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Unrestricted submarine warfare

From Academic Kids

Unrestricted submarine warfare is a kind of naval warfare in which submarines sink merchant ships without warning. Such surprise attacks are in violation of the 1936 Second London Naval Treaty, which specifies that "...except in the case of persistent refusal to stop on being duly summoned, or of active resistance to visit or search, a warship, whether surface vessel or submarine, may not sink or render incapable of navigation a merchant vessel without having first placed passengers, crew and ship's papers in a place of safety. For this purpose the ship's boats are not regarded as a place of safety...."

However, the London Rules were obsolete before they were signed, and were never widely accepted. The wide-spread adoption of radio meant that a merchant could call for help as soon as a submarine appeared, even before it could issue its demands. The rapidly-growing speed and destructive power of combat aircraft meant that any submarine trying to comply with these rules would be rapidly destroyed. The only Navy that made any attempt to honor this requirement was the early Kriegsmarine, and that half-hearted attempt ended with the Laconia incident. Since the introduction of long-range anti-ship missiles that can destroy a ship from beyond the horizon, the London Rules are universally regarded as entirely moot.

There have been three major campaigns of unrestricted submarine warfare:

  1. The First Battle of the Atlantic during World War I (intermittently between 1915 and 1918).
  2. The Second Battle of the Atlantic during World War II (19391945).
  3. The Pacific War during World War II (19411945).


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