Unlimited submarine warfare caused widespread public discontent in the United States. American companies made good money on military supplies during the war years, while incurring almost no losses. Now, the goods remained in warehouses and ports, because shipping companies refused to transport them by sea because of the military threat. Entrepreneurs began to suffer losses. Immediately showered demands on the government to take radical measures against the German fleet, the press began to fan military hysteria. A negative opinion against the Germans was already formed after the death of Lusitania.
In addition, another event occurred that was a good reason for declaring war. British intelligence intercepted a radio message sent by German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmerman to ambassadors in Washington and Mexico City in mid-January. In it, the Germans offered Mexico a union, assistance, and recognition of its special rights to the US states of Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico (their America took America away from Mexico) if they participated in the war on the side of Germany. At that time, there was a civil war in Mexico, during which American troops made several incursions into its territory. Strong anti-American sentiment reigned in the country, so there were chances of causing a conflict between the United States and Mexico. It was also proposed in Zimmerman’s dispatch to hold talks with representatives of Japan and convince them to withdraw from the alliance with the Entente and join the Central Powers.
The British deciphered the dispatch and passed the information to the Americans. After consulting the Americans and the British, a special plan was developed for its legalization. So that the disclosure of secrets relating to the United States would look like the business of the Americans, and avoid rumors of a possible provocation by England for the purpose of America’s opposition against Germany. As a result, the original telegram was transmitted to the United States, where it was formally deciphered by American experts. This allowed President Wilson to declare that the telegram had been intercepted and its secret was discovered on American territory. After that, the question of the entry of the United States into the war was finally resolved.
March 1 in American newspapers published the text of the so-called. "Zimmerman telegrams." Also on the same day, the US Congress decided to arm all of its merchant ships to counter the unlimited submarine warfare. British military historian Neil Grant noted: "Zimmerman's telegram provided evidence of Germany’s hostile attitude toward the United States, which, as President Wilson often repeated, was necessary for him to make a decision to declare war." Thus, Washington received an iron reason to start the war.
On April 1, the Aztec steamer was sunk, killing American citizens 28. This was the last straw. 6 April American President Woodrow Wilson announced the entry into the war on the side of the Entente and the beginning of the war with Germany. Following the United States, half of the Latin American states, as well as China, entered the war on the side of the Entente, which further strengthened the Allied economic base.
Speech in the US war seriously changed the military situation in the Atlantic Ocean. The Americans had a powerful fleet, which included dozens of destroyers. Also, the United States had a powerful shipbuilding, which allowed us to constantly strengthen the military and commercial fleets. Washington launched a giant new fleet construction program. True, the Americans were in no hurry. Therefore, in April 1917, the German fleet achieved the greatest success for the entire war - 512 ships were sunk and damaged with a total displacement of more than 1 million tons. At the same time, the Germans lost only one submarine, which was blown up by a mine. Over the next four months, the Allied losses were also high: 869 thousand tons - May, June - more than 1 million tons, in July and August - more than 800 thousand tons. Due to the introduction by the Allies of the convoys system, their losses somewhat decreased, but still the average amount of lost tonnage of the Entente countries to the end of 1917 averaged 600-700 thousand tons.
In general, it must be remembered that the US intervention on the side of the Entente was originally planned by the masters of Washington. The masters of the West (Britain, France and the USA) unleashed the First World War to destroy Germany, Austria-Hungary (competitors within the Western project) and Russia (the germ of the Russian globalization project) and build their new world order. In February-March, the Russian Empire collapsed 1917, the new liberal-democratic Russia was rapidly collapsing and lost its ability to wage war, which eased the position of the Central Powers. In the spring of 1917, the position of England became critical. That is, Germany had the opportunity to slip out of the trap and conclude a more or less acceptable world for it. Washington saw in the position of England a great danger and found it necessary to intervene at this particular time, since the decision to participate in world war was made a long time ago. Unlimited submarine warfare was only an occasion that allowed public opinion to be created by the masters of the USA and England.
From the first day of the war, the United States helped England. At Wilson’s insistence, the German loan in America was rejected as violating its neutrality, and at the same time he won the right to supply the Entente with military equipment and gradually prepared the ground for the US armed attack. Washington for a long time loudly declared neutrality, but put at the disposal of the allies financial capabilities and the military industry. Wilson allowed the Franco-British propaganda in America, as the latter could prepare American public opinion in favor of the war. The decision on the war did not depend on the Lusitania incident, nor on the methods of conducting the underwater war. The United States was initially preparing for war with Germany, but they were waiting for the right moment to play the role of the “senior partners” of England and France (exhausted by the war).
Speech by President Woodrow Wilson
England on the brink of disaster
It is worth noting that Germany has achieved excellent results in the submarine war in 1917. By April, Britain already had a shortage of tonnage of merchant ships. There was a dangerous situation, since maintaining the pace of sinking of British ships by German submarines could lead England to a crisis. The country has already started the shortage of food, not enough raw materials for factories. According to the calculations of the English Admiralty, it turned out that if the rate of death of the ships was maintained, then by November 1 1917, the UK would have to ask for peace, unable to withstand the underwater blockade.
Admiral Viscount Jellicho, First Sea Lord of the Admiralty (from December 5 1916) noted: “Awareness of the critical situation, the worst history England would have undermined the much-needed faith in the victory of our people. The truth could not be made public, in order not to give the enemy more extra trumps in his hands. But those who, day after day, saw the enemy on an increasing scale, destroy our cargo tonnage, looked at the future with great concern. They had enough reasons to give themselves a clear account of the consequences of the dark days of unlimited submarine warfare. The rate of destruction of the enemy's boats was completely inadequate and while in Germany many new boats were being built, our merchant shipbuilding was minimal. ”
The American admiral W. Sims, who was the US naval representative in London and after the USA entered the war, was appointed commander of the US Navy in England and Europe, wrote Ambassador Peig to London in those days: “It remains a fact that the enemy is successful, we are not. Our ships are fueled faster than world shipbuilding has time to reimburse them. This means that the enemy is close to winning the war, the latter cannot be a secret. In the near future, submarines will undermine our means of communication, and as soon as they succeed, we will have to accept the conditions of peace dictated by the enemy. ” The American government admiral telegraphed: "In short, my opinion is that at the moment we are ready to lose the war." After arriving in London in April 1917, the admiral expressed his opinion even more harshly: “The Germans not only did not lose the war, but on the contrary were close to victory”.
Prime Minister Lloyd George, in a special appeal to the Allies, demanded that Britain provide as many ships as possible for the transportation of goods, since the British did not have time to cover the losses of the merchant fleet by building new ships in shipyards. However, the United States, it took time to move to "war rails", while other countries did not have such large merchant fleets, all ships were involved, there were no free ships.
The British mobilized every opportunity to prevent a catastrophe. From neutral countries have made the continuation of the supply of goods in exchange for strongly reduced tariffs and good prices. On an emergency basis, we recruited volunteer sailors for newly built ships, used all available ships, even the smallest schooners, to pay the captains large compensation as a merchant fleet. Even the ships that had previously been written off were returned to service. In the ports of the ships were loaded to the eyeballs, violating all safety standards. England and France formed a special rescue service, which accompanied the damaged ships to the ports, and also raised the sunken ones. Great attention was paid to the quick repair of damaged ships.
Improving anti-submarine defense
However, the development of new anti-submarine defense systems took the first place. It is worth noting that until the middle of 1917, the main weapons German submarines were not torpedoes, and artillery guns. The submarine, having risen to the surface, shot the defenseless steamer. If the ship was armed, then such ships German submariners preferred to attack from a submerged position, which increased the ship's chances of survival. Therefore, the British began to massively arm merchant ships: they put guns on them, equipped them with special anti-mine trawls, smoke bombs, which put smoke screens. Cargo ships were supposed to keep closer to the shore, as this made it difficult to detect the ship and made navigation in shallow water difficult for enemy submarines.
Britain has stepped up the construction of surface ships, which were intended to fight the German submarines. However, for a long time the British were content with old destroyers armed with fishing vessels and yachts, but they were slow moving. Due to the overload of shipyards with other works, a significant number of anti-submarine ships in England could not be built. The available patrol vessels and coastal boats cost a little in combat. More adapted were high-speed American boat hunters. The first two American fleets of 36 boats arrived in the summer of 1917, and were based in Plymouth. Then the same flotillas began to be based in Ireland. The British submarines, which had one main goal — to sink the German submarines, while the Germans were chasing surface ships, were quite effective weapons. As a result, the English submarines recorded at their own expense about 20 German boats.
For military purposes, the first anti-submarine defense training school was organized. On ships, they began to use special hydroacoustic instruments that “heard” the boat under water. Such devices already existed before the war and were used with 1914 for submarine alarm. But the new hydrophones should not only detect the noise from the propellers, pumps, etc., but also give direction to the object that publishes it. The sound, which had been reclaimed from several ships, gave the exact location of the noise source, and with the determination of the place of the boat, the struggle with it was facilitated. Only by the end of 1917 did the hydrophones come into service, which gave more or less satisfactory results in determining the direction of sound, and only in 1918 did they achieve the accuracy of these instruments. The duration of the training of personnel on the use of devices also served as a big problem. The carriers of underwater hearing aids were usually small, high-speed vessels. The Americans called them boat hunters. These ships were reduced to flotilla, which conducted the search for enemy submarines off the coast. To enhance observations in hazardous areas, auditory buoys were set up, transmitting sound from the noise of propellers of passing boats to coastal observation posts. Without a doubt, by the end of the war, hydrophones made life difficult for German submarines.
By the beginning of 1917, a new depth bomb was refined, the first samples of which immediately entered the fleet. Mine could be blown up at four depths: 15, 30, 45 and 65 meters. In the first months of the 1917, the fleet each month received up to 300 of such mines, from the middle of the 1917 of the year - 1200 mines, by the end of the year 4000 had already been produced. Only with 1918, the destroyers began to be supplied with a complete set of bombs (30-40 pieces per ship). The imperfection of the remote tubes for a long time did not allow explosions to be carried out at great depths, and small bombs turned out to be generally unsuitable because of their weak action. Bombers that allowed the bombardment of boats from close range by depth charges appeared for the first time in July 1917, and by December 1 of the same year there were only about 238 units. In addition to these bombers, more howitzers were introduced, shooting at submerged boats from long distances, reaching 1100-2400 m, grenades with a charge weight of 45 kg. The difference between the two types of throwers was only that the first were throwing short-range bombs of exceptionally high-explosive action, and the second were firing at long distances, striking the boats with both an explosion and directly with shrapnel. As a result, the British fleet was able to effectively deal with enemy ships and in a submerged position.
Since 1917, they have also been used to combat submarines. Aviationincluding airships. They were based in Ireland and on the English Channel. Balloons were used mainly for detecting boats and observing them. When they saw the submarine, they sent other anti-submarine vehicles to the place of its appearance, or when the convoy was serving, at their signal the whole convoy promptly deviated from the course of the enemy boat. Their problem was that they could only work in calm and clear weather. From the end of 1917, hydroplanes armed with heavy bombs became a more dangerous enemy for submarines. But, despite the rapid growth in the importance of aviation, the Allies did not manage to expand this matter to the desired result until the end of the war. In general, the Allies were able to solve the problem of defending all important areas of the coast by air squadrons and threaten from air the German base in Bruges. The United States played the main role in this matter. The first detachment of planes arrived from the United States to France in June 1917. At the beginning of 1918, the first American naval flight station in Britain was organized. By the end of the war, the US Air Force in Europe totaled over 500 aircraft with personnel of 24,5 thousand people. By the end of the war, the Americans had 6 air stations in France, 3 bases for air ships, 3 kite stations with full equipment and a northern bomber squadron against Bruges. One last counted 112 devices. The presence of an air threat seriously constrained the actions of submarines in coastal areas.
However, the main role in the fight against the German submarine fleet played a system of convoys. At first, the British Admiralty saw no use in such a system and violently resisted this idea, not wanting to give the ships necessary for the defense of the British Isles and the naval blockade of Germany. The Admiralty considered the separation of the main core of the combat fleet and the separation of warships for the protection of merchant ships dangerous. But it soon became apparent that the convoy was more likely to survive than a single vessel, that the convoy was effective not only against surface raiders, but submarines. As a result, a whole system was developed that prescribed the concentration of vessels from different ports at special destinations, the average speed (8-12 nodes), from which ships went, the number of escort vessels (40 destroyers 9 transports), the order of construction. True, escort ships for the convoys often lacked.
As a result, the loss of the Allies from the attacks of the German submarine fleet began to decline. The critical period of England survived. If during the first seven months of 1917, the Entente countries lost 3 100 000 tons, in the period from August to December this figure decreased more than twice, to 1 400 000 tons. Also, between February and December 1917, the German fleet lost 62 submarines, which was a serious loss. The German fleet received 92 new submarines for the same period. However, it was impossible to quickly compensate for the death of experienced commanders and crews on boats. Teams had to be replenished by sailors from surface ships, who did not have the necessary training, and they didn’t have such a high fighting spirit. In 1917, the discipline in the surface fleet dropped dramatically. The termination of the real offensive actions of the fleet after the start of the submarine war had a strong impact on the crews. Coast patrols were quite boring and monotonous, and the crews were able to access the temptations of coastal life. Also increased political agitation. As a result, in the 1917 year, such phenomena as insubordination and riots on the coast appeared in the fleet.
As E. Reder noted: “Another reason for lowering the level of discipline on individual ships was that, as the war progressed, the best of the middle command officers — lieutenant commander and lieutenant — received more responsible appointments, and those who came to them on shift, did not have the qualities of their predecessors. This effect was especially pronounced on large ships with large crews, since on light cruisers and smaller ships the senior and middle commanders lived in closer contact with their subordinates. It is noteworthy that on torpedo boats and submarines discipline remained at a very high level until the very end of the war, which is explained by the closer relations between the officers and the team and their active participation in actions against the enemy. ”
The increase in the number of submarines could not correct the fact that the boats could no longer sink ships from a surface position. As a result, the effectiveness of the German fleet rapidly declined. The expansion of the zone of unrestricted submarine warfare to the coast of the Azores and the permission to sink neutral ships as part of the convoys did not help either. But even in spite of this, the influence of the underwater war continued to be felt by the Allies, since the shortage of tonnage could not be eliminated and responded painfully in the conduct of the entire war. Until the very end of the war, it was also necessary to think of the fight against underwater danger, which required the intense activity of many thousands of people and a huge amount of materials and equipment.
Mine (torpedo) submarine compartment
In the German Empire, the high command gradually became imbued with skepticism towards submarine warfare. From January to August 1918, the German fleet lost 45 submarines, but their submarine fleet even increased, as 57 new ships were built. But it became obvious that the system of convoys works properly. In 1918, the tonnage of flooded ships on average decreased from 650-680 thousand tons at the beginning of the year to 420-440 thousand tons in August-September. In addition, the Entente for the entire military year 1918 for the first time built more merchant ships than lost.
But in general, they decided to continue the submarine war. Admiral Scheer, who took over as commander of all naval forces in August 1918, set himself the goal of maximally expanding the scope of the underwater war and elaborated a program for new boating construction. As a result, a huge program was adopted at 1918 that included the construction of more than 300 new submarines. Negotiations with industry representatives found that enterprises are able to supply boats initially on 16 monthly, and then in the near future raise this figure to 20-30 boats per month. The new boat building program received its final design at the October 1 meeting in 1918 in Cologne. The army, in principle, decided to help the fleet with the necessary technical staff - all the best craftsmen and workers needed in the industry to build boats were also very necessary in the army. They had to enter the fleet by the end of the year, but because of the end of the war, the program was never implemented.
By September, 1918, against the background of the military defeats of the countries of the Central Powers, began the winding up of submarine operations. September 29, on the orders of the High Command, began the evacuation of Flanders. For the submarine fleet, this meant the loss of the base of Bruges, valuable in tactical terms and its well-equipped repair shops. Despite the planned evacuation, 4 unable to self-transfer boats were blown up there. Germany suffered even more tangible losses in the abandonment of the bases of Paul and Qatarro (October 28), after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In all, 10 boats were blown up in these ports. October 20, under pressure from Parliament and the Chancellor, the Kaiser decided to end the unlimited submarine war. October 29 on the big ships of the German Open Sea Fleet an uprising broke out, which soon led to the loss of the German fleet's combat capability, including the submarine.
After that, the German submariners achieved another loud victory. 9 On November 1918, the battleship Britannia was torpedoed by a German UB-50 submarine leaving the Adriatic and sank off Trafalgar Cape. According to the battleship four torpedoes were fired, three of which passed by, but the fourth torpedo from the salvo of the UB-50 submarine hit the middle part of the ship. The British battleship became the last English warship sunk during World War I and its death became an allegory of the collapse of British maritime rule.
Compared with the slaughter on land, the underwater warfare did not take too many lives - about 30 thousand people, about half of them are sailors of the English merchant fleet. The other half are employees of foreign commercial fleets and a small number of passengers. The British sea blockade of Germany caused her more serious damage. “The official statistics of the Ministry of Public Health shows that during the war, as a result of the blockade, more than usual people died in 763 in Germany, 000. In one 1917, the death rate from tuberculosis increased by 30000 people compared to 1913. Therefore, the blockade in one year killed more people: women, children and the elderly than the submarine war for all 4 years ”(Michelsen A. Submarine war 1914-1918 yy.).
Thus, the myth of excessive cruelty and barbarism of submarine war was created in England and the USA in order to deliver an informational blow to the enemy. During the war, for example, Lord Fisher wrote an open letter to Admiral Tirpitz, which contains the recognition that Tirpitz is the only German naval officer who understood the goals of the war and that he does not in any way accuse the admiral because of the underwater war, the initiator of which he thinks Tirpitz: “I would do the same, only our idiots in England do not want to believe it.”
It is also obvious that the British officers acted in a similar manner about the same, without humanism. Other statements are hypocrisy. It is known that in cases where the opportunity presented itself (the Sea of Marmara, the coast of Dalmatia and the Baltic Sea), the British submarines acted without a twinge of conscience, even violating neutrality. For example, in October 1915 in the Swedish territorial waters 4 German steamer, which did not possess weapons, were torpedoed. In the Sea of Marmara, both postal and passenger ships, including the hospital ship Madeleine Rickmers (100 wounded on board) were fueled without warning. The same thing happened in the Adriatic. All this happened in 1915 and 1916, i.e. before the Germans declared an unlimited war. Especially it is possible to emphasize the case of sinking (without warning) of the Turkish passenger ship "Istanbul" 5 in May 1915 by an English boat. This event occurred exactly 2 day (May 7) before the death of "Lusitania". Around the “Lusitania” a universal high was raised, but “Istanbul” was not mentioned at all.
Thus, the German submariners showed the world enormous opportunities for the conduct of submarine warfare, causing great damage to England. However, the Germans did not succeed in achieving a complete victory due to a number of objective reasons (the imperfection of submarines, the development of anti-submarine defense). However, the rich experience that the Germans gained during this war was well studied, and on this basis, the German theorists developed a new tactic for conducting an underwater war, which was used in full during the Second World War. Other powers also recognized the importance of submarine forces, and began to actively develop them as a means of fighting them.
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