July 28, 2012

Ram ho!

I'm not sure why it is such big news that they have found the final resting place of U-550.  Since we sank the vast majority of the German submarine force at sea, and dealt with the rest in other ways, I had assumed the bottom of the Atlantic was littered with depth-charged hulks and iron crosses.  (A fine recapitulation of the U-550 engagement is here.)

The historian Michael Gannon reportedly argues that the German submariners were among the least-Nazi elements of the German armed forces.  Hmmm.  Upon serious reflection, since they came to America and killed lots of civilians in sneak attacks on Hitler's orders, I don't think that really changes my view of them. 

What was new to me was the information that U-550's final battle featured ramming, in my opinion an underutilized maritime tool in war and peace. As every schoolchild knows, the Seattle fireboat Duwamish was designed with a built-in ram to use as a last resort.

I've always been a bit of a partisan for the destroyer escorts, a force that never received the attention of battleships or PT boats, but arguably did more useful work (including the unbelievable engagement off Samar).  They were pretty good vessels - USS Gandy has a still-active sister ship serving in the Philippine navy.


Blogger First Sea Lord said...

Must recommend the novel "The Cruel Sea," by Monsarrat, about a Royal Navy corvette chasing around U Boats. I read it at 9, and then again last year.

By the way, what are you doing writing about the Sea!? Every man to his craft, Sir!

July 28, 2012 at 11:55 AM  
Blogger First Sea Lord said...

I should add: the whole history of naval warfare was highly dependent on ramming - indeed, from Greek Triremes to Venetian galleys with their enormous built in rams, and until heavy cannons were perfected, a primary naval attack meant maneuvering to smash your opponent's vessel amidships.

July 28, 2012 at 12:06 PM  

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