What does the ‘
’ mean to the marine environment?
Introduction to WWII Atlantic matters
covers about 1/10th of the earth’s surface and reaches depths
of as much as 4,000 meters. But not the sheer water mass is what
steers the weather alone but many physical parameters of considerable
complexity. There is no possibility to consider, or to explain this here.
This investigation has only two parameters in mind, namely temperature and
salinity structure in the sea surface layers as far as they can be
affected by human activities. Ship navigation may shovel warm and low
saline surface water to deeper layers. A submarine or a depth charge can
push colder water to the sea surface. A sinking ship, its cargo, or stores,
may force water from as deep as one hundred or thousand meters to the sea
surface. As there are many combinations of human activities possible in
the marine environment that alter the structure of temperature and
salinity. Due to the sheer uncountable combination by which man operates
in the marine environment during war time, it would be of little help to
discuss them all in detail. It will not be of any help to distinguish
between the summer and winter season, which was the principle tool for
investigating the three extreme war winters in
from 1939-1942. For such a distinction the
is simply too big, and too much dominated by a complex current system.
justification for this consideration stems alone from two reasons.
If the war winters 1939-1942 can evidently be linked to naval war
activities in Europe, then a contribution of the biggest naval warfare
ever, that took place from 1939 to 1945 could have been a contributor to
the mid 20th century global cooling as well.
As long as the reasons for this cooling period are not convincingly
should be regarded as a serious contender, or at least, not be excluded.
in the previous chapters, the physical matters in focus are the two
relevant main climatic parameters of sea water, namely its heat and
salinity structure. Both have a strong influence on the internal current.
The investigation is not about pollution or other physical/chemical
properties. Including the issue of pollution would be not helpful, and
could complicate the task considerably. The ocean change issue is, in my
opinion, much more sensitive than previously anticipated, as recently
acknowledged by Quirin Schiermeier:
“the discovery that a large patch of the ocean cooled by 0.3 °C
within a few years around 1970 is a small sensation”
(see previous section). Who can definitely exclude that the
could not have brought about a temporary temperature change of 0.1°?
stress to the
section shall be kept short, as this writing is not about naval war. Even
many dozen pages would not necessarily be sufficient to get a feeling of
has done to the marine environment. Although the Atlantic between Europe
is huge in size and volume, a war related issue can not be excluded. But
which information and figures would be sufficient enough for everybody to
get an indication?
c. For example: Atlantic Convoys
to assess for example the impact of convoys with 20 to 50 ships on the sea
structure, which is attacked by one or several submarines. What has
happened to a sea body, with regard to temperature and salinity structures,
after a convoy such as SC 118 consisting of 64 slow vessels had finished
its Atlantic crossing? The convoy covering a wide area of over fifty
square-miles was protected by several escort vessels after two more
destroyers and a coastguard ship had joined the convoy somewhere south of
in heavy seas on February 5, 1943. From 60 submarines in the area, 16 were
sent out to form a trap. It became a feast for the hunter but a nightmare
for the hunted. Thirteen ships were destroyed and sunk by torpedoes;
followed by three depth-charged submarines (Slader, 1995).
weeks later a westbound convoy ONS 166 consisting of sixty-three vessels
and six escort vessels was sent out. Hampered by constant northwest gales,
the convoy averaged only 4 knots (ca. 8 km/h) over four days, upon which a
five day battle commenced which covered over 1,000 miles of sea space. In
the course of this battle 14 vessels were sunk. One long distance airplane
sank U-623. At that time these airplanes (VLR Liberator) were able to stay
in the air for half a day and to search and attack submarines for hours.
__The Allies lost 3,500 merchant ships and 175 warships
in more than 100 convoy battles and perhaps 1,000 single-ship
__Total loss of bomber and fighter planes difficult to verify
but certainly several thousands (see over next section on air planes).
__Total release of bombs, depth charges, and torpedoes, is
difficult to verify but the total number is presumably many hundred
__Total release of shells and other explosive means,
difficult to confirm, but presumably many millions.
Figure G2-1; Convoy in the
chapter air planes in naval warfare matters
use of the planes in war in the Atlantic made tremendous headway since the
had entered the war after the
attack in December 1941. The
production was estimated at 127,000 planes in 1942, exceeding the total
number of German aircraft production during the whole war period (Overy, 1980). It meant that more aircraft with much improved quality
and capability were available for surveillance, bombing and combat
missions in the
. Even in August 1942 only eighteen American B-24 aircraft, called
‘Liberator’ were available to service Atlantic convoys. These planes
had a range of 2,400 miles, had fuel tanks carrying 2,500 gallons fuel and
reached heights of 30,000 feet (Slader,
1995). From the winter 1942/43 onwards long-range aircraft were assigned
for anti-submarine warfare in the
, which sank 33 submarines between April 1943 and September 1944 (Overy,
1980). 209 long-range bomber aircraft were available to the
navy in July 1942. The number increased progressively to 2,200 searching
and chasing U-boats between June 1943 and May 1944.
the German Luftwaffe flew bombing missions over the Atlantic in 1942 and
1943 that only diminished after D-Day (June 1944) while the Allied air
force presence in the
improved impressively. The British Coastal Command flew approximately
238,000 sorties, totalling 1,300,000 flying hours (Thomas,
1990). Fourteen U-boats were confirmed destroyed with another twelve
German Luftwaffe had not been well equipped to put up a significant
performance in the
battle. However, they had a few hundred long-range four engine planes in
service, which flew from bases in
in 1941. During the month of August 1941, they succeeded in sinking more
than 300.000 tons of shipping, i.e. almost one-third more than the U-boats
sank in the same month. Axis airplanes shall have sunk a total of about
800 merchant ships in all war theaters. Even if less than half of that
number has been sunk in sensitive waters of the
and Northern Pacific, it actually meant the use of many ten-thousands of
bombs and the plunge of many thousand of planes into the oceans as well.
The aerial sorties of the Luftwaffe over the
ceased after D-Day in June 1944.
August 1942 the German U-boat fleet had reached the number of 340, which
were almost 300 boats more than three years earlier. During the whole war
period, the U-boat force was comprised of about 1,100 boats, of which 850
participated in at least one combat mission, 630 were destroyed in enemy
Loss incurred by German U-boat attacks (all told) is 2,822
vessels (14,220,000 tons).
The Italians 152 boats sank 132 vessels (700,000 tons).
The Axis U-boat fleet (German, Italian, and Japanese) is
credited with the sinking of 25 large naval vessels, 41 destroyers and
about 150 other naval vessels.
The main field of operation of the U-boats was the
. They were quite successful only from 1942 until March 1943. A special
chapter is the period in early 1942 when U-boats operated extremely
’s East coast. Within half a year they had sunk about 400 vessels. In
two weeks a handful of U-boats could sink 25 ships with a total tonnage of
200,000, of which 70% were tankers. If every downed tanker carried about
2,500 tons of oil the total amount ending in the marine
could have reached the total tonnage which the “Deepwater Horizon”
accident discharged in the
Gulf of Mexico
in 2010 (here calculated with 780 mio. Litres). In summer 1942 the U-boat
operation ‘Paukenschlag’ (Drumbeat) ended. The US Navy had become very
effective. That had been six months of naval war in very sensitive waters,
which had the potential to influence the Gulf Stream and the North
Atlantic up to the
G2-2; Sea mine barrage between
barrage of 110,000 mines laid by
between 1940 and 1943 between Orkney and
, received little attention. The mines ‘Mk XX’ were supposed to
prevent U-boats from reaching shipping routes in the
(Elliot, 1979). Whether the
barrage was a serious threat to U-boats is not known, but it seems not. It
would have been a tremendous threat to the sea if the mines had tended to
explode prematurely. It is not clear as to what happened to the mine
barrage after the war ended. Were the mines ‘gone’ by 1945? Were
remaining mines swept after 1945?
g. Arctic Convoys
convoying was in numbers of naval activities only a very small fraction of
what happened across the North Atlantic, in the
, or in other sea areas and sea routes around the globe. Arctic convoying
was naval activity in a very sensitive marine environment, with water
temperatures close to the freezing point, and with frequent sea ice in the
winter season. There had been a very significant temperature turn about
since WWII had started. Rodewald
(1972) showed that at Franz Joseph Land (80°N, 53°E) a deep drop in
temperatures occurred in 1950 by over 5°C in one decade after mean
temperatures had varied between -10°C and -11°C between 1936 to 1950. As
the sudden and remarkable drop is still unexplained the Arctic convoys and
other naval activities in the high north should not be ignored as a
soon as the Soviet Union was attacked by
, the Allies organised the transfer of war material to
by 78 convoys with about 1400 merchant ships between August 1941 and May
received about 4,000,000 tons of cargo, including 7,000 aircraft and 5,000
tanks via the most difficult and dangerous route from
. It was climatically the most sensitive sea route; presumably manifold
more effective to climate changes than naval activities one thousand miles
further south. Out of the total cargo shipped, 7% was lost at sea. Danger
came not only from the arctic climate during most of the year, but from
attacks by the German Navy and Luftwaffe from their bases in north
. At peak time the Luftwaffe had 264 aircraft in the area (Schofield,
1977), while the British Fleet Air Arm and the Royal Air Force flew 17
combat missions to north Norway from January 1942 to November 1944,
involving a total of 600 airplanes (Kemp,
loss of merchant ships was 100 with a total of 600,000 tons. The German
side lost five surface naval ships including a battle ship, a battle
cruiser and 32 submarines. The British Navy lost 20 surface vessels and
one submarine. The Russian Northern Fleet lost some 20 submarines
operating along the coast, which certainly does not reflect the Russian
total loss in the
avoid confrontation with German forces the convoys sometimes travelled far
to the North. For example: Ships of convoy PC17 navigated in July 1942
close to Edge Island (Spitsbergen) 77°N), and along the sea ice border,
but were still attacked by aircraft of the Luftwaffe and U-boats.
anti-aircraft gunner who was on service on the high-octane tanker the
which was sunk from the ill-fated Arctic Convoy PQ17 reported:
“We were sunk in the ice fields and the ship sank in thirteen minutes.
Sunk by three bombs of a Junker 88, the Bolton Castle, which had
hundreds of tons of cordite in cargo hold 2, looked ‘like a giant Roman
candle’. Of the 35 cargo ships and three rescue vessels convoy PQ17
consisted of, only 11 vessels and two rescue ships that survived (Slader,
another hundred stories are needed to provide at least some evidence of
has meant to the marine environment, for which the interested reader
should consult relevant literature.
G2-3; Losses of the
United States of America
ships (incl. Neutral) 5,150 ships (of 21,570,000 tons), which means a loss
of 300,000 tons per month.
allied loss of oil tankers over 1,600 gross tons: 4,221 (world wide figure
for the time period Dec.1941- May 1944) (Slader,
ship losses in the
were about 3,600 vessels with a tonnage of 15 million tons.
All figures vary widely, and are here only indicated to show the dimension.
A1, A2, A3,
B, C1, C2,
C3, C4, C5,
C6, C7, C8,
E1, E2, E3,
E4, E5, E6,
F, G1, G2, NEXT >> G3,
H, I, J,
More about the work of
Dr. Arnd Bernaerts