The Molch, or Salamander, was the first one man U-boat of the Kriegsmarine. This submarine basically looked like a big torpedo. It was based on torpedo technology and powered only by electrical propulsion. Unlike a standard U boat the Molch could not operate above water level, its engine was designed to function exclusively under water. With its operational distance of only 64 kilometers just above 9 km/h, the Molch was designed for coastal missions. It was a huge step forward in midget submarine design. It had a longer range than its predecessors and it had a periscope. On top of the Molch was a cupola with Plexiglas windows.
It carried two torpedo’s on its lower side of the G7e type which were fired by pedals inside the submarine. The front of the Molch was filled with batteries, then came the pilot and behind him was the electrical engine. The U-boat had two speeds; slow, somewhere between 5,5 and 7,5 km/h, and faster, between 9 and 13,5 km/h. Even though the operational range of the mini submarine was limited it was designed to stay underwater for 24 hours, which endangered the operator with a strong build up of carbon dioxide in his cramped compartment. This is why the operator wore an oxygen mask and breathed from six oxygen tanks which the Molch carried on board. Without it the operator would not last longer than an hour, or just a part of it. The Molch was designed by Dr. Heinrich Drager and was taken in production by AG Wesser in Bremen, they produced 393 of these midget submarines. The first were delivered on the 12th of June 1944 and weighed 11000 kilograms. In action it was used in K-verbande, these are small battle units of Molch mini submarines sometimes mixed with the Biber midget submarine. The recommended depth for the U Boat was 40 meters, with a maximum around 60 meters.
The G7e torpedo was the standard torpedo for the German Kriegsmarine during world war two. It carried 280 kilograms of explosives and was powered by an electrical engine which gave it a speed ranging from 37 to 56 km/h depending of the type of G7e torpedo used. Its operational range varied between 3 to 7,5 kilometers and some types even longer. It had a length of just over 7 meters and a diameter of 53 centimeters. Throughout the war these torpedo’s were improved in speed, distance and “ship detecting” with the acoustic torpedo.
Even while it was more advanced than it smaller predecessors it was hard to control the Molch in combat. Buoyancy was hard to control, it had a large turning radius and had dive planes that interfered turning control. Its slow speed an low depth made it a relative easy target. Lots of Molch submarines did not come back to port due to mechanical failure or were sunk by the Allied forces.
The first Flotilla was stationed in Italy in the Mediterranean sea, it saw action during Operation Dragoon on the night of 24th – 25th September 1944. Losing most of their submarines the operation was unsuccessful. Another Flotilla was send to the Netherlands in 1944 to operate on the Dutch coast. Unfortunately the operations of the Molch U- Boat stayed unsuccessful, scoring some hits and sinking a few vessels, but compared to the men, material en cost to create mini submarines Flotilla’s they were too much effort. After acknowledging its failure the Molch was used as training vessel for new U-boat Pilots.