U-995 is a Type VIIC/41 German submarine that was launched during World War II and is now preserved as a museum ship at the Laboe Naval Memorial near Kiel, Germany.

Originally commissioned in 1943 and having served both the German Kriegsmarine and later the Royal Norwegian Navy, it stands as a rare surviving example of its type, offering visitors a glimpse into the challenging conditions faced by submariners during the war.

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Design of U-995

The German U-Boat U-995, a Type VIIC/41 submarine, represents a pivotal moment in submarine design during World War II. Built by Blohm & Voss in Hamburg, this class was introduced to address specific operational challenges faced by its predecessors in the Type VIIC class, primarily the need for enhanced anti-aircraft defense and improved hydrodynamics for better submerged performance.

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The Type VIIC/41 differed slightly from the original Type VIIC design in terms of structural integrity and survivability enhancements. The hull of U-995 was strengthened to withstand greater depths, increasing its test depth from 230 meters in earlier models to about 250 meters, offering better protection against depth charge attacks and rough underwater terrain. This was crucial for operations in the deeper waters of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans.

U-995 in her current state as a museum ship. Image by Darkone CC BY-SA 2.5

The surface displacement of U-995 was 769 tons, and when submerged, it increased to 871 tons. Its dimensions included a length of 67.1 meters, a beam of 6.2 meters, and a draught of 4.74 meters. These dimensions and displacements were carefully balanced to optimize hydrodynamic efficiency, which was essential for maintaining speed and maneuverability both on the surface and underwater.

The propulsion system of U-995 showcased the engineering advancements of the time. For surface travel, it was equipped with two supercharged six-cylinder four-stroke M6V 40/46 diesel engines, manufactured by Germaniawerft, producing a total of 2,800 to 3,200 horsepower. This allowed the submarine to reach a top surface speed of 17 knots.

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For submerged operations, U-995 relied on two AEG GU 460/8-276 electric motors, providing a total of 750 horsepower, which could propel the submarine to speeds of up to 7.6 knots. The inclusion of larger battery banks than those in earlier models extended the boat’s submerged endurance, allowing for longer periods of stealth operation under water.

U-995 pictured in Kiel, Germany in 2004. Image by Darkone CC BY-SA 2.0

The armament configuration was a critical aspect of U-995’s design, tailored for both offensive and defensive roles. It was armed with five 53.3 cm torpedo tubes, four located at the bow and one at the stern. The submarine could carry a total of fourteen torpedoes, allowing multiple engagements during a single patrol without the need to resurface for rearming.

In response to the increasing threat from air attacks as the war progressed, U-995 was also equipped with more robust anti-aircraft defenses compared to earlier Type VIIC submarines. It featured a 3.7 cm Flak M42 anti-aircraft gun mounted on the wintergarten (the upper deck area behind the conning tower), along with two twin 2 cm C/30 anti-aircraft guns. This combination provided a formidable defense against low-flying aircraft, crucial for survival in areas patrolled by enemy air forces.

Operational History

U-995 was launched into a world at war on September 16, 1943, entering service under the command of Kapitänleutnant Walter Köhntopp. Initially, it was assigned to the 5th U-boat Flotilla for training purposes, during which time the crew would become adept in the operations, maintenance, and tactical maneuvers necessary for wartime engagements.

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After completing its training phase, U-995 was transferred to the 13th U-boat Flotilla for active duty. This flotilla was a part of the larger U-boat force tasked with disrupting Allied shipping in strategic areas, particularly the Arctic Ocean.

A view of the ship’s engine room. Image by Darkone CC BY-SA 2.0

During its service, U-995 embarked on nine war patrols. These patrols were often conducted in the treacherous waters of the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean, areas known for their harsh weather conditions and heavy Allied maritime patrols. The strategic importance of these regions stemmed from the significant amount of Allied shipping that passed through, providing essential supplies to the Soviet Union via the Arctic convoys.

U-995’s missions were primarily focused on reconnaissance and attacks on Allied convoys. However, despite the aggressive tactics employed, U-995 did not record any confirmed ship sinkings or significant damages to enemy vessels. This lack of success was indicative of the broader challenges faced by the German U-boat fleet at this stage of the war, as Allied anti-submarine warfare tactics had become highly effective. Improved radar technology, air patrols, and convoy escorts significantly reduced the effectiveness of U-boat operations.

The operational life of U-995 was marked not only by the strategic missions it undertook but also by the survival tactics it employed against increasing Allied countermeasures. The U-boat faced numerous depth charge attacks and aerial bombardments. The enhanced design features of the Type VIIC/41, including improved depth capabilities and strengthened hulls, played a crucial role in its ability to withstand such encounters and evade destruction.

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Additionally, U-995 utilized the natural cover provided by the Arctic environment, leveraging ice floes and the polar night for concealment from enemy radar and aerial observation. This tactic was essential for maintaining the element of surprise and for the basic survival of the U-boat and its crew.

The torpedo room on board U-995. Image by James Steakley CC BY-SA 3.0

U-995’s active military service concluded with the end of World War II in Europe in May 1945. Upon Germany’s capitulation, U-995 was surrendered to the British at Trondheim, Norway, and was later transferred to Norwegian control. Under the terms of the surrender, it was among the U-boats that were allocated to Allied nations for study or use, which spared it from being scuttled as part of Operation Deadlight, the British operation to dispose of captured German U-boats.

U-995 After the War

After the conclusion of World War II, U-995 was among the German U-boats that surrendered to the Allies. Initially handed over to the British, it was later transferred to Norwegian custody, a common fate for many U-boats as the Allies sought to either study or utilize these advanced naval technologies. Renamed “KNM Kaura,” U-995 served in the Royal Norwegian Navy from 1952 to 1965.

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During its service with Norway, the submarine underwent modifications, including updates to its armament and sensors, adapting it for the post-war naval environment and NATO operations. This period extended the operational life of U-995 and allowed it to serve during the Cold War, a testament to the durability and adaptability of its design.

U-995 next to the Navy memorial, 2013. Image by TeWeBs CC BY-SA 3.0

In a gesture of historical preservation and international cooperation, the Norwegian government returned U-995 to Germany in 1965. The decision was driven by the historical significance of the vessel and the interest in preserving a piece of maritime heritage that was pivotal in the naval warfare of World War II.

Upon its return, the German Navy, with the support of various veterans’ groups and historical societies, undertook the task of restoring U-995 to its wartime configuration. This extensive restoration aimed to reflect the original design and equipment of the U-boat as accurately as possible, stripping away modifications that had been made during its service with the Norwegian Navy.

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U-995 was officially converted into a museum ship and opened to the public in 1971. It is permanently docked at the Laboe Naval Memorial near Kiel, a site dedicated to the memory of sailors of all nationalities who lost their lives at sea. The location is particularly poignant, not only because of its proximity to the U-boat’s original operating bases but also as a place for reflection on the perils of naval warfare.