Military Wiki
NMS Delfinul
NMS Delfinul in June 1936
Career (Romania)
Name: NMS Delfinul
Builder: Italian naval base and shipyard, Fiume
Completed: 1930
Out of service: 23 August 1944
General characteristics
Displacement: Surfaced: 650t
Submerged: 900t
Length: 68 m (223 ft)
Beam: 5.9 m (19 ft)
Draught: 3.6 m (12 ft)
Propulsion: Krupp diesel engine
Speed: Surfaced: 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph)
Submerged: 9 knots (17 km/h; 10 mph)
Range: 2,000 nautical miles (3,704 km; 2,302 mi)
Complement: 40

1 x 102 mm (4.01 inches) forward mounted Bofors naval gun

Four forward and two aft 533 mm torpedo tubes

NMS Delfinul ("Dolphin") was a Romanian submarine that served in the Black Sea during the Second World War. It was the first submarine bought by the Romanian Navy. It was an improved design from the First World War, having fitted a snorkel for underwater diesel operation.

The birth

NMS Delfinul was built in 1930 at the Italian naval base and shipyard, Fiume (today, Rijeka in Croatia), by "Construzzione navale dello stato". On the 5 May 1936 (six years after it was built because of little misunderstandings between the Italian shipyard and the Romanian government), the submarine was launched to sea, in front of Romanian and Italian naval engineers. During its first years of service, Delfinul fulfilled training and exercise missions in the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

Role in World War II

Delfinul played an important role in the Black Sea war against the Soviet Union in World War II. Its home base was the Constanţa Naval Base, from where the submarine completed nine war time patrols. When Romania entered the war (22 June 1941), the navy had only one submarine, but that presence meant that the Soviet Black Sea Fleet had to secure an anti-submarine service for its convoys and near its naval bases. As a fleet in being, the Delfinul had only to exist rather than taking part in the battles. It was kept under shelter in Constanţa and rarely got out to do a reconnaissance mission. That changed when two modern (for that time) submarines arrived from Germany (Rechinul-The Shark and Marsuinul-The Sea Hog).

Patrol 1

Capitan (USN rank - lieutenant) Constantin Costachescu commanded Delfinul on its first war patrol which lasted 22–27 June 1941. A simple reconnaissance mission 60 nautical miles (111 km; 69 mi) from shore. On 26 June at 00:30, the Costachescu reported back to Constanţa that a large Soviet war group was approaching Constanţa. Because they lost their element of surprise, the Soviets lost a destroyer (Moskva) and the lead ship Kharkov and the cruiser Voroshilov were damaged in the following battle.

Patrol 2

The next patrol took place from 10–20 July, under the command of Capitan (USN rank - Lieutenant) Corneliu Lungu. Delfinul patrolled the south of the Crimean peninsula and made a reconnaissance mission in Novorosiisk, trying to evaluate the anti-aircraft and anti-submarine capabilities of the enemy naval base. On 13 July it was south west of Cape Idokopas, and on 15 July it reached the south of Feodosiya. In that area, they spotted an enemy ship, but it vanished shortly after. During the night it was detected by an enemy patrol craft. It quickly submerged and it wasn't attacked. On 16 July, the gyro compass broke down and the submarine began its journey for home. 95 nautical miles (176 km; 109 mi) from Cape Sabla, they spotted a small Russian submarine on the surface, probably from the Malyutka class. They tried to attack it with the deck gun, but the rough seas and two unidentified hydroplanes determined the commanding officer to dive the boat and break contact.

On 30 July, Delfinul was scheduled to start another patrol, at 16:00 (4:00 pm). But an engine malfunction made it return to port at 19:00 (7:00 pm).

Patrol 3

On the third patrol (12–20 August 1941), Delfinul returned under the command of Capitan Costachescu. Its mission, to attack the convoys leaving or arriving at Odessa. They only had two poor chances to attack anything, on the night of 13–14 August and on 19 August, but they could not maintain contact. The sector was abundant in enemy patrol crafts and hydroplanes. The submarine also made a reconnaissance mission of the coast of Crimea, and, on the way home, they were attacked by the M-33 submarine. The torpedo overshot, and when the M-33 surfaced, it was attacked with the machine gun.

Patrol 4

The 4th patrol (3–19 September), took Delfinul deeper in enemy controlled waters. This time, the chance to attack surface vessels really presented itself. After spotting two convoys which Delfinul couldn't follow, on the 9 September, at 9:35, it was detected on the surface by a cruiser, which Capitan (USN rank - Lieutenant) Corneliu Lungu identified as the Komintern. The submarine carefully maneuvered because of the underwater rocks. In the following days, the submarine had some chances of attack but the rough seas made it impossible. On the 10 September, the submarine got into firing range from a 2 ship convoy 20 NM west from Cape Otrishenok, but the charge of an escort vessel forced Capitan Lungu to submerge and lose contact. Another chance presented itself on the 16 September at 5:05 west of Novorosiisk, in the form of a Russian tanker and its escort. But the escort spotted the periscope. When they rose the periscope again, the CO saw that the escort called for help so he submerged and left the area, following the directive to take no chances with the escorts. On the 17 September it took a course for Constanţa, and, on the way back, it was spotted by a number of Russian hydroplanes and even depth charged by a patrol craft.

Patrol 5

The fifth patrol took place between the 2 and 7 November 1941 and it is the patrol when the only attack of Delfinul took place. Its mission, the attack of the convoys destined for Sevastopol. Its CO was Constantin Costachescu. Near Constanţa they spotted an enemy submarine, but because of the darkness, they lost it. On the morning of the 5 September the submarine reached the neighboring waters of Ialta. At 6:36 they spotted a patrol vessel and kept watch. Around 8:05, sub-lieutenant Constantin Stegaru spotted a big transport vessel on a course of 290, steaming for Ialta. At 8:15, the ship turned to the left closing on the submarine. The CO decided to wait for the ship to pass behind him and shot from an aft tube. At 8:43, Delfinul launched a torpedo from tube 6, from 800 meters (2624 feet, 874 yards) away. The torpedo explosion, followed by a bigger one could be heard, moment after the launch. It is possible that the ship wasn't escorted because the first contact with a submarine hunter ship came in an hour after the attack. The depth charging lasted from 10:30 until 18:30 (6:30 pm). There were 23 passes and 80 to 90 explosions from depth charges. During the attack, Capitan (USN rank - Lieutenant) Constantin Costachescu dove the submarine deeper and deeper, and the enemy was listening, he would stop the submarine's machinery. Afterwards they went near the Turkish coast, but a dreadful storm made the trip home a difficult venture. Capitan (USN rank - Lieutenant) Constantin Costachescu was latter awarded the Order of Mihai the Brave 3rd Class for the attack. Romanian historians identified the sunken ship as being the cargo boat Uralles (1975 tonnes), but the soviet archives state that the Uralles was sunk by Luftwaffe bombs in the port of Eupatoria on the 29 October. The identity of the ship is still in debate.

Patrol 6

The mission of the sixth patrol was to cut the Russian communication routes between Batumi and Istanbul. Delfinul left port on the 30 November, but because of bad weather, it was forced to return to base on the 3 December 1941.

Patrol 7

The seventh patrol (6–13 December) took Delfinul back to the Batumi-Istambul line. It didn't detect any enemy convoys. On its way back, it detected two Russian submarines near Constanţa.

Patrol 8

The first patrol of 1942 (18–30 May) found Delfinul under the command of Locotenent Comandor (USN rank - Lieutenant Commander) Constantin Lungu, who had been promoted. It patrolled the north side of the Turkish coast without detecting anything. It was attacked by two Russian planes on the 27 May, without sustaining any damage.

Patrol 9

The last patrol of Delfinul (25 June – 3 July 1942) was carried in the area est of Yalta. On the 27 June they arrived in the operation theatre but were forced to stay submerged because of enemy aircraft. Between 4:26 and 15:30 (3:30 pm) Delfinul was the target of 240 anti submarine bombs. A fuel tank cracked. After 16:00 (4:00 pm) enemy patrol crafts appeared, and Capitan (USN rank - Lieutenant) Costachescu ordered a full stop on the electric motors. The next day, the submarine was spotted on the surface by an enemy aircraft at 16:12 (4:12 pm). Some gun bullets damaged its conning tower. On the 1 July, the last day of the Sevastopol evacuation, the Russian flotilla was very active in the Crimean zone, so Delfinul was spotted and hunted for 13 hours. Between 7:35 and 10:30 there were counted 107 depth charges. Around 13:00 (1:00 pm) there was an attack with 20 bombs, and at 15:40 (3:40 pm) another 24. In the evening, between 19:30 (7:30 pm) and 20:00 (8:00 pm), 82 depth charges and bombs exploded near the submarine and 35 away from it. In total 268 explosions, mainly air dropped anti submarine bombs and few depth charges. It entered capital repairs after it got back from this patrol.

The end

On the 23 August 1944 it was confiscated by the Soviet Union. After a long period of time it was returned heavily damaged. It was never repaired and it never got back on the sea.

The legacy

The name Delfinul was passed to the only Romanian Navy submarine still in service today. It was bought from the Russians in the 1980s and it's an improved diesel-electric attack Kilo class submarine. The new Delfinul is still waiting for its new battery packs since the early '90s.

Audaces Fortuna Juvat

Delfinul is the most successful Romanian submarine of all time. The Romanian Submarine Service had as motto the Latin expression: "Audaces Fortuna Juvat" which means "Luck stays with the Brave" (rom.-"Norocul îi ajutǎ pe cei îndrǎzneţi").

See also


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