14. August 2012 10:44
At least 11 German submarines sank off the Brazilian coast during WWII, all were sunk in 1943, when the downfall of the German U-boat force began in earnest with the development of efficient antisubmarine warfare techniques by the Allies.
Of over 1,000 U-boats that fought in WWII around 150 actually operated in the South Atlantic and along the Brazilian coast.
Brazil only took sides and joined the allies in 1942. That may seem strange, but at the time Brazil was governed by its own dictator. A little fat man named Getúlio Vargas, who did some great thing for the country, but who, for quite some time tended to sympathize with Hitler´s Nazi Germany. It actually took some serious pressure and secret machinations that included document forgeries by the BSC (British Security Council), then, based at the Rockefeller center in New York, to change his views. The sinking of a Brazilian steamer off Bahia by a U-boat, caused such widespread outrage that the Brazilian people demanded to join the Allies. That change of heart occurred sometime between 1941 and 1942.
In order to stop the transport of raw material from South America and the West Indies to the Nazis, the Allies formed a massive blockade involving naval and air patrols along the shortest point between South America and Africa, the 1,700 miles that separate Natal in the north Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Norte and Dakar in Senegal. For this blockade to work, naval air bases needed to be installed in Brazil. In June of 1941, Task Force 3 arrived in Brazilian waters and the ports of Recife and Salvador in Northeast Brazil were selected to be used by the US Navy. Further south in Rio de Janeiro and south Brazil, Catalina flying boats were the main nemesis of the German U-Boats, as these were posted in naval air bases close to all major Brazilian ports in order to better patrol the seas along the lengthy Brazilian coast.
The Axis desperately needed to thwart the continuous shipping of raw materials to the Allies from South American ports and threw in over 10% over their total submarine force to this end. More allied bound cargo ships were being sunk in the Caribbean and along the South American coast including some Brazilian flagged ships, enough to raise serious concern from the Brazilian military and finally permit the US Navy to manage the ASW effort off the Brazilian coast and close down the Nazi spy rings still present all over Brazil.
The extended patrols by US Navy and Brazilian Air Force (FAB) planes with the support of US Navy destroyers, along with the fact that Allied code breakers could by then read the U-boat transmission to their headquarters and help pinpoint the location of the senders brought on increased sightings and many attacks on U-boats in the South Atlantic, these 11 sinking off Brazil are just a fraction of all U-boats destroyed in the South Atlantic.
Most of these subs have not yet been found, but some, as U-199 off Rio de Janeiro have been located and so has U-513 off Santa Catarina. Both are located between 120 and 130 meters and were found using small AUVs with side scan sonars and have also been visited by technical divers. Along some of the next few blogs we´ll take a look at these and at some of the others not yet located.