Wreck of U-boat of “Hitler’s Lost Fleet” found in Black Sea

Image: Imperial War Museum
Image: Imperial War Museum – A Type IIB U-boat

The wreck of a World War II German submarine has been discovered lying on the bottom of the Black Sea just off the coast of Turkey more than 70 years after it was deliberately sunk by its crew.

The submarine, identified as the Type IIB U-boat U-23, was found 40 metres below the surface some two nautical miles off the coast of Ağva, a popular seaside resort community 97 kilometres east of Istanbul.

The Turkish Navy submarine rescue ship TCG Akin came across the wreck while assisting in the filming of a television documentary.

Akin’s camera-equipped remotely operated vehicle (ROV) provided the first new images of U-23 since it was scuttled by its crew on September 10, 1944 to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Soviets.

The search for U-23 became a subject of interest following the discovery of the wreck of sister submarine U-20 off the coast of Northern Turkey in 2008.

These two submarines plus four others, including one yet to be found, formed the 30. Unterseebootsflotille (“30th U-boat Flotilla”) of the Kriegsmarine, the naval service of Nazi Germany.

The flotilla, which later became better known as “Hitler’s Lost Fleet,” was based in Romania and operated in the Black Sea, sinking 26 Allied ships totaling over 45,000 tonnes in a span of 34 months.

Romania’s switching sides in the last year of World War II spelled the demise of the flotilla as it was left with no base from which to operate.

All six submarines were then scuttled. Three were scuttled near the harbour in Romania’s Constanţa port and were thus eventually found and captured by the Soviets, who later sank two of the vessels as practice targets while scrapping the third.

U-20, U-23, and U-19, which remains undiscovered today, were scuttled off the Turkish coast and thus avoided the same fates as their sisters.

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