Like several other navies of World War 2 (1939-1945), the German Kriegsmarine invested in the field of compact attack submarines - sometimes called "Human Torpedoes" or "Midget Subs". The value of such instruments lay in stealth and the element-of-surprise while attempting to destroy, or disable, a much larger target such as a capital warship. During the conflict some of these operations were successful while others offered mixed results or ended as complete failures. In any case, there was some value to be had in these small machines and, from the period of 1943 until the end of the war in 1945, the German Navy commissioned some 200 "Neger" manned torpedo systems.
The Neger displaced at 2.7 tons (long) with an overall length of 25 feet and a beam measuring just 1.75 feet. For propulsion there was installed an AEG-AV 76 Eto engine of 12 horsepower used to drive a propeller unit at the stern. This gave the manned torpedo a surface speed of up to 4 knots when surfaced and a range out to 48 nautical miles. The Neger was not able to submerge by design which, technically, made it not a true submarine.
Externally, the vessel itself appeared as a torpedo with its slim, hydrodynamically-refined shape (indeed it was built from the G7e series torpedo). The single crewman sat the bow with a short cupola installed at his position (a very basic instrument panel was used and a dome fitted over his position). The rear of the craft held a fin and rudder arrangement to be used for steering. The propeller unit also resided in this section. Held underneath the craft was the live torpedo, the Neger more-or-less acting as the host-ship for the weapon. The torpedo was tied to the Neger by two connection points running along the ventral spine of the craft.
As designed, the Neger would quietly approach an unsuspecting target and release its torpedo once at an appropriate range. From there the Neger was to escape the area or risk sinking in the blast radius. This was not always possible for some cases saw the torpedo fail to release and guide the entire Neger to the point of impact! Indeed, the Neger could be as much a danger to its pilot as to the enemy - as many as 80% of its crews perished during operations with few results to show for it. In practice, the Negers were frequently deployed as a swarm for better results.
They were in use from 1944 on and their first mission was marked by an action recorded on April 20th of that year. A fleet of thirty Negers was sent to assault Allied ships positioned at Anzio, Italy. However, thirteen of the fleet sunk before reaching the target area and three more never made it home. None of the watercraft hit their targets in the attack.
Negers were in play once-again during the Allied Invasion of Normandy in Northern France on June 6th, 1944. Of the forty Negers available, twenty-four were used operationally and claimed a pair of British Royal Navy minesweepers. Just nine of the watercraft made the return trip home. Future missions in the area resulted in a few more Allied vessels sunk or damaged but there was never a good return-of-investment for the Navy to keep the program a central point of actions going forward. By the end of 1944 and the beginning of 1945, the German war machine had bigger problems to contend with.