A Forgotten World War Weapon That Every Navy Feared

November 12, 2018

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

 

According to the National Interest, during World War II, naval mines were used extensively in the Baltic Sea as their low cost provided weaker German and Finnish fleets with an effective force multiplier in negating Soviet numerical and qualitative advantages. 

 

The Soviet Navy also deployed a large number of floating mines, and by the end of the war all three navies had sown over 80,000 mines in the waters of the Baltic, especially in the Gulf of Finland.

 

Once in the water, the mines were tethered at the end of a cable below the surface. 

The upper half of a buoyant mine was studded with hollow metal tubes, or horns, which, coming into contact with a ship’s hull, would initiate a chemical or an electric reaction, detonating the explosive charge in the mine.

 

Naval Mines

 

The depth below the surface at which the mine floated could be adjusted so that vessels with various drafts would trigger them. 

 

This often allowed the smaller vessels like the Soviet cutters to virtually “dance” across a minefield unharmed.

 

However, in the Juminda minefields, the depth was set very shallow, resulting in the loss of many smaller Soviet vessels.

 

The relatively inexpensive and easily deployed minefields off Cape Juminda, called the Juminda Barrage, were largely responsible for ravaging the Soviet Baltic fleet during the breakout. 

 

On August 28, when the German aircraft could not operate effectively on account of bad weather, German mines played an invaluable role in slowing down the civilian convoys and stripping them of their destroyer escorts.

 

On August 29, the damaged and unprotected civilian ships became easy pickings for German air power.

 

Disclaimer: The appearance of US Department of Defense (DoD) visual information on this website does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement. 

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