Pack tactics (also wolf pack tactics by the English term wolfpack) was a tactic of German submarines during World War II. The alternative designation wolf pack tactics derived from the term “wolf pack” of the British and Americans. The British term arose after German U-boat attacks. The Americans used the term for B. to attack the USS Flounder (SS-251).


The used during World War II in the Mediterranean, German U-boats were lost in the last months of the war over to enemy convoys not individually, but in association attack. That was the response to, made possible by technological developments, increased patrols of the enemy with which the shipping lanes were backed up . One of the Mediterranean scale German U-boat commander was the then 23-year-old Karl Doenitz, commander of UB 68, a UB-boat. The case of later commander of the U-boats and Admiral experiences were the basis for his introduction of the pack tactics in which in 1935 developed new submarine force whose commander he was in 1936.

Early Geleitzug system

By 26 August 1939 – ie before the outbreak of open hostilities – the British Admiralty had placed the entire British merchant shipping under their command. Immediately after the sinking of the Athenia established the Allies in the North Atlantic Geleitzug system one that would ensure the supply of theBritish Isles.

  • HX and SC convoys traveled fromNova Scotia toBritain
  • OA and OB convoys went from there back toNorth America
  • SL convoys were compiled beforeSierra Leone and went toBritain
  • HG convoys accordingly fromGibraltar
  • OG convoys fromBritain to there back

The experience of the First World War had shown that German submarines constitute the real danger for these convoys. The British Navy was therefore equipped with more than a hundred of their ships ASDIC. In the first years of the war were initially few ships as escorts available – often, this task was taken over by hastily converted fishing trawlers.


The main objective of the pack tactic was to allow the joint use of several submarines to the enemy. Which the basic tactical efforts were based to be superior to the enemy at the site of the battle. Therefore, it was the perfect time for such a joint attack the night, because it was the submarine, especially because of the low silhouette that was sufficiently close to each other at the vehicles below the horizon, visible to the opponent. Initiated joint use was by a U-boat, which the enemy – ideally several potential targets – discovered, but not attacked, but zoom out further boats. A submarine group should operate according to the pack tactics could arise in two ways. On the one hand due to a report of a patrol boat or aircraft, several submarines are ordered in the maritime region. Far more often such a submarine group, however, was “green table” in response to intelligence, such as compiled by the “B service” received notification of a convoy, and ordered to a corresponding position.


In the event of such a strip search the respective boats formed at intervals of about15 kma search box or a strip search. When a U-boat had spotted a convoy, it announced this with a group consisting of twenty characters short signal that informed besides weather, location, course, speed, number of ships and escort securing the convoy also on the available fuel quantity of the reporting boat. This message gave the submarine from then on every two hours, and kept me connected while more submarines ran towards the convoy (“Attract”).

Search strip

During the strip search was pulled apart during the actual battle as many U-boats were on a convoy. It was therefore optimal when the average boat in the search field made the sighting. The attacks of submarines within the pack were not made fully organized. The only organization consisted mainly in the pre-accession of the other submarines by Fühlungshalter that by broadcasting Peilsignalen the other boats was an orientation or position before all together opened the battle.

Appearing in the night

The attacks initially mostly at night and over water. At that time, the submarines then for guards (for destroyers) without whose subsequent radar almost invisible. The Allied ships owned by ASDIC Although a device that indicated the location of a submerged U-boat up to a distance of1500 m, but capture emerged propelled boats.


Slow attack on convoy, 7 October 1940
Shrub Ritter in April 1942


By summer 1940, the U-boat in the Atlanticleaders were too few submarines available to attack the convoys of the Allies to the principles of the pack tactics. Under the enhanced properties as the conquest of the French Atlantic ports enabled the establishment of the first submarine groups that could operate under the pack tactics. Than the corresponding in autumn 1940, the first submarine groups attacked convoys, rose to the sinkings. In August, the single operating boats had sunk a total of 267,618 GRT. The use of coordinated submarine groups in four convoy increased the success in September to 295,335 inOctober to 352,407 GRT GRT. At the same time only went two German U-boats were lost, one of them – U 57 – without enemy action in a collision before he Brunsbüttel lock.


In response to a U-Bootsichtung usually several escort vessels were sent to hunt down the submarine, during which these many miles away from the convoy. When the convoy at the time – because of suspected or even actual submarine attacks – carried out a change of course, it could happen that the guards escorting her “herd” again were not initially. In response to the pack tactics turned the British Admiralty to organizations that have been trained in the common fight against submarines. These so-called escort groups practiced the convoy off the coast ofScotland’s andIreland’s and their officers were in a newly created school inLiverpoolin the appropriate tactics designed.


The pack tactics was the logical response to the tactics of Geleitzugbildung. The massive use of submarines was on the Allied side of technical development and the decrypted Enigma code outweighed during the Second World War, ultimately, which was reflected in massive loss figures for the submarines and (relatively) low losses of merchant ships from May 1943rd

The pack tactics became less important than the end of 1942 (when combined with the search at first light bomber), the radar and sonar (ASDIC, etc.) was perfected by the English side, and could be used more and more successful. Nevertheless, there was, until May 1943, several convoy that were despite high submarine losses clearly decided in favor of the Germans. With the introduction of HFDF-Funkpeilgerätes Huff-Duff by the Allies for the task of holding the boat contact was extremely dangerous to impossible. The end of the war came the widespread use of a secondary submarine development (snorkeling, target-seeking torpedo boats quiet, battery capacity) mainly before.

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