One historical event can explain most of the German vessels laying at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea: the Second World War. According to Abysso, an Italian database for diveable wrecks, over 100 warships, U-boats (submarines) and Luftwaffe aircraft met their end in the clear waters of the Mediterranean between 1939 and 1945.
Of the few dozen German wrecks not sunk during that period, most were U-boats, from the First World War. In both conflicts the German navy and air force were feared predators in any waters--Allied wrecks are as common as theirs, and more plentiful in many areas.
A German escort vessel, the SG-10, lies in the waters off Bastia, Corsica. She was originally a fruit transport, transformed into an auxiliary cruiser by the French navy in 1940. Captured by the German army in 1942, she performed as a fast escort until meeting her end in August, 1943, by a torpedo from the British submarine HMS Sickle.
Six German warships rest in Italian waters. A pair of corvettes and a torpedo-boat were sunk in 1944 off the northwestern coast. Two attack vessels went down off the Tyrrhenian coast in 1943. Further west off Sardinia, the landing ship Krieg Transporte 12, loaded with ammunition, exploded after being hit by the British submarine HMS Safari in April, 1943, north of Cala Gonone.
Another corvette lies in the Adriatic Sea east of Pag Island in Croatia, and the remnants of an unidentified German transport ship are scattered off Sousse, Tunisia.
U-boat wrecks are scattered throughout the Mediterranean. The waters were hotly contested during World War Two and became a death trap for Hitler's U-boat fleet. From 1941 to 1944, Germany sent 62 submarines into the waters; not one managed to make it back into the Atlantic. Although sinking nearly 200 merchant vessels, dozens of allied airbases with hundreds of radar-equipped aircraft hunted the U-boat fleet mercilessly, their evasion abilities hindered by the Mediterranean's clear, calm waters.
The most successful U-boat in terms of allied ships sunk was U-81, active for 788 days from 1941 until January, 1944, when she met her end by American bombers near Pola, Croatia. 28 allied ships fell victim to U-81, including the famous British carrier HMS Ark Royal in November, 1941, near Gibraltar.
The Mediterranean holds U-boats wrecks from the First World War as well. The highest concentration of these were scuttled at war's end in the northern Adriatic.
Many German ships of the air found their final resting place in the Mediterranean during the Second World War. There are eight known wrecks viewable to divers in French and Italian waters.
A Heinkel He 111 bomber lies relatively intact near Cap Martin, France. Discovered in 1965, the wreck is a favourite with divers as its bomb bay doors lay open allowing interior access. Off Isola delle Femmine in north-western Sicily a Junkers cargo plane was shot down by Allied fighters in 1942. The wreck settled in fine condition and has been colonised by conger and moray eels.
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