I would like to know if there were any ways for WW2 submarine to fake death/explosion/wreckage in the event where they are spotted and attacked from beyond.

Would this require specific tools ? Like for example, it is easy to imagine a way to release some floating debris, oil, and bubbles of air, while you stop your engines and play dead.

I am interested specifically in WW2, but if you have specific answers from other periods of time, please share them as well.

  • 5
    I'm sure I've seen movies where bouyant debris and oil was loaded into the torpedo tubes and released to simulate a submarine hull failure but I don't know if it was actually tried at the time.
    – Steve Bird
    Sep 21, 2018 at 8:41
  • 2
    Its a common trope in (mostly comedic) WWII submarine movies. It would be interesting to see whether this has any base in reality.
    – Polygnome
    Sep 21, 2018 at 12:03

1 Answer 1


I found a reference to a WWI submarine (SM UC-44) doing this here.

"Two aspects of her service are noteworthy. UC-44 was the first submarine to use the tactic of releasing oil and debris from her torpedo tubes to fool the enemy into believing it had been sunk by depth charges."

"During a particularly intense depth charge attack on 15 February 1917, Kapitanleutnant Kurt Tebbenjohanns, UC-44's commander, ordered that the vessel's front torpedo tubes be filled with waste oil and other debris, then fired, simulating what might have been expected to reach the surface had the submarine sank. The ruse worked, and the attack was ended, allowing UC-44 to escape. Other U-boat commanders, and eventually their counterparts in other navies, adopted this deception tactic. It was particularly effective for the Germans at first, as British commanders were easily satisfied that they had sunk the enemy."

In regards to WW2, in the book Black Company: The Story of Subchaser 1264 by Eric Purdon the author writes, "Kaptain Gunther Pfeffer ... tried every trick to avoid his pursuers. He released the Pillenwerfers, chemical air bubbles that remain suspended at depth... He, evaded by quick turns, doubling back, sudden dives and releasing oil and debris to make the Americans think they had sunk him."

And I found another mention of it being a tactic but not an actual case use in The USS Ward: An Operational History of the Ship that Fired the first American Shot of WWII. Author Richard Klobuchar states, " Submarine commanders were known to deliberately release fuel oil to deceive attackers into believing a submarine had sunk."

I am fairly sure I have read about this is a few other books, I will go through them this weekend and try to get a better answer.

  • 3
    Great answer, thanks, I'll accept it if no better one shows.
    – Nyny
    Sep 21, 2018 at 13:20
  • 1
    Gordon Williamson in 'U-boat tactics in World War II' mentions this tactic (but doesn't give a specific example). For a fan of submarine movies, this is an excellent answer to a very interesting question. Sep 21, 2018 at 14:13

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