Military history


Of the initial wave of six U-boats that sailed from France to join Axis forces in the Mediterranean, the first, Heinrich Driver’s U-371, entered the Gibraltar Strait on the night of September 21. It was a dangerous passage. British radar-equipped aircraft and surface ships based at Gibraltar patrolled the strait, which at its narrowest point is merely eight miles wide. To hasten the passage and to take advantage of the east-flowing current (Atlantic to the Mediterranean) Driver remained on the surface. His short signal signifying he had arrived safely in the Mediterranean evoked relief at Kerneval.

During the next two weeks the other five Mediterranean-bound boats also passed through the strait successfully. All patrolled with extreme caution, remaining fully submerged during daylight hours. None had any immediate successes, but Driver in U-371earned the appreciation of the Italian Navy by rescuing forty-two survivors of an Italian patrol boat, Albatros. Meanwhile, in the eastern Mediterranean, Italian administrative and technical personnel established a German submarine base at Salamis, Greece, an island near Athens.

The first task of the Mediterranean U-boats was to shut off the flow of supplies to Tobruk, the Commonwealth enclave on the coast of Libya that Rommel had bypassed during his drive on Egypt. This was a difficult undertaking for the U-boats, working in unfamiliar waters. The British sent supplies at night in small coastal vessels and motorized barges that were hard to find, and because of their shallow draft, almost impossible to hit with torpedoes. Moreover, to avoid the heavy concentration of aircraft (both friends and foes) in those confined waters, the boats had to run submerged for unusually long periods each day, as in the Norway operations. The prolonged submergence built up air pressure inside the hull, which entered the torpedo depth-control mechanism via the as-yet-undetected leak, fooling the mechanism and causing the torpedoes to run deeper than set.

The early reports from the Mediterranean boats were not encouraging. While attacking a small vessel with the deck gun, Driver’s U-371 was hit by counterfire and forced to abort to Salamis with wounded and damage. Hans Heidtmann in U-559 fired seven torpedoes at small vessels and missed with all. Later he claimed sinking a “destroyer” by torpedo, but it could not be confirmed. Hans-Dietrich von Tiesenhausen in U-331 claimed sinking a barge by gun, but it was only damaged. Wolfgang Kaufmann in U-79 fired four torpedoes at a 600-ton British gunboat, Gnat. Three passed under the ship; one hit. Kaufmann claimed a sinking, but Gnat, too, was only damaged. During the entire month of October, the six Mediterranean boats of the first wave sank only four small ships confirmed in postwar records: two 500-ton barges by Helmuth Ringelmann in U-75 and two coasters for 2,000 tons by Udo Heilmann in U-97.*

A second wave of six U-boats embarked from France to join the Mediterranean force in early November. The first two of these were Friedrich Guggenberger in U-81 and Franz-Georg Reschke in U-205.

While Guggenberger was passing through the Bay of Biscay on the afternoon of October 30, a Catalina of British Squadron 209, recently withdrawn from Iceland and based in southwest England, caught U-81 on the surface. The pilot, Denis M. Ryan, circled to attack, but Guggenberger shot back and hit the Catalina. Thereupon a Hudson of British Squadron 53, also based in southwest England, arrived and attacked, dropping three depth charges. When Guggenberger crash-dived, Ryan in the Catalina attacked, also dropping three depth charges. The six charges caused so much damage that U-81 had to abort to Brest.

After hurried repairs, Guggenberger resailed for the Gibraltar Strait. During the period of new moon, November 11-12, U-81 and Reschke’s U-205 passed through the strait undetected.

At that time the British Force H, having flown off forty-four aircraft to reinforce Malta, was returning to Gibraltar. That formation consisted of the fleet carrier Ark Royal, the ancient carrier Argus (serving as an aircraft ferry), the old battleship Malaya, the cruiser Hermione, and seven destroyers.

Italian aircraft reported the return of Force H to Gibraltar. Dönitz, in turn, directed Guggenberger in U-81 and Reschke in U-205 to likely positions along a track running east from Gibraltar. At dawn on November 13, Reschke in U-205 intercepted the formation and fired a fan of three bow torpedoes at Ark Royal. After a run of three minutes, twenty-nine seconds, Reschke observed a flash of fire at Ark Royal and jubilantly assumed one hit, but he was mistaken. After a run of nearly nine minutes, Reschke heard two detonations and assumed a hit on a destroyer. That was also wrong. None of his three torpedoes had hit anything.

Later that afternoon Force H, thirty miles east of Gibraltar, steamed right at U-81 at 19 knots. Carefully raising his periscope in calm seas, at 4:29 P.M., Guggenberger fired all four bow torpedoes—two at Malaya and two at Ark Royal—from a very long range. A destroyer forced Guggenberger deep, so he could not observe the torpedo runs. At six minutes, six seconds and at seven minutes, forty-three seconds, he heard detonations. He assumed probable hits on Malaya and an “uncertain” target.

Guggenberger missed Malaya but one torpedo struck Ark Royal amidships on the starboard side. The explosion flooded a boiler room, killing one man. When Ark Royal took on a heavy list, the crew initiated emergency damage-control measures and flooded tanks on the port side to compensate. For a time it seemed that the crew had matters well in hand; nonetheless, the new destroyer Legion came alongside and took off all men except the damage-control parties. Two salvage tugs set out from Gibraltar to tow the wounded carrier to port.

The other destroyers of the force hunted—and found—U-81 and mounted a punishing counterattack. Guggenberger logged 130 depth charges, but he took U-81 deep and none fell close enough to cause serious damage. His report that night, together with that of Reschke in U-205, led Dönitz to believe that Guggenberger had hit Malaya, and that Reschke had hit Ark Royal, a remarkable and highly satisfactory day’s work.

During the night of November 13-14, the two salvage tugs arrived and took Ark Royal in tow. The damage-control parties got up steam in one boiler, but suddenly an uncontrollable fire swept through the engine spaces. At 4:30 A.M., the damage control parties conceded defeat and abandoned ship. At 6:13 A.M., November 14, the famous Ark Royal rolled over and sank. Her loss, announced that day by the Admiralty, was a grievous blow. Although only one man had died, the Royal Navy had no fleet carrier available to replace her, leaving the British Mediterranean naval forces without sea-based air cover.

Kerneval was confused. It assumed Reschke in U-205 had sunk Ark Royal and that Guggenberger in U-81 had severely damaged Malaya. The confusion was not sorted out until both boats put into the Italian submarine base at La Spezia later in the month. After studying the patrol reports, Dönitz correctly credited Guggenberger with sinking Ark Royal—and gave him a Ritterkreuz for that feat—but incorrectly credited him with a hit on Malaya.

The destruction of the Ark Royal and the supposed hit on Malaya were sensational psychological achievements for the German submarine force. In a single blow, one U-boat operating in strange waters had delivered the Royal Navy a greater setback than had the entire Italian Navy in seventeen months of operations. But, in a larger sense, the victory was to prove disadvantageous to the German submarine force. It spawned the erroneous idea in Berlin that German U-boats could easily and cheaply gain control of the Mediterranean Sea.

Owing to the shortage of boats and to Berlin’s diversions, the earlier decision to send only the most experienced skippers to the Mediterranean had been abandoned. The next two boats to attempt the passage through the Strait of Gibraltar were Hans Ey in U-433 and Johann Jebsen in U-565. Young Ey had made one Atlantic patrol; young Jebsen, two. Neither skipper had sunk a ship, although Ey had damaged one freighter.

The two boats passed through the Gibraltar Strait without being detected on the night of November 15-16. Dönitz directed them to operate close to Gibraltar, in the area near Guggenberger’s U-81 and Reschke’s U-205, to thwart the supposed British amphibious landing in Algeria. They were named group Arnauld, in honor of the World War I submarine hero von Arnauld de la Perière, who was to take command of the Mediterranean U-boats at that time but was killed en route to Rome in a plane crash.

Fully aware of the mounting U-boat threat in the western Mediterranean, the British set a U-boat trap on November 16. They sailed a “dummy convoy” east from Gibraltar, composed of several empty merchant ships, escorted by two sloops and four corvettes. At least one of the corvettes, Marigold, was equipped with Type 271 centimetric radar.

That night, November 16, Marigold fell out of formation with a temporary engine defect. Later, while she was hurrying to catch up with the “convoy,” Ey in U-433 saw her sailing alone, very close to the place where Ark Royal had sunk. Mistaking the corvette for a light cruiser, Ey attacked her, firing four torpedoes, all of which missed. Unaware that she was under attack, Marigold made radar contact on U-433 and ran in at full speed to ram, firing her 4” gun. She closed to 300 yards, but Ey crash-dived. Marigoldhastily threw off five depth charges by eye, but these did no harm. Marigold then stopped and quietly lay to, attempting to find U-433 with hydrophones.

Believing the “cruiser” had gone off, Ey came up to periscope depth to look around and surface. Marigold got a good sonar contact on U-433 and attacked at once, dropping ten shallow-set depth charges. Some of these exploded directly below the U-boat, causing such terrible damage that Ey gave the order to surface, scuttle, and abandon ship. Seeing the boat come up astern, Marigold swung around to attempt a boarding, firing her main gun and smaller weapons. But the abandoned U-433 ran off on one diesel, zigzagging crazily and flooding rapidly. After she sank, Marigold picked up Ey and thirty-seven of his men. Two other Germans, Ey reported, attempted to swim to the Spanish coast, thirty miles away. They were never found. Unaware of this loss, Dönitz assumed ten U-boats were still operating in the Mediterranean.

Marigold’s destruction of U-433 achieved fame of a sort in British naval circles. It was the first U-boat kill in which Type 271 centimetric radar played a key role.

Taking advantage of intercepted Luftwaffe Enigma traffic, which revealed that Rommel intended to launch an all-out attack on the bypassed Commonwealth garrison at Tobruk, on November 18 the British Eighth Army unleashed its long-planned, all-out offensive, Crusader, from Sidi Barrani, Egypt. Caught by surprise, the Germans and Italians fought stubbornly, but the weight of the British attack pushed them back. The offensive, together with the lingering belief that the British intended to make an amphibious landing behind Rommel in Algeria to trap Axis forces in a pincer, led Hitler to declare an “emergency.” The Kriegsmarine was to make every conceivable effort to save Rommel’s Afrika Korps; above all the German Navy was to put an end to the British attacks on Rommel’s supply ships, no matter what the cost.

In response, Raeder and the OKM reached a fateful decision. As related, every available U-boat of the Atlantic operational force was to be committed to the task of saving Rommel and gaining control of the Mediterranean Basin. The five boats then on Arctic duty, based in northern Norway, were transferred to the Atlantic force, replaced by four new boats from Kiel. In all (Raeder reported to Hitler), fifty U-boats were to be assigned to support Rommel: twenty Type VIIs in the eastern Mediterranean and thirty boats in the western Mediterranean and/or just outside the Atlantic gateway to the Strait of Gibraltar.

The Admiralty saw from naval Enigma intercepts what was afoot and took countermeasures. Coastal Command intensified patrols in the Bay of Biscay with radar-equipped aircraft based in southwest England and Gibraltar. Derby House transferred numerous radar-equipped escorts from the North Atlantic run to Gibraltar. A radar-equipped Swordfish squadron formerly based on the carrier Ark Royal shifted to a land base in Gibraltar. The newly arrived, radar-equipped escorts and aircraft patrolled the Gibraltar Strait day and night to block the passage of U-boats.

Of the nine U-boats already inside the Mediterranean, not all were available for this emergency. The U-boat refit and repair facilities at Salamis and La Spezia were not fully operational and many delays were incurred. The first boat to sail on a second Mediterranean patrol was von Tiesenhausen in U-331, leaving from Salamis. His first task was to land and recover a German commando party at R’as Gibeisa, Libya, which was to blow up a British military train. Von Tiesenhausen put the commandos ashore, but the British caught them in the act.

While patrolling submerged near the British naval base at Alexandria, Egypt, on the morning of November 25, von Tiesenhausen’s hydrophone operator reported heavy screws. Running down the bearing, von Tiesenhausen came to periscope depth and saw a heart-stopping sight: the battleships Queen Elizabeth, Barham, and Valiant, escorted by about eight destroyers. He set up on the Queen Elizabeth, but she eluded him and he was forced to turn to the next behemoth in line. This was the 31,100-ton Barham, but the ship so massively filled his periscope lens, he could not identify her. He fired a full salvo of four bow torpedoes and went very, very deep—to 820 feet, a record.

Barham—badly damaged by Lemp in U-30 in December 1939—was in the process of shifting formation. Three of von Tiesenhausen’s four torpedoes hit her broadside, one or more in or near a magazine. Barham blew up with a thunderous explosion and sank within three minutes, taking down her skipper and about half the crew; in all, 862 men died. After Prien’s Royal Oak, she was the second battleship to be sunk by a U-boat, the first while at sea. The Admiralty withheld the news of her loss for many weeks.

Von Tiesenhausen did not see or hear the results of his attack. That night he reported to Dönitz that he had “torpedoed a battleship” but the outcome was unknown. Absent evidence of a sinking or an announcement from the Admiralty or inside information from B-dienst, Dönitz was restrained in his praise, logging only that the attack was “very satisfactory.” However, when the British finally announced the loss of Barham, Dönitz awarded von Tiesenhausen a Ritterkreuz.

• • •

In the last week of November, ten more boats headed for the Mediterranean via the Gibraltar Strait. The first five got through but two of those were lost shortly thereafter.

The first loss was U-95, commanded by the veteran Gerd Schreiber, who had commissioned the boat in August 1940 and had commanded her ever since. After passing through the strait shortly after midnight on November 28, the bridge watch spotted an “object” in the dark. The object was a Dutch submarine in British service, 0-21, commanded by Johannes Frans van Dulm, returning to Gibraltar from a luckless patrol off Italy.

Schreiber in U-95 went to battle stations. Believing the other submarine might be a friendly U-boat or an Italian boat, he was hesitant to shoot. He made three undetected approaches, aborting each. On the fourth, he flashed the current German recognition signal. This strange signal galvanized 0-21. Van Dulm went to battle stations, set up on U-95, and fired a stern tube. It missed, but a second stern torpedo hit U-95 and blew her to pieces. Cautiously approaching the wreckage, van Dulm found Schreiber, three other officers, and eight men in the water. He fished them out and took them to Gibraltar.

At Gibraltar, Schreiber was incarcerated with Hans Ey, skipper of U-433, which had been sunk two weeks earlier. Schreiber and Ey discovered a weak link in the British security chain and escaped, intending to find sanctuary on Spanish soil. But the British recaptured both skippers and sent them on to London.

The second loss inside the Mediterranean was Ottokar Paulshen’s U-557.* After passing through the strait on the night of November 26, Paulshen was directed to patrol in the eastern Mediterranean, off Alexandria, in company with the Italian submarine Dagabur. On the night of December 14, Dagabur, commanded by Alberto Torri, found the 5,200-ton British light cruiser Galatea, inbound to Alexandria. Torri fired two torpedoes at the cruiser and “heard” two detonations. Whether or not he hit her was never resolved. Paulshen in U-557 joined the attack and shot. Shortly thereafter, Galatea went down.

Following this victory, Paulshen set a course for the new U-boat base at Salamis. Late in the evening of December 16, while he was passing about fifteen miles west of Crete, the Italian PT boat Orione sighted him. Mistaking U-557 for an Allied submarine, Orione came at Paulshen full speed with machine guns blazing and rammed. Badly holed, the U-557 went down; Orione, also badly damaged, barely survived the encounter. When the Germans learned of the attack the next day, they correctly surmised that Orione had attacked U-557 and sent air patrols from Crete to search for survivors. None was found.

The next five boats sailing to the Mediterranean in late November, during the period of a full moon, encountered the intensified British ASW measures. None of the five made it through the strait. In brief:

• After refueling in Vigo, Ritterkreuz holder Lehmann-Willenbrock in U-96 was caught in the strait by one of the radar-equipped Swordfish, formerly of Ark Royal. The plane dropped two 450-pound depth charges from low altitude. Hit and severely damaged, and hounded by six surface craft, Lehmann-Willenbrock bottomed at 180 to 240 feet for about five hours to make repairs, then aborted to France. Still on board U-96, the propagandist Lothar-Gunther Buchheim drew upon the retreat of U-96 for the climax of his novel, Das Boot, greatly exaggerating the incident, as well as the British air threat to the U-boat pens in France. The film and miniseries did likewise.*

• Siling from St. Nazaire on November 29, Herbert Opitz in U-206 struck a mine on the same day and sank with the loss of all hands. The British mistakenly credited the loss of U-206 to a Whitley of British Squadron 502 on November 30, but in a postwar assessment the credit was withdrawn. When she failed to respond to queries, Dönitz correctly assumed she had struck a mine off St. Nazaire and demanded that the OKM intensify minesweeping on the French coast.

• Sailing from Brest, Klaus Bargsten in U-563 (who had sunk the destroyer Cossack) was caught by a Whitley of Squadron 502 in the Bay of Biscay. Attacking out of the sun, the pilot, W. W. Cave, dropped six depth charges which so damaged the boat that she could not dive. After its depth-charge attack, the plane strafed U-563 five times, wounding Bargsten (two bullets in his shoulder) and two of his men.

Bargsten radioed for help. In response, Dönitz ordered Opitz’s sunk U-206 and another Mediterranean-bound boat, Walter Flachsenberg in U-71, to assist U-563. However, Flachsenberg incurred an engine breakdown and was himself forced to abort to France. The wounded Bargsten got U-563 into Lorient, but the boat was so smashed up that she had to return to Germany for rebuilding. Taking advantage of inclement weather, Bargsten made the voyage roundabout the British Isles on the surface without being detected. Upon reaching Germany, he and his crew were given a long Christmas leave and a new boat. Pilot Cave and his copilot, A. E. Coates, a New Zealander, were both killed later in the war.

• Sailing from Brest, Günther Krech in U-558 attempted a passage through the strait on the night of December 1-2, in the light of a nearly full moon. Radar-equipped British aircraft detected Krech west of the strait and two of them attacked. When the aircraft called in surface vessels, the sloop Stork and the corvette Samphire responded, hurling off depth charges. The British assessed the combined air-surface ship attack as inconclusive, but in fact, U-558 was badly damaged and Krech was forced to abort to France.

After a temporary reverse, the British Eighth Army regrouped and drove Axis forces farther west in Libya and liberated Tobruk. Fifteen more U-boats, some of them commanded by skippers on first Atlantic patrols, and some of which refueled in Vigo, headed for the Strait of Gibraltar.

• Still on his first patrol out of Germany, Jürgen Könnenkamp in U-375 sailed directly to the strait. Trapped and depth-charged by the British ASW forces on the night of December 6, Könnenkamp was forced to retreat into the Atlantic, where he told Dönitz he would try again “on a more favorable night.” Two nights later, December 9, he made it.

• Sailing from Brest December 3, on his second patrol, Alfred Schlieper in U-208 cleared the Bay of Biscay, but was never heard from again. It was later determined that on December 7 U-208 was detected, depth-charged, and sunk by the British destroyers Hesperus and Harvester, seventy miles west of the strait. There were no survivors.

• Sailing from St. Nazaire December 7, on his second patrol, Heinrich Heinsohn in U-573 was forced to abort with a leaking torpedo tube. Resailing on December 11, U-573 passed through the strait on December 18.

• Still on his first patrol out of Germany, Johannes Liebe in U-332 received orders to refuel in Vigo, then go into the Mediterranean. While approaching the coast on December 6, U-332 was detected and bombed by a Catalina of British Squadron 202, piloted by Hugh Garnell, who called in ASW surface ships. Liebe escaped these pursuers, but two days later, December 9, another British aircraft found and bombed or depth-charged U-332, inflicting such heavy damage that Liebe was forced to abort to France. Later in the war, airman Garnell was killed in the South Pacific.

• At sea on his second Atlantic patrol, Günther Heydemann in U-575 also received orders to refuel in Vigo and proceed to the Mediterranean. While approaching the coast on December 9, he, too, was detected and depth-charged. He refueled in Vigo, per orders, on the night of December 11, but while doing so Heydemann discovered the depth-charge damage was so severe that he had to abort to France for repairs.

• Sailing from St. Nazaire on his third patrol, Hans Peter Hinsch in U-569 attempted to transit the strait on the night of December 16, during bright moonlight. British aircraft detected Hinsch in the strait and drove him under with depth charges. The boat was so badly damaged that Hinsch was also forced to return to France for repairs.

• Sailing from Brest, Hans-Heinz Linder in U-202 had orders to go through the strait after the full moon. He reached the western approaches to the strait during the night of December 21, but he was forced to return to France. He did not sail again until March.

• Sailing from Kiel after a refit, the ex-Arctic boat U-451, commanded by Eberhard Hoffmann, making his first Atlantic patrol, was ordered into Lorient for a quick refueling before going through the strait. After three days in Lorient, Hoffmann put out to sea, arriving off the strait in the early hours of December 21. As Hoffmann was preparing to enter, one of the radar-equipped Swordfish, formerly of Squadron 812 on Ark Royal, detected U-451 at three and a half miles. Descending to sixty feet, the Swordfish dropped three 250-pound depth charges, all set to detonate at a depth of fifty feet.

Hoffmann crash-dived, unwittingly leaving his first watch officer, Walter Köhler, crew of 1934, topside. Alerted by flares from the Swordfish, the British corvette Myosotis rushed to the area of the attack. She found a thick oil slick but could get no radar or sonar contact. Hearing shouts from Köhler, the British found him and hauled him aboard Myosotis. Köhler did not know if U-451 had been sunk or had escaped. Thus his rescue and capture could not be regarded as proof of a kill. But kill it had been; nothing was ever heard from U-451 again. She was the first German U-boat to be sunk at night by an aircraft.*

• Sailing from France on his second patrol, Unno von Fischel in U-374 passed through the strait on the night of December 10-11. Kerneval logged a desperate message from von Fischel stating that he had been detected, that he was being chased by “four destroyers,” and that he required “immediate aircraft aid.” The last was perhaps a garble; von Fischel well knew that German “aircraft aid” in the strait was next to impossible. Thereafter he apparently decided to attack his attackers. On December 11 he sank a 500-ton patrol vessel, Rosabelle, and the gallant 500-ton trawler Lady Shirley, which two months earlier had sunk Wilhelm Kleinschmidt’s U-111 in an open-ocean gun action. These victories enabled von Fischel to shake the other pursuers and enter the Mediterranean.

By the third week of December thirty-seven U-boats had set off for the Mediterranean via the Gibraltar Strait. Three boats had been lost approaching or attempting the passage (U-206, U-208, U-451); eight had turned back, six with severe battle damage and two with mechanical or other problems. Thus only twenty-six of the thirty-seven boats got inside the Mediterranean Sea and three of these, U-95, U-433, and U-557, had been lost almost immediately, leaving twenty-three.

While attempting to attack separate convoys in the eastern Mediterranean, two more U-boats were lost to British escort forces in December. On December 23 the destroyers Hasty and Hotspur depth-charged and forced Wolfgang Kaufmann in U-79 to scuttle. Kaufmann and all forty-three other crewmen were rescued. On December 28 the destroyer Kipling depth-charged Helmut Ringelmann in U-75 and forced him to scuttle. Ringelmann and about eighteen others were killed in the action; Kipling fished out twenty-five Germans. These two losses reduced the number of U-boats patrolling inside the Mediterranean to twenty-one.

In addition to sinking the carrier Ark Royal, the battleship Barham, and the light cruiser Galatea, the U-boats operating in the Mediterranean in November and December, 1941, sank two other warships (the Australian sloop Parramatta and the British corvette Salvia) and eight freighters or tankers for about 30,500 tons. These losses, together with a successful attack by Italian frogmen on the battleships Queen Elizabeth and Valiant in Alexandria harbor,  the loss of the cruiser Neptune and damage to the cruiser Aurora by Axis mines, and the transfer of German airpower (Luftflotte 2) from the Russian front to the Mediterranean, temporarily broke the Royal Navy’s command of the Mediterranean Sea. It was unable to provide the British Eighth Army flank support, and partly as a result, the British offensive, Crusader, bogged down after the capture of Benghazi in Libya. The Axis forces dug in at El Agheila and another stalemate in the North African desert war ensued.

In the early stages of Mediterranean U-boat operations, Dönitz controlled the boats from Kerneval. He assumed that the boats were to return to the Atlantic when the military situation in North Africa turned in favor of the Axis. However, on December 7, the OKM transferred control of the boats to the German high command in Rome, headed by airman Albert Kesselring. His senior naval adviser (and “liaison” to the Italian Navy) was Eberhard Weichold. Ritterkreuz holder Viktor Oehrn (ex-U-37) temporarily held the title Führer U-boats, South. A fifty-three-year-old Italian-speaking officer, Franz Becker (crew of 1906), administratively commanded the twenty-one surviving U-boats, all assigned to the 29th Flotilla based at Salamis, La Spezia, and Pola, Yugoslavia.

Contrary to Dönitz’s assumption, no U-boat sent to the Mediterranean in 1941 (or later) ever returned to the Atlantic. The Mediterranean Sea was to become a seemingly endless drain of U-boats. It was a diversion of strength from the “decisive” area of the North Atlantic run and a move that achieved little at high cost.

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