By Peter Wihtol


First of all, before the article starts, I have to thank Peter Wihtol and the SubCommittee Report for the permission to publish the article and the photos. Click on the thumbs to enlarge it.











POW INTEROGATIONS ARE NOW THE BEST SOURCE OF MOLCH (SALAMANDER) GERMAN MIDGET U-BOOT DETAILS. The Molch was an evolutionary step towards a better performing midget submarine. It had a longer range than its predecessors, the ”manned torpedoes,” the Neger and the Marder. It had a periscope to help it look above the waves. And it carried two torpedoes instead of one. However, initially its dive tanks were ineffective and design improvements were quickly made. Most of this article is either abstracted from or presented verbatim from a US Naval Intelligence report of three survivors of the first Molch operation in WWII. The original report gives an original, uncut gem of history. Because intelligence reports and history get further from reality the more that they are rewritten, these original interviews probably give the best accounting of Molch activities. To date, this original report is the only-one-of-note about the Molch found in the US Archives. My opinion is that this US Naval Intelligence report provides more detailed Molch-related information than any other articles or reference books.

THE FIRST MISSION AND SUBSEQUENT ACTIVITIES. On the night of 25/26 SEP 44 seven Molch subs left San Remo, Italy and proceeded about 20 miles west to Nice Bay (off of the French Coast). Their mission was to sink destroyers or any coastal shipping. At least three of the Molch submarines were sunk and three crew members were captured and flown to the UK for interrogation. No enemy vessels were sunk. This was the first Molch operation of the war. It was unsuccessful. Mentioned in this report was that there was another mission off of the Italian coast (apparently in the Adriatic). Not discussed was that additional Molch deployments were off of Denmark, Holland, and Norway. Additionally the Molch was used as a training boat for Seehund drivers.


This article provides the model builder with information about where to find Molch images, what equipment was aboard and how this midget submarine was operated. It also provides interesting historical background details including

  • The massive logistics needed for a midget u-boot program
  • The problems encountered while developing a new, effective weapon system. Often new weapon designs do not work well in battle. ”Under actual operating conditions she failed to measure up.
  • The OSS analysis was that she had excellent control underwater but poor handling, when surfaced in heavy seas.

BOOKS. At best there were only about two pages of Molch info in each book I have found about the Kriegsmarine or German midget submarines.

  • In Rössler’s The U-boat there are: side, top, and front views with plus two cross sections; a side photo of a camouflaged painted boat; and less than a page of narration.
  • In Midget Submarines of the Second World War one finds one photo surfaced, one side view drawing, and one page of narration
  • And in Underwater Warriors, one finds one photo on trailer, one side view and one page of narration both latter two books are by Paul Kemp.

INTERNET SITES. There are many sites, most sell, show or discuss models only. Others have brief descriptions about museums. Only a few sites provide other details, worthy of mention.

  • Of greatest value is Juergen Thuro’s website. brings you to six views of a well-cared for Molch in the Dresden Military History Museum. You can get a machine translation of the page if you use Then use ”Kleinst-u-boot Molch in Dresden” as your search terms. Click onto ”Translate this article.”
  • Also of value is the ”Model Builders Reference Vault” go to ”Real Hardware” and then ”Submarines.” Here one will find eight good resolution photographs of a real Molch in a Dutch museum. However this u-boot does not show as much good detail. The reason? This Molch has not been as well cared for. 
  • Computer generated imagery of the Molch is found in the ”One35th Modeling” website. Great computer generated images, with many views. But these are not original images and they are based on the 1/35th scale Verlinden Molch model.
  • There are some interesting ”thumbs” of underwater photos of a flora-encrusted Molch, sunk off of Norway. These photos are available for a variety of fees depending upon their end use: personal or professional or type of publication. go the thumbnails, then to wreck, then to Molch.
  • There are relatively few sites providing the history of the Molch, and those are generally limited in information. Two examples are found at and at (this has the same drawings as found in Rössler’s The U-boat).
  • Run two image searches. Use Molch, midget and then Molch, submarine as search terms. Then repeat these two searches showing omitted results. Of particular interest is the dark blue paint job for the Molch at the Canadian War Museum Additionally there is also a photo of the interior taken through the opened hatch.
  • has an interesting section of ”Midget submarine operations.” To reach it go to ”The boats” in the upper left of the home page. Then U-boats. Then Fates/operations. Then Midget Submarine operations. It doesn’t have much information about Molch activities, but it does give about as much information as found in other references and websites.
  • In the planning stage were medals and patches, to be awarded to K-verband (small battle units) personnel. Go to and use the following search terms ”small units badge” ”Gordon Williamson.” The war ended before these awards could be issued. At best they were only simply typed out on a sheet of paper. Apparently not even the printed form had been made for this award. The war was too near the end and there were more important pieces of paper to process first. In fact, at the end of the war much of the K-verband paperwork was being quickly burnt and destroyed to prevent the enemy getting it – good military discipline!


THE MOLCH is a German, one-man, midget submarine. It is 35 feet long. It was powered by one, 13.9 HP electric motor turning a single, three-bladed propeller, which is in turn powered by racks of batteries. The superstructure consists of a cupola about 12 inches high. It has small plexiglass windows all around. It has only two speeds: dead slow (3-4 knots) and ¾ speed (6-7 knots) [perhaps optimistic?]. The endurance was guessed [by N.I.D.] as being about 24 hours. (It had an operational radius of 40 miles at 5 knots.) The rudder could only be used when the hydroplanes were horizontal. There was some disagreement about the turning radius (50-200 meters). And it was repeated in the original report that this boat could never turn unless it was on the surface or at a constant depth (the dive planes got in the way). Because of problems of carbon dioxide build-up inside the Molch, the coxswain wore an oxygen mask and utilized six oxygen tanks. It was claimed that without these tanks, the coxswain could operate as long as 30 minutes. [With oxygen tanks reportedly it gave 50 hours of breathing time.] Reportedly the maximum recommended dive depth was 40 meters and the maximum recorded dive depth had been 60 meters. There was a small-scale depth gauge market to 50 meters and a large scale marked up to 15 meters. Scuttling Charges: ”The most reliable prisoner stated that the delay was six minutes but another gave the figure as fifteen and said he heard an explosion in his boat after approximately this time. Each charge had a cord which was pulled when abandoning ship.” It was believed that these boats were built inland. ”Completed boats are sent to Surendorf for compass adjustment.” [I assume that they then made compass deviation tables for each boat.]

THE TWO TORPEDOES were electric and were slung from rails on either side of the submarine. ”They are fired by two pedals in the control room which release a block on the rails and at the same time start the motors. Only a slight list is caused when one torpedo is fired, but unless the boat is deep it is essential when firing to flood tanks and use a lot of hydroplane to prevent her surfacing.

(N.I.D. Note: The torpedoes carried by the BIBER are 21” electric with reduced batteries to give a speed of 20 knots to about 5,000 yards: nose pistols, both impact and magnetic firing, are used.)

TRAINING PROGRAM This information is solely based on what the POWs claimed they observed from June to September, 1944

”………..The 1st Flotilla was divided into 8 groups of which two, under the supervision of one officer, were always taken together for practical training. Theoretical training consisted of a number of lectures, one of which is believed to have been given by the designer of the MOLCH.

Practical training originally took place at Eckernfoerde and the MOLCH lay in the T.V.A. (Torpedo Experimental Establishment) on the right hand side of the harbour on entering. In late July there was only one MOLCH available for training, but by early September there were three. It was eventually found that Eckernfoerde was too far from Surendorf: the boats were transferred to Surendorf where all training was thereafter carried out.

One prisoner made some ten to twelve runs in a MOLCH during training, the longest of which lasted 2 1/2 hours, and made two practice attacks on the old minelayer M.T.1. Other targets were the ”GLUECKSBORG” and normal battle practice targets. Another prisoner, who did not arrive at Surendorf until 26 August, only went out in a MOLCH five times, the longest trip lasting half an hour. He said that parties of five man at a time would be taken out in a motor boat to a point two miles off shore where they rendezvous'd with the MOLCH….”.

Numbers trained
At the end of July, 1944 the 1st MOLCH Flotilla consisted of about 33 men. At a later date five or six more joined while others left or transferred to the 2nd Flotilla. By the beginning of September when training was complete the 1st Flotilla had 32 men trained in handling the boats.”


1st Flotilla: Senior Officer, Flotilla Engineer,
     32 men who had been fully trained.
     180-200 support personnel, which included the Flotilla M.O. [motor officer?] a large number
     of maintenance personnel, A.A. personnel, with special trucks, about 40 truck drivers and 2 or
     3 cooks.
2nd thru 5th Flotillas started progressively later and thus had progressively less training and men.

On or around 6-7 SEP 44 the personnel listed above of the 1st Flotilla boarded a special train to go to Italy. On route they encountered a three-day delay due to an air attack. In spite of this they arrived early. They stayed at Capo di David, outside of Verona, where the party remained for a week awaiting petrol for the motor transport. Here the Flotilla was split into two groups. The larger left a day before and the POW’s believed that it went to the Adriatic where it would be used it Venice was attacked. The POW’s group then traveled by bus and truck to San Remo. They moved mostly by night because of the danger of attack. They arrived in the PM of 24 SEP 44 at San Remo and were quartered in a hotel up hill from the coast.


On 25 SEP 44 the commanding officer, Lt. HILLE ”told his party that they were to go into action that night. It would be the first MOLCH operation and he had high hopes of success. Seven craft were to be used, and each man was given a full individual instructions on courses to steer, the targets to attack and the time to return. Deviation tables for each MOLCH (from which the man for the first time discovered the numbers of their boats), and small pencil sketches of the section of the coast off which they were to operate, were issued. HILLE took his men along the coast as far as Ventimiglia to give them an idea of its appearance.”

”Typewritten operational orders in the possession of ” _______________” read as follows: -”

”OPERATIONAL ORDERS FOR M 1” (Quoted in its entirety.)

1. Start about 2100.

2. Dead slow at 10 metres (32.8 feet) until dusk.
   Steer course according to sketch of operation.

3. At dusk, make small searching sweeps at periscope depth,
   using periscope sparingly.

4. In daylight make one or two searching sweeps every half hour
   at periscope depth. Otherwise remain with steady rudder at
   15-20 metres depth (49.2 to 65.6 feet).

5. If no target has been distinguished by 0900,
   make for secondary target. Steer course according to sketch of operation for
   one hour at ¾ speed and 15 – 20 metres (49.2 to 65.6 feet) depth.
   Steer further into the bay with the aid of the picture of the
   coast, using periscope sparingly, at dead slow speed.

6. If homeward passage is started at about 1200, endurance for three hours at dead slow and
   seven hours at ¾ speed will still remain, of which the first hour is to be made at ¾ speed.
   Homeward course according to sketch. If a chance to attack presents itself, do so at the closest
   possible range.

(N.I.D. NOTE: ”M 1” was not the boat’s number: it presumably refers to the order in which the boats left harbour on the operation. Orders given to other prisoners, who started later, differed somewhat in the time at which they were to attack their targets.)


The primary targets were two destroyers, but they were only to be attacked if stopped or proceeding very slow. One prisoner stated that the secondary target was any shipping in Nice Bay, another that it was an ”M.G.B depot ship lying in Villefranche Bay,” (N.I.D NOTE: One prisoner carried two rough pencil sketches of Villefranche Bay, seen from different angles. The ”M.G.B. depot ship” was probably a store ship.)

……….”M 58 was lying furthest to seaward and left about 2100. After half an hour the coxswain noticed that water was entering through a flange round the base of the periscope and he returned to harbour. He left again as 6th man at 2330.”

(Quoted in its entirety.)

M 58 left on 2330 and proceeded dead slow (four knots) for 1½ hours with periscope visible. The Coxswain then took her to 5 metres (16.4 feet) and maintained the same speed until 0300, when he increased to ¾ speed (7 knots). At 0400 he arrived in his operational area off Nice, some 4-5 miles south-west. of Cap Ferrat, having steered 230 degrees throughout. He took his boat down to 12 metres (39.4 feet) and slowly circled around. Shortly before 0615, it became evident that the boat was bow heavy, and the coxswain was unable to trim her. At 0615 he came to periscope depth, and was almost immediately sighted by an aircraft which dropped a number of smoke floats near him. Destroyers soon approached and made contact; the coxswain, believing that depth charges would be set much deeper, decided that it would be safest to remain at 5 metres, (16.4 feet). Eighteen to twenty depth-charges were dropped shortly afterwards, but all exploded beneath him. Two more series followed, and the last depth charge to explode caused a water entry on the port side below the Control Room. The boat became stern heavy, and after setting the scuttling charges, the coxswain opened the cupola and abandoned ship at 0845.

M 54 sailed between 2300 and midnight and set course 274 degrees at the same depth and speed as M 58. At 0300 the coxswain went to 15 metres (49.2 feet). At 0615 he came to periscope depth and at 0700 sighted a destroyer approaching from seaward 2 – 3 miles away. He closed, and at 0716, when the destroyer was at 600 metres (656 yards), fired his starboard torpedo. The destroyer turned hard to port and the torpedo missed. The MOLCH was immediately picked up by asdic and depth-charged: the coxswain, realizing that he had been detected, decided to dive to 30 metres (98.4 feet). No damage was caused until, at a depth of 25 metres (82 feet) the cupola burst. The coxswain then pulled the cord of the scuttling charge, abandoned ship and came to the surface.

(N.I.D. Note: It is presumed that the cupola in fact only leaked. It seems improbable that the coxswain would otherwise have surfaced from 80 ft.)

M 50 sailed at about 2300, proceeded for three hours at ¾ speed and then dead slow until 0600 maintaining a depth of 5 metres (16.4 feet) throughout. By dawn, she was just within sight of the coast. The coxswain cruised around for some time, at intervals coming to periscope depth in search of shipping. Without having sighted any ships, he suddenly heard about ten depth charges exploding comparatively near, and dived to 20 metres (65.6 feet) where he circled for a while, before rising once more to 10 metres (32.8 feet). About an hour later he heard another series of 6-8 charges, came to periscope depth and sighted a shadow at which he fired his port torpedo. The torpedo missed and soon afterwards when another and much closer depth charge attack followed the coxswain went to 30-35 metres (98.6 –118 feet). The steering gear was damaged and the bow got out of control: the starboard torpedo broke away aft and hanging from the bows made the boat bow heavy. At 30 metres (98.4 feet) water entered through the cupola and the coxswain blew all tanks. For some time M 50 failed to surface and water rose in the Control Room as far as the coxswain’s chest: she rose gradually, however, and at 5 metres (16.4 feet) the pilot, fitted his escape apparatus, pulled the cord of the scuttling charge and abandoned ship.

(N.I.D. Note: F.S.”FORBIN” obtained contact after sighting a conning tower, and dropped depth charges at 0755/26 September, probably sinking two MOLCH one-man submarines. A torpedo was fired at U.S.S. ”MADISON”, which passed within 5 yards of her. One survivor was picked up by F.S. ”FORBIN and two by U.S.S. ”MADISON”.)

Excellent control underwater but poor handling, on the surface, in heavy seas.

”…… Molch, an all electric, one man midget. She filled the essential requirements: ease in handling by truck to the point of launching; and by truck or crane into the water. Molch was not very successful. Her range was a mere 75 miles. She was slow and cumbersome on the surface. Her batteries, which filled the whole forward part of the craft, could drive her at up to four knots. But the swells and anything but the calmest seas battered her oversized hydroplanes unmercifully. Yet she had her good points under water. These same hydroplanes gave the operator excellent control of this craft. She submerged and surfaced with fair success. Under actual operating conditions she failed to measure up. And after two, fifteen boat sorties in which all craft were lost, she was abandoned.”

US NATIONAL ARCHIVES (NARA) REFERENCE: The 12 page report, titled ”MOLCH” – ONE-MAN U-BOAT. INTERROGATION OF SURVIVORS.” ”N.I.D.I/PW/REP/11/44,” this is part of a file labeled…..”Paper-paper copies 135 pages. Photocopies of ”german [sic] midget sub file” this is in turn part of ”a box labeled among Japanese Monograph file 912-1000, includes a bunch of USN & Brit. intelligence reports, memos bx 98/370/15/23/3.”

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