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German submarine U-864

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Career (Nazi
Germany)

Class and type: Type IXD2 U-boat


Name: U-864
Ordered: 5 June 1941
Builder: AG Weser, Bremen
Laid down: 15 October 1942
Launched: 12 August 1943
Commissioned: 9 December 1943
Fate: Sunk with all hands, 9 February
1945 by HMS Venturer, North
Sea west of Bergen
General characteristics
Displacement: Surfaced 1,616 tons tons
submerged 1,804 tons
Length: Overall 87.6 m (287 ft)
pressure hull 68.5 m (225 ft)
Beam: Overall 7.5 m (25 ft)
pressure hull 4.4 m (14 ft)
Draught: 5.4 m (18 ft)
Propulsion: Surfaced: 4,400 hp (3,300 kW)
Submerged: 1,000 hp (750 kW)
Speed: Surfaced 19.2 kn (35.6 km/h;
22.1 mph)
submerged 6.9 kn (12.8 km/h;
7.9 mph)
Range: Surfaced: 18,450 mi at 10 knot
submerged: 93 mi at 4 knot
Test depth: Calculated crush depth: 230 m
(750 ft)
Complement: 55–63 officers & ratings
Armament: • 4 × bow torpedo tubes, 2
× stern (24 torpedoes)
and 48 TMA mines

• 1 × 105/45 deck gun


with 150 rounds
Service record
Part of: Kriegsmarine 4th U-boat flotilla
(Training)
9 December 1943 – 31 October
1944

33rd U-boat flotilla (Front Boat)


1 November 1944 – 9 February
1945
Commanders: Korvettenkapitän Ralf-Reimar
Wolfram
9 December 1943 – 9 February
1945

German submarine U-864 was a German Type IX U-boat sunk on 9 February 1945 by the
British submarine HMS Venturer, killing all 73 onboard. It is the only instance in the history
of naval warfare where one submarine has intentionally sunk another while both were
submerged. The shipwreck was located in March 2003 by the Royal Norwegian Navy 2.2
miles west of the island of Fedje in the North Sea, at 150 metres.[1]

Contents
[hide]

• 1 Career
o 1.1 Early career
o 1.2 Final voyage
o 1.3 Sinking
• 2 Rediscovery

• 3 Notes

Career
Early career

Commanded throughout its entire career by Korvettenkapitän Ralf-Reimar Wolfram [2], she
served with the 4th Submarine Flotilla (4 Unterseebootflottille) undergoing crew training
from her commissioning until 31 October 1944. She was then reassigned to the 33rd
Submarine Flotilla (33. Unterseebootflottille).[3]

Final voyage
Location of U-864.

According to decrypted intercepts of German naval communications with Japan, U-864's


mission was to transport military equipment to Japan destined for the Japanese military
industry, including approximately 67 tons of metallic mercury in 1,857 32 kg steel flasks
stored in her keel. That the mercury was contained in steel canisters was confirmed when one
of the canisters containing mercury was located and brought to the surface during surveys on
her wreck in 2005. Approximately 1,500 tons of mercury was purchased by the Japanese from
Italy between 1942 and Italy's surrender in September 1943. This had the highest priority for
submarine shipment to Japan and was used in the manufacture of explosives, especially
primers.

There was some speculation as to whether U-864 was carrying uranium oxide, as was U-234,
which was captured by the US Navy in the Atlantic on 15 May 1945, but Det Norske Veritas
(DNV) concluded that there was no evidence that uranium oxide was on board U-864 when
she departed Bergen. During the Norwegian Coastal Administration's investigation of the
wreck of U-864 in 2005, radiation measurements were made but no traces of uranium oxide
were found.[4]

According to her cargo list, U-864 also carried parts and engineering drawings for German
fighter aircraft and other military supplies for Japan, while among her passengers were
Messerschmitt engineers Rolf von Chlingensperg and Riclef Schomerus, Japanese torpedo
expert Tadao Yamoto, and Japanese fuel expert Toshio Nakai.[4]

U-864, commanded by Wolfram, left Kiel on 5 December 1944, arriving at Horten, Norway
four days later. Before leaving Germany, U-864 had been refitted with a snorkel mast. Several
messages found in the ULTRA archives show that there were problems with the snorkel,
which needed repairs before the U-864 put to sea for her voyage to Japan. All Schnorkel trials
and training were conducted at Horten near Oslo. U-864 would have needed to be certified
ready to sail at Horten before proceeding to Bergen.[4]
While en route to Bergen, U-864 ran aground and had to stop in Farsund for repairs, not
arriving in Bergen until 5 January 1945. While docked in the Bruno U-boat pens, U-864
received minor damage on 12 January when the pens and shipping in the harbour were
attacked by 32 Royal Air Force Lancaster bombers and one Mosquito bomber of Numbers 9
and 617 Squadrons. At least one Tallboy bomb penetrated the roof of the bunker causing
severe damage inside, and left one of the seven pens unusable for the remainder of the war.[5]
[6]

Sinking

Meanwhile, repairs and adjustments to her snorkel had been completed, and U-864 had
commenced submerged trials. British submarine HMS Venturer, commanded by Lieutenant
James "Jimmy" S. Launders, was sent on her eleventh patrol from the British submarine base
at Lerwick in the Shetland Islands to Fedje, north of Bergen. After German radio
transmissions regarding U-864 were decrypted, she was rerouted to intercept the U-boat. On 6
February U-864 passed the Fedje area without being detected, but one of her engines began to
misfire and she was ordered to return to Bergen. A signal stated that a new escort would be
provided her at Hellisøy on 10 February. She made for there, but on 9 February Venturer
heard U-864's engine noise (Launders had decided not to use ASDIC since it would betray his
position) and spotted the U-boat's periscope.

In an unusually long engagement for a submarine and in a situation for which neither crew
had been trained, Launders waited 45 minutes after first contact before going to action
stations, waiting in vain for U-864 to surface and thus present an easier target. Upon realizing
they were being followed by the British submarine and that their escort had still not arrived,
U-864 zig-zagged in attempted evasive manoeuvres and each submarine risked raising her
periscope. Venturer had only eight torpedoes (four tubes and four reloads) as opposed to U-
864's total of 22, and so after three hours Launders decided to make a prediction of his
opponent's zig-zag, and release a spread of his torpedoes into its predicted course. The first
torpedo was released at 12:12 and then at 17 second intervals after that (taking four minutes to
reach their target), and Launders then dived suddenly to evade any retaliation from his
opponent. U-864 heard the torpedoes coming and also dived deeper and turned away to avoid
them, managing to avoid the first three but unknowingly steering into the path of the fourth.
Imploding, she split in two, sinking with all hands and coming to rest more than 150 m
(500 ft) below the surface on the seafloor, 2 nmi (3.7 km; 2.3 mi) west of the island of
Fedje[4].

Rediscovery
In early 2003, the Royal Norwegian Navy, alerted by local fishermen, found the wreck. The
mercury, contained in 1,857 rusting steel bottles located down in the vessel's keel, has started
to leak and currently poses a severe environmental threat (see mercury poisoning and
Minamata disease).

So far 4 kilograms per year of mercury is leaking out into the surrounding environment,
resulting in high levels of contamination in cod, torsk and edible crab around the wreck.[7]
Boating and fishing near the wreck has been prohibited. Although attempts using robotic
vehicles to dig into the half-buried keel were abandoned after the unstable wreck shifted, one
of the steel bottles was recovered. Its original 5 mm thick wall was found to have corroded
badly, leaving in places only a 1 mm thickness of steel.[8]
The delicate condition of the 2,400-ton wreck, the rusting mercury bottles, and the live
torpedoes on board would make a lifting operation extremely dangerous, with significant
potential for an environmental catastrophe.[8][9] A three year study by the Norwegian Coastal
Administration has recommended entombing the wreck in a 12 metre thickness of sand, with
a reinforcing layer of gravel or concrete to prevent erosion. This is being proposed as a
permanent solution to the problem, and the proposal notes that similar techniques have been
successfully used around 30 times to contain mercury-contaminated sites over the past 20
years.[10]

The proposal of entombing the wreck rather than removing it has been criticised by locals
concerned about possible future leakage.[11]

On 11 November 2008 the Norwegian Coastal Administration awarded the contract for the
possible salvage of the U-864 submarine and its cargo of mercury to salvage company
Mammoet Salvage BV. Mammoet, which was awarded the contract for the salvage of Russian
nuclear submarine Kursk in 2001 had proposed a method of raising the U-864's wreck which
would satisfy the environmental requirements, described as "a safe and innovative salvage
solution". This was reported to be a safe, fully remotely-controlled operation which would
raise the submarine and remove the source of pollution without the need for anyone working
under water. On 29 January 2009, the Norwegian government approved the proposed method
of raising the wreck, and the operation is scheduled to begin in 2010.[12][13] The operation is
estimated to cost 1 billion kroner ($USD 153 million).[14]

Notes
1. ^ "U-864: Extended investigations 2006". Norwegian Coastal Administration press release.
http://www.kystverket.no/default.aspx?did=9281641 . Retrieved 2007-01-14.
2. ^ "U864". U864 Homepage. http://www.klammi.de/html/u864.html. Retrieved 2007-02-06.
3. ^ "U-864". Uboat.net. http://uboat.net/boats/u864.htm. Retrieved 2007-01-14.
4. ^ a b c d "Salvage of U864 - Supplementary Studies - Study No. 7: Cargo". Det Norske Veritas Report No. 23916. Det
Norske Veritas. 4 July 2008. http://www.kystverket.no/arch/_img/9818147.pdf.
5. ^ "Royal Air Force Bomber Command 60th Anniversary, Campaign Diary, January 1945". Royal Air Force, UK Ministry of
Defence. http://www.raf.mod.uk/bombercommand/jan45.html. Retrieved 2007-01-26.
6. ^ "The Bases in Norway, Bergen". U-boat.net. http://uboat.net/flotillas/bases/bergen.html. Retrieved 2007-01-26.
7. ^ "NCA recommends covering wrecked mercury-submarine outside Bergen". Friends of the Earth Norway.
http://www.naturvern.no/cgi-bin/naturvern/imaker?id=98299. Retrieved 2007-01-14.
8. ^ a b Martin Fletcher (19 December 2006). "Toxic timebomb surfaces 60 years after U-boat lost duel to the death". Times
Online (London). http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-2511387,00.html. Retrieved 2007-01-14.
9. ^ Doug Mellgren (20 December 2006). "Sub Poses Environmental Threat in Norway". Associated Press report on CBS
News Website. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/12/20/ap/world/mainD8M4S1O03.shtml. Retrieved 2007-01-14.
10. ^ "The Norwegian Coastal Administration recommends encasing and covering the wreck of the submarine U-864" (PDF).
Norwegian Coastal Administration press release. 19 December 2006.
http://www.kystverket.no/publisher3/arch/_img/9473826.pdf. Retrieved 2007-01-14.
11. ^ New York Times, January 11, 2007. Europe, Fedje Journal. Alan Cowell and Walter Gibbs. Nazi U-Boat
Imperils Norwegians Decades After the War . Accessed 2008-08-17.
12. ^ "U-864 skal heves". Aftenposten. Bergens Tidende. 29 January 2009.
http://www.aftenposten.no/nyheter/iriks/article2896680.ece. Retrieved 30 January 2009.
13. ^ "Sunken WW2 submarine to be raised". The Norway Post. Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. 30 January 2009.
http://www.norwaypost.no/content/view/21562/1/. Retrieved 30 January 2009.
14. ^ "Norway to raise toxic Nazi submarine wreck". The Local. AFP. 30 January 2009. http://www.thelocal.de/society/20090130-
17089.html. Retrieved 31 January 2009.

Coordinates: 60°46′10″N 4°37′15″E


Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_submarine_U-864"
Categories: Type IX U-boats | World War II submarines of Germany | World War II
shipwrecks in the North Sea | U-boats sunk by submarines | U-boats commissioned in 1943 |
U-boats sunk in 1945 | Ships sunk by British submarines | 1943 ships

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• This page was last modified on 17 January 2010 at 02:10.


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