Submarine Warfare

Submarine Warfare

The First "World War," also known as the

Great War, took place after the turn of the century from 1914 to 1918,
and was named this because it was the first conflict of global proportions.

The war resulted in the loss of military lives and the near destruction
of Europe. The massive destruction of the war was largely
a result of the use of technology in warfare. The use of technology
in warfare was a result of the industrial revolution at the end of
the nineteenth century which brought mechanization and mass production
to society. This brought the use of things never used or heard of
into the war and included airplanes, submarines, and tanks, as well as
radio communications, machine guns, and poison gas. The use of submarines
played a major part in getting the U.S. to join the war.

With the launching of the Dreadnought,
the first battle ship to concentrate all artillery power to massive twelve
inch guns and break the twenty knot speed barrier, the worlds navies became
obsolete overnight. The world powers were rushing to build a new
class of war ships to replace the older out dated ones. Germany and

England soon became entrapped in a naval arms race, with each trying
keep pace with the other’s building program. When the War arrived
in 1914, both Germany and England had navies made up of heavily armed capital
ships, which were large heavily armed and thickly armored battle ships
such as Destroyers. The world waited for the clash of Germany’s high
seas fleet and England’s Grand fleet. The Great War ships only
had a few encounters such as in the battle at Jutland and Dogger while
the underestimated and largely overlooked submarine would play a revolutionary

In the War’s second month Germany’s tiny

U-boat fleet made up of only twenty six submarines and ranking fifth in
size among the war’s combatants demonstrated the tremendous offensive potential
of the "Underseeboot". On September 5th, 1914 commanding officer
on the U-21 Korvettenkapitan Otto Hersing found the British light cruiser

Pathfinder moving toward his position, submerging the U-boat had only to
wait till the Pathfinder was within his range. He fired a single
torpedo and hit the Pathfinder accurately and the ship went down in under
four minutes with heavy loss of life. The true eye opener came
merely seventeen days later when the U-9, under the command of Kapitanleutnant
otto Weddigen, sank three 10,000 ton British armored cruisers, Aboukir,

Houge, and Cressy in the course of only one hour using five torpedoes.

Approximately one thousand four hundred British sailors lost their lives
in the attack and the loss of three capital ships was embarrassing to the

British Navy. Naval establishments around the world sat up and took
notice at that point. The sinking of the British cruisers had
proven the submarine’s worth to the military as an offensive weapon but
its use against merchant shipping brought the weapon its own place in the
military world. On February 4, 1915 angered by the British blockade
of the North Sea, Germany declared the water around the British Isles a
war zone. Germany now would sink all merchant vessels found
in those waters without warning. This was the first time the world
had seen a form of unrestricted submarine warfare on merchant shipping.

As result England was receiving no goods from the outside world which
was very nearly starving out England because of the unmerciful nature of
the German attacks.

The United States, long a neutral spectator
to the war, found herself slowly being drawn into the conflict. Before
her entry in 1917 a warning was sent by Germany that American waters would
not be immune to the U-boat threat. Germans sent two voyages to the
town of Newport, Rhode Island in that same year. After the United
states entered the war on April 6, 1917 they waited for a reappearance
of the submarines for months before seeing another U-boat. When they
finally did it was for the sinking of the American ship S.S. Carolina.

The S.S. Carolina was a five thousand
ton passenger liner transporting over 217 passengers from San Juan, Puerto

Rico, to New York City. When a message was intercepted by a wireless
operator that the Isabel B. Wiley was sunk by a German U-boat, no
more that fifteen miles away, the message was instantly sent to the S.S.

Carolina. Captain Barbour then put his ship in a defensive zig zag
pattern to make the ship a less easy target but it was too late. The U-boat
had already fired shells in to the ship’s wake disabling it.

The captain fearing for the