Military history

FIVE

FLOWER PETALS OF RARE BEAUTY

The diversion of German military power to the Balkans to rescue the Italians and for the conquest of the Hellenic Peninsula and Crete delayed Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, by about five weeks. Hitler set a new D day, June 22. Although it was late in the year to launch this immense military operation, he was confident that the ragtag Red Army would collapse before the onset of winter.

After that, he would deal with Great Britain. In the meantime, the Kriegsmarine was to continue pressure on the British, tying down naval and air forces and blocking any and all British attempts to assist the Soviets, such as another invasion of Norway. All U-boats and merchant-ship raiders were to take special pains to avoid any “incident” with the United States that might provoke Washington to open intervention during Barbarossa.

Commencing in late May 1941, newly commissioned Type VII U-boats departed the Baltic for battlefronts in ever increasing numbers: twelve in June, nine in July, twelve in August. This was a far cry from the “twenty-five to thirty” new U-boats per month envisioned in the construction programs of 1939 but double or triple the usual monthly rate of new arrivals in the Atlantic, and therefore the first significant increase in force levels since the onset of war. Owing to the slight battle losses incurred frpm December 1940 to May 1, 1941 (seven), and to a continuation of that modest trend through the summer months, Dönitz had the means not only to intensify the U-boat war in the “decisive” North Atlantic arena, but also to send another wave of Type IXs to the promising waters of West Africa.

Nineteen U-boats sailed to the North Atlantic in May. The first, U-94, a VIIC commanded by Herbert Kuppisch, reported a convoy south of Iceland on May 7. This was Outbound 318, which had sailed from the British Isles with thirty-eight ships. It was heavily guarded by Escort Group 7, commanded by I. H. Bockett-Pugh, composed of ten warships: three destroyers (including the ex-American four-stacks Campbeltown and Newmarket), five corvettes, a sloop, and an ASW trawler. Coastal Command aircraft from Iceland and Scotland provided air cover. Per plan, three ships had left the convoy earlier that day to put into Iceland. Five other ships, including the 10,000-ton liner Ranpura, an armed merchant cruiser, had joined, making a total of forty ships.

At the time Kuppisch detected the convoy, a complicated change-up in the escort for Outbound 318 was in progress. Escort Group 3, commanded by Addison Joe Baker-Cresswell, had sailed from Iceland to relieve Bockett-Pugh’s Escort Group 7 for the middle leg of the trip. Composed of nine warships (three destroyers, three corvettes, three ASW trawlers), Escort Group 3 had in company the auxiliary cruiser Ranpura and four freighters that were also en route from Iceland to join Outbound 318. To assure a safe changeover of the escort groups, the sloop Rochester and five corvettes of Bockett-Pugh’s Escort Group 7 were to remain with the convoy for an extra twenty-four hours before going to other duties. Hence there were fifteen warships in the vicinity of Outbound 318.

It was a bright moonlit night and, after broadcasting the convoy contact, Kuppisch elected to attack submerged. He let the lead escorts pass and gained a position in the middle of the convoy, “between two 10,000-ton liners,” probably the British ships Ranpura and Ixion. He then fired four torpedoes into the columns of ships. He claimed sinking four vessels for 20,000 tons, but actually only two sank: the 10,300-ton Ixion and a 5,700-ton Norwegian freighter. The flagship of Escort Group 3, the destroyer Bulldog, joined by the destroyer Amazon and the Escort Group 7 sloop Rochester, pounced on U-94 and, during four hours, dropped eighty-nine depth charges, “a severe and accurate counterattack,” Kuppisch logged, “which caused considerable damage.” The counterattack prevented a second attack by U-94, but Kuppisch repaired the damage and continued his patrol.

Acting on Kuppisch’s contact report, Dönitz alerted six other boats that were patrolling west of Iceland. Two boats found the convoy in bright moonlight during the night of May 8: Fritz-Julius Lemp in U-110, from Lorient on its second patrol, and the new VIIC U-201, commanded by Adalbert (“Adi”) Schnee, who began the war as first watch officer of Kretschmer’s U-23 and later commanded the ducks U-6 and U-60. Lemp had been on patrol three weeks and had sunk one 2,500-ton freighter. Sailing from Bergen, Schnee had been on patrol one week. He had polished off the abandoned hulk of the tanker Capulet (wrecked by Topp in U-552) and possibly a 2,000-ton steamer.

Lemp and Schnee met on the morning of May 9, ahead of the convoy, which at that time had no air cover. Since a bright moon was expected again that night, they agreed that a surface attack would be dangerous. And since they assumed that by then the escorts had left the convoy, the two skippers (communicating by signal flags) elected to attack submerged in daylight as soon as possible, to avoid the pos- sibility of losing the convoy. The senior man (and Ritterkreuz holder) Lemp was to go first; Schnee was to attack half an hour later, after the convoy had been thrown into confusion by Lemp’s attack.

Lemp submerged and let the convoy come on. Surprised to see the escorts, he nonetheless decided to continue with the attack. At about noon, he hit the convoy’s right flank, setting up on four different ships, three of which he believed he sank. In actuality, two British freighters, the 5,000-ton Esmond and the 2,600-ton Bengore Head, went down. The fourth torpedo misfired, but after it had been readjusted, Lemp prepared to shoot at a tanker. The convoy executed an emergency turn to port and when Schnee attacked about thirty minutes later, he shot into what was then the rear of the formation. He hit two 5,900-ton freighters, the Gregalia, which sank, and the Empire Cloud, which was severely damaged and abandoned, but later salvaged and towed to Scotland.

At the time of these attacks, the convoy was guarded by the nine warships of Baker-Cresswell’s Iceland-based Escort Group 3. The flagship, the destroyer Bulldog, along with the ex-American four-stack destroyer Broadway and one of the three corvettes, Aubrietia, hunted U-110, which was still at periscope depth, preparing to shoot at the tanker. All three escorts obtained firm sonar contacts. Broadway attacked, dropping a single depth charge. Seeing Lemp’s periscope, Aubrietia, commanded by V. F. Smith, attacked it twice, dropping sixteen well-placed depth charges set for 100 and 200 feet.

The depth charges from Aubrietia fell very close to U-110. The blasts smashed the diving gauges and other instruments, knocked out the electric motors, diving planes, rudder, and compass, ruptured an aft fuel or ballast tank, sheared off the high-pressure air valves in the control room, and generated chlorine gas in the forward battery. Flooding aft, the boat went out of control and slid stern first to 300 feet. Seeing that U-110 was beyond all hope, Lemp ordered the engineer to “prepare for emergency blow,” which would bring them up. But before he could give the order, Lemp and the crew felt an “unexpected rocking motion,” indicating that the boat had surfaced of its own accord, perhaps owing to a rupture in a high-pressure air line, which blew the ballast tanks.

Lemp rushed to the bridge to find a terrifying sight: Bulldog, Broadway, and Aubrietia close at hand, all firing at U-110 with every available weapon. Bulldog and Broadway were coming in at full speed to ram. Lemp shouted: “All hands abandon ship as fast as possible!” There was no time to connect the detonation charges for scuttling. The fastest way to scuttle was to open the ballast-tank vents. The first watch officer, Dietrich Loewe, who was in the control room with the engineer, Hans-Joachim Eichelborn, remembered that Lemp next shouted: “Open the vents” and that Eichelborn did so. But something went wrong. Either Eichelborn failed to carry out the order or the controls malfunctioned. The vents remained closed.

There were forty-seven men on board U-110. In response to the cry “abandon ship,” all hands rushed pell-mell to the bridge in such haste that the radio operator did not take time to destroy or bring the Enigma and code materials with him, and a war correspondent, Helmut Ecke, left behind his still and movie cameras and film. Climbing down on deck through murderous British gunfire, the men dived over the side into the icy water. Loewe remembered that although two men had been wounded, all hands got away from the boat “alive” and that he and Lemp and Eichelborn were the last to leave the bridge. They did not do so, he said, until the water was “one meter above the base of the conning tower” and they were certain that U-110 was going down.

Coming in to ram with all weapons blazing, the Escort Group commander, Baker-Cresswell in Bulldog, noted that U-110 was down by the stern but did not appear to be sinking. Believing he might get a boarding party on her or even capture the boat, he ordered full-speed astern to cancel the ramming and in the same breath summoned the boarding party. At about the same time T. Taylor, skipper of Broadway, got the same idea and also canceled his ramming. To panic the German crew, hasten the evacuation of the boat, and thereby possibly prevent scuttling, Taylor came right up to U-110’s bow and dropped two shallow-set depth charges. In the process, however, Broadway fouled U-110’s bow plane, which cut a deep gash in the destroyer’s thin side plating (flooding ten oil tanks and the forward magazine) and damaged the port propeller. The terrific blast of Broadway’s two depth charges may well have caused panic inside U-110 and added momentum to an already frenzied evacuation.

Exactly what transpired in the next few minutes is a matter of lasting controversy. Loewe stated that after he and Lemp were in the water, they saw the bow and conning tower of U-110 lift “high out of the water,” indicating that she had not sunk! “Let’s swim back on board ship,” Lemp yelled, according to Loewe. Lemp’s apparent aim was to open the vents or set off the demolition charges to assure scuttling or, perhaps, at least to throw the Enigma and coding materials over the side. But U-110 had drifted off too far; they could not return to the boat. They turned around, Loewe said, and swam toward Bulldog, which was lowering a whaler manned by a heavily armed boarding party.

At this point, Lemp disappeared from the scene. Some German submarine veterans, most recently Peter Hansen, insist that the boarding party, en route to U-110 in the whaler, spotted Lemp in the water and that one of the members of the party “promptly shot” him to prevent any interference with the mission and to conceal the fact that the British boarded U-110. (The correspondent, Helmut Ecke, claimed that the British shot at him while he was in the water.) Others say that Lemp threw up his arms in despair and disappeared beneath the waves, an apparent suicide. The Admiralty has said only that Lemp and fourteen enlisted men died in the sinking.*

Intent on raiding or capturing U-110, Baker-Cresswell in Bulldog and Taylor in Broadway made no effort to fish the Germans from the icy waters. Smith in Aubrietia, who had temporarily lost his sonar, hauled out of the area to make repairs. While doing so, he rescued forty-nine survivors from the lifeboats of the freighter Esmond, sunk by Lemp. The Germans were left to fend for themselves for about two hours. Many died of wounds, hypothermia, and shock, or drifted out of sight.

The boarding party from Bulldog, commanded by twenty-year-old Sub-Lieutenant David E. Balme, rowed the whaler right up on the forward deck of U-110. Carrying rifles and pistols, the nine men jumped out and spread around the deck and bridge to shoot any Germans who might attempt to interfere with the mission. To Balme’s astonishment, both the conning-tower and control-room hatches were dogged shut, not what one would expect of a scuttling U-boat. Pistol drawn, he opened the hatches, expecting to confront crewmen below. But the boat was deserted. All hands had abandoned ship. All the lights were on, burning brightly; there was no sign of flooding or any indication of chlorine gas.

After a hurried inspection, Balme signaled Baker-Cresswell on Bulldog that the U-boat appeared to be “seaworthy and towable” and requested that he send an engineering party to operate U-110’s machinery. Baker-Cresswell directed Taylor on Broadway to send an engineer to U-110 via whaler, then eased Bulldog close to U-110 to receive an old, rusty 2” steel cable that two of Balme’s men had found in a topside locker on the U-boat.

Meanwhile, belowdecks, Balme and the other six members of his party were collecting intelligence items of incalculable value. Balme described that work in a secret report to the Admiralty. In part:

The U-boat had obviously been abandoned in great haste as books and gear were strewn about the place. A chain of men was formed to pass up all books, charts, etc. As speed was essential owing to the possibility of the U-boat sinking (although dry throughout) I gave orders to send all books, except obviously reading books, so consequently a number of comparatively useless navigational books, etc., were recovered. All charts were in drawers under the chart table in the control room; there were also some signal books, log books, etc. here…. Meanwhile the telegraphist* went to the W/T [radio] office just forward of the control room on the starboard side. This was in perfect condition, apparently no attempt having been made to destroy any books or apparatus. Here were found C.B.s [codebooks], Signal Logs, pay books, and general correspondence, looking as if this room had been used as a ship’s office. Also the coding machine [Enigma] was found here, plugged in as though in actual use when abandoned. The general appearance of this machine being that of a typewriter, the telegraphist pressed the keys and finding results peculiar, sent it up the hatch.

The convoy, meanwhile, had pressed on, guarded by the destroyer Amazon, two corvettes, and two-ASW trawlers. Amazon got a sonar contact on Schnee’s U-201 and called in the corvette Nigella and the trawler St. Apollo. The three vessels fixed U-201 on sonar and pounded her with depth charges for about four hours. Schnee and his men counted ninety-nine explosions. Some of these caused extensive damage to U-201, including a serious leak in an external fuel-oil tank, which helped the escorts track the boat. Finally, Schnee got away—without again having seen U-110. That night he reported his successes and battle damage to Kerneval, adding that since he had seven torpedoes left, he would make every effort to repair the leak and continue the patrol. And he did.

Left far behind with U-110, Baker-Cresswell in Bulldog believed he had a good chance of towing the boat to Iceland. He finally got the 2” steel cable from U-110 and attached it to his own ship. Upon boarding the boat, the engineering party from Broadway, led by G. E. Dodds, found her to be fully “intact,” with a “negligible quantity of water in the bilges.” However, there were two problems: the port shaft of U-110 was turning over slowly, and there was a “slight bubbling noise” aft. Unable to read German, Dodds could not stop the port electric motor or start the starboard motor to equalize the forward motion. He attributed the “bubbling noise” to a leaking ballast- or fuel-tank vent, perhaps damaged by the depth charges. Unfamiliar with submarines, he could not blow that tank. If the venting continued, the tank would flood completely, taking U-110 down by the stern.

Meanwhile, Aubrietia returned to the scene and commenced fishing the Germans from the water. Altogether she rescued thirty-four men, including the first watch officer, Loewe, the engineer Eichelborn, the second watch officer Ulrich Wehrhrofer, and the war correspondent Ecke. All the Germans were hurried belowdecks to distance them from the angry survivors of Esmond and to conceal from them the boarding of U-110. Two Germans died on board Aubrietia, leaving a net bag of thirty-two prisoners.

As Aubrietia was pulling the last German on board, Bulldog reported a firm sonar contact. Baker-Cresswell cast loose the steel towing cable and called up the damaged Broadway and the Aubrietia. The three vessels attacked the contact for an hour and a half, dropping thirty-two depth charges, and causing some anxious moments for the British boarding parties inside U-110. However, no evidence of a kill could be found and later this contact was classified as “doubtful.” The hunt was terminated and the salvaging of U-110 resumed. To conceal the capture of the U-boat from the survivors of Esmond and U-110, Baker-Cresswell ordered Aubrietia to leave the area and find the destroyer Amazon, and transfer all survivors and prisoners to her.

Baker-Cresswell in Bulldog reattached the old, rusty steel cable to U-110, which by then was heavily down by the stern. Having been aboard U-110 for about five hours and having ransacked her of everything useful and interesting (including six sextants and ten pairs of Zeiss binoculars, Ecke’s cameras, and Lemp’s Ritterkreuz), Balme’s boarding party—and engineer Dodds’s party from Broadway—closed all watertight doors, dogged down all hatches, and returned to their ships. Escorted by the damaged Broadway, Bulldog headed for Iceland—400 miles distant—towing the yawing U-110 at a speed of 6 knots. All went well for about seventeen hours—about 100 miles—but at 11:00 the following morning, March 10, U-110 suddenly upended and sank, “her bow standing vertically out of the water.” The loss, Baker-Cresswell wrote, was a “bitter blow.”

In the dark of that same morning, March 10, far to the west, a new VIIC, U-556, commanded by Herbert Wohlfarth, from the ducks U-14 and U-137, caught up with the convoy.* Wohlfarth attacked on the surface, firing two torpedoes at two different ships. He claimed both ships sank, but in fact, he had hit only one, for damage. The convoy dispersed, but Wohlfarth hung on looking for strays, and later that day, attacking submerged, he torpedoed and sank a 4,900-ton British freighter. Still later he stopped a 5,100-ton Belgian freighter with one torpedo and finished her off with his deck gun.

Based on flash reports from three of the boats and from distress calls picked up by B-dienst, Dönitz concluded that the four boats which had attacked convoy Outbound 318 had sunk thirteen ships for 76,248 tons. The confirmed result was about half the claim, seven ships sunk for 39,255 tons: two by Kuppisch in U-94; two by Lemp in U-110; two by Wohlfarth in U-556; and one by Schnee in U-201. As a result of these and past overclaims and credits, Kuppisch and Wohlfarth were awarded the Ritterkreuz

Baker-Cresswell in Bulldog reached Iceland late on March 10. He transferred the thirty-two German prisoners from Amazon to Bulldog and the next day set off for Scapa Flow, making 25 knots to avoid any possibility of a U-boat attack. En route he talked individually and cagily with the three German officers and the correspondent Ecke, to see if any of them had an inkling that U-110 had been boarded or taken in tow. Apparently none did. Nor did any of the enlisted men, who were canvassed in a similar manner by the crewmen of Bulldog. Since some of the Germans had seen Bulldog launch the whaler with the boarding party, Baker-Cresswell and his crew put about a “cover story” that U-110 had “sunk” before it could be boarded.

The intelligence haul from U-110, which filled “two packing crates,” was eye-popping and historic: a working naval Enigma, the keys for Heimisch (the Home Waters or Dolphin code) for April and June,§ the keys to the double-enciphered Offizierte (Officers-Only) code, a book containing the Kurzsignale (Short Signal) code, and Kriegsmarine grid charts, as well as special charts showing the safe routes through German minefields in the North Sea and along the French coast, decoded U-boat traffic (in Heimisch) for the period April 15-May 9, administrative correspondence, a complete set of technical manuals and diagrams of all the Type IXB fuel, air, hydraulic and other systems, and hundreds of mundane items, down to the citation for the award of the Iron Cross Second Class to the engineer, Eichel-born. After he had been briefed on the haul, First Sea Lord Dudley Pound telexed Baker-Cresswell, who had codenamed the boarding Operation Primrose: “Hearty congratulations. The petals of your flower are of rare beauty.”

The Admiralty showered praise and awards on all those concerned with the victory over U-110. Pound immediately promoted Baker-Cresswell from commander to captain. In a special ceremony at Buckingham Palace, King George VI appointed Baker-Cresswell and the Aubrietia captain, Smith, Companions of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO). He awarded Balme, Dodds, and the captain of Broadway, Taylor, the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC). Three others received the Distinguished Service Medal (DSM) and fourteen officers and men were “Mentioned in Dispatches.” When the King gave Dodds his DSC, the official naval historian wrote, the King told Dodds the operation “was perhaps the most important single event in the whole war at sea.”

Although British intelligence officers stressed to the German prisoners the cover story that U-110 had sunk before it could be boarded, the first watch officer, Loewe, was not fully convinced. He remembered that he had talked to six of the U-110 crewmen on Amazon or Bulldog and that “none” had actually seen the boat sink. Loewe’s suspicions were fully aroused when the British gave the engineer, Eichelborn, the citation for his Iron Cross Second Class, which, Eichelborn believed, he had possibly left “in a folder in the control room.” If so, the British had certainly boarded U-110. Loewe remembered that he then discussed the matter with the senior German POWs, Otto Kretschmer and Hans Jenisch, and that it was decided that Loewe should inform Dönitz.

Before the war, Dönitz had adopted a coding system which officer POWs could incorporate in letters to their families. It was a duplication of a World War I submarine POW code, in which the arrangement of the first letters of certain words stood for the dots and dashes of Morse code. The families were under instructions to forward all POW mail to Dönitz, who would examine the letters for important encoded information, such as the cause of the loss of the boat, torpedo failures, and so on.

The British had broken this relatively simple code in World War I and were not surprised when it resurfaced in World War II. Hence they “read” all encoded information going back to Dönitz. From this flow of encoded mail, they gleaned inside information not otherwise revealed, some of it quite useful. They also used the mail code as a channel to funnel “disinformation” to Dönitz and for other purposes.

Very likely the British returned Eichelborn’s medal citation to test if the cover story on U-110 was working among the Germans. That is, to provoke a reaction of some kind that would indicate what the Germans really knew. Falling for this gambit, Loewe encoded a letter to his family for Dönitz, employing the prearranged designation for U-110, which was U-E-O. In his letter Loewe encoded the message: “Suspicion U-E-0 in enemy hands.” The British, of course, confiscated this letter and intensified efforts to persuade the U-110 survivors that the boat had not been boarded.*

Unaware of what had transpired on U-110, Lemp died a hero in German eyes and, as was customary, Dönitz named a barracks in his honor in Lorient. But when the true story of what had happened gradually emerged in the postwar years, some German U-boat veterans were outraged. One, Peter Hansen, wrote that Lemp’s “irresponsible disregard of the standing orders to destroy all secret matters is directly responsible that [sic] thousands of U-boat men died needlessly and hundreds of U-boats were destroyed also as a consequence. While the radio shack staff and officers were also partially responsible for this disaster, the principal culprit was Fritz-Julius Lemp himself. If the English did not shoot Lemp, then he should have been put up against a wall by the Germans for his irresponsibility and neglection of duty.”

Harsh words, these, but the thrust is correct. Lemp had a duty to protect Enigma at all costs, including, if necessary, his life. He should not have left U-110 until he was certain beyond any doubt that she was going down—and going down fast. In the final line of his secret report on the boarding, David Balme posed a key question with all words of it capitalized for emphasis. If U-110 was properly rigged for scuttling, he wrote, “WHY WERE BOTH CONNING TOWER HATCHES CLOSED?”

Altogether the U-boats sank seven empty freighters for about 40,000 tons from convoy Outbound 318 and damaged two other freighters, both of which made port. But after that battle, the boats in the North Atlantic were again hard-pressed to find targets. Between May 10 and May 20, they sank only four ships. The most notable of these was the 10,500-ton auxiliary cruiser Salopian, by Robert Gysae in U-98; the least notable was a 500-ton French sailing ship gunned under by Wolfgang Lüth in the old Type IX U-43, which had sunk at dockside in Lorient in early February and was finally back in action. Returning to Lorient after a thirty-two-day patrol, Ritterkreuz holder Karl-Heinz Moehle in U-123 reported sinking merely one ship (in April). Judging that Moehle had “health” problems, Dönitz relieved him of command and sent him to the Training Command.*

In search of convoys beyond reach of Iceland-based air and surface escorts, Dönitz moved the bulk of the boats ever westward. By May 19, nine patrolled a line at 41 degrees west, directly south of Greenland. Late that afternoon, Herbert Kuppisch in U-94—who had earlier fdund convoy Outbound 318 and won a Ritterkreuz—intercepted convoy Halifax 126, escorted by only one auxiliary cruiser. Upon receiving the report, Dönitz instructed Kuppisch to shadow and withhold attack until the other boats came up.

Commencing at 0400, May 20, the boats struck, Kuppisch first. He fired two torpedoes at one target but both missed. Speeding onward into the center of the convoy, the torpedoes hit two other ships, both of which sank. Later that afternoon Kuppisch sank a 6,100-ton Norwegian tanker, John R Pedersen.

Five other boats had successes. Herbert Wohlfarth in U-556, still on his first patrol, sank the 8,500-ton tanker British Security and a 5,000-ton freighter, and damaged a 13,000-ton British tanker. Hans-Georg Fischer in a new IXB, U-109, sank a 7,400-ton freighter. Wilhelm Kleinschmidt in another new IXB, U-111, sank a 6,000-ton freighter. Robert Gysae in U-98 sank a 5,400-ton freighter and damaged another. Claus Korth in U-93 wrecked and set on fire the 6,200-ton tanker Elusa. Counting past overclaims, the sinking earned Korth a Ritterkreuz.

Upon receiving the first distress call from the convoy, the Iceland-based Escort Group 12, commanded by C. D. Howard-Johnston, raced west. Consisting of eleven warships (five destroyers, four corvettes, two ASW trawlers), it arrived to find the convoy dispersed and utterly disorganized. Howard-Johnston, in the destroyer Malcolm, deployed the escort group to round up the scattered ships and reform them into a convoy.

One of the corvettes, Verbena, commanded by Denys Arthur Raynor, was ordered to tow the smoldering hulk of the tanker Elusa to Iceland, if at all possible. Closing on the hulk, Raynor was astonished to see a U-boat on the surface also approaching Elusa. Giving the alarm, Verbena opened fire, forcing the boat to dive. Upon reaching the site of the dive, Verbena dropped five depth charges, while the ex-American four-stack destroyer Churchill came up to assist. Both ships got a firm sonar contact and both conducted repeated depth-charge attacks. The records are not clear, but the U-boat was probably Eitel-Friedrich Kentrat’s U-74, fresh from France. At this time Kentrat reported such “heavy” depth-charge damage that he was forced to abort to Lorient.

When Dönitz learned from one of the U-boats that “five destroyers” had come up to escort the convoy, he ordered all boats to break off the attack and reform a patrol line farther south. He left one boat in northern waters, Kleinschmidt’s new U-111, to transmit a series of “dummy” radio messages, designed to make the British think the pack was still stalking convoy Halifax 126 eastward and trick them into routing the next convoy south, into the arms of the reformed patrol line. This was the first known instance in which Dönitz employed “radio deception.” While carrying out the deception on May 22, Kleinschmidt encountered and sank a 4,800-ton freighter sailing alone. Based on flash reports from the boats, Dönitz concluded that the pack had dealt convoy Halifax 126 a severe blow: nine ships sunk for 71,484 tons. He was correct. The six boats had sunk nine ships, but, as usual, the tonnage was inflated. The confirmed total was 54,451 tons sunk, including the tanker Elusa, which could not be salvaged, and the other two tankers, plus damage to another tanker.

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