The U-Boat Type VIIC: Workhorse of the Kriegsmarine

U-96

The signature warship of the German Kreigsmarine of the Second World War has to be the U-Boat Type VIIC, the most numerous type of submarine ever produced by any Navy.  568 of these U-Boats would be commissioned between 1940 and 1945 as well as 91 of the Type VIIC/41.  The Type VIIC was developed from the prewar Type I and Type VIIA and VIIB classes.

Compared to contemporary American submarines of the Gato class they were smaller, mounted fewer torpedo tubes and had a shorter range. However the American boats were designed for the vast expanse of the Pacific while the German boats for the most part were operated in the smaller confines of the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

U-1023

They displaced a mere 769 tons on the surface and 871 tons submerged and were 67.1 meters (220.14 feet) long. The boats had a single pressure hull and the VIIC could dive to a maximum depth of 230 meters (754 feet) and had a crush depth of 250-295 meters (820-967 feet).  The VIIC/41 could dive to 250 meters or 820 feet and a crush depth of 275-325 meters (902-1066 feet).  This was deeper than any allied submarines of the period and a testament to their sound construction.

Admiral Dönitz greeting U-94 in 1941

The Type VIICs were armed with a C35 88 mm/L45 gun with 220 rounds for surface actions and various types and numbers of anti-aircraft guns. The standard configuration for torpedo tubes was 4 bow mounted tubes and 1 stern mounted tube although a small number only carried 2 forward and none aft. They carried a maximum of 14 torpedoes and could carry 26 TMA Mines which would be laid at approaches to various ports.

U-966 under air attack

The Type VIIC was powered by two supercharged Germaniawerft, 6 cylinder, 4-stroke M6V 40/46 diesel engines on the surface producing between 2,800 to 3,200 horsepower which gave the boats a 17.7 knot maximum speed on surface. For submerged operations the boats were powered by one of a number of different electric motors whose batteries were charged by the diesels. The electric motors produced 750 horsepower (560 kW) and could drive the boats a maximum of 7.6 knots. In 1944 many of the surviving boats were equipped with the schnorkel apparatus which allowed them to use their diesel engines underwater at shallow depths.  The had a range of 8190 miles at 10 knots surfaced which gave them a decent amount of operational flexibility for their Atlantic operations.

The last Type VII- U-995 (Type VIIC/41) German U-Boat Memorial Laboe Germany

During the war the German U-Boat force suffered grievous losses many of which were Type VIICs. The VIICs performed excellently in combat and many survived engagements that would have sunk less tough boats. The most famous of the Type VIICs of all variants is probably the U-96 which was featured in the epic submarine film Das Boot. A number had post war careers in several navies and the last active VIIC the U-573 which served in the Spanish Navy as the G-7 was decommissioned in 1970 and sold for scrap over the objections of those that wanted to purchase her as a memorial.  The only surviving Type VIIC is the U-995 at Laboe Germany where she is a memorial to all the U-Boat Sailors of the Second World War.  Two full sized mock ups one for exterior scenes and one for interior scenes were constructed for Das Boot and the exterior mock up was also used in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

During the war U-Boats of all types sank nearly 3000 Allied ships including 175 warships among which were the carriers HMS Glorious, HMS Ark Royal and HMS Eagle and the Battleships HMS Barham and HMS Royal Oak. The Germans lost nearly 800 U-Boats of all types and over 28,000 U-Boat Sailors, about 75% of the force.

The films Das Boot and The Enemy Below are excellent reminders of the courage of the men that operated these submarines during the war. Though the Nazi Regime was evil the men of the U-Boat Service often displayed courage and ingenuity in the face of overwhelming odds and they nearly won the war for the Germans.

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7 Comments

Filed under History, Military, Navy Ships, world war two in europe

7 responses to “The U-Boat Type VIIC: Workhorse of the Kriegsmarine

  1. John Erickson

    I hope I’m not spoiling any upcoming articles, Padre. There is a full and complete U-boat of the IX-C class (slightly larger but similar to the VII-C series) named the U-505, at the Museum of Science and Industry in my beloved Chicago, Illinois. The boat was captured, brought back to the States for evaluation, and finally given to the Museum. While geared more towards long-range cruises to the East Coast of both Americas, the externals are similar, and the internals, while slightly less cramped, give an excellent example of the layout of U-boat internals. It makes a great counterpoint to the “luxurious” layout of the US Gato-class subs. (A side tidbit of info: US subs carried a form of air conditioning – not for the crew comfort, but to keep the crude electronics of the day from suffering in the high humidity. Contrast this with the often sodden interiors of German U-boats.)
    Hope I didn’t give anything away, Padre!

  2. William Aker

    I’d kind of like to think that John and my “musings” about great old submarine movies kicked off this informative entry. Really enjoyed this. I would love to get lost in your pix library! Great shot of Rommel on the Lili Marlene post!
    Got a riddle for you, Padre:
    Late one night, stopped for gas at a convenience store. Night manager said, “I see you’re from ______. What town?” I replied, “_______. But I doubt if you ever heard of it.” He replied, ” Oh yeah, that’s where the Baby Birds are!”
    If you can fill in the blanks and you are the fan you claim to be, you may have been here at least once in your life!
    Me and several others put up a heck of a fight but the Orioles left the nest despite our efforts, and now we have new nestlings, the Toronto Blue Jays. Maybe they will get under my tough old skin as tight as my Orioles. It remains to be seen.
    I hope you’re having as good a day as I’m having!
    Bill

  3. Wow! I stumbled upon your excellent site while researching WW2 submarines. Great article on U-Boats. (And thanks for the line drawing of the Type VIIc.) I’ve been aboard the U-505 in Chicago and I’m sure it was no picnic. (Makes the Knox Class Frigate from my old Navy days seem like a palace!) It’s a shame so many brave young sailors were lost.
    I look forward to rumaging around your other articles. Thanks again for a great website! – James Howard, author of “What So Proudly We Hailed”

  4. Rick Starr

    40,000 German sailors in U Boats , 30,000 were lost . 100 U boats are still
    unaccounted for. Said to have fled to New Swabia in Antartica , along with
    tons of mining , tunneling equiptment , laborers , and the best scientists
    and Nazi high ranking officials. Most of this transpiring before 1936-1942.
    Admiral Byrd got his fleet thrown out of that region during Operation Highjump. I believe a Nazi presence is alive and well there. There are
    recorded instances of German boats recruting S,American women to go to
    this base. Thousands of them. Never seen again. The “Haunebu II” type aircraft was transfered there with the designers and techs. (UFO type)
    Lots of research material is out there.

    • padresteve

      Rick, I allowed your comment simply because it was so “out there. Without being mean there is no historical evidence to support anything that you say. I presume that maybe the Ark of the Covenant is down there too? Blessings and I do hope that if what you say is true as unlikely as it is that we have others like you on our side. Padre Steve+

      • Rick Starr

        Padre,
        Thank you for being so gracious. There is film of a German convoy which
        set out to “New Swabia” in 1939 . Ladined with all the materials and personell to build and maintain such a foothold and presence in Antartica. I also , have had a witness whos brother was stationed at the Base 211. His ship returned to Germany for supplies. This was the last time Frau Pickle saw her brother alive. She revealed this information to me eighteen years ago. She lived in Sandusky,Ohio near the police station and owned a appartment building downtown across from Battery Park. A proud
        German woman. She died alone as far as I know. We spoke for hours.
        On several occations.
        All of this may seem to be out there. However , I have done my
        homework on this. There is colaboration from one of Admiral Birds
        pilots as well reguarding the battle that took place. In which the
        Haunebu II Greman saucers destroyed one ship and several F 4 Corsairs.
        When I ran across this infomation , I thought it may be out there as well.
        However there is too much supporting evidence to say impossible. Let
        alone all the recovered Nazi doccumation of all of this. Fiction ? I think not
        I am a USAF airframe structural repairman specialist 7 level. I have a very
        good working knowledge of lift , drag , superfilious airflow , burbeling ect. Hans Kohler was chief designer of the “Haunebu II” at the end of WWII
        in the “Risia District” of Poland in secret underground factorys. UFO Hunters from History Channel went there also.
        I appricate your kindness !
        Thanks From A Broken Down Veteran,
        Rick Starr

  5. Rick Starr

    Further Information:
    Victor Schauberger designed the propultion system. Which in essense was
    a anti-gravity unit and was powered by water and air. Years ahead of any
    thing to date. SS general Hans Komler took charge of the project in Pilsen,
    Checzslovica. Dr. Igor Witkowski , Polish Aerospace Historian has much
    doccumentation in this area a film footage ( in english ).

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