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U-boats were used primarily to

-gather information about enemy movements by tracking warships.
-protect the German coast from attack by Allied ships and submarines.
-resupply troops with guns, ammunition, and food via sea rather than land.
-target Allied shipments on passenger ships, warships, and merchant ships.
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U-boats were used primarily to "target Allied shipments on passenger ships, warships, and merchant ships," since they were very hard to detect and subsequently sink. 
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