U-505, a typical Type IXC boat
|Ordered:||20 October 1939|
|Builder:||Deutsche Werft, Hamburg|
|Laid down:||11 September 1940|
|Launched:||15 July 1941|
|Commissioned:||8 October 1941|
|Fate:||Sunk by aircraft, 13 January 1943|
|Class and type:||Type IXC submarine|
|Height:||9.60 m (31 ft 6 in)|
|Draught:||4.70 m (15 ft 5 in)|
|Test depth:||230 m (750 ft)|
|Complement:||4 officers, 44 enlisted|
German submarine U-507 was a Type IXC U-boat of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine built for service in the Second World War and the Battle of the Atlantic. She was mainly notable for two patrols she conducted during the "Second Happy Time" in mid-1942, during the first of which she caused havoc in the Gulf of Mexico amongst unprotected American shipping, and then in the second she attacked ships along the coast of Brazil, in an inexplicable and shocking attack on a neutral nation's shipping in its own waters which almost single-handedly provoked the Brazilian declaration of war on Germany.
The U-boat was built during 1941 by the Deutsche Werft shipyards in Hamburg, and commissioned on 8 October 1941, with Korvettenkapitän Harro Schacht in command. Schacht commanded the boat for its entire lifespan, receiving the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 9 January 1943 in recognition of his successful patrols in the preceding year. He never wore his award however, as he was killed with his entire crew when the boat was sunk four days later.
German Type IXC submarines were slightly larger than the original Type IXBs. U-507 had a displacement of 1,120 tonnes (1,100 long tons) when at the surface and 1,232 tonnes (1,213 long tons) while submerged. The U-boat had a total length of 76.76 m (251 ft 10 in), a pressure hull length of 58.75 m (192 ft 9 in), a beam of 6.76 m (22 ft 2 in), a height of 9.60 m (31 ft 6 in), and a draught of 4.70 m (15 ft 5 in). The submarine was powered by two MAN M 9 V 40/46 supercharged four-stroke, nine-cylinder diesel engines producing a total of 4,400 metric horsepower (3,240 kW; 4,340 shp) for use while surfaced, two Siemens-Schuckert 2 GU 345/34 double-acting electric motors producing a total of 1,000 shaft horsepower (1,010 PS; 750 kW) for use while submerged. She had two shafts and two 1.92 m (6 ft) propellers. The boat was capable of operating at depths of up to 230 metres (750 ft).
The submarine had a maximum surface speed of 18.3 knots (33.9 km/h; 21.1 mph) and a maximum submerged speed of 7.3 knots (13.5 km/h; 8.4 mph). When submerged, the boat could operate for 63 nautical miles (117 km; 72 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph); when surfaced, she could travel 13,450 nautical miles (24,910 km; 15,480 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). U-507 was fitted with six 53.3 cm (21 in) torpedo tubes (four fitted at the bow and two at the stern), 22 torpedoes, one 10.5 cm (4.13 in) SK C/32 naval gun, 180 rounds, and a 3.7 cm (1.5 in) SK C/30 as well as a 2 cm (0.79 in) C/30 anti-aircraft gun. The boat had a complement of forty-eight.
Once the U-507 had completed her working up period of six months following her commissioning, she departed German waters and entered the Atlantic Ocean for her first patrol; an uneventful and simple cruise to Lorient in occupied France, which was to be her permanent home port for the remainder of her life.
The second patrol was more eventful, as the boat rounded Florida at the end of April 1942, taking full advantage of the lit-up settlements on the shoreline to pick and choose her targets amongst the unescorted shipping which bottlenecked between Cuba and the Floridan peninsula. Here she sank four large cargo ships in three days before following the coastline along Western Florida and Alabama, where in three more days she sank four more large unprotected ships, making full use of the failure of the local authorities to enforce either convoy regulations or the blackout. On 6 May she sank the SS Alcoa Puritan about 45 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. On the 12 May she sank the 10,000 ton SS Virginia in the mouth of the Mississippi, killing 26 sailors in an audacious attack which shocked the American authorities. Swinging south, she sank a Honduran freighter as she cruised out of the Caribbean Sea, leaving a shaken seaboard behind her. On this cruise alone she had sunk nine ships totalling 45,000 tons.
Her third patrol was even more controversial, as a fruitless passage across the Atlantic brought her to the Brazilian coast in mid-August 1942. There she searched for Allied shipping hugging the coastline in Brazilian territorial waters heading for North America. Here she again saw unescorted ships and a lit coastline, and Schacht made the inexplicable decision to attack without first ascertaining the nationalities of her targets. The first was the SS Baependy on 16 August, which was torpedoed and sunk with 270 civilian lives. A few hours later the SS Araraquara was sunk, killing 131 people, followed by the SS Annibal Benevolo, on which 150 civilians drowned. The next day the slaughter continued, the SS Itagiba sunk within sight of the city of Vitória, killing 36, and the SS Arara similarly sunk with 20 deaths as she picked up the survivors of the Itagiba. Two days after this, the tiny sailing vessel Jacyra was sunk, and a Swedish ship was torpedoed three days after that. In just one week, U-507 had sunk seven ships of 18,000 tons and killed over 600 people, all of them neutral civilians.
Although since February 1942 German and Italian submarines had attacked Brazilian ships, during May Brazilian aero-naval forces began to attack Axis submarines. From July popular demonstrations occurred demanding that the Brazilian government officially abandon its neutrality; the political ramifications of what Schacht and his crew had done off the Brazilian coast were enormous. The then Brazilian dictatorship went from a neutral nation somewhat favourable towards the Axis powers, to an enraged opponent in the space of few days, declaring war on Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Brazil would send an Expeditionary Force to the Mediterranean theatre of operations, besides the full involvement of its navy in the Battle of the Atlantic.
More importantly, Brazilian Air Force bases were made available to American naval air squadrons, thus denying the U-boats their previous advantage of hiding in Brazilian coastal waters, and giving the Allies air cover across most of the Southern Atlantic, making the job of the U-boats significantly harder. In addition, Germany's standing amongst neutral nations, particularly the formerly pro-German dictatorships of South America, was in tatters, never to recover.
The third patrol of U-507, was also highly significant, as after two months ineffective cruising between the West African and Brazilian coasts of the South Atlantic, U-507 received a radio call from U-156 on 15 September reporting that she had sunk a ship carrying 1,500 Italian prisoners of war. This ship was the RMS Laconia, and U-507 made all haste to aid in the rescue operation, collecting a large number of survivors on board and towing several lifeboats, until attacks by American aircraft on the rescuing submarines forced her to dive and escape. She returned to Germany with her human cargo, and there received the orders which were the end result of the Laconia incident, which consisted of a total ban on aiding shipwreck survivors, except ships' officers who were to be captured for information purposes.
On her fourth and final patrol she put these new orders to full use, as she sank three British ships off the northern Brazilian coast, and captured the masters of all the ships; J.Stewart, F.H. Fenn and D. MacCullum. These victories had taken her into 1943 with a reputation for success, confirmed when her captain was informed of his Knight's Cross award. Four days later U-507 was spotted by a U.S. Navy PBY Catalina aircraft of VP-83 flying from a newly available Brazilian base, which dropped several depth charges on the boat. The site of the attack was 330 miles off the Brazilian coast at Cape São Roque (Cape of Saint Roch). There were no survivors from the entire crew of 56 including the three captives and the boat's new captain Heinz Radau, who was conducting an observation and familiarization patrol.
Summary of raiding history
|30 April 1942||Federal||United States||2,881||Sunk|
|4 May 1942||Norlindo||United States||2,686||Sunk|
|5 May 1942||Munger T. Ball||United States||5,104||Sunk|
|5 May 1942||Joseph M. Cudahy||United States||6,950||Sunk|
|6 May 1942||Alcoa Puritan||United States||6,759||Sunk|
|7 May 1942||Ontario||Honduras||3,099||Sunk|
|8 May 1942||Torny||Norway||2,424||Sunk|
|12 May 1942||Virginia||United States||10,731||Sunk|
|13 May 1942||Gulfprince||United States||6,561||Damaged|
|16 May 1942||Amapala||Honduras||4,184||Sunk|
|16 August 1942||Baependy||Brazil||4,801||Sunk|
|16 August 1942||Araraquara||Brazil||4,872||Sunk|
|16 August 1942||Annibal Benévolo||Brazil||1,905||Sunk|
|17 August 1942||Itagiba||Brazil||2,169||Sunk|
|17 August 1942||Arará||Brazil||1,075||Sunk|
|19 August 1942||Jacyra||Brazil||90||Sunk|
|22 August 1942||Hammaren||Sweden||3,220||Sunk|
|27 December 1942||Oakbank||United Kingdom||5,154||Sunk|
|3 January 1943||Baron Dachmont||United Kingdom||3,675||Sunk|
|8 January 1943||Yorkwood||United Kingdom||5,401||Sunk|
- Kemp 1999, p. 99.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "The Type IXC boat U-507". German U-boats of WWII - uboat.net. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "War Patrols by German U-boat U-507". German U-boats of WWII - uboat.net. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Fregattenkapitän Harro Schacht". German U-boats of WWII - uboat.net. Retrieved 25 August 2009.
- Gröner 1991, p. 68.
- Carey, 2004. Page 19, last paragraph.
- Scheina, 2003. Page 161.
- Ibidem Carey, 2004. Pages 9 & 10.
- Ibidem Scheina, 2003.
- Busch, Rainer; Röll, Hans-Joachim (1999). German U-boat commanders of World War II : a biographical dictionary. Translated by Brooks, Geoffrey. London, Annapolis, Md: Greenhill Books, Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-186-6.
- Busch, Rainer; Röll, Hans-Joachim (1999). Deutsche U-Boot-Verluste von September 1939 bis Mai 1945 [German U-boat losses from September 1939 to May 1945]. Der U-Boot-Krieg (in German). IV. Hamburg, Berlin, Bonn: Mittler. ISBN 3-8132-0514-2.
- Carey, Alan C. Galloping Ghosts of the Brazilian Coast. iUniverse, Inc. 2004. ISBN 0595315275
- Gröner, Erich; Jung, Dieter; Maass, Martin (1991). U-boats and Mine Warfare Vessels. German Warships 1815–1945. 2. Translated by Thomas, Keith; Magowan, Rachel. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-593-4.
- Kemp, Paul (1999). U-Boats Destroyed - German Submarine Losses in the World Wars. London: Arms & Armour. ISBN 1-85409-515-3.
- Sharpe, Peter (1998). U-Boat Fact File. Great Britain: Midland Publishing. ISBN 1-85780-072-9.
- Scheina, Robert L. Latin America's Wars Volume II: The Age of the Professional Soldier, 1900-2001. Potomac Books, 2003. ISBN 9781574884524
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "The Type IXC boat U-507". German U-boats of WWII - uboat.net. Retrieved 7 December 2014.