Military case - The Baltic Submariners

Military case - The Baltic Submariners
During years of the World War II, submarines were fighting in all seas and oceans. the Baltic Sea wasn't an exception. Our submariners has especially tough luck there. Baltic waters entail a lethal danger all by themselves. Shallow depths a lot of sand bars and bottlenecks. In those years the sea was literally stuffed with naval mines and steel nets. But even in such conditions Baltic submariners were doing their combat job.

June 22, 1941. At 3:30 am Border Guards observation posts reported to NAVY's Narkom Admirol Kuznetsov about big groups of German planes approaching bases of the Baltic Fleet. The Fleet didn't suffer combat losses from aviation raids at that day. However, that didn't happen because of increased combat readliness, but because Germans were not bombing ships. Their bombers didn't drop bombs in water areas of our navy bases, but mines. Right after the frst bombing raid, 17 submarines of the Baltic Fleet went out for combat patrol. Victory score was poen by crews of Captain of the 3rd rank Petrov, who sank a German submarine and Captain-Lieutenant Ivantsov, who sent an enermy tanker to the bottom.

Effectiveness of Soviet submarines attacks was not high during the first months of the war. Reason were laying in lack of reconnaissance, not sufficient training of boats commanders and formations commanders, underestimation of the enermy. And one more factor was that despite of expectations, German ships under fear of attack of our submariners, started moving not in existing fairways, but in coastal zone with shallow waters. Kriegsmarine Command had reasons to be worry. Strategically important transportation routs of high quality iron ore from Sweden were under threat. Even single cases of sinking of German and Sweden transports were taken very painfully in Berlin.

In Autumn of 1941, all available forces in Baltic Sea were concentrated in Kronstadt and Leningrad. Since September the city was under siege. And in November, Navigation in Baltic Sea stopped. A hungry blockade winter. Works on bringing of the submarine fleet to combat conditions were not stopping even for a single day. There was a shortage of qualified workers, machinery, instruments. Despite that, 32 submarines were repaired and introduced into service till the spring of 1942. They formed a brigade under command of Vice-Admiral Tributs. Military Council of the Baltic Fleet was Planning combat operations for 1942 from June to October, poerating by three echelons with 8-10 submarines each. But German were also preparing to Summer campaign.

From the Autumn of 1941 they had started operation for blockade of the Soviet Navy in river mouth of Neva. Till the may of 1942 they managed to build 2 very strong antisubmarine lines. More than that routes in shallow waters toward exit of Gulf of Finland were under fire of German coastal artillery. According to calculations of Military-Naval Academy experts, probability of breakthrough through German antisubmarine lines was not more than 15-20% in 1942. But rhey just had to do it. In order to not get under fire of German coastal guns, routes from Leningrad and Kronstadt to island Vavensari had to be passed under cover of destroyers and mostly at nighs.

Then they were going underwater and then, by touch, crawling in depth, only 5m above the bottom, were going through mine fields, listening to gnashing of mine mooring cable on the skin of the boat. Not everyone was succeeding in getting out to operational space to shores of Germany and Sweden. Anyhow many of our submariners were braking through to open seas and sinking enermy ships in summer of 1942. Following fact speaks about the difficulty of breakthrough. Captain of the 2nd rank Osipov managed to pass through German minefields twice became one of the first Heroes of the Soviet Union in the Great Patriotic War. His boat became a Guards one. The boat returned to the base from her second patrol when Neva was already chained by ice. During Summer-Autumn of 1942 our submariners had sank or damaged up to 40 transports and auxillary ships of the enermy. Despite scarcity of metal, Germany was forced to build several huge antisubmarine nets and close every exit from Gulf of Finland twice. In summer of 1943 three submarines were lost because of those nets.

The boat of the Captain of 3rd rank Travkin returned with extensive damage. Captain-Lieutenant Kuzmin died in unequal fight. Submarines of Captains Bashenko and Osipov passed through, but missed in action. Action of our Balric Sea submariners was covered by curtain of the secrecy for a very long time. Only after many years victories of Captain Marinesko became widely known, who had sank one of the biggest sea-loner of the Hitlerite Germany. And the famous patrol of captain Travkin glorified in movie The Captain of lucky "Shchuka" (northern pike). We know very little about dozens of other heroes submariners even till today. Summed tonnage of ships, which were sank by  Baltic submariners wasn't big. But their heroic actions can't be estimated with arithmetical numbers. The exit to operational space - breakthrough of antisubmarine defences - was a heroic act by itself. Our sailors were fighting while being pressed to the wall, but they didn't surrender and accomplished their combat duty to the end. The Baltic Sea didn't ever become an enclosed sea of the 3rd Reich.

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