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Salvage Operation U-250

Page Created
October 18th, 2023
Last Updated
October 27th, 2023
The Soviet Union
Special Forces
Rota Osobogo Naznacheniya
July-September 1944
Salvage Operation U-250
  • Salvage the German submarine U-250
Operational Area

Vyborg Bay, Finland

Unit Force
  • Rota Osobogo Naznacheniya
Opposing Forces
  • Submarine U-250

In July 1944, while on combat duty in the Bjorke Sound area, the naval vessel MO-105 meets a mysterious fate and sinks to the bottom, following in the footsteps of MO-304 and MO-107, which have met similar fates under approximately the same circumstances. None of the surviving sailors witness either the trail of a torpedo or the periscope of an enemy submarine. In broad daylight and under calm conditions, the ship seems to vanish, and the submarine manages to escape without being hold accountable. However, this time their ploy failed. A watchman on a passing scow, notices an enormous shadow beneath the water’s surface. Fortunately, MO-103 is in close proximity moves in and prepares for battle.

On July 30th, 1944, hunting boat MO-103 commanded by Senior Lieutenant Kolenk deploys a pattern of depth charges in Vyborg Bay, resulting in a significant hole in the pressure hull of U-boat U-250. As a result of this attack, only six crew members, including Kapitänleutnant Schmidt, manage to escape the sinking submarine and are subsequently captured as prisoners of war. Forty-six other crew members lose their lives. U-250 comes to rest at a relatively shallow depth of twenty-seven metres in Vyborg Bay.

Buoy markers are placed at the site of the submarine’s sinking, but these are torn away by a severe storm. What is unusual, however, is the relentless attacks carried out by the German air force, torpedo boats, and coastal artillery on the sunken submarine’s location, preventing Soviet ships from approaching. This raises suspicions at the fleet headquarters, and Soviet Admiral Tributs, the commander of the Baltic Fleet, orders reconnaissance officers of the Rota Osobogo Naznacheniya to locate and inspect the sunken German submarine. The Soviet command was aware that a year and a half prior to these incidents, convoys delivering cargo to Britain have started experiencing significant losses. Strikingly, these losses occur under circumstances remarkably like those of the three naval vessels’ demise. Torpedoes seems to target the propellers exclusively. Consequently, the ships, once hit by a torpedo, would swiftly descend to the depths, leaving them no time to evade or counterattack.

It becomes imperative to salvage the submarine. This daunting task fell upon Prokhvatilov’s unit. Ivan Vasilyevich interrogates Corvette Captain Schmidt, who conducts himself with dignity: “You may have bested me, and I respect that, but I will not divulge any information about the submarine.” That’s when Prokhvatilov cunningly baits him, remarking, “You seem to be quite inept when it comes to navigation. Only a fool would follow such a course.” Ivan Vasilyevich disdainfully traces the route on the map haphazardly. The German was affronts, retorting, “I was adhering to the only correct course given the circumstances. We ended up here purely by chance!” – and he points at the map.

With the location more or less known, Prokhvatilov assembles a group of 10 reconnaissance divers and a doctor, Senior Lieutenant V. Vlasov, and sets out to the search area. Despite constant enemy coastal artillery shelling, the divers, on the fourth day of their search, locates the U-250 at a depth of 36 metres. Only Sergei Nepomniachtchi, a tall and jovial scout from Moscow, manages to enter the submarine and reaches the captain’s cabin. When lifted to the surface, he is clutching a cylindrical pencil case, containing the Mercator maps of the Baltic Sea. These maps reveal the enemy’s secret waterways from Swinemünde to Leningrad.

After studying the documents recovered from the sunken submarine, the fleet command decides to raise it to the surface. In September, with the assistance of pontoons, the submarine is successfully brought to the surface, towed to Kronstadt, and docked. Captain Schmidt, the former commander of U-250, is allowed on board to assist in the operation. First the death submariners inside the submarine are removed under his watchful eye. After that the Soviet salvagers start searching the submarine for valuable information. They discover loads of information and documents. The discovered documents include not only an enigma code machine, ciphers and codes but also an unexpected find: a previously unknown torpedo.

Two of these torpedoes are retrieved from the submarine, rendered safe, and subjected to detailed examination. They turn out to be T-5 torpedoes (Zaunkonig), electrically operated and guided by an acoustic homing system with non-contact fuses. These torpedoes have caused significant trouble for the British navy, having already sunk or damaged 24 British escort ships, including five in convoys bound for the Soviet Union.

The Soviet leadership notifies London about this discovery. In a confidential exchange of correspondence between Stalin and Churchill, an agreement is reached to examine the torpedoes.

In his letter, Churchill acknowledges the discovery of the German T-5 acoustic torpedoes in the captured submarine and asks Stalin to send them to Great Britain for further examination.

In response to Churchill’s request, Stalin’s letter explains that the Soviets have indeed captured two damaged German acoustic torpedoes. However, sending one to England is not feasible as both torpedoes are damaged due to the explosion, and it would require replacing damaged parts with those from the other torpedo. Stalin offers two options: either the British can receive drawings and descriptions from the torpedo after examination, or British specialists can visit the Soviet Union to study the torpedo on-site and obtain detailed drawings. Stalin also expresses his concerns about revealing too valuable a secret.

The British chose the second option, and in adherence to the Allied alliance, Stalin allows British specialists to inspect the torpedo.