Germany Calls Off Unrestricted Submarine Warfare – 10/21/1918

World History |


On October 21, 1918, Germany decided to cancel their unrestricted warfare and fired their last torpedo for World War 1. The unrestricted warfare was supposed to be their hope to win against the British if the US had not intervened.

Germany was determined to overpower the British and thus declared an unrestricted submarine warfare in early 1915 during World War I. The country declared that the sea around the British Isles will become a war zone where the German navy were instructed to attack all merchant ships, including the ones that come from neutral countries. To make sure that they will subdue the British navy at sea, the Germans sent their most feared weapon to carry out the plan – the stealthy U-boat submarine. Following the declaration, merchant ships were attacked. The British ship Lusitania was one of those that fell victim to the German’s cruelty, where 1,201 suffered fatality, 128 of which were Americans.

Woodrow Wilson who was the president of the United States at that time was very much displeased by what happened and demanded that the Germans put a stop to their attacks against unarmed merchant ships. The Germans were afraid that if they did not adhere to Wilson’s demands, they might provoke the U.S. into participating in the war. Over the next year, the German navy limited their attacks with the expectancy that upon doing so, the U.S. leader will somewhat be appeased with their effort.

However, at the start of 1917, naval and army commanders convinced Kaiser that the U-boat warfare would be advantageous for Germany in the fight against the British. They told him that victory could easily be theirs by the end of fall if they persisted with the unrestricted submarine policy. On February 1st, the Germans officially resumed their attacks, following the same orders as before. Just two days after, Wilson broke U.S. diplomatic relationship with Germany and entered into World War I. They joined forces with the Allied powers on April 6, 1917.

Germany believed that the naval war would give them advantage despite the fact that they were not progressing on the battlefields of the Western Front. Their hope only grew fainter when the Allied showed up once again in France and Belgium by summer in 1918. It didn’t also help that their own soldiers and sailors started to get frustrated and discontented. By mid-October, Admiral Reinhardt Scheer issued an order to all navy submarines to return to German bases. This was made at the time that Germany was caught up in the dilemma of how they could possibly get a truce that would give Germany favorable peace terms. 

Before the Admiral Reinhardt Scheer’s issued his order, the last German torpedo fired during the World War I was able to sink a small British merchant ship, the Saint Barcham, in the Irish Sea on October 21st. eight men were drowned by this incident. The German warfare killed 318 seamen during this month. When they left the Belgian coast, the Allied forces took over.

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Nancy Reyes

Senior Writer

One of our top senior writers, Nancy came to us wanting to break away from the politics that comes with major news corporations. She leads our team of historical writers in creating the best engaging content out there that keeps our readers coming back for more. She is an enthusiast of all things medieval and has been a member of her renaissance fair group for 15 years. She received her degree in International Relations from the University of Southern California and hopes to one day travel the world.