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"War at Sea 1917: An Ominous New Year's Day " Topic


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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP07 Jan 2017 10:15 p.m. PST

"1917 was to mark a turning point not just in World War 1, but in world history, for it saw not only the outbreak of the Russian Revolution and the birth of the Soviet state, but the entry of the United States into the conflict and its emergence as a global power. The American declaration of war on Germany in April 1917 was triggered by the German decision to launch unrestricted submarine warfare, which would make no allowance for American neutrality. In retrospect, the rationale underlying this action by Germany can be seen to be flawed, but at the time the success thus-far of German (and Austro-Hungarian) submarines against British and French shipping gave every indication that they could starve the European allies into submission long before American troops could be trained and landed in France. Earlier blogs (5th May 2015, 9th and 26th June 2015, 7th and 21st October 2016 access via bar on the right) have illustrated just how devastatingly effective the U-boats, even small ones, had been in the early years of the war, and 1917 was to be ushered in with yet another spectacular sinking of a large allied vessel.

UB-45, sister of UB-47, and also re-assembled at Pola

The UB-47 was one of six small U-boats that were built in Germany, broken down into sections, sent south by railway and re-assembled at the Austro-Hungarian naval base at Pola. This 300-ton (submerged), 120-foot craft was armed with two torpedo-tubes and a single 88mm deck gun. (It should be borne in mind that in WW1 a high percentage of shipping was sunk by gunfire, since radio was not widely available to make distress calls, and convoy systems were only introduced late in the conflict so that victims were all too often on their own.) Making her first war patrol in the Mediterranean in July 1916, the UB-47 was to sink twenty ships over the next year, including some very large ones. Thereafter she was transferred to the Austro-Hungarian Navy and made three further scores before the war's end. On the basis of value of enemy shipping sunk per ton of her displacement, she must count as one of the most successful warships in history. She survived to be scrapped in 1920…"
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