U-Boats in the Far East
German Transport Boats
Along with Gruppe Monsun and the Italian Transport submarines, another group of U-boats sailed to the Far East for a specific mission – the German Transport boats.
Long before the idea of the Italian Transport submarine was proposed, design work had already started on specialized U-boats for transport duties. These transport boats were to be unarmed and the design was based on the large Type XB minelayer. Design work first started in mid 1942, and as many as thirty had been laid down by 1943. These projects included the Type XIX, XX, XXIE and XXIT and could carry up to 800 tons of cargo. However, none were ever completed due to the Allied progress in Europe.
This however did not stop the conversion of existing boats for specialized transport duties. Four Type VIIs were built as specialized torpedo carriers. Their official designation was Type VIIF and depending on the loadout, each could carry up to 41 torpedoes. Two Type VIIFs were sent to the Far East, the U-1059 and U-1062. Both set sail from Norway in January and February 1944, but the U-1059 was sunk en route to the Far East. The U-1062 managed to reach Penang in April 19 1944 and successfully delivered its full load of torpedoes. With its bilges and storerooms loaded to the brim, the U-1062 set out on its return voyage on June 19 1944, but had to abort back to Penang due to engine trouble. On July 15, it set sail again but was sunk off the Cape Verde Islands on September 30 1944.
Two fast-running Type IXDs were built as transport boats, the U-180 and U-195. Known as the Type IXD1, they were initially designated as long range attack boats, but when their diesel E-boat engines proved unsatisfactory, they were converted as transport boats. Having completed their conversion, the Type IXD1s were unarmed (except for AA weapons) but could carry up to 252 tons of cargo. The U-180 and U-195 both departed for the Far East on August 20 1944. The U-180 did not get very far, having disappeared in the Bay of Biscay three days later, presumably after having struck by a mine. The U-195 reached Jakarta on December 28 1944 and delivered some very valuable cargo to the Japanese, among it optical glass, mercury, torpedoes, electronic equipment such as radars and military weapons such as a dismantled V-1 Flying bomb and its pulse jet motor. It set out on its return voyage on January 19 1945, but engine trouble forced it back to the repair base at Surabaya. With the German surrender in May 1945, the U-195 was seized by the Japanese and commissioned as I-506. She was finally surrendered at the end of the war in August 1945.
Two of the large Type XB minelayers, the U-219 and U-234 were also pressed into service as transport boats. The U-219 had little modification and left Norway on October 22 1943. En route, she was attacked by US Navy aircraft but ironically the U-219 came out the victor, having shot down an Avenger and escaped. She arrived in Jakarta on December 11 1944 and along with the U-195, delivered some very valuable cargo to the Japanese. It was still there in May 1945 when the Japanese took over and commissioned it as I-505. She was finally surrendered to the Allies in August 1945.
The other Type XB, the U-234 had a very unique career. Loaded with 260 tons of cargo, among it blueprints for advanced German weapons and equipment disassembled into crates, but the most unusual item was 0.55 tons (560 kg) of Uranium Oxide. The U-234 sailed from Norway on April 16 1945, when Germany was on the verge of defeat and on May 4, received the order to surrender. She sailed into Portsmouth, New Hampshire and to this date, the purpose and use of the Uranium Oxide have remained one of the mysteries of World War Two.
The final German Transport boat was U-864, a Type IXD2. She sailed from Norway on February 5 1945, but was sunk en route on February 9 1945 in the North Sea by a British submarine, the HMS Venturer. The engagement took place underwater and is the only known engagement in which both submarines were fully submerged throughout.
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