39. The Brothers Who Dreamt Up the Idea of Missile Submarines
During WWII, missiles had relatively short ranges, and their reach was limited to a few dozen miles at most from launch sites on land in German-controlled territory. That left most of the territory of Germany’s enemies beyond the reach of German missiles. In 1941, a plan was conceived to bring more enemy territory within reach of the Third Reich’s rockets, by marrying rockets to U-boats.
It was the brainchild of brothers Friedrich Steinhoff, commander of U-511, a Type IXC U-boat, and his brother, Dr. Erich Steinhoff, who was working at the secret rocket research program at Peenemunde. Equipping a U-boat with rockets would transform the submersibles into mobile launch platforms. With the high seas as their highways, U-boats could take German missiles to just about anywhere in the world – or at least anywhere in the world that lay within a few dozen miles of a sea coast.