“U-47 in Scapa Flow” is a 1958 black-and-white episode of the docudrama “The Silent Service” —a show that was typically about the U.S. Navy's submarine fleet. This particular episode is different in that it tells the story of a German U-boat. "Silent Service" episodes were based on fact and the realism was heightened by actual use of combat footage from the files of the Navy. The stories were varied between the South Pacific during World War II and the Korean War. The series was the brainchild of Rear Admiral Thomas M. Dykers, who retired from the Navy in 1949 after 22 years service and introduces this episode.
This episode stars Carleton Young as Richards, John Wengraf as Donitz, Kurt Krueger as Hauser and Werner Klemperer as Captian Prien. The plot is based on the daring mission of the U-47, which penetrated the British home waters near Scapa Flow to attempt to cripple the Royal Navy.
The episode includes footage shot at the U.S. Navy's submarine school in New London at the start. It also uses captured German footage to show the start of the U-47's patrol and underway. The interior of the U-boat however is an American submarine used in "Silent Service" episodes.
German submarine U-47 was a Type VIIB U-boat of Nazi Germany's navy (Kriegsmarine) during World War II.She was laid down on 25 February 1937 at Friedrich Krupp Germaniawerft in Kiel as yard number 582 and went into service on 17 December 1938 under the command of Captain Günther Prien.
During U-47's career, she sank a total of 31 enemy vessels and damaged eight more, including the British battleship HMS Royal Oak on 14 October 1939. U-47 ranks as one of the most successful German U-boats of World War II.
On 8 October 1939, U-47 began her second patrol. On 14 October 1939 (six days after leaving port), she succeeded in penetrating the Royal Navy's primary base at Scapa Flow. Although most of the Home Fleet was not at the base at the time, U-47 managed to find a target, the battleship HMS Royal Oak. Once she had spotted Royal Oak, she opened fire with her torpedoes. Her first two salvos did nothing more than sever an anchor chain. After reloading the bow tubes the last salvo of three torpedoes struck the British warship, causing severe flooding. Taking on a list of 15 degrees, her open portholes were submerged, worsening the flooding and increasing the list to 45 degrees; Royal Oak sank within 15 minutes with the loss of over 800 men. Following the attack, Prien received the nickname Der Stier von Scapa Flow ("The Bull of Scapa Flow"); the emblem of a snorting bull was then painted on the conning tower of U-47 and the image soon became the emblem of the entire 7th U-boat Flotilla. Prien was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, the first sailor of a U-boat and the second member of the Kriegsmarine to receive this decoration. The rest of the crew members were awarded the Iron Cross. Two other U-47 crew members also earned the Knight's Cross later on during World War II: the chief engineer (Leitender Ingenieur) Johann-Friedrich Wessels and 1st watch officer (I. Wachoffizier) Engelbert Endrass.
Many years later, in September 2002, one of the unexploded torpedoes that U-47 had fired during the attack on Royal Oak rose to the surface from its resting place on the bottom. The unexploded torpedo, minus its warhead, gradually drifted towards the shore, where it was spotted by a crewman aboard the Norwegian tanker Petrotrym. A Royal Navy tugboat intercepted the torpedo, and after identifying it as having belonged to U-47 63 years earlier, EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) personnel discarded it a mile from shore.
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