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Evacuation of German civilians from Pillau January 26 1945 fleeing the Red Army Bundesarchiv Bild 146 1989 033 33 German Kriegsmarine submarine U 2 Type IIA U boat Kiel 1935 Map showing the Soviet air attack on the Bay of Pillau 1945 Photo showing a sunken ship after a Soviet air attack off the Bay of Pillau 1945

Ilyushin DB-3 Ильюшин ДБ-3 Дальний бомбардировщик

FAFBay of Pillau

The Bay of Pillau 1945 after a Soviet air attack.

The Soviet Naval Air Arm was the most active branch of the Red Navy in the Baltic. In the course of the war it made great progress in material and training. However, there were wide differences in the performance of the various squadrons. Over-all, their record remained distinctly below the accomplishments of the Anglo-Americans. The minesweeping and patrol squadrons transferred from the West were impartial judges.

The most outstanding trait of the Soviet pilots was their tenacity. They were best at ceaselessly attacking smaller warships, which, of course, were not too well armed. In their operations, they obviously followed strict orders to the letter. Repeatedly it could be observed that quickly adapting to a changed situation was not one of their strengths.

Of thousands of attacks in 1944-1945 only a few typical examples can be given here. During the Russian break-out from the Oranienbaum beachhead and from the Leningrad front, three German destroyers were sent in to shell the flank of the advancing Soviet Army. With their excellent antiaircraft armament they easily beat off the few air attacks made on them. They used Baltic Port Paldiski as base. There, they were never disturbed, although the port of Reval, only 35 miles to the east, was frequently attacked.

Similarly, the minesweepers and patrol boats guarding the mine and net barriers were persistently attacked when near the barriers, but hardly molested when they retired under the coast. The attacks in the vicinity of the barriers were usually carried out by groups of three to ten planes following each other at short intervals. This forced the patrols to expend their ammunition, but the Russian planes did not follow the German ships when they retreated a few miles.

Shields of armor steel for the antiaircraft guns, developed by the German minesweepers in France, proved valuable here, too. Nevertheless, in the course of time the great number of the air attacks caused considerable losses of personnel. Many boats were damaged by fragments, and some were even sunk. Direct bomb hits were rare.

An exception was the attack by two Soviet fighters on three German torpedo boats on 19 September 1944. These had stopped to search cutters with fugitives bound for Reval. The torpedo boats were caught napping: before they could get up speed, the fighters fired rockets at them. One hit 1?-18 (850/1,100 tons) amidships; she broke in two and sank.

The almost endless stream of ships of all kinds evacuating Reval was the target of numerous air attacks. But though many ships had little or no armament and escorts were few, only one steamer was sunk. Two more were damaged but were brought into port.

The frequent but not very successful attacks on the small warships on guard east of Sorve Peninsula have already been mentioned. The following report by a minesweeper gives details:

At first a big plane (Boston-type) used to appear in the distance. Then groups of other planes attacked every 40 minutes, almost exactly to the minute. When we remained on our position, the number of planes was increased from 10 to 20, then to 40. They attacked with bombs, torpedoes, machine guns, and gliding bombs which sailed for about 50 meters. To drop them the planes came so near that it sometimes looked as if they wanted to ram us. Off and on, one of these bombs jumped over our boat. Other bombs were dropped from 3-4,000 meters. They had delayed-action fuzes and were ugly because their detonations made our boilers leak, and we had to retire for repairs. If we left our position they sent a fighter after us to take a look, but we were left in peace. On the day after the evacuation of Sorve Peninsula not a single plane came into view.

Sometimes they dropped bundles of very small fragmentation bombs around the boat, which detonated on hitting the water. They damaged the outer plating and the bulwark railing very badly. Later on every convoy going east was shadowed by a Soviet plane from the island of Bornholm on. Our escort forces had specialists on board who monitored the Russian radio traffic. They could say exactly when the planes had started, and these general1y arrived when expected.

From the wealth of experience gained in these encounters, the following rules, given here in abbreviated form, were developed by the German Supreme Command and distributed to all ships operating in the Baltic in the winter of 1944-1945:

a) Russian planes approach to minimum distance. They drop objects similar to torpedoes, length 3 meters, diameter 40 cm., at a distance of about 50 meters from their targets. During the attack the planes fire with machine guns.

Defense: open fire with all antiaircraft weapons early, maneuver for a good arc of fire.

b) Procedure when attacking convoys (confirmed by statements of prisoners of war and by own battle reports) :

By day Soviet naval aviation will attack after reconnaissance run by Air Force. German ships are reported by radio. Attack in several waves, following each other closely. Composition of a typical wave: 4-6 Boston planes, among them 2-3 with torpedoes, protected by 4-6 fighters.

They attack flying low. Course is set first for the position reported by the reconnaissance plane, then following the course of the German ships, at an altitude of 50-60 meters, sometimes rising to 100 meters for a better view, approaching objective at 20-30 meters. Target is the biggest ship of the convoy. Attacking smaller escorts prohibited.

The planes carry one torpedo or two bombs.

At night free hunting only, at about 500 meters. Torpedo attack not in pincer movement because of danger of collisions (according to reports of prisoners of war) during simultaneous approach upwind and downwind.

Distance for launching torpedoes, 500-700 meters.

Torpedo may jump out of the water when dropped from too great a height. Torpedo attack almost never without bomb attack at the same time. Often only one or two torpedo planes. Watch out for them!

c) Description of the 23 November 1944 attack on the Admiral Scheer, a typical example: 1 group of planes with torpedoes flying Iow, 1 group of planes with bombs at medium altitude, 1 group with bombs very high, each group 4-6 planes, accompanied by 4 fighters.

The Iow-flying planes fired their machine guns. The bombs of the group at medium altitude had delay fuzes which gave them the effect of mines. The ship received strong shocks, but no lasting damage. The high flying planes dropped heavy bombs (at least 250 kilogram) with short delay fuzes. The torpedo planes came very close to the ship without regard for the antiaircraft fire.

Although German fighters intervened very rarely because the German Air Force was completely overtaxed, it was very noticeable that the Russian planes stayed back whenever there was danger of meeting them. For instance, when a small tanker carrying airplane fuel bound for Libau was attacked and stopped by a hit, German fighters were sent to protect the ship with the much-needed fuel. She was taken in tow and slowly brought into the port of Libau. Russian planes watched from a distance but did not try to attack this easy target.

Of attacks during the last evacuations a minesweeper reported: On Hela roadstead (Bay of Danzig) they came every two hours. They fired at us with their machine guns from a great altitude. We did not take it seriously, but from a height of 3,000 m. they injured some of our men. During this evacuation and that of Swinemunde (mouth of the Oder River) they always attacked with three planes, which dropped bombs and fired their guns. After an interval of 3-4 minutes another three planes attacked.

During this evacuation 6 planes in two groups attacked a torpedo boat (T-36, 1,300/1,750 tons), which was escorted by four motor minesweepers because after the detonation of a magnetic mine only one engine was still working. The planes arrived in very good order and circled around the ships, evidently to study the situation. Then they formed line ahead on a parallel course, turned together and attacked with guns and small bombs. Some hit and caused leaks and heavy casualties. The torpedo boat sank slowly.

The destroyer Z-34 (Commander Karl Hetz, later Commander-in-Chief Fleet, Federal German Navy) found herself in a similar situation but sound reasoning and correct observation saved her. In the spring of 1945 she took part in coastal bombardments. On the night of 15/16 April she returned to Danzig Bay to assist a ship in difficulties and was torpedoed herself by Soviet MTBs. After some hours, one engine was got going again. She crept to Hela North roadstead, but then had to be towed to Swinemunde. Her captain reported:

The Russian planes did not attack the bigger warships. A particular target for them was the last accumulation of ships in a port before the evacuation when there was already panic ashore. Their tactics were to attack in close formation, a kind of steam-roller at sea. In Danzig, they attacked for 10 days, but mostly town and inner port. There they dropped torpedoes twice, aimed at the submarine tender Saar (2,700/3,250 tons), but missed. The ship then shifted her berth to the outer port and there was left unmolested.

3-4 hours after the torpedo hit, our starboard engine was working again, and Z-34 crept to Hela North roadstead. At 0600 hrs attack by 16 planes with bombs dropped in a kind of moderate dive. They fell all around the ship but there was no hit. Z-34 was to be towed away at 0830 hrs, but the tug, a minesweeper, was already on the spot. We started at once, on an easterly course, Le., towards the direction from which the Russian planes came every 1% hours. Shortly after 0730 hrs as expected, the Russian squadron came in sight flying still rather high. They did not pay any attention to the tow but continued to Hela North. When they did not find anything there they dropped their bombs on ships in Hela South roadstead :

According to several reports, from the end of March on, the air attacks were directed more and more against the ships on the firing positions. Of course, with the shrinking of the Danzig-Hela beachhead, everything became more concentrated. The number of planes and the length of the attacks increased. The crews of the planes seemed to have greater experience and greater self-confidence. There were more and more bomb carpets dropped on land, and later possibly under Anglo-American influence-more mass attacks on the ships off the last beachhead on Hela. There 40 or more planes attacked the concentration of ships in the anchorage daily towards evening. When the larger warships left to bombard the Russian positions, the only protection of the transport ships was their own very light antiaircraft armament and the heavier guns from Hela. Finally, Russian shore batteries (180-mm. guns) tried to reach the ships on Hela roadstead. However, they were mostly outgunned by the German destroyers.

Early in April, the battle group had to be withdrawn, mainly for lack of fuel. There were no German fighters, but enough smaller warships were on hand to protect the transports arriving with supplies and leaving crammed full of fugitives, so that heavy losses did not occur. On 15 April, the hospital ship Pretoria was attacked by 20-30 planes although she was clearly marked as a hospital ship. She was damaged, but under the protection of Z-34 succeeded in taking wounded on board and leaving with a convoy. Z-34 then was torpedoed and towed to Swinemunde as mentioned above. Commander Hetz later wrote:

In the last 3 months of the war we did not see a single German fighter.

One should not underestimate the Russian Naval Air Arm, however. On Swinemunde roadstead they flew stubbornly into the immense fire power of the warships there. However, they utilized the panic already mentioned, and the ships were crammed with fugitives.

On 5 May, Z-34 left Swinemunde behind minesweepers at 5 knots. 5 to 6 planes were about to attack. Order: No fire at a distance over 2,000 m, then open fire all at once. (Z-34 had 5 127-mm guns, 4 37-mm, and 16 20-mm, all antiaircraft guns). The result was that the Russian planes flew round the group for 20 minutes in an undecided manner. When they approached again they got the same burst of fire at 2,000 m. Finally they flew back east in formation and dropped all bombs and torpedoes in the water. Evidently, they were fed up.

The almost complete absence of German fighters, the great number of convoys and single ships, often not well protected or armed, the great difficulties in bringing away crowds of fugitives: all this made it easy for the attacker. The Soviet Naval Air Arm was active all the time but it overestimated its successes. For 1945 Piterski gives them as more than 150 freighters with an aggregate tonnage of about 420,000 GRT, 49 warships down to motor minesweeper, and 100 merchant and warships of smaller tonnage. The most probable figures for ships lost to air attack at sea are 41 transports with an aggregate 134,000 GRT and 27 warships.

Known Ships sumk by Soviet Air Force off Bay of Pillau

Date 9th March 1945: Meteor II ( Kriegsmarine): World War II: The hospital ship was being used as a troopship against the rules of war. She was bombed and sunk at Pillau, East Prussia by Soviet Air Force aircraft with the loss of 24 of the 300 people on board.

Date 22nd March 1945: Mendoza ( Germany): World War II: The cargo ship was sunk in the Baltic Sea off Pillau, East Prussia, Germany in a Soviet air attack.

During World War II Pillau had a U-boat training facility.

Kriegsmarine Type IIB submarine U-boat U-7

Date 18th February 1944: U-7 ( Kriegsmarine): The Type IIB submarine sank near Pillau in a diving accident with the loss of all 29 crew.

German submarine U-7 was a Type IIB U-boat of the German Kriegsmarine, based out of Kiel during World War II. It was one of the smaller versions, and was first launched on June 29, 1935 with a crew of 29. Its first commander was Kurt Freiwald. U-7 would have 16 commanders over the course of its service, the last being Günther Loeschcke.

During the war U-7 sank two vessels:
The British 2,694 ton Akenside, on September 22, 1939
The Norwegian 1,830 ton Takstaas, on September 29, 1939

On February 18, 1944, west of Pillau, U-7 sank in what is believed to have been a malfunction during a diving maneuver. There were no survivors.

Kriegsmarine Type IIA submarine U-boat U-2

Date 8th April 1944: U-2 ( Kriegsmarine): The Type IIA submarine collided with the trawler Helmi Söhle ( Germany) in the Baltic Sea near Pillau, East Prussia and sank with the loss of seventeen of her 35 crew.

German submarine U-2 was a Type IIA U-boat of the German Kriegsmarine. Her keel was laid down February 11, 1935 by Deutsche Werke of Kiel, and she was commissioned July 25, 1935 with Oberleutnant zur See Hermann Michahelles in command.

Service history

She had several commanders over her long career. Michahelles was relieved on September 30, 1936, by Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Liebe. Liebe turned command over on January 31, 1938, to Oblt. Herbert Schultze. On March 16, 1939, Kptlt. Helmut Rosenbaum assumed command and on July 7, 1940, Oblt. Hans Heidtmann joined Rosenbaum as deputy commander. On August 6, 1940, Georg von Wilamowitz-Moellendorf relieved Rosenbaum and Heidtmann and commanded until October 1941 when Karl Kölzer took over. On May 16, 1942, Oblt. Werner Schwaff relieved Kölzer, and on November 20, 1942, was relieved by Oblt. Helmut Herglotz. On December 12, 1943, Oblt. Wolfgang Schwarzkopf took over and commanded the boat until she was lost. She was used as a school boat and trainer for her entire career except for two completely uneventful combat patrols in the spring of 1940.


U-2 suffered no casualties to any of her numerous crews until April 8, 1944 when she collided with the German steam trawler Helmi Söhle west of Pillau and sank. Seventeen of her crew died; 18 survived. The wreck was raised the next day and stricken.

Kriegsmarine Type VIIC/41 submarine U-boat U-1015

Date 19th May 1944: U-1015 ( Kriegsmarine): The Type VIIC/41 submarine collided with U-1014 ( Kriegsmarine) and sank in the Baltic Sea west of Pillau, West Prussia (55°09′N 19°11′E) with the loss of 36 of her 50 crew.

Kriegsmarine Type VIIC/41 submarine U-boat U-1000

Date 31st August 1944: U-1000 ( Kriegsmarine): World War II: The Type VIIC/41 submarine struck a mine and was damaged in the Baltic Sea pff Pillau, East Prussia. She was consequently taken out of service and scrapped.

German submarine U-1000 was a Type VIIC/41 U-boat built during World War II for service in the Battle of the Atlantic.

She was completed in Hamburg in November 1943, and after working up trials was moved to Egersund in Norway in June 1944. From there she conducted her only war patrol in the waters off Norway, in the North Sea and towards the Arctic Circle, but found no enemy ships to target, returning to Bergen without firing a shot. She did however manage to recover two Norwegian airmen of the British Royal Air Force, whose Mosquito aircraft had been shot down by U-804 two days before they were rescued from the sea.

On the 9 August, U-1000 was detailed to serve in the Baltic Sea against Soviet shipping, which was beginning to press into German waters as the Red Army advanced on land. On the 25 August, as she passed the East Prussian town of Pillau on her way to Reval, she struck a sea mine laid by the Royal Air Force. The mine crippled the submarine, which limped into Pillau in a wrecked state. All the crew survived the blast, but the boat was totally unserviceable and was abandoned in Pillau, the crew being transferred to U-3523, on board which they were all killed the following year. RAF aircraft regularly mined German coastal waters, as they knew the routes used by German shipping, and could thus severely restrict German movement by sea with the use of air-dropped minefields.

Kriegsmarine Type VIIC submarine U-boat U-80

Date 28th November 1944: U-80 ( Kriegsmarine): The Type VIIC submarine sank off Pillau, East Prussia (54°25′N 19°50′E) in a diving accident with the loss of all 50 crew.

German submarine U-80 was a Type VIIC submarine of the Nazi German Kriegsmarine during World War II. She was laid down at the Bremer Vulkan Vegesacker Werft in Bremen as 'werk' 8 on 17 April 1940, launched on 11 February 1941 and commissioned on 8 April under Oberleutnant Georg Staats.

U-80 spent her career as a training boat, first with the 1st U-boat Flotilla, then the 26th, 24th, 23rd and 21st flotillas. She sank or damaged no ships, but was herself sunk in a diving accident west of Pillau (now Baltiysk in modern Russia), on 28 November 1944.

Kriegsmarine Type VIIC submarine U-boat U-416

Date 12th December 1944: U-416 ( Kriegsmarine): World War II: The Type VIIC submarine collided with M 203 ( Kriegsmarine) and sank in the Baltic Sea north west of Pillau, East Prussia (54°58′N 19°33′E) with the loss of 36 of her 41 crew.

Kriegsmarine Type VIIC submarine U-boat U-78

Date 16th April 1945: U-78 was sunk by Soviet artillery fire while she was docked near the electricity supply pier in the German port. This was the only U-boat to be ever sunk by land-based forces in World War II. As the Red Army entered East Prussia, more than 450,000 refugees were ferried from Pillau to central and western Germany. Pillau was eventually captured by Soviets on April 25, 1945.

She was ordered on 25 January 1939, and laid down on 28 March 1940, in the shipyard of Bremer Vulkan in the port city of Bremen-Vegesack as 'Werk 6'. U-78 was launched on 7 December 1940 and formally commissioned into the Kriegsmarine as a "school boat" on 15 February 1941, with a crew of 41 under the command of Kapitänleutnant Alfred Dumrese.

Service record

U-78 spent the majority of her career as a training U-boat, during which time she had several different crews. As a result, she never sank any enemy vessels nor engaged any enemy ships or convoys. On 1 March 1945, she was transferred to the 4th U-boat Flotilla but never saw any combat; prior to beginning her first patrol she was sunk on 16 April 1945. U-78's fate is notable in that she was the only German U-boat to be sunk by land-based artillery fire during World War II.

Use as a training boat

U-78 spent almost her entire career as part of the 22nd U-boat Flotilla as a "school boat", a role which saw her being used to train U-boat crews. During this time, her commander was changed six times: in July 1941 from Kapitänleutnant (K/L) Alfred Dumrese to Oberleutnant (O/L) Kurt Makowski, who remained in command until February 1942 when she was handed over to K/L Max Bernd Dieterich; in July 1942, K/L Ernst Ziehm took command of the U-boat from Dieterich in November 1942. K/L Helmut Sommer took command from Ziehm in May 1943; the sixth commander of U-78 took control of the U-boat when Wilhelm Eisele was named captain and lastly, the seventh commander, O/L Horst Hübsch, took command of U-78 from Eisele on 27 November 1944. All of U-78's changes of command took place while the U-boat was still serving as a training boat. Crewmembers used her as a practice submarine before being assigned to their operational U-boat.


By March 1945, the war was coming to an end, the Kriegsmarine was faced with a dwindling number of active U-boats. To offset this, the Navy looked to transfer boats away from other duties, such as training. On 1 March 1945, U-78 began active service with the 4th U-boat Flotilla. Just a month and a half later, however, on 16 April 1945, U-78 was sunk after being attacked by Soviet land-based artillery while she was docked near the electricity supply pier in the German port of Pillau in East Prussia.

Web References:

Soviet Naval air battle in the Baltic 1945 - http://warandgame.wordpress.com/2008/06/13/soviet-naval-air-in-the-baltic-1945/

This webpage was updated 30th August 2012

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