This abbreviated version reprinted by permission of Trident Research
Not long ago, while doing some research on U-boat types on the Internet, I ran across a site belonging to Trident Research documenting the recovery attempt on a Type XIb U boat. As you will see from this summary of their research and efforts, significant sleuthing has been involved in this find.
If Trident Research is correct in their assertion, their discovery will be one of the greatest military history stories of our century. Simply put, prior to this event it was believed that NO Type XIb U boat ever put to sea.
However, by diligent research and with a fine sense of political history, Trident has put together a cogent argument that indeed a Type XIb did put to sea. The XIb was HUGE: fully 115 meters (377 ft.) in length and 9.5 meters (31.3 ft.) in breadth. But rather than steal more thunder, listen to the story and draw your own conclusions!
The availability of recently declassified military, political and intelligence documents are gradually assisting the professional researcher in filling in the gaps in World War Two history. Instead of seeing what appears to be a convoluted series of events we are beginning to understand how the geopolitical strategies of the various governments involved in the conflict actually dictated the outcome of the battlefield scenario.
With this in mind, we will relate here a general status of World War Two as it stood during the summer and fall of 1944, and then lay in the minute details that actually affected the important events unfolding during this time frame.
During the summer of 1944 the United States and her Allies, namely Great Britain and the Soviet Union, had commenced the final push to victory over Germany's Third Reich in Europe. The now famous "D-Day" landings on the French Normandy coast were successfully accomplished on 6 June and the German battle lines gradually gave way under the Allied onslaught. The German High Command knew well that it was the beginning of a long retreat and would ultimately end in a total defeat.
In the month of February, 1943 the German military and civilian populace witnessed the disastrous events unfolding on the Russian Front. As a result of these German military losses the several Nazi-Opposition groups, already in place within Germany since 1939, now began to increase their activity.
These particular individuals and organizations firmly believed that Hitler's plans of domination were a direct threat to their country's best interests. The groups incorporated many of the German social and political elite, most notably Germany's "Technocrats" of political leaders, industrialists, bankers and highly placed military officers. By February of 1943 these opportunists commenced making their own arrangements for their post-war futures, both as individuals and as corporate entities.
While the German military was attempting to eliminate the problem at its source, (ie. the attempt on Hitler's life), the conservative civilian opposition groups were attempting to alter the inevitable outcome of the war by initiating contacts with the "Western Allies", Great Britain and the United States. These various contacts were an effort to end the war for Germany under favorable terms for an armistice.
The Western Intelligence agencies and military Commands were well aware of events inside Germany at this time and actually conducted numerous secret meetings with the German military and civilian leaders in an effort to end the war. However, the Western Allies possessed a vastly different agenda, geared more at personal gain rather than the American public's best interest.
The President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, had publicly stated as early as 1943 that no terms except "Unconditional Surrender" would be accepted from Germany by the three Allied powers. However, many of the hard-line political capitalists within the United States Department of State, the Office of Strategic Services and the military intelligence services had different ideas - all of which ran contrary to the Presidential administration's policy decisions.
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Operationally, the German U-Boat force still managed to keep its U-Boat fleet somewhat active during the summer and fall of 1944. During the first week of July, 1944 an incident involving a U-Boat and the U.S. Naval Airship "K-14" occurred off Bar Harbor, Maine.
As is made so painfully clear in the official Inquiry records, the U-Boat in question brought down the "K-14" with 20mm Anti-Aircraft fire resulting in the loss of six Airship crewmen out of a total compliment of ten men. The Inquiry and related intelligence reports also show that the "K-14" was somewhat successful in at least severely damaging the enemy vessel. Unfortunately, this incident was kept secret for over 54 years.
Another situation occurred on 20 August of the same year. The U-1229 was intercepted on the surface off the Grand Banks by an American "Hunter-Killer" Naval Task Force as it was proceeding to the American coast on a 'spy-insertion' operation. The U-1229 went down with about one-third of her crew, but 41 survivors of this sinking were rescued as prisoners of war by the American destroyers on the scene.
What was not known by most military men at this time, however, was the fact that the Type XI U-Boat was also proceeding to the American coast - at that time located only 20 nautical miles distant from the U-1229 at the time of the latter's demise.
THE "BLACK KNIGHT"
According to the official design drafts laid out for the German Type XI-B U-Cruiser in 1939, the specifications for this vessel were as follows:
Length Overall: . . . 115 meters (377 ft.)
Breadth: . .. . . 9.5 meters (31.3 ft.)
Depth: . . . . 6.2 meters (20.3 ft.)
Extreme Displacement: . . . 3,630 tons.
Deadweight: . . . . . 6,800 tons +
Propulsion Machinery: . 2-shaft diesel/electric motors,
(eight 12cyl. diesel engines in two separate engine rooms),
plus two high-grade electric motors in third compartment.
Armament: . . 4 torpedo tubes in the bow
2 torpedo tubes in the stern
6 torpedoes in ready-fire with
6 spare torpedoes carried below internal storage plates.
Armament: 4 127mm Guns in two twin armored turrets.
2 37mm AA mounted on deck amidships.
2 20mm AA mounted in after Wintergarten.
Ammunition Carried: 940 rounds total of 127mm.
4,000 rounds total of 37mm.
2,000 rounds total of 20mm.
Crew: 110 men, with capability to carry two company's' of "Special Coastal Troops", ('Brandenburgers')
Cargo Capacity: 600 cubic tons above provisions.
Accessories: 1 One-Man "Arado/Argus 231" reconnaissance seaplane stowed in forward vertical storage tube.
As detailed within the Kriegsmarine "K" Design Office, there were to be a total of four of these monstrous vessels laid down, with the possibility of constructing an additional four vessels should time and resources permit. However, it is known that only four keels were laid and that one was actually launched, the others eventually being scrapped prior to the end of the war.
The U-Boat Command intentions were to assign the numbers U-112 through U-115 to the first four vessels of the class. However, Kriegsmarine commissioning records reflect no such assignment of numbers and for all practical purposes the Type XI was never officially commissioned.
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