The Hedgehog in WWII – The History Reader : The History Reader

Posted on July 19, 2022

by P. T. Deutermann

My newest novel, The Final Paladin, out this month, is predicated on a real story of WWII. On this e book, the USS Holland (DE-24), a World Conflict II Atlantic Fleet destroyer escort, spends years in an unforgiving battle for survival in opposition to the German U-boats of the North Atlantic. Trying again by means of fashionable maritime historical past, a lot has been product of the need to have a muscular anti-submarine warfare functionality if you happen to’re going to conduct wartime operations at sea.

Each ship on the floor of the world’s oceans is susceptible to submarines, these silent, virtually invisible ambush killers, who make their presence recognized when one in all your ships out of the blue explodes. Submariners fortunately classify all ships into two classes: submarines and targets. Fashionable torpedoes are so highly effective that the shock from a success can each break the again of the goal ship in addition to the legs of everybody onboard, dooming all of them to go down with the ship. 

The Germans launched the world’s Navys and service provider marines to the strategic penalties of being unprepared to face unrestricted submarine warfare. By 1945, that they had essentially the most superior submarine on the planet, the Sort XXI, with a wonderfully streamlined hull, a complicated snorkel underwater respiratory system which meant they by no means needed to floor until they wished to, and improved longer-range torpedoes.

The Allies had lengthy since been compelled to maneuver very important cargo over the seas in massive, gradual convoys, the place it turned theoretically attainable to supply higher safety. But it surely wasn’t till they built-in carrier-borne air into convoy protection that they lastly had been in a position to transfer to the offensive, get your hands on, after which defeat the dreaded U-boats. The Germans lastly gave up on submarine warfare when 75% of the boats that went out by no means got here again. 

One of many different weapons that turned the tide was a ship-mounted mortar system referred to as the Hedgehog. Invented by the Royal Navy, the Hedgehog projected a sample of 24 small depth bombs** out in entrance of an attacking destroyer who’d gained contact on an enemy submarine.  The essential function of this weapon was that it didn’t explode until it truly hit one thing, in contrast to depth fees, which might all go off regardless and so badly roil the underwater acoustic circumstances that the submarine, if not truly hit, may normally escape. But when even one or two Hedgehogs hit, the submarine was virtually all the time doomed. The mortar bomb would punch a 3” to 4” diameter gap within the boat’s stress hull. With the submarine down at 250 to 300 toes, (having gone deep to evade assault) water would enter the stress hull at about 400 gallons per minute. This mainly unstoppable flooding would immediately start to boost the atmospheric stress, and thus the temperature, contained in the submarine. Because the water continued to roar in, the boat would lose depth management and settle even deeper, growing the speed of flooding. Inside just a few brief minutes, the temperature contained in the boat would climb above 200 to 300 levels, searing the lungs of the crew and rendering all of them useless. The boat would then proceed sinking till the stress hull collapsed solely. 

If the escorts heard no bang, they’d merely make one other run, because the sonar acoustic circumstances remained as earlier than, undisturbed. In the event that they did hear a few bangs, they may merely go away. That submarine was by no means coming again.  

Photograph Credit score: Cynthia Brann

P. T. Deutermann is the writer of many earlier novels together with Pacific Glory, which gained the W. Y. Boyd Literary Award for Excellence in Army Fiction. Deutermann spent twenty-six years in navy and authorities service, as a captain within the Navy and within the Joint Chiefs of Employees as an arms-control specialist. He lives along with his spouse in North Carolina.

Tags: Naval Historical past, p. t. deutermann, P. T. Deutermann WWII Novels, submarine, The Final Paladin, WWII