This is the story of how a German submarine crew had to scuttle their vessel during World War II, after the boat’s captain used its high– tech toilet improperly.
For years, German engineers were busy developing the “next generation in undersea plumbing.” While Allied subs piped their sewage into onboard septic tanks, German U-boats “saved precious weight and space” by discharging waste directly into the sea. But that earlier system only worked when the submarine floated near the surface, where the water pressure was low.
As the war progressed, Germany’s toilet technology started to mature.
The country’s top minds figured out a novel system, which allowed crewmembers to flush while submerged deep below the surface. Only problem with this new “deepwater high-tech toilet” was that it had a very complicated high pressure valve system, which required special training to use.
“First, it directed human waste through a series of chambers to a pressurized airlock. The contraption then blasted it into the sea with compressed air, sort of like a poop torpedo,” according to warisboring.com.
On April 14, 1945, the U-1206 sank during its maiden combat voyage after its captain — 27-year-old Karl-Adolf Schlitt– used the toilet improperly.
Schlitt called an engineer to help him out, but when the engineer turned a wrong valve, he accidentally unleashed a flood of sewage and seawater back into the sub. Things took a turn for the worse pretty quickly.
The nasty liquid filled the toilet compartment and began to “stream down onto the submarine’s giant internal batteries.” The batteries were apparently located directly beneath the bathroom. The chemical reaction, which resulted from the spill, began producing chlorine gas.
Captain Schlitt had no other choice but to surface the ship.
Unfortunately for Schlitt and his crew, they were quickly spotted by Allied aircraft, close to the Scottish coast. Unable to enter the U-Boat and dive because of the chlorine gas, Captain Schlitt decided to let the U-Boat sink, according to warhistoryonline.com.
Three crew members ended up drowning in the incident. 37 crew members were rescued and entered captivity.