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Mediterranean U-boat Campaign
Part of the Mediterranean Theatre of World War II
Date September 3, 1939 to May, 1944
Location Mediterranean Sea
Result Decisive Allied Victory
 Royal Navy
 United States Navy
Other Allied navies
Italy Regia Marina
62 U-boats
Casualties and losses
95 merchant ships sunk
24 major warships sunk
62 U-boats lost

The Mediterranean U-boat Campaign lasted approximately from September 21, 1941 to May 1944 during World War II. The Nazi Kriegsmarine aimed at isolating Gibraltar, Malta and Suez so as to interrupt Britain's trade and logistics routes. More than 60 U-boats were sent to disrupt shipping in the sea, though many were already attacked at the Strait of Gibraltar controlled by Britain (of which 9 were sunk while attempting passage and 10 more were damaged).

Had these U-boats been placed in the waters of Western Europe, or directly along the coasts of Britain, Germany would have had an advantage. But the Mediterranean Sea was a dangerous area for the U-boats. Around it were many allied air bases from which hundreds of aircraft threatened them day and night. The sea is very clear and calm body of water which made escape more difficult for the U-boats. Germany's objective failed. No U-boat of the Mediterranean ever returned to the Atlantic and all were either sunk in battle or scuttled.


The beginning

U-371 was the first U-boat to enter the Mediterranean. She became the first target of an Allied tactic called "Swamp" after 3 years, in which ships surround and threaten a U-boat forcing her to remain submerged till her batteries run out and then finishing her.

By December 23, 1941, 34 more U-boats had been sent to the Mediterranean. 27 entered successfully, 3 were sunk at Gibraltar and 5 were damaged and had to return to their French bases. U-95 and U-557 were sunk within a week after arrival in the region.

Entries in 1942

15 U-boats entered the sea in 1942 while 2 failed. But the year was bad for them. 14 were sunk in 1942. Thus, the fleet's strength remained the same.

Entries in 1943

14 U-boats were sent this year. Two were sunk at Gibraltar while one cancelled her mission due to damage.

Entries in 1944

12 U-boats were sent to cross Gibraltar in 1944. 3 of them sank while attempting entry.

Most U-boats failed to sink any ship. The bulk of U-boats lost this year were in Toulon.

U-455 vanished along with 51 men in the Mediterranean some time after 6 April 1944. She was rediscovered at a depth of 120 metres, 2 miles from Portofino, Genoa by Lorenzo Del Veneziano, a 42-year old professional diver in October 2005.

U-466 was the last U-boat to be scuttled in the Mediterranean. This was done when the Allied Operation Dragoon was launched.

Success and failure

HMS Barham explodes as her 15 inch magazine ignites, 25 November 1941.

The Germans sank 95 allied merchant ships totalling 449,206 tons, and 24 Royal Navy warships including 2 carriers, 1 battleship, 4 cruisers and 12 destroyers at the cost of 62 U-boats. Noteworthy successes were the sinkings of HMS Barham, HMS Ark Royal and HMS Eagle, HMS Penelope.


U-boats sunk by Allied submarines

The Mediterranean was equally lethal underwater as on surface. Four U-boats here, were sunk by Allied submarines.

See also



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