain to possible German intentions, but as vonManstein39 says, Britain also had to watch Italy and Japan building their battleships, so chances are she would have continued with her own battleship program. More than likely Britain would have excellerated her Fleet Air Arm/Royal Navy anti-submarine warfare studies to counter-act the U-Boat threat. But she may not have openly challenged the Germans over the U-Boats.

    Afterall, when Germany finally revealed the existence of the Luftwaffe, the new and larger Wehrmacht, etc. what protests were made by France and Britain were weak and fell on deaf ears. If Germany had wanted to build U-Boats instead of battleships, she would have done so regardless of world opinion.

    And an extra 100 subs at the start of the war would have seriously threatened not only Britain's supply lines but also threatened the effectiveness of the Royal Navy.

    Imagine if, instead of using these additional subs to attack supply ships, these subs were sent to sink Britains battleships, cruisers, and aircraft carriers, or used to just bottle up the Royal Navy in port, allowing the Kreigsmarine's other ships free run of the world's oceans.

    With the Royal Navy having suffered either major ship losses to U-Boats, or being penned up in port. Britains supply lines would have been open to attack from all quarters. This could easily have led Britain to being brought to her knees, and sueing for peace.

    ______________

    There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today.
    - Admiral Sir David Beatty, after the destruction of the HMS Queen Mary at the Battle of Jutland, May 1916
     
  6. JOL

    JOL Member

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    Good points all, frankly I think that building the 100 U-boats would have brought Britian to its knees, but in the end I suspect that German nationalism and Nazi pride would build the big ships. Can't be a power and not have the capital ships in a pre-WW II era, apparently they learned nothing from WW I.
     
  7. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    100 subs sounds fine but as in 1943 the allied started new tactics and weapons ( hedgehog, some sorta seeking missiles )the U-boot losses greatly increased like for the month of May 1943:

    "Monthly Loss Summary
    - 40 British, Allied and neutral ships of 204,000 tons in the Atlantic from all causes
    - 37 German and 1 Italian U-boats. In addition to those lost in or around the convoy battles: 3 by RAF in North Atlantic; 6 by RAF and RAAF Bay of Biscay patrols; 4 by US forces in the North Atlantic, off Florida and Brazil; 2 by collision in the North Atlantic."

    100 boats with normal battle activitty would be lost in 2-3 three months...

    I guess this was the moment Dönitz said "The battle of Atlantic is lost !"

    I´ll have the names of the allied weapons for this achievement elsewhere but I´ll be back on those.

    :eek:
     
  8. JOL

    JOL Member

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    Yes, in 1943, but would Britain have survived the initial onslaught, prior to development and deployment of better sonic detectors, radar and anti-submarine weapons?

    My understanding is that the British were sorely lacking in these at the start of hostilities. Throw in another 100 subs, and your starting to drop the very platforms on which they would have deployed these new weapons, Her Majesties Ships!
     
  9. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Yes,

    in that case thinking Doenitz had free hands since the end of 1930´s to create the "Wolf pack strategy" must admit they sure had a thing for bringing England to its knees, and with some 100 more subs, even better!

    But it´s the same with Afrika korps, you need to have the Hitler´s interest to have the sufficient back up, or the money would be directed to other things than just the 100 subs if the Tirpitz etc were not built.So this is strictly what if.

    I just had a thought how humiliating it would have been to Goering to see how Doenitz is honoured for crushing Britain instead of him... :eek:
     
  10. ash78

    ash78 recruit

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    Hi Andy,
    I am a researcher working on a documentary about the Battle of the Atlantic. I wondered whether you would be able to help me. I noticed that you have provided a few facts and figures with relation to the production costs of Battleships and the Type VIIC U-boat. Would you be able to provide a verifiable source for these figures. For my research, I need a reputable souce, such as a book, educational or academic website, magazine, journal etc. In particular I am looking to provide a source for the 'production cost of RM 4.8 million' to build the Type VIIC u-boat.
    If you or any of the forum members could assist me with this I would be extremely grateful.
    Thanks a lot,
    Best
    Ash
     
  11. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    The problem with constructing 100 U-boats is not the steel though. I suspect that the choke points would be slips and workers. IE you are going to need more slips and more workers to even hope to build 50 u-boats in the same time it takes to build Bismark.

    From:
    Type VIIA - German U-boat Types of WWII - uboat.net
    you have 10 type VIIA boats built from 1935-1937 at one yard
    Then 23 type VIIB boats buitle between 36 and 41 at three yards
    Type VIIB - German U-boat Types of WWII - uboat.net
    The type VIICs don't start construction until 38http://www.uboat.net/types/viic.htm

    If you want to ramp up production to produce an extra 100 by 1940 you are going to have to build extra yards and slips I'm not sure just how much can be done to influence production prior to 36. Boats produced before 38 are still going to be the older A and B models.

    Here's a link to the yards and yearly production.
    uboat.net - Technical - Shipyards


    As for questions about the cost of a U-boat
    RESULTS OF THE GERMAN AND AMERICAN SUBMARINE CAMPAIGNS OF WORLD WAR II
    So you might want to see if you can find that referance.
    It also gives the following data:
    Note because of a number of economic factors some will argue that the conversion from DM to dollars is flawed.
     
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  12. Tiornu

    Tiornu Member

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    The recognized standard reference for German warships in general is Die deutschen Kriegsschiffe 1815-1945 by Erich Gröner. Fortunately, the portion of this work covering "important" units has been translated into English as German Warships 1815-1945 in two volumes (Naval Institute Press, 1990-92). The first volume covers the major surface units, and the second covers submarines, minelayers, and minesweepers. He provides costs for most units.
     
  13. marc780

    marc780 Member

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    100 additional u- boats in 1940 might have made all the difference between victory and defeat for Germany. You have probably heard the quote from Churchill who said "the only thing that really caused me great concern during the war were the U-boats". By 1941-2 the u-boats were sinking British shipping faster than the British could build them and were at times very close to strangling Britain's sea commerce. With 100 more u-boats they might have done just that and perhaps forced Britain to sue for peace by 1941.

    In the event the British were saved by 3 things
    1- the US entry into the war
    2- Hitler's indecisiveness to giving the u-boats more resources before it was too late and most importantly
    3-the British were able to decode some or most of Doenitz's encrypted Ultra messages to the u boats and figure out where the wolf packs were likely to be, and to route convoys away from them and/or hunt them down and destroy them.

    By 1943 things were different, new sub hunting tactics and convoy methods were helping and the tide had turned in the Battle of the Atlantic for the allies. By 1944 even the introduction of the schnorkel equipped subs and other wonderous inventions were too late to have much effect for the Germans.
    (some of this information is from the Second World War by Keegan)
     
  14. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    I recall and just checked Bekker´s book, Dönitz wanted (200-)300 boats. That is because about 1/3 would be in base reloading and refuelling, 1/3 would be either on its way to the battle area or going back to the base, and 1/3 would be ready to battle. So the actual percentage of your whole fleet in battle is closer to 33,3% not 100%.
     
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  15. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    This thread is 7 years old and AndyW has not logged on since 2007. I wish you success, but I am doubtful that he will reply.
     
  16. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    I know this is an old post, but just to set the record straight, Hedgehog was a British developed multi-barreled ASW spigot mortar which fired an unguided bomb to a fixed point about 230 yards ahead of a destroyer or destroyer escort. It was not a "seeking missile" at all, and did not detonate unless it scored a direct hit on a sub. It came into service in 1942 and eventually proved a better weapon against subs than the depth charge during WW II. USS England, DE-635, sank six Japanese subs in just 12 days with the Hedgehog projector, a feat that has never been duplicated.

    The USN developed a rocket version called "mousetrap" which was lighter and exerted less stress on the launching vessel and thus could be mounted on relatively small escorts including wooden sub-chasers
     
  17. Sbiper

    Sbiper Member

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    Also everyone is forgetting the Anglo-German Naval Agreement of June 18th 1935. This bilateral naval treaty limited the size of the Kreigsmarine to 35% of the RN on an overall tonnage basis. Contained within the agreement was a specific clause relating to U-Boat production section (f):

    f) In the matter of submarines, however, Germany, while not exceeding the ratio of 35:100 in respect of total tonnage, shall have the right to possess a submarine tonnage equal to the total submarine tonnage possessed by the Members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. The German Government, however, undertake that, except in the circumstances indicated in the immediately following sentence, Germany's submarine tonnage shall not exceed 45 per cent. of the total of that possessed by the Members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. The German Government reserve the right, in the event of a situation arising, which in their opinion, makes it necessary for Germany to avail herself of her right to a percentage of submarine tonnage exceeding the 45 per cent. above mentioned, to give notice this effect to His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, and agree that the matter shall be the subject of friendly discussion before the German Government exercise that right.

    So even if they had wanted to build 100 Type VII's they could not have. That 100 Type VII's would have violated the Treaty as it would have exceeded the total tonnage of RN and Comonwealth nations submarines. Indeed the 50 or so U-Boats in service at the outbreak of war were close to the overall tonnage premitted by the Anglo-German Naval Agreement.

    And before anyone gets carried away by saying that the Nazi's allways violated their treaties, yes thats true but this threaty is special for a number of reasons:

    1. It was the document that finally sundered the Versailles Treay; it acknowledged Germany's right to re-arm her naval forces outside of the Versailles limits and to construct U-Boats. Hitler was jubilant when the treaty was signed, he later said it was the happiest day of his life, France on the other hand was livid with England for signing the treaty, a period of Anglo - French diplomatic coolness followed, which Hitler expolited of course.
    2. Britian was not regarded as an enemy at the time, France and Russia were seen as Germany's main enemies. Fleet construction priorities and designs etc. were laid out with this in mind.
    3. If the Germans had violated its terms it would have been a clear signal to the UK that the Germans were up to something, it was would have been an act that the Foreign Office could not have given the Germans a free pass on, i.e. the RN would have gotten its way and would have responded with extra construction etc.

    Sbiper.
     
  18. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    In actual fact, the 1935 Anglo-German Naval Treaty, the centerpiece of British appeasement policy toward Hitler, proved no deterrent to the buildup of the German Navy or it's submarine arm.

    Hitler pretended to adhere to the clause limiting German submarines to 45% of Britain's submarine tonnage, but by May, 1938, less than three years after the Anglo-German Naval Treaty was signed, Donitz was secretly ordering submarine tonnage that went beyond the treaty limits, and in December, 1938, Germany formally invoked the clause that allowed parity (about 70,000 tons) with Britain and notified the British (who were shocked, just shocked). In reality, by that time, the KM had adopted Hitler's Plan Z, which called for 249 U-boats or about 200,000 tons of submarine tonnage, far beyond parity with Britain's submarine force.

    Source; Clay Blair, "Hitler's U-Boat War" Vol.1, Pages 45-47
     
  19. Tiornu

    Tiornu Member

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    It's hard to identify what purpose the British found in creating the Anglo-German accord. They knew that the limits were way above the Germans' current strength, and they understood that the Germans would cheat if they wanted to. One might imagine this was window dressing to impress the Soviets enough to sign a treaty of their own, but why would the British want to encourage the Soviets to limit their naval growth? The Soviets' primary naval rivals would be Germany and Japan--the same navies Britain was worried about.
     
  20. BEARPAW

    BEARPAW Member

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    I believe the German navy's plan "Z" was to have around 300 or so U-boats. 100 on station. 100 in transit. 100 in port. With 300 U-boats Germany could have won the battle for the Atlantic. However, they never had that number at one time.

    An additional 100 U-boats would have really strangled Great Briton and increased the tonnage sunk off the East Coast of the US. With an additional 100 U-boats, Germany (with the help of Japan) could have operated a group of the West Coast.

    Just a thought
     

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