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Silent Hunter:

On the Attack

On the Attack

There are three phases to making a successful attack. They are:

1. Initial Contact

2. Approach

3. The Attack

Each phase is important, one leads to the other. If you skip one phase of the attack by being in too much of a hurry, you risk either losing the contacts or making an unsuccessful attack.

Initial Contact

After you make contact with a convoy or a military group whether by sight or radar, you need to do two things initially.

1. Identify the Targets

2. Determine Course and Speed

Identifying the targets is important because you need to know what to shoot at. Also if you have made contact with a military group, chances are good that they will be traveling at high speed and you will need to make some course changes in a hurry if you are to get close enough to fire your torpedoes. If the targets are a merchant group, you will have the luxury of more time to plan your attack.

Once you have identified the targets it is time to determine where you want to make your attack. Determining course and speed allows you to decide when and where to best make your torpedo attack. It will also give you information as to whether you will be able to make an attack or if you are just wasting your time and fuel by giving chase.

The Approach

Now is the time to put all the information together on your contacts, the type of ships, their course and speed. Putting these altogether, you decide where to maneuver your sub to the most advantageous position in order to deliver your torpedoes to the targets you have selected. It is best to keep in mind a couple of items when maneuvering your sub into a firing position. You want to get to a position where you can not only fire your torpedoes, but also have an idea of where you are going to go to make your escape after firing your torpedoes. Early in the war you will have to reach a position within 1000 yards of your intended target, the reason being that shooting from greater distances early in the war tended to cause more problems. These problems are the defective torpedoes that the American Submarines were plagued with at the beginning of WW II. The Torpedo defects fall into three categories. They are:

1. Premature Explosions

2. Dud Torpedoes

3. Torpedoes That Run Deeper than Set Depth

Premature Explosions

A premature exploding torpedo is one that after it has been fired at a target explodes halfway to the target. Firing a torpedo from distances greater than 1000 yards has the tendency to give an early warning of your presence, and at under 1000 yards your torpedoes still have a chance to hit your intended target even if a torpedo does explode prematurely. If you happened to have fired a spread of torpedoes at a target and one of the torpedoes explodes halfway to the target from further than 1000 yards, the target has a chance to maneuver away from the rest of your torpedoes. Once the enemy is warned of your presence, you won't get a second chance at your target, because instead of being the hunter, you will find that you have become the hunted.

Dud Torpedoes

A dud torpedo is a torpedo that after being fired hits its intended target but fails to explode. This will happen when the torpedo hits a target between a 45 and 130-degree angle. This is not to say that every torpedo that is fired and hits a target within this range will be a dud. But a great majority will be duds. The best way to minimize dud torpedoes is to fire your torpedoes at the target with a maneuver called "Down the Throat". This simply means that you fire your torpedoes at a target from a 0 to 45 degree angle on the bow. This will not eliminate the dud torpedo, but will tend to reduce them.

Torpedoes That Run Deeper than Set Depth

This torpedo defect is the most rare of the three torpedo defects, but probably the hardest one to figure out. After you fire the torpedoes, they run to the target but nothing happens and there is no explosion. You torpedoes have simply run under the target and have disappeared off into the ocean somewhere. The only solution is to set the running depth on your torpedoes to a shallower depth. I find that a depth setting of 3 feet works pretty well for me.

Ok, back to making your approach on a target. From what position is it the most advantageous to fire your torpedoes from? Everyone one will give you a different theory as to what works best for them. What works best for me is to be in a position ahead of the intended targets if at all possible. There are two reasons for my belief. The first being it gives you a strategic position from which to launch your torpedoes whichever way they move. Second it tends to give me a better shot at getting the torpedoes to explode against a target as I have already explained.

Of course, you will not always be in a position ahead of a convoy or military group when contact is made. If the ships you have made contact with are merchants I like to perform an "end-round" to get ahead of the convoy. An "end-round" simply put is a maneuver where you race around the convoy at your best possible speed keeping them in view either by radar or sight but not letting them see you. Then, when you have gotten into a position ahead of the convoy, you submerge and lie in wait for them.

Of course, if you made contact with a military group, and they are traveling at high speed, you will not have the luxury of making an "end-round". You will have to maneuver to the best position you can and hope that you will be close enough to get a good shot at them.

The Attack

You've reached a position where you think you will have the best chance of your torpedoes hitting your intended target or targets. There are a couple of things to consider, the first being where are the escorts, and second will they interfere with you firing your torpedoes at your intended target. One of the things I hate most is when an escort being very uncooperative happens to run into one of my torpedoes meant for a nice big fat tanker. Oh well, it's his tough luck. I will still sink the tanker any how.

All that is left to do now is fire your torpedoes and make your escape. A word of caution after firing your torpedoes, don't hang around to see them hit your intended target. Once you've fired your torpedoes, head deep and get the heck out of there. Watching the torpedoes hit is very satisfying but it will get you killed. While you are enjoying the moment, the escorts have more than likely got you located and are moving in for the kill. I know, because watching the torpedoes hit a ship has gotten me sunk more than once.


A successful attack is one that gets the job done using a minimum amount of resources, maximizing tonnage, and enabling survival. A good attack is always the result of good planning, patience, and lots of luck. Observe your contacts and weigh your chances of success. There is nothing worse than getting into a bad situation and wasting precious fuel and your battery only to be jumped when your resources are low.

Copyright © 2002 by Jeff Johnson. Used with the author's permission.