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Re: VADM Helfrich & his discontents-- Part One

June 14 2010 at 8:58 PM
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Jan Visser  (Login Visje1981)

Response to VADM Helfrich & his discontents-- Part One

Hi Melmoth,

The Dutch submarines performed better in the first months of the war, I think because of a number of reasons:

a) the Dutch torpedoes worked. I have not heard of any torpedo failures on board Dutch submarines. The Dutch knew their torpedoes and their "tempers", even up to the point that a commander refused to take on board a specific torpedo which had a bad reputation, and as a result sailed with one less torpedo.

b) the Dutch took great risks and operated their (smaller) boats close inshore, in shallow waters. The O-16 attacked transports off Patani in only 9 metres of water. K-XIV did the same at Kuching, on the surface and in close proximity of Japanese destroyers (one apparently passed by as close as 300 metres). K-XIV apparently even skated over a sand bar in 9 metres of water. K-XVI sank a destroyer but nonetheless launched against a second Japanese destroyer.

c) the Dutch developed wolfpack tactics. Divions of boats (2 or 3 boats) operated led by a division commander. For example, K-XIV, K-XV and K-XVI operated in close proximity at Kuching with Van Well Groeneveld (CO of K-XIV) in tactical command.

These concepts worked during December 1941 but Dutch submarine losses were simply too heavy to maintain such a success rate. I am not familiar with Comint intelligence gathering operations by the Dutch. The Dutch relied heavily on aerial reconnaissance by flying boats to find convoys. The flying boats, surface fleet and submarines were trained to cooperate closely (example: K-XIV and a Dornier flying boat at Kuching).

I'd like to know how much Helfrich actually knew about US submarine operations and the problems these boats had to face during that period. He knew the submarine strength of the Asiatic fleet and could balance that with the reported successes. Helfrich was very critical of the US submarines' tactics. I remember reading that in principle, the US boats weren't supposed to operate in less than 90 fathoms of water.

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  • US Subs - Jacques on Jun 19, 2010, 10:11 AM
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