The ‘turd’ Reich

Everybody knows that toilet malfunctions can be a serious and very unpleasant problem but not everybody knows that a similar problem sank a U-Boat during WWII.

This is the story of a German Captain called Karl-Adolf Schlitt happened on April 14, 1945. At that time the German U-boat U-1206 was operating off Scotland’s Aberdeenshire coast. These kinds of subs also called undersea boats, were able to move silently and unleash devastating weaponry on enemy ships. Developed during WWI, these vessels could destroy ships 20 times their size and destroy trans-Atlantic commercial routes. Germany attacked both military and civilian vessels, most notably the passenger ship Lusitania in 1915, where approximately 1200 people were killed.


These newer Type VIIC submarines, as they were known, had some features including a striking appearance, with two anti-aircraft weapons, and five torpedo tubes. The U-1206 was built in 1944 at Schichau Yard, Danzig in Poland. When the disaster happened, it was just off the assembly line and had sailed out of Norway, operating at a depth of 200 feet.

With such technology, nobody, including Captain Schlitt could have ever imagined that a problem could happen, especially in the toilet.

The boat could release waste directly into the water rather than keeping it on board as the British method provided. This reduced both space and tonnage because the ship didn’t have to carry a massive tank of poop.

However, it was after Schlitt pooped in the toilet that he realized that he didn’t know how to flush it. Normally, crew members had to be carefully taught how to operate the plumbing system but Schlitt either skipped the training or misunderstood what the technique entailed and the accident happened. In fact, the system only worked properly when the sub was on or near the surface.

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He requested help and was joined by an engineer. Both men were now trying to figure out how to dispose of Schlitt’s feces. However, the engineer didn’t solve the problem, it exacerbated it by turning the wrong valve. Therefore, the restroom began to fill up with both seawater and poo almost immediately.

Although other theories tell some variations about this story, including one in which Schlitt denies any responsibility, anyway everybody agrees with the fact that the system failed. Sweat, body odor, and fuel smells were already a problem on the U-boats, but poop worsen the situation.

The main issue, as revolting as the plumbing was, was the ship’s design. The bathroom was positioned just above the battery compartment of the submarine. So chlorine gas was produced as the mixture overflowed.

Schlitt had no choice but to rush to the surface due to the noxious gases and flooding. To do so, he had to fire torpedoes only to increase buoyancy.

But unfortunately, things got worse when the boat came to the surface because it was instantly spotted by Allied soldiers who opened fire. Schlitt abandoned the U-1206 and around 50 people were taken as prisoners of war. Approximately ten guys eluded capture but were apprehended afterward. Four more men died, either as a result of a British attack or drowning. The incident was then dubbed “sh*twreck”.

The wreckage of the U-boat was discovered in the 1970s by workers on an undersea oil pipeline who had no idea how the high-tech craft had come to rest after one final, fatal flush that made it full of Schlitt sh*t.

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