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As soon as the U-boat surfaced, 'Dicky' and 'Greyhound' would have started shooting it. I know that the U-boat slipped under the destroyers' mounted naval guns, but a destroyer crew can still shoot small arms (rifles and machine guns) at it.

  1. How did U-boat crew manage to climb out up from their conning tower, walk to the flak and deck guns, fire them for 2 minutes, and hit Dicky once?

  2. Why didn't destroyer crew even try to fire handheld guns at U-boat's deck and flak guns, and the crew manning U-boat's guns?

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  • The latest edit doesn't add any additional clarity to the question so I've rolled it back.
    – Valorum
    Dec 6, 2023 at 11:05

2 Answers 2

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In the film's source novel, the U-boat surfaced unexpectedly and unexpectedly close. The USS Keeling ("Greyhound") had its main guns manned, but the submarine crew were able to man their deck guns rapidly because they had the benefit of knowing that they were going to surface alongside one of the ships chasing them, using them as effective cover.

Other bangs, other rattles, as the ships wheeled. The U-boat captain must have despaired of effecting a repair and come to the surface to fight it out. Close alongside Dodge, his men must have run to their guns over the streaming decks as she emerged. And, closer to the surface than Dodge’s gun, her gun would bear on Dodge’s loftier side while Dodge’s gun would not depress sufficiently. And what would that four-inch do to that fragile little ship?

In the novel they do eventually hit some of the Germans with small arms fired from the deck of the USS Dodge ("Dicky").

Endless seconds as Keeling drew away from the fight. He had to allow himself sufficient distance to time his run-in. Krause watched the increasing distance. He had his glasses to his eyes; as they came round again he could see the figures on the U-boat’s deck; he saw two of them drop suddenly, inert, as bullets hit them.

Ironically, the close range meant that the U-boat's own guns were also ineffective, but for a different reason. They were so close that their shells simply tore through the destroyer and exited from the other side.

“What other damage?"

“Nothing serious, sir. Most of his shells went right through without exploding.”

At twenty yards’ range those German four-inch would be travelling at practically muzzle velocity. They would be liable to go right through unless they hit something solid like a gun-mount.

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    Good answer. I refrained from adding this as I don't believe that this is covered in the movie but the source reference does add context.
    – Paulie_D
    Dec 3, 2023 at 13:07
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How did U-boat crew manage to climb out up from their conning tower, walk to the flak and deck guns, fire them for 2 minutes, and hit Dicky once?

Hitting anything at the considerable range between Greyhound and the relatively small target like the U-boat with small arms is incredibly difficult even with a stable platform. Being on the ocean with the ship moving with the sea amplifies the difficulty in hitting anything at all.

The same is true with the larger mounted weapons and their firing rate is considerably slower than automatic small arms.

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  • Do my edits to my question change your amswer?
    – user99559
    Dec 3, 2023 at 8:08

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