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Thread: U-Boot / Unterseeboot / U Boat

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    U-Boot / Unterseeboot / U Boat


    U-boat is an anglicised version of the German word U-Boot [ˈuːboːt] a shortening of Unterseeboot, literally "underseaboat." While the German term refers to any submarine, the English one (in common with several other languages) refers specifically to military submarines operated by Germany, particularly in the First and Second World Wars. Although at times they were efficient fleet weapons against enemy naval warships, they were most effectively used in an economic warfare role (commerce raiding) and enforcing a naval blockade against enemy shipping. The primary targets of the U-boat campaigns in both wars were the merchant convoys bringing supplies from Canada and other parts of the British Empire, and from the United States to the United Kingdom and (during the Second World War) to the Soviet Union and the Allied territories in the Mediterranean. German submarines also destroyed Brazilian merchant ships during World War II, causing Brazil to declare war on the Axis powers in 1944.

    Early U-boats (1850–1914)



    The first submarine built in Germany, the three-man Brandtaucher, sank to the bottom of Kiel harbor on 1 February 1851 during a test dive.[1][2] The inventor and engineerWilhelm Bauer had designed this vessel in 1850, and Schweffel & Howaldt constructed it in Kiel. Dredging operations in 1887 rediscovered Brandtaucher; it was later raised and put on historical display in Germany.

    There followed in 1890 the boats WW1 and WW2, built to a Nordenfelt design. In 1903 the Friedrich Krupp Germaniawerft dockyard in Kiel completed the first fully functional German-built submarine, Forelle,[3] which Krupp sold to Russia during the Russo-Japanese Warin April 1904.[4] The SM U-1 was a completely redesigned Karp-class submarine and only one was built. The Imperial German Navy commissioned it on 14 December 1906.[5] It had a double hull, a Körtingkerosene engine, and a single torpedo tube. The 50%-larger SM U-2(commissioned in 1908) had two torpedo tubes. The U-19 class of 1912–13 saw the first diesel engine installed in a German navy boat. At the start of World War I in 1914, Germany had 48 submarines of 13 classes in service or under construction. During that war the Imperial German Navy used SM U-1 for training. Retired in 1919, it remains on display at the Deutsches Museum in Munich.[6]



    World War I (1914–1918)

    Main article: U-boat Campaign (World War I)
    On 5 September 1914, HMS Pathfinder was sunk by SM U-21, the first ship to have been sunk by a submarine using a self-propelled torpedo. On 22 September, U-9 under the command of Otto Weddigen sank the obsolete British warships HMS Aboukir, HMS Cressy and HMS Hogue (the "Live Bait Squadron") in a single hour.

    In the Gallipoli Campaign in early 1915 in the eastern Mediterranean, German U-boats, notably the U-21, prevented close support of allied troops by 18 pre-Dreadnought battleships by sinking two of them.[7]

    For the first few months of the war, U-boat anticommerce actions observed the"prize rules" of the time, which governed the treatment of enemy civilian ships and their occupants. On 20 October 1914, SM U-17sank the first merchant ship, the SS Glitra, off Norway.[8] Surface commerce raiders were proving to be ineffective, and on 4 February 1915, the Kaiser assented to the declaration of a war zone in the waters around the British Isles. This was cited as a retaliation for British minefields and shipping blockades. Under the instructions given to U-boat captains, they could sink merchant ships, even potentially neutral ones, without warning.

    In February 1915, a submarine U-6 (Lepsius) was rammed and both periscopes were destroyed off Beachy Head by the collier SS Thordis commanded by Captain John Bell RNR after firing a torpedo.[9] On 7 May 1915, SM U-20 sank the liner RMS Lusitania. The sinking claimed 1,198 lives, 128 of them American civilians, and the attack of this unarmed civilian ship deeply shocked the Allies. According to the ship's manifest, Lusitania was carrying military cargo, though none of this information was relayed to the citizens of Britain and the United States who thought that the ship contained no ammunition or military weaponry whatsoever and it was an act of brutal murder. Munitions that it carried were thousands of crates full of ammunition for rifles, 3-inch artillery shells, and also various other standard ammunition used by infantry. The sinking of the Lusitania was widely used as propaganda against the German Empire and caused greater support for the war effort. A widespread reaction in the U.S was not seen until the sinking of the ferry SS Sussex. The sinking occurred in 1915 and the United States entered the war in 1917.

    The initial U.S. response was to threaten to sever diplomatic ties, which persuaded the Germans to issue the Sussex pledge that reimposed restrictions on U-boat activity. The U.S. reiterated its objections to German submarine warfare whenever U.S. civilians died as a result of German attacks, which prompted the Germans to fully reapply prize rules. This, however, removed the effectiveness of the U-boat fleet, and the Germans consequently sought a decisive surface action, a strategy that culminated in the Battle of Jutland.

    Although the Germans claimed victory at Jutland, the British Grand Fleet remained in control at sea. It was necessary to return to effective anticommerce warfare by U-boats. Vice-Admiral Reinhard Scheer, Commander in Chief of the High Seas Fleet, pressed for all-out U-boat war, convinced that a high rate of shipping losses would force Britain to seek an early peace before the United States could react effectively.


    U-Boot / Unterseeboot



    Sinking of the Linda Blanche out of Liverpool by SM U-21 (Willy Stöwer)


    The renewed German campaign was effective, sinking 1.4 million tons of shipping between October 1916 and January 1917. Despite this, the political situation demanded even greater pressure, and on 31 January 1917, Germany announced that its U-boats would engage in unrestricted submarine warfare beginning 1 February. On 17 March, German submarines sank three American merchant vessels, and the U.S. declared war on Germany in April 1917.

    Unrestricted submarine warfare in early 1917 was initially very successful, sinking a major part of Britain-bound shipping. With the introduction of escorted convoys, shipping losses declined and in the end the German strategy failed to destroy sufficient Allied shipping. An armistice became effective on 11 November 1918. Of the surviving German submarines 14 U-boats were scuttled and 122 surrendered.[10]

    Of the 373 German submarines that had been built, 178 were lost by enemy action. Of these 41 were sunk by mines, 30 by depth charges and 13 by Q-ships. 515 officers and 4894 enlisted men were killed. They sank 10 battleships, 18 cruisers and several smaller naval vessels. They further destroyed 5,708 merchant and fishing vessels for a total of 11,108,865 tons and the loss of about 15,000 sailors.[11] The Pour le Mérite, the highest decoration for gallantry for officers, was awarded to 29 U-boat commanders.[12] 12 U-boat crewmen were decorated with the Goldene Militär-Verdienst-Kreuz, the highest bravery award for non-commissioned officers and enlisted men.[13] The most successful U-boat commanders of World War I were Lothar von Arnauld de la Perière(189 merchant vessels and two gunboats with 446,708 tons), followed by Walter Forstmann (149 ships with 391,607 tons), and Max Valentiner (144 ships with 299,482 tons).[14] Their records have never been surpassed by anyone in any later conflict so far.


    Surrender of the fleet

    Under the terms of armistice, all U-boats were to immediately surrender. Those in home waters sailed to the British submarine base at Harwich. The entire process was done quickly and in the main without difficulty, after which the vessels were studied, then scrapped or given to Allied navies.


    Interwar years (1919–1939)

    The Treaty of Versailles ending World War I signed at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 restricted the total tonnage of the German surface fleet. The treaty also restricted the independent tonnage of ships and forbade the construction of submarines. However, a submarine design office was set up in the Netherlands and a torpedo research program was started in Sweden. Before the start of World War II, Germany started building U-boats and training crews, labeling these activities as "research" or concealing them using other covers. When this became known, the Anglo-German Naval Agreement limited Germany to parity with Britain in submarines. When World War II started, Germany already had 65 U-boats, with 21 of those at sea, ready for war.[16]


    World War II (1939–1945)

    Main article: Battle of the Atlantic

    During World War II, U-boat warfare was the major component of the Battle of the Atlantic, which began in 1939 and ended with Germany's surrender in 1945. The Armistice of November 11th, 1918 ending World War I had scuttled most of the old Imperial German Navy and the subsequent Treaty of Versailles of 1919 limited the surface navy of Germany's new Weimar Republic to only six battleships (of less than 10,000 tons each), six cruisers, and 12 destroyers. To compensate, Germany's new navy, the Kriegsmarine, developed the largest submarine fleet going into World War II.[17] British Prime Minister Winston Churchill later wrote "The only thing that really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril."

    In the early stages of the war the U-boats were extremely effective in destroying Allied shipping due to the large gap in mid-Atlantic air cover. Cross-Atlantic trade in war supplies and food was extensive and critical for Britain's survival. The continuous action surrounding British shipping became known as the Battle of the Atlantic, as the British developed technical defences such as ASDIC and radar, and the German U-boats responded by hunting in what were called "wolfpacks" where multiple submarines would stay close together, making it easier for them to sink a specific target. Britain's vulnerable shipping situation existed until 1942, when the tides changed as the U.S. merchant marine and Navy entered the war, drastically increasing the amount of tonnage of supplies sent across the Atlantic. The combination of increased tonnage and increased naval protection of shipping convoys made it much more difficult for U-boats to make a significant dent in British shipping. Once the United States entered the war, U-boats ranged from the Atlantic coast of the United States and Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, and from the Arctic to the west and southern African coasts and even as far east as Penang. The U.S. military engaged in various tactics against German incursions in the Americas; these included military surveillance of foreign nations in Latin America, particularly in the Caribbean, to deter any local governments from supplying German U-boats.

    Because speed and range were severely limited underwater while running on battery power, U-boats were required to spend most of their time surfaced running on diesel engines, diving only when attacked or for rare daytime torpedo strikes. The more ship-like hull design reflects the fact that these were primarily surface vessels that could submerge when necessary. This contrasts with the cylindrical profile of modern nuclear submarines, which are more hydrodynamic underwater (where they spend the majority of their time), but less stable on the surface. While U-boats were faster on the surface than submerged, the opposite is generally true of modern submarines. The most common U-boat attack during the early years of the war was conducted on the surface and at night. This period, before the Allied forces developed truly effective antisubmarine warfare tactics, which included convoys, was referred to by German submariners as "die glückliche Zeit" or the First Happy Time.[18]


    Torpedoes

    The U-boats' main weapon was the torpedo, though mines and deck guns (while surfaced) were also used. By the end of the war, almost 3,000 Allied ships (175 warships; 2,825 merchant ships) were sunk by U-boat torpedoes.[19] Early German World War II torpedoes were straight runners, as opposed to the homing and pattern-running torpedoes that were fielded later in the war. They were fitted with one of two types of pistol triggers: impact, which detonated the warhead upon contact with a solid object, and magnetic, which detonated upon sensing a change in the magnetic field within a few meters.

    One of the most effective uses of magnetic pistols would be to set the torpedo's depth to just beneath the keel of the target. The explosion under the target's keel would create a detonationshock wave, which could cause a ship's hull to rupture under the concussive water pressure. In this way, even large or heavily armored ships could be sunk or disabled with a single, well-placed hit.

    Initially the depth-keeping equipment and magnetic and contact exploders were notoriously unreliable. During the first eight months of the war torpedoes often ran at an improper depth, detonated prematurely, or failed to explode altogether—sometimes bouncing harmlessly off the hull of the target ship. This was most evident in Operation Weserübung, the invasion of Norway, where various skilled U-boat commanders failed to inflict damage on British transports and warships because of faulty torpedoes. The faults were largely due to a lack of testing. The magnetic detonator was sensitive to mechanical oscillations during the torpedo run, and to fluctuations in the Earth's magnetic field at high latitudes. These early magnetic detonators were eventually phased out, and the depth-keeping problem was solved by early 1942 with improved technology.[20]

    Later in the war, Germany developed an acoustic homing torpedo, the G7/T5. It was primarily designed to combat convoy escorts. The acoustic torpedo was designed to run straight to an arming distance of 400 m and then turn toward the loudest noise detected. This sometimes ended up being the U-boat itself; at least two submarines may have been sunk by their own homing torpedoes. Additionally, these torpedoes were found to be only effective against ships moving at greater than 15 knots (28 km/h). The Allies countered acoustic torpedoes with noisemaker decoys such as Foxer, FXR, CAT and Fanfare. The Germans, in turn, countered this by introducing newer and upgraded versions of the acoustic torpedoes, like the late-war G7es, and the T11. However, the T11 did not see active service.[21]

    U-boats also adopted several types of "pattern-running" torpedoes that ran straight out to a preset distance, then traveled in either a circular or ladder-like pattern. When fired at a convoy, this increased the probability of a hit if the weapon missed its primary target.


    U-boat developments

    During World War II, the Kriegsmarine produced many different types of U-boats as technology evolved. Most notable is the Type VII, known as the "workhorse" of the fleet, which was by far the most-produced type, and the Type IX boats, an enlarged VII designed for long-range patrols, some travelling as far as Japan and the east coast of the United States.



    Oil painting of a Kriegsmarine U-boat, by Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau


    With the increasing sophistication of Allied detection and subsequent losses, German designers began to fully realise the potential for a truly submerged boat. The Type XXI "Elektroboot" was designed to favor submerged performance, both for combat effectiveness and survival. It was the first true submersible. The Type XXI featured an evolutionary design that combined several different strands of the U-Boat development program, most notably from the Walter U-boats, the Type XVII, which featured an unsuccessful yet revolutionary hydrogen peroxideair-independentpropellant system. These boats featured a streamlined hull design, which formed the basis of the later USS Nautilus nuclear submarine, and was adapted for use with more conventional propulsion systems. The larger hull design allowed for a greatly increased battery capacity, which enabled the XXI to cruise submerged for longer periods and reach unprecedented submerged speeds for the time. Waste disposal was a problem when the U-boats spent extended periods without surfacing, as it is today.

    Throughout the war, an arms race evolved between the Allies and the Kriegsmarine, especially in detection and counterdetection. Sonar (ASDIC in Britain) allowed Allied warships to detect submerged U-boats (and vice versa) beyond visual range, but was not effective against a surfaced vessel; thus, early in the war, a U-boat at night or in bad weather was actually safer on the surface. Advancements in radar became particularly deadly for the U-boat crews, especially once aircraft-mounted units were developed. As a countermeasure, U-boats were fitted with radar warning receivers, to give them ample time to dive before the enemy closed in, as well as more anti aircraft guns. However, by early to mid-1943, the Allies switched to centimetric radar (unknown to Germany), which rendered the radar detectors ineffective. U-boat radar systems were also developed, but many captains chose not to use them for fear of broadcasting their position to enemy patrols and lack of sufficient electronic countermeasures.

    Early on, the Germans experimented with the idea of the Schnorchel(snorkel) from captured Dutch submarines, but saw no need for them until rather late in the war. The Schnorchel was a retractable pipe that supplied air to the diesel engines while submerged at periscope depth, allowing the boats to cruise and recharge their batteries while maintaining a degree of stealth. It was far from a perfect solution, however. Problems occurred with the device's valve sticking shut or closing as it dunked in rough weather; since the system used the entire pressure hull as a buffer, the diesels would instantaneously suck huge volumes of air from the boat's compartments, and the crew often suffered painful ear injuries. Speed was limited to 8 knots (15 km/h), lest the device snap from stress. The Schnorchel also had the effect of making the boat essentially noisy and deaf in sonar terms. Finally, Allied radar eventually became sufficiently advanced that the Schnorchel mast could be detected beyond visual range.

    Several other pioneering innovations included acoustic- and electro-absorbent coatings to make them less of an ASDIC or RADAR target. The Germans also developed active countermeasures such as facilities to release artificial chemical bubble-making decoys, known as Bold, after the mythical kobold.

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    U-boat - Wikipedia08 May 2019.


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    Stealth U-Boats




    U-480 with Olt z S Hans-Joachim Förster saluting.


    In order to prevent being detected either by acoustic or visual means, the submarine fleets had to employ a range of counter-measures to either thwart the penetrative gaze of radar and the sono-buoy or reduce the amount of time the individual U-boats spent on the surface to make it far more difficult for reconnaissance planes to discover their whereabouts. Unfortunately for the Germans none of the main radar warning receivers they developed (Borkum, Metox, Naxos, Tunis and Wanze) operated flawlessly against aircraft; their own active radar sets (Gema, Hohentwiel and Lessing) though effective went into service tardily; what radar and sonar decoys (Aphrodite and Thetis for the former and Bold, Sieglinde and Siegmund for the latter) they produced failed to achieve any lasting success; and the anti-sonar synthetic rubber Oppanol coating they used on the hulls of the U-boats to disguise their acoustic signature (known by the codename Alberich) had major adhesive problems that restricted its application. In addition, it was soon discovered that the use of schnorchel air induction tube, which enabled submarines to run their air-breathing diesel engines and recharge their batteries while still submerged, was not quite all that it seemed at the outset. Quite apart from the health risks (specifically, oxygen-deprivation) that the early non-fully automated models posed for the U-boat crews, a schnorchel boat could also be detected even if its mast was coated with the camouflage antiradar coating of synthetic rubber and iron oxide powder (Tarnmatte).



    Alberich


    This was a textured synthetic rubber called OPPANOL. The idea behind this 4MM thick rubber was to cover the entire U-boat in this textured rubber. In reality this OPPANAL only reduced the sonar pulse by about 15 per cent when the boat was at periscope depth. Absorption varied with depth, temp and salinity. The big problem with this system was that of adhesion. There was just no glue at the time that would keep the rubber panels in place. Over time wave action etc. made the rubber panels come lose and actually create more noise than a boat that did not have the coating. It was also found to decrease the speed of the boat by about 1.1/2 knots. The hull and tower were also occasionally covered. For this purpose a black, rubber-like material was used “Alberich”. It served however only for the camouflage against ASDIC, not against radar.

    This material reduced the detectable engine noise from the powerplant, and also the sound-echo reflected from the submarine by some 15 per cent. The patented material was a polyisobutene known as Oppanol; in the form used by the U-Bootwaffe it was made in 4mm-thick sheets, to be glued to the steel structure of the submarine. Initial tests on a Type II boat seemed promising, and it was decided to apply the coating to a new Type IXC, U-67, before she entered service.

    Although the concept was sound (and is widely used today), the problem in 1941 was that a suitable adhesive had not been perfected. During U-67’s short voyage to her first operational base with 2. Unterseebootsflotille at Lorient that August, it is estimated that at least 60 per cent of her Alberich coating was lost. Once the Alberich `tiles’ had loosened, the turbulence caused by the loose ends of partially detached panels flapping around in the current caused increased drag, and in fact a treated and `peeling’ submarine could end up more `noisy’ than an untreated one.

    A suitable adhesive was only found in 1944, and when this was used to coat the Type VII boat U-480 with Alberich it was judged to be effective. On 25 August 1944, U-480 (Olt z S Hans-Joachim Förster) made an attack on convoy BTC-78 off the English coast near Lands End, sinking the freighter Orminster. By this late in the war very few boats would escape once detected by Allied surface ships, but although the escorts began a determined hunt they had to give up after seven hours, and the Alberich-treated U-boat escaped unscathed. Of course, it was not possible to determine to what degree her escape was due to the Alberich rather than simply to the skill of her commander, but it was ordered that in future all new Type XXIII and Type XXVI boats should be treated with Alberich. In the event, only one Type XXIII, U-4709, had been treated before the war ended, and she was scuttled before undertaking any combat patrols.




    Type XXIII, U-4709




    Type XXI



    Anti-Radar Coatings



    Tarnmatte (camouflage mat)


    A more successful attempt at improving stealth characteristics was the use of a synthetic rubber coating for the exposed head of the U-boat schnorkel or air intake/exhaust tube. The installation of this device was one of the German responses to the introduction in spring 1943 of Allied centimetric radar capable of detecting boats running on the surface day or night, which thereafter forced them to spend most of their time `in the cellar’. This not only seriously degraded their ability to intercept Allied targets, but made the unavoidable periods spent running the diesel engines on the surface to recharge the electrical batteries extremely hazardous. The retractable schnorkel came into widespread use only in May 1944; it provided an air intake and exhaust for the diesels, so that boats could theoretically stay underwater 24 hours a day, not only charging batteries but cruising submerged (very slowly) on diesel power. However, not only was it difficult and even dangerous to operate, but its head above the surface could easily be detected by radar-equipped Allied aircraft.

    The synthetic material used to coat the head was known as Buna; the thickness of the coating was dependent on the wavelength of the specific Allied radar emission, and to defeat the 9.7cm-wavelength ASV Mk III set the Tarnmatte was applied 2cm thick. It was very flexible and used on KUGEL-SCHWIMMER SNORKELS etc. Its thickness dictated the frequency of radar radiation that was absorbed. It was much more successful than Alberich, and was reported to be 90 per cent effective.

    Despite claiming that Tarnmatte could absorb 90% of the waves emitted by the Allied airborne Mark III radar sets, schnorchel boats could be let down on occasion by the wake left by their mast on the surface of the sea or by a telltale cloud of diesel exhaust fumes that revealed their presence to the eyes of a trained aerial observer hunting for them.


    IG-JAUMANN ABSORBER made be IG FARBEN.


    This was far better at absorbing radar radiation but due to difficult manufacturing it was not flexible and could only be made in flat sheets or in round forms (it could not be made to cover the various shapes of a U-boats hull). It was made up of 7 layers of conductive material (paper or plastic with carbon black) separated by layers of di-electric material (rigid synthetic called IGELIT, which is a polyvinylchloride foam that was 70% air by volume). The total thickness was about 8CM thick. This material absorbed radiation between 2 and 50 CM.



    D-Day caused U-Boat Command to order an evacuation. Within the French bases, eight U-boats newly fitted with schnorchel gear were approaching readiness as the evacuation gathered pace. With the decision to stop sending boats against the D-Day traffic in the Seine area, they instead were despatched to the Bristol and North Channels on Britain’s west coast. U667 had been operational within the Bristol Channel since the end of July and had reported sinking a destroyer and 15,000 tons of enemy shipping.3 Kapitänleutnant Hardo Rodler von Roithberg’s U989 also scored surprise successes in late August when he damaged the American freighter SS Louis Kossuth and sank the British SS Ashmun J Clough southwest of the Isle of Wight, before being ordered to head for Norway as part of the general evacuation. Another 9th U-Flotilla boat U480 that had left Brest in early August for the English Channel sank corvette HMCS Alberni, minesweeper HMS Loyalty and badly damaged SS Fort Yale northeast of Barfleur, before moving on to attack convoy FTM74 on the afternoon of 25 August. The convoy had overrun the submerged U-boat, the din of propellers easily audible throughout the German hull. The 5,712-ton straggler SS Orminster was torpedoed thirty-five miles northwest of Cap d’Antifer by Oberleutnant zur See Hans-Joachim Förster after which U480 was hunted for seven hours but escaped, his ability to avoid detection enhanced by the Alberich covering – an early form of stealth technology – that had been applied during the previous May:

    25 August 1944. 1508hrs. Am being pursued by four anti-submarine vessels, two of which are operating ASDICs; the third, which apparently acts as depth-charge dropper, approaches at intervals of from five to ten minutes and drops charges; the fourth can be heard to be running her engines at very low speed. Listening conditions are particularly good.

    2140hrs. Beginning of dusk. Pursuit lasts until 2200 during which time we have covered five miles over the ground … I maintain my depth by shifting the crew. One of the A/S vessels frequently lies directly above us with her engines just ticking over, when the least sound aboard her is clearly audible and ASDIC impulses are extremely loud … The depth-charge dropper, which has lately been lying stopped, approaches and drops five or six depth charges at intervals. These cause such trivial damage that I am convinced that the enemy is unable to locate us with ASDIC … I attribute the enemy’s failure to locate me mainly to the protection afforded by Alberich …

    Alberich, named after the guardian of the Rhinegold treasure from Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, consisted of 4mm-thick sheets of synthetic rubber, Oppanol, which possessed sound absorbing properties. The sheets were secured to the outer hull with adhesive, claiming a 15 per cent reduction in sonar echo reflection, as well as acting as sound insulation for the internal machinery of the U-boat. While Alberich itself was reliable, the adhesive used to secure its place on the hull was less so and experiments continued until the war’s end to prevent sheets from being partially washed off and so flapping in the water stream creating both drag and noise.

    The first U-boat to receive Alberich was the Type II U11, covered in the sheeting for initial trials with the 5th U-Flotilla during 1940. In 1941 a larger boat, the Type IX U67 and then UD4 were similarly tested, though the adhesive problem prevented its widespread use amongst combat boats. Not until the dawn of the ‘schnorchel war’ was Alberich used on patrol, U480 being the first U-boat to enter combat clad in the rubber sheeting. After Förster’s enthusiastic appraisal of the material the decision was made to attempt to cover numerous Type XXIII U-boats with Alberich, though the first was not ready for service until February 1945 when U4709 was commissioned. It was suggested that the huge unfinished ‘Valentin’ bunker in Bremen be given over to Alberich fitting, though the plan was shelved. In total there were more Type VIICs that ended the war with Alberich coatings, despite the fact that for every one of its type covered, two and a half Type XXIIIs could be so treated.

    More commonly used was Tarnmatte, a compound synthetic rubber and iron-oxide powder that coated the head of a U-boat’s schnorchel to absorb enemy radar waves, and which was claimed to absorb 90 per cent of waves emitted by the ASV Mk III airborne radar.


    Förster and U480 would not make landfall until October, and his War Diary provides an interesting glimpse at the difficulties faced by U-boats compelled to remain submerged for long periods of time in transit to, from and within the combat zone:

    12 September: 0511hrs. 300 miles west of Ireland. Surfaced for the first time in 40 days. The boat stinks. Everything is covered with phosphorescent particles. One’s footmarks on the bridge show up fluorescently … Schnorchel fittings and flooding slots also glow brightly in the darkness. Because of a high stern sea the bridge is constantly awash and the men cannot stand up on the slippery wooden deck; it is therefore impossible either to change or to dismantle the AA guns. The shields of the twin AA guns cannot be opened; the hinges appear to have rusted up and cannot be attended to in the dark. The 3.7cm gun is out of action; so shall first transmit my situation report and then proceed on schnorchel until the state of the sea permits me either to change the AA guns or dismantle them for overhaul below.

    2nd October: 1710hrs. Off the west coast of Norway. Surfaced. The whole flak armament is unserviceable. The gun shields have been torn away from their mountings and are fouling the guns. Everything, including the 3.7cm gun, is corroded and covered with growth.



    Balkon-Gerät – The Balkon-Gerät (Balcony Apparatus) was an improved version of (‘’Gruppenhorchgerät’’) GHG. The GHG fitted to early U-boats could not be used effectively at periscope depth. To solve this, a new listening device, known as ‘balkon’ (balcony) fitted to a second, lower hull, was successfully tested on U-194 in January 1943. Where the previous had 24 hydrophones, the Balkon had 48 hydrophones and improved electronics, which enabled more accurate readings to be taken. It was standard on XXIs but was fitted to some VIICs and VIIC/41s in 1944 and 1945.


    Stealth U-Boats | Weapons and Warfare

    09 May 2019.

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    U-96 & The Incredible Tale Behind the Movie Das Boot



    St. Nazaire, submarine incoming


    “We all wanted the boat to be successful and to sink as much as possible, regardless of our losses,”
    The myth of U-96 lives on to this day. Only a single living witness knows the truth of what happened, such was the danger of life on a Nazi submarine during the Second World War. At 103 years old, Friedrich Grade is the last living survivor of the crew of this legendary submarine.


    His experience would have been useful material for the travelling war correspondent Lothar-Günther Buchheim’s novel Das Boot that was published in 1973 and which inspired Wolfgang Petersen’s feature film bearing the same name in 1981.





    Caption: Air Attacks on German U-boats, WWII. Crew of German U-boat, U-664, prepare to go over side of ship during attack by two Avenger aircraft from USS Card (CVE-11), August 9, 1943. Note, the laughing sawfish insignia on the conning tower of the 9th U-boat Flotilla. Incident #3992. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. (2015/8/18)



    Grade was offered a role in the making of the movie, but instead, he chose to stay on the sidelines. His valuable knowledge, and, more importantly, his journal, would remain a secret for many more years.






    Scale model of U-96.Photo: Andrey Belenko CC BY 2.0



    Initial successes of the German U-boat fleet


    In the early years of WW2, the success of German U-boats was initially very impressive. One example is that of U-47, under the command of Günther Prien. The sub stealthily penetrated the British naval base at Scapa Flow during the night of October 13/14, 1939. It launched a torpedo, sinking the British battleship Royal Oak, then left the port unmolested.





    Kriegsmarine U-boat commander Günther Prien. Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-2006-1130-500 / Schulze, Annelise (Mauritius) / CC-BY-SA 3.0


    HMS Royal Oak floundered, and 833 crew members perished. Prien and his crew were celebrated as heroes by Nazi propaganda. Prien even spoke at the Berlin Sports Palace and was photographed with Adolf Hitler. Magazines printed stories with the families of the German submarine commanders.


    Actually, the Kriegsmarine (German Navy) had very little to oppose the formidable Royal Navy, but their U-boats were enormously successful.





    A 3 inch anti-aircraft gun in action on board the British battleship HMS Royal Oak


    Massive submarine bunkers popped up all along the Norwegian and French coasts. In a short time, the submarine fleet had sunk Allied merchant ships amounting to 4.5 million gross registered tons. Great Britain’s supply of military equipment and raw materials was at the mercy of these Nazi Wolf Packs.


    A model of German Submarine U-47 viewed from the side.Photo: Rama CC BY-SA 2.0



    U-96


    U-96 entered service in September 1940. In December of that same year, Friedrich Grade joined the crew as Chief Engineer. The famed U-Boat departed on 11 missions, sinking at least 28 ships and causing about 1,300 fatalities until early 1943. “An indescribably beautiful feeling, from a distance three torpedoes = three hits,” Grade noted on April 28, 1941, in his diary.





    U-96 entering St. Nazaire, crew on deck.Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101II-MW-3712-04A : Schlemmer : CC-BY-SA 3.0


    If these words had been discovered, it would have been the end for Grade for breach of secrecy. However, not even Grade’s wife knew about his journal. It remained hidden in the attic for 75 years, collecting dust.


    That day, U-96 sank two tankers and a steamer, causing 60 fatalities. “We all wanted the boat to be successful and to sink as much as possible, regardless of our losses,” said Grade in a TV interview. Nevertheless, he emphasized: “We were not animated by heroism or any other strange thoughts.”




    Captain Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock, commander of U-96.Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101II-MW-3483-05 / Schwich / CC-BY-SA 3.0


    Grade also explained in his journal what it was like to live on U-96 where there were 45 men crowded into confined spaces and the hygienic conditions were catastrophic. “The air stinks of diesel and is alternately hot, cold and damp. Clothes are almost always stuck to the body.”






    Positiv: “St. Nazaire”, März 1942, U 96, Kptlt. Lehmann-Willenbrock. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101II-MW-3712-33A CC-BY-SA 3.0 de



    So, how real is the cinematic depiction portrayed in themovie DasBoot?


    Klaus Wennemann acts as the nameless chief engineer (“LI” for short) in Wolfgang Petersen’s movie. It was Wennemann’sbreakthrough role as an actor. Grade thought that the resemblance with himself was excellent.








    Film set of Das Boot at the Bavaria Film Studios

    Only the vulgar tone between the protagonists as portrayed by the author Buchheim, who passed away in 2007, bothered Grade. He never liked the man, who joined the crew of U-96 in the autumn of 1941 to take photographs of the U-boat in action.


    The movie does an outstanding job of showing the grubbiness of the men’s attire and appearance. Seeing Jürgen Prochnow, the German actor playing the submarine commandant, with his greasy dark beard and dirty shirt is an excellent portrayal of what the crew might have looked like.


    Having said that, the film mainly focuses on scenes that involve action. Like, for example,the torpedoing of a merchant ship and the ensuing flight from the escort destroyer. It is a scene that lasts for many minutes and illustrates the sheer fright of the crew suffering under a heavy barrage of depth charges.


    .



    Film set of Das Boot at the Bavaria Film Studios.Photo: Aconcagua CC BY-SA 3.0


    The audience cannot help but empathize with the crew of U-96 when the submarine shudders at every explosion. The destroyer is relentless. It never stops its search, harassing the Germans thatare the heroes of the film in this particular moment.







    Then comes the silence when the explosions stop. Water is leaking from up above, the sonar pings that had harassed the submarine are no more. The men of U-96 wait and wait until they finally surface, revealing an empty sea. They have survived.



    But life ona German U-boat during the Second World War was not all about the relentless pursuit of enemy destroyers.






    Film set of Das Boot at the Bavaria Film Studios.Photo: Aconcagua CC BY-SA 3.0


    For the most part, the crew pursued a life of extreme monotony consisting of equipment maintenance, checking the torpedo weaponry, general upkeep activities, and other essential functions that maintained discipline and kept the men alive foras long as possible.

    In the end, Das Boot was nominated for six Academy Awards with the director, Wolfgang Petersen, winning the accolade as Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. The movie was an excellent effort, to say the least.




    U-Boat 96, and the film Das Boot - War History Online13 May 2019.




    We have only one task, to stand firm and to carry on the racial struggle without mercy. Heinrich Himmler.


    An outstanding First Class Film.
    Post War Germany is incapable of making any films on WWII.
    All they know is holahoax guilt.

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    Fascinating stuff!

    I've always liked U-Boats and have just spent 5 days looking for an article I posted on the old GW forum about "Life on a U-Boat in WW2" but I think it's gone

    Oh, well ... suffice to say that the Kriegsmarine had great success with these in the early stages of the war but their supremacy didn't really last that long, and after the Enigma Code was cracked during the summer of '41 they became increasingly ineffective.

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    If you have an interest in U boats, a visit to Chicago's museum of science and industry is well worth it. The museum houses U505 that was captured at sea during WWII. For decades the 505 sat in the open and you could tour it. Now, it has been restored and is housed in separate tour in the museum and it is a excellent display.

    Life is like a fire hydrant- sometimes you help people put out their fires, but most of the time you just get peed on by every dog in the neighborhood.

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    This is a good book ^

    I read it some years ago and it’s all about the crew of U-4001 who were charged with a secret mission in May, 1945.

    This wasn’t immediately revealed but during the course of the voyage it transpired that they had to deliver a couple of high-ranking SS officers to neutral Ireland. In an extremely tense ending they just made it, eventually scuppering the boat in Clew Bay.

    There (as arranged) they were picked out of the water by some fishermen and crowds gathered on the quayside to clap them ashore, while a couple of IRA members took the SS men to safety.

    I became aware towards the end though that the really good thing about this novel was that it hadn’t once mentioned the Holocaust© but then, with just a few pages remaining, the captain says that once they reached land he heard the dreadful stories and he'd never have agreed to help the SS men if he’d known about this sooner

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    Some German u-boat bunkers in Norway:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dora_I
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dora_II

    It was the home of the 13th flotilla and it had 55 U-boats assigned to the flotilla during its service. The buildings are massive.
    Today they are used for state archives, datacenters for servers, storage etc.

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    U 995 nearby the Laboe Naval Memorial is worth a visit too.





    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laboe_Naval_Memorial




    Quote Originally Posted by jagdmesser View Post

    An outstanding First Class Film.
    Post War Germany is incapable of making any films on WWII.
    All they know is holahoax guilt.
    Das Boot is a post-war German WW2 movie though.
    When men cease to fight — they cease to be — Men.
    “Critics are like eunuchs in a harem; they know how it's done, they've seen it done every day, but they're unable to do it themselves.” Brendan Behan

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    U-boat bases of the Second World War in France : Brest, Lorient, St-Nazaire, La Pallice and Bordeaux.



    The U-boat bases in France were the home port of the most famous U-boat flottillas from 1940 to 1944 :
    - Brest U-Boat base : 1st and 9th flottillas
    - Lorient U-boat base : 2nd and 10th flottillas
    - St-Nazaire U-boat base : 7th and 6th flottillas
    - La Rochelle U-boat base : 3rd flottilla
    - Bordeaux U-boat base : 12th flottilla (+ italian submarines)



    Lorient (Kéroman) U-boat base

    St-Nazaire U-boat base

    La Rochelle (La Pallice) U-boat base

    Bordeaux U-boat base







    Recommended books - U-boat19 May 2019.


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    Operation taking place to recover gold bullion from sunken WWII ship



    An operation to recover tonnes of gold bullion believed to be on board a ship which sank off the coast of Donegal in 1940 is said to be making substantial progress.



    Will Carrier, Operations Manager with Atlantic Subsea Ventures, the company behind the salvage operation, has told RTÉ news that they hope to see results in four to six weeks. Mr Carrier was speaking on board the North Sea Giant, the huge vessel involved in the salvage operation, which docked in Killybegs, Co Donegal, R of Ire. this morning for a crew change.

    ASV has researched many WW1 and WW2 ships which were believed to be carrying gold to finance the war effort when they sank. This operation is focused on the Empress of Britain, once a luxurious ocean liner, it was requisitioned for the war in 1939.

    In October of 1940 the ship sank after being attacked, first by a German bomber and then by a U Boat, over 100km off the coast of Donegal. Its location was found in 1995 but given the depth of the water there 500 m, a salvage operation was not feasible.

    Now, however, ASV is using high tech equipment developed for the oil and gas industry to try to find and recover the gold believed to be on the sunken vessel. It is using remotely operated vehicles and specialised cutting equipment to cut into the thick hull of the ship which was designed to withstand the ice fields around Newfoundland.

    Mr Carrier estimates there could be half a billion euro worth of gold with the vessel 500 m down at the bottom of the sea. He says the company would like to land the gold in Ireland. However, under current legislation the company would have to leave the gold with the Receiver of Wrecks for a year and a day and pay a levy of 7.5% on the total value of the cargo.

    Mr Carrier said ASV is investing hugely in the recovery operation and would need to see a change in the law to make it feasible to land the gold in Ireland. He said they know there are no claims on the gold so they want to be able to move it on directly and pay a lower levy, in the region of 4% on its value, to the Government. The current law is probably archaic, he says, and was designed for smaller vessels like trawlers. If the changes were made, he said, it would create a substantial income for the Irish taxpayer as there are many more wrecks out there which the company would like to salvage and Ireland would be the most convenient location to land the cargo.

    Mr Carrier also said that there is a potential environmental hazard created by many of the wrecks which are lying on the seabed for about 80 years. No one is monitoring them and the possibility of fuel leaking into the ocean is real. ASV is currently working with the Irish Coastguard in relation to this, according to Mr Carrier but he would like to see a closer partnership which would see his company put out a permanent survey vessel in areas where the wrecks are located.

    Operation taking place to recover gold from sunken ship28 May 2019.



    The Empress of Britain

    U 32 and the Sinking of the Empress of Britain – and Her Own End shortly afterwards



    On 24 October 1940, the Type VII A U-boat U 32 under the command of Oberleutnant zur See (= Lieutenant) Hans Jenisch left Lorient for the North Atlantic Ocean, which eventually should be it´s last combat patrol. Around noon on the 26 October the U-boat received a message saying that the Empress of Britain, a passenger liner under Canadian flag of 42,348 GRT and being used as troop-carrier, has been damaged by bombs from a German Luftwaffe aircraft about 300 nmi west off the northern tip of Ireland. The Commanding Officer of U 32 decided not to act in response to the message, since the reported position was too far off the departure track of U 32 towards its assigned area of operation, and also, the message was not clear enough. Moreover, another U-boat, U 31, was believed to operate in the neighborhood of the incident reported.


    When the message of the bomb attack was repeated early next morning, with the additional information of the Empress of Britain being in flames and unable to move, Jenisch decided to change course and intercept the crippled vessel.



    Commander of U 32 – Oberleutnant zur See (Lieutenant) Hans Jenisch

    How did the bombing of the Empress of Britain happen in the first place?


    The troop-carrier was enroute to Liverpool coming from Suez, Egypt, where a contingent of forces had been disembarked. There were 416 crewmembers on board, plus two more gunners to operate the AA-guns, and some 205 passengers, mostly members of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force and their families. Because of the high speed the Empress of Britain was able to steam, no escorts were tasked to accompany her. About 09.20 a.m. on 26 October 1940 a Luftwaffe four-engined Focke Wulff 200 (Fw 200) under the command of Oberleutnant (= Flight Lieutenant) Bernhard Jope spotted the vessel some 70 nmi off the Aran Islands at Irelands western coast. Straight away, Jope carried out several attacks, while Master Charles Havard Sapsworth ordered full speed ahead for his Empress of Britain, and to open fire from his AA-guns against the aircraft. The crew of the FW 200 managed to drop several 250 kg bombs on the troop-carrier.


    Three bombs grazed the vessel, whereas two bombs hit directly. The first bomb penetrated the vessel´s “Mayfair” lounge, the second hit the upper deck damaging several life boats. Immediately, fire started and thick black smoke began to cover the outer decks. At the same time, the crew of the FW 200 tried to neutralize the defensive AA-fire from the vessel. In fact, the strafing by the Fw 200 caused some damage and killed several persons on board the Empress of Britain.




    Soon after the return of Jope´s Fw 200 the Germans realized what ship has been attacked actually. Naval and Air Force headquarters were alerted immediately. However, it was not clear yet whether the Empress of Britain had sunk or whether she was still afloat.


    In fact, the troop-carrier had not sunk yet. The hull was still alright, but the Fw 200 bombs had caused a blaze which quickly spread without any chance to get it under control. The fire destroyed many of the life saving appliances and most of the fire-fighting equipment. Already half hour after the bomb hits Captain Sapsworth ordered to abandon ship. The British destroyer Echo and the Polish destroyer Burza as well as the British ASW sloop Cape Arcona, all having rushed to the scene, managed to rescue most of the crew and the passengers. Just a few crew members stayed behind to save their vessel.



    The main engine had shut down due to the blaze raging through the vessel. The ship could not be driven by own forces any longer and was drifting at the rough seas without any propulsion. The British destroyer Broke reached the scene at the forenoon of the 27 October. At once, Broke came alongside the Empress of Britain, sending few men on board the troop-carrier to tie together both ships with the help of the remaining crew of the Empress. Soon after, the British tugs Marauder and Thames arrived and quickly started towing the Empress. Escorted by the Broke and the Sardonyx which was another destroyer having approached in haste, the towing train moved with a speed of about 4 kn slowly towards Northern Ireland. Additionally, “Sunderland” seaplanes in rotation covered the convoy from the air.



    The “Empress of Britain” – 42,348 GRT


    Meanwhile, U 32 tried to close to the crippled vessel. About noon on the 27 October the masts of the troop-carrier came in sight due in good visibility. The Commanding Officer did not decide to submerge to save valuable time, as now even the Empress of Britain came over the horizon clearly to be seen.



    The vessel was surrounded by several other mast tips from destroyers, and there were sea planes circling above the vessel. Soon a sea plane approached and forced U 32 to dive quickly. During the following afternoon the Commanding Officer could spot through his periscope repeatedly aircraft above the crippled vessel. Having set to maximum underwater speed U 32 closed to its target gradually. At evening dawn the U-boat surfaced but lost sight to the Empress. Since further optical search was unsuccessful Jenisch decided to submerge again for attempting to re-detect the vessel by means of hydrophone. Objects were detected quickly, but, as it was established, they were rather distant, about 20 nmi apart.


    About midnight of 27 / 28 October the Empress of Britain came in sight again. Two tugs towed the huge ocean liner, and one destroyer each was spotted at portside and starboard side. U 32 followed the crippled vessel for about 2 hours, with course and speed of the convoy being determined firmly. Suddenly, both destroy-ers opened up a gap while maneuvering, allowing U 32 to penetrate the screen and to take attack position. The attack was executed textbook-like, with the U-boat launching one torpedo each against the forward and the stern mast of the 232 meters long Empress. When U 32turned away the first torpedo experienced an advanced ignition after having passed the minimum safety distance of 125 meters. Immediately Jenisch turn back towards the target and launched a third torpedo, this time aiming at the middle funnel of the Empress.





    U 32 1940 in Lorient


    U 32 came rather close to its target while carrying out this maneuver, allowing it to observe many details on board the Empress, which still was on fire by the FW 200 bombs of the 26th of October. When U 32 turned away again the second and the last torpedo launched hit almost at the same time, causing the boiler of the Empress to explode. The steam mushroom cloud following that raised high above the vessel. The Empress of Britain quickly started to heel towards its portside taking a 15° list. The tugs casted off their ropes, while the destroyers were searching for the U-boat with their spotlights in the area of the assumed attack position portside ahead. At the same time, pre-flooded but still at the surface U 32 used its electric engines to sail in the wake of the Empress, to slowly fall behind. The further scenario could be monitored from the conning tower of the U-boat. The destroyers were continuing to search for the U-boat around the crippled vessel and fired now and then, but obviously without having any firm detection of U 32. A “Sunderland” seaplane passed over the U-boat at low altitude, but did not see anything due to the little speed of the boat.



    In the meantime the list of the Empress increased, until the vessel capsized after some 10 minutes, to sink eventually. The 42,348 GRT Empress of Britain was the biggest vessel ever in World War II being sunk by a German U-boat. 25 crewmembers and 20 passengers of the Empress lost their lives due to the air attack, the following fire and the sinking of U 32.



    However, the crew of U 32 could not enjoy its success for long. Two days later, on 30 October, the boat operated in the Northern Atlantic west off Ireland, waiting for a convoy reported eastbound. The convoy was not found, instead an individual steamer was detected, whom the Commanding Officer considered being a straggler of the convoy. About noon, Jenisch attacked, but also this torpedo experienced advanced ignition, revealing the U-boat´s position. The vessel turned away and tried to make way with full speed. Laborious manoeuvres began to reach a forward attack position, while visibility changed permanently.



    This lasted for several hours, enabling U 32 to reach an underwater attack position not before the evening. Meanwhile, the merchant vessel had called for help. Consequently, the U-boat executing its attack was detected and pursued by two destroyers. These were the new British destroyers Harvester and Highlander, both being equipped with state-of-the-art ASW devices. Two series of depth charges hit U 32, one at 120 m, another one at 80 m diving depth.


    The pressure hull experienced several leakages and the U-boat took in quite a lot of water, particularly in its aft section. The complete electric power generation was dead and the compressed air system was not tight any longer, causing compressed air to float into the inner boat. Overpressure generated by this inside the U-boat became almost unbearable. When the compressed air remaining had fallen to just 30 units of plus pressure the Commanding Officer ordered “Get to the surface” in the knowledge that this was to be the last chance for that, although two destroyers would be waiting for them up there.


    Once having surfaced the U-boat crew managed to start the diesel engines, despite heeling down by the stern. However, the rudder was jammed at hard angle, enabling the U-boat to navigate in circling maneuvers only. Another torpedo was fired at one of the destroyers, but the discharge pressure was not sufficient enough. Therefore, the torpedo left the U-boat with some delay only and subsequently missed its target. The second destroyer tried to ram U 32, but failed to do so. Both destroyers fired at the U-boat with all guns until it started to sink.


    The head was already washed over by sea water and there was no real chance left to U 32 to defend itself any longer. Hence, the Commanding Officer ordered to abandon ship. Oberleutnant zur See Hans Jenisch and the Chief Engineer, Leutnant (Ing) Anton Thimm, made sure that all men had left the boat, before they opened the decompression valves, to then leave the boat as well. Shortly afterwards U 32 straightened up once more, with the bow rising to the skies. Then it sank over its stern. Nine crewmembers of the 42 strong crew fell, some by the destroyer´s shelling, others by drowning. The majority of the crew was rescued by the Harvester about one hour after the sinking.



    The Highlander began to search for survivors as well, in response to a request by the Commanding Officer of U 32. Three hours later the Highlander actually managed to find four more men and took them on board. The treatment of the German U-boat men on board the British destroyers was exemplary. The survivors of U 32 remained in PoW camps in England and Canada for the remainder of the war.



    Text: Hans-Joachim Röll and Deutsches U-Boot Museum – Pictures: Deutsches U-Boot-Museum


    The Empress of Britain - Deutsches U-Boot-Museum28 May 2019.


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