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  • Sirens blare as valves purge air and two submarines descend into the depths of the ocean.

  • Sailors sprint through the narrow corridors of the submersible, turning valves and reloading

  • torpedoes into spent tubes.

  • As the submarines dive deeper the The HMS Venturer releases a final barrage of torpedoes-

  • they all miss... except one.

  • Over the hydrophone the sound of an explosion and the twisting of steel can be heard.

  • The first, and only, underwater submarine battle is over.

  • A mangled German U-boat sinks into the depths of the ocean.

  • In 1944 the Germans launched Operation Caesar.

  • It was a last ditch effort to buy the Axis Powers more time to turn the war around.

  • They were in deep trouble as Allied forces closed in on all fronts.

  • Germany hoped that they could sneak advanced technology to Japan using a submarine classified

  • as U-864.

  • This would allow Japan to continue the fight in the Pacific, hopefully drawing Allied forces

  • away from the collapsing Axis armies.

  • The Nazis loaded advanced weapon designs such as schematics and parts for the Jumo 004 turbojet,

  • and guidance components for V-2 ballistic missiles onto U-864.

  • The U-boat was just under 300 feet long and designed to carry large cargo shipments long

  • distances.

  • U-864 was also loaded with massive amounts of liquid mercury, which was used for manufacturing

  • explosive primers.

  • The crew was briefed on their mission, German and Japanese scientists were loaded onto the

  • U-boat, and on December 5, 1944 Captain Ral-Reimar Wolfram launched U-864 and proceeded towards

  • the Arctic.

  • His path was laid out to sneak past the Soviet Union undetected, and deliver the cargo to

  • Japan.

  • But from the beginning the mission seemed to be doomed.

  • U-864 proceeded north.

  • Allied forces patrolled most of the waters in the area, so Wolfram knew he needed to

  • travel as stealthy as possible.

  • To do this he would need to take risks, and move into more dangerous waters.

  • In order to have Axis protection for as long as possible U-864 sailed along the coast of

  • Northern Europe where air support remained in range.

  • As the U-boat made its way through the shallow waters, disaster struck.

  • Wolfram grounded the sub while trying to pass through the Kiel Canal.

  • The jagged rocks tour into the hull of the submarine.

  • The crew had to assess the damage, and once inventory was taken, Wolfram had no choice

  • but to turn the submarine around and return to drydock for repairs.

  • The treacherous journey around the arctic would require everything to be working perfectly,

  • and until the U-boat was repaired, it had no shot of making it all the way to Japan.

  • U-864 stealthy made its way to Bergen, Norway, which was still controlled by Axis powers.

  • As the submarine was being repaired Allied forces launched a bombing run into Norway.

  • They weren't aiming for U-864, but the dry dock where the U-boat was being repaired was

  • a target.

  • The British planes roared over the Axis base.

  • Anti-aircraft guns fired their cannons into the sky, trying to take out the bombers before

  • they could drop their payloads.

  • Most of the bombers made it to their target and dropped a series ofTallboyand

  • Grand Slamearthquake bombs around the drydock.

  • The bombs were specifically designed to penetrate the surface and detonate below ground to send

  • the explosion's full force through the bedrock.

  • The result was the destruction of underground structures like submarine pens and bunkers.

  • Unfortunately for U-864, it was in the submarine pen when the detonations occurred, causing

  • even more damage to the U-boat.

  • This led to further delays in Operation Caesar and the mission to deliver the cargo to Japan.

  • The numerous delays for repairs would culminate in the only underwater submarine battle in

  • history.

  • Unknown to the Germans, the British had cracked their codes.

  • The Allies intercepted a communication about U-864's mission and knew that they couldn't

  • let the Nazi sub make it to Japan.

  • They immediately dispatched the HMS Venturer to destroy the U-boat.

  • The Venturer was almost twice as fast as the bulky U-864, but it was also much smaller.

  • It had a limited crew and could fire four torpedoes at once, but only held a relatively

  • small number of torpedoes on board compared to U-864's arsonal of 22 torpedoes.

  • This meant that the Venturer needed to make every shot count.

  • The Venturer left for its mission under the command of Lieutenant James S. Launders on

  • February 6, 1945.

  • The plan was to intercept U-864 off the coast of Norway.

  • Launders had sunk 13 vessels during the war including a German submarine that had surfaced.

  • The problem that Launders faced now was finding the exact location of U-864.

  • He knew the general vicinity, but the vastness of the ocean, and the technological challenges

  • of locating a submerged submarine without giving his position away, made his mission

  • incredibly difficult.

  • The main method the Venturer had to locate U-864 was the use of hydrophones.

  • This device could listen for sounds of enemy submarines underwater.

  • However, it was only effective at a limited range, and there was a lot of ocean to cover.

  • The other way the Venturer could locate an enemy submarine was through active sonar.

  • By sending out an acoustic wave and waiting for it to bounce off an enemy sub, the location

  • of the vessel could be obtained.

  • However, the problem with active sonar was that it also alerted the enemy of the location

  • of the Venturer.

  • The Venturer reached the coordinates where U-864 was supposed to be located.

  • They scoured the area for any signs of the German U-boat, but came up empty.

  • Unfortunately for the Venturer U-864 had already passed through their location, and was now

  • out of range of the hydrophones aboard the British submarine.

  • Launders had missed his chance; the Nazi U-boat was on its way to Japan.

  • However, U-864's bad luck was not over yet.

  • The U-boat's diesel engine began to misfire, causing the vessel to slow down.

  • Wolfram was forced to make another difficult decision; either he pressed forward, which

  • was a huge risk, or returned to drydock for additional repairs.

  • Again Wolfram knew the long journey through the Arctic would be brutal, and if anything

  • happened to the engine while in the icy cold region, he and his entire crew would perish.

  • So, Wolfram decided to turn around and head back to Norway.

  • Wolfram had no way of knowing he was headed right into the Venturer's trap.

  • It was only out of sheer bad luck that the failing diesel engine aboard U-864 caused

  • the U-boat to turn around and head straight towards Launders and his vessel.

  • The crew of the Venturer were monitoring the area even though they had almost completely

  • given up hope of ever locating the German U-boat.

  • Then one of the crew picked up something on the hydrophones.

  • It was the misfiring diesel engine of U-864.

  • The alarm was sounded and the crew prepared for the chase.

  • The Venturer stealthy moved towards the sound of the misfiring engine of the U-864.

  • Then Launders saw what he suspected was the periscope or snorkel mast sticking out of

  • the water.

  • The snorkel mast allowed submarines to travel just under the surface of the ocean, and still

  • pump the oxygen the diesel engine needed into the vessel.

  • The Venturer had located its target.

  • The diesel engines were turned off so the submarine could run silently underwater on

  • battery power.

  • Launders waited for the U-boat to surface so he could take his shot.

  • Unfortunately, U-864 could stay just below the surface of the water using its snorkel

  • for the duration of its journey back to port.

  • Then the U-boat did something strange.

  • It began zigzagging from side to side.

  • Launders knew the Germans must have either suspected they were being pursued, or had

  • already detected his submarine.

  • The chase continued for hours.

  • U-864 refused to surface, and began taking even more drastic evasive actions.

  • This alerted Launders that the Germans were now fully aware that they were being followed.

  • The Venturer's batteries were running low and the submarine would soon need to surface

  • itself, which would leave it vulnerable to attack by the German U-boat.

  • Launders gave the command to arm all torpedoes.

  • The captain calculated the trajectory and depth of the U-boat with the limited data

  • he had.

  • The order to fire blared across the speakers of the torpedo bays.

  • The Venturerripple-firedfour torpedoes, with each being launched about 18 seconds

  • apart.

  • The second two torpedoes were fired at a lower depth, just in case the enemy dove deeper.

  • Launders ordered the Venturer to immediately dive in case of a counterattack.

  • As the sub descended into the blackness of the ocean the crew waited with anticipation.

  • Time seemed to freeze as everyone on the Venturer held their breath, waiting for the hydrophone

  • operator to confirm a hit.

  • There was no explosion.

  • It seemed as if all of the torpedoes had missed.

  • Hope began to leave the crew of the Venturer.

  • Then, suddenly, the hydrophone operator perked up.

  • The sound of an impact, explosion, and the tearing apart of iron could be heard over

  • the headset.

  • U-864's hull ripped open and the entire vessel collapsed in on itself from the massive

  • pressure of the ocean.

  • The last torpedo fired had found its target.

  • The handphone operator waited patiently until he heard the enemy U-boat thud against the

  • bottom of the sea floor.

  • All 73 people on board U-864 were lost to the ocean.

  • The Axis Powers' hopes of delivering weapons and materials to Japan sank with German submarine.

  • The site of the wreck remained undisturbed for over 50 years until the Norwegian Navy

  • located it.

  • U-864 was lying in a crumpled heap on the bottom of the ocean, but its cargo of Mercury

  • was leaking out of the vessel and into the water.

  • Also, the U-boat still had unexploded ordinance within its hull.

  • In order to stop the leak, and prevent any accidental explosions, the Norewegian authorities

  • decided to cover the wreck under 160,000 tons of sand and rock.

  • The battle between U-864 and the Venturer was the only underwater submarine battle in

  • history: but why?

  • Submarines had been used as far back as 1776 during the American Revolutionary War with

  • the submersible known as Turtle.

  • How is it possible that there was only one underwater submarine battle?

  • There are a few reasons.

  • World War II was the height of submarine warfare.

  • After the war ended submarines were still used, but normally only for moving cargo and

  • as support.

  • During World War II submarines needed to spend most of their time on the surface, so their

  • diesel engines could get the air they needed.

  • This meant that submarine warfare often took place on the surface and not underwater.

  • Also, before and during World War II when submarines were underwater there was no accurate

  • way to gauge exactly where the enemy was in three dimensional space.

  • Lastly, torpedoes at the time were designed to float up to the surface to strike ships,

  • so firing a torpedo at an underwater target was not ideal.

  • This is not to say that other submarine engagements didn't occur, just that underwater battles

  • were incredibly rare because of these limitations.

  • Today submarines are equipped with radar and guided torpedoes that would make underwater

  • battles possible, but no wars are currently being fought under the waves of our oceans.

  • This all shows that what the Venturer did by destroying U-864 underwater was incredibly

  • impressive.

  • It also happened due to a considerable amount of luck.

  • The torpedoes fired by the Venturer were more or less shot blindly into the ocean abyss,

  • and the fact that one of them impacted U-864 was nothing short of a miracle.

  • Now check out “50 Insane Submarine Facts That WIll Shock You.”

  • Or watchWhy Living On A Submarine Sucks.”

Sirens blare as valves purge air and two submarines descend into the depths of the ocean.

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Only Underwater Submarine Battle Ever Fought

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    Summer posted on 2021/07/07
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