Military history

MORE FAILURES IN GIBRALTAR-AZORES WATERS

The deployment of U-boats to North America and Norway in December and January left very few to patrol southward to the areas near Gibraltar and the Azores. Furthermore, when the OKM learned that two more boats—Unno von Fischel’s U-374 and Herbert Schauenburg’s U-577—had been lost in the Mediterranean in January,* it ordered Donitz to send three from the Gibraltar-Azores area into the Mediterranean. Helmut Rosenbaum in U-73 and Robert Battels in U-561 passed through the Gibraltar Strait on January 14 and 15, respectively, but Heinz Hir-sacker in U-572, who had shown great promise as first watch officer on Wilhelm Georg Schulz’s U-124, balked on January 16, reporting “bad weather and heavy defenses.” Donitz ordered Hirsacker to “try again,” but a second effort, on January 19, also failed. The Mediterranean force was thus left with twenty-one boats.

These new transfers coincided with a bold new offensive by Erwin Rommel. Because of the loss of or damage to capital ships in late 1941, the Royal Navy lost control of the Mediterranean Sea. Axis convoys got through to Rommel with tanks and supplies, giving him a temporary upper hand in the war of logistics. Upon learning from a penetration of Allied codes that the British Eighth Army was in a weakened condition, Rommel struck from El Agheila on January 21. He had recaptured Benghazi within a week and forced the British back toward Tobruk. Hir-sacker’s balk at this critical juncture—when Rommel most needed U-boats to interdict the coasters supplying the Eighth Army—was an embarrassment to the U-boat force. The consequences to Hirsacker were to be dire.

The transfers to the Mediterranean left but four Type VIIs in southern waters between the Azores and Gibraltar in January. One, U-373, commanded by Paul-Karl Loeser, was detached to escort a blockade runner, Elsa Essberger, into France, a mission that failed when British aircraft from Gibraltar found and attacked both vessels, forcing the German ship to flee to safety in El Ferrol, Spain. Believing the Elsa Essberger could make repairs and resail, Loeser hung around for days off El Ferrol, but the repairs took much longer than expected. Having wasted three weeks to little purpose, Loeser returned to France.

The other three boats in southern waters made contact with inbound convoy Sierra Leone 97. When the British learned of this contact, they ordered a new, experimental unit composed of four destroyers (Croome, Hesperus, Laforey, and Wescott) to sail from Gibraltar to attack the U-boats. Designated as a “Striking Force,” it represented in miniature the favored offensive solution to the U-boat threat. Serving as “bait,” the convoy had “lured” in the U-boats. Having no direct responsibility for protection of the ships in the convoy, the Striking Force was free to pursue and attack the U-boats to the limit of its endurance.

Commanded by I. H. Bockett-Pugh in Wescott, whose EG-7 had earned honors on the North Atlantic run, this first sortie of a Striking Force was not a model of perfection. To fool and evade the U-boats, the British ordered the convoy to make a drastic alteration in course. The Striking Force failed to get this word and could not find the convoy. Then the Admiralty ordered two of the four destroyers to more urgent missions. Croome and Wescott peeled off, leaving Laforey and Hesperus, which finally found the convoy on the morning of January 14, trailed by a Condor, which was reporting its position to Kerneval. Laforey drove the aircraft off with gunfire, but the plane had already brought in the three boats, including young Horst Elfe’s U-93, on her second patrol under his command.

In the early hours of January 15, Laforey and Hesperus took station about ten miles on the port beam of the convoy. Soon thereafter, Hesperus got a contact on her meter-wavelength radar at 3,000 yards. Hesperus swung around, bent on flank speed, opened fire with her main guns, and turned on her 10” searchlight. The light revealed a U-boat running away at about 17 knots. This was Elfe’s U-93. Laforey joined in the chase, but Hesperus, with a clear lead, rammed U-93 on her starboard side with a glancing blow and launched five depth charges set for 50 feet.

The blow from Hesperus threw Elfe and several others on the bridge into the water and jammed the conning-tower hatch shut, trapping the rest of the crew below. Saltwater leaked into the battery, forming chlorine gas. As the flooding boat filled with deadly fumes, those trapped below worked frantically to open the hatch, finally succeeding at the last possible second. Hesperus launched a boat to board, but U-93 sank before it could reach her. Hesperus picked up Elfe and thirty-five other survivors; Laforey, four. Six Germans were not found. Damaged by the collision, Hesperus returned to Gibraltar, where she was highly commended for this aggressive attack, but also reminded of the urgent need to prevent Germans from abandoning ship and scuttling, so that “secret papers” (i.e., Enigma machines, keys, and documents) could be recovered. To prevent scuttling, boarding parties were again—and specifically—authorized to take “drastic action” with weapons to “keep the [U-boat] crew below.” That is, shoot any Germans attempting to leave their sinking ships.

Although the Striking Force had botched the rendezvous with the convoy and the British had reduced it by half, it had to be judged a qualified success. Its remaining two ships accounted for the only confirmed U-boat sunk by the British in the Atlantic in January.

Outbound to North America, on January 16 Siegfried von Forstner, on his second patrol in the Type VII U-402, ran into a southbound “Winston Special” troop convoy due west of the Bay of Biscay. He reported that it was composed of five steamers, escorted by merely “one destroyer,” but a Condor that was nearby protecting the outbound merchant-ship raider Thor, and which responded to the report—and boldly attacked the convoy—reported nineteen ships, escorted by five destroyers. Closing on the formation, von Forstner fired at the 12,000-ton liner Llangibby Castle, which had 1,000 troops on board. The hit blew off her rudder and killed twenty-six men.

Declaring this military convoy to be a “must” target, Dönitz diverted three other America-bound Type VIIs and alerted the remaining two Type VIIs in the Gibraltar-Azores area, putting six boats on the scent. The two boats near the Azores were low on fuel and had to go home; two of the four American-bound boats could not find the convoy and resumed voyages to westward. Von Forstner in U-402 hung on, bringing up twenty-nine-year-old Werner Pfeifer in the brand-new Canada-bound Type VII U-581. Pfeifer could not find the convoy; however, he attacked what he believed to be a corvette, firing three torpedoes. It was not a corvette, but probably the British ASW trawler Rosemonde, which disappeared about this time with the loss of all hands.

Although damaged, the Llangibby Castle made it to the port of Horta in the Portuguese Azores, where by international law she was entitled to make battle repairs. When it became clear to Kerneval that the main body of the convoy had eluded the boats, Dönitz ordered von Forstner in U-402 and Pfeifer in U-581 to close on Horta, wait for the Llangibby Castle to resail, and then sink her in a coordinated attack.

Pfeifer in U-581 arrived off Horta on the night of January 31. She was not a happy boat; the thirty-one-year-old engineering officer, Helmut Krummel, was a strict disciplinarian to whom Pfeifer had granted unusual authority. “Every petty officer had been punished at his hands,” a British intelligence officer wrote later, and “on one occasion a chief petty officer had threatened Krummel with personal violence in the presence of other officers.” As the crew saw it, according to the British report, the skipper, Werner Pfeifer, who had known Krummel before the war, had “come under the evil influence of this man.”

Pfeifer was determined to carry out the mission. In an astonishing display of boldness—and a blatant violation of the neutrality laws—he submerged and cruised right into the harbor at Horta. Coming quietly to the surface merely 100 yards from shore, Pfeifer found Llangibby Castle moored on the other side of a stone pier, beyond reach. Had the pier been made of wood rather than stone, Pfeifer recalled, he would have fired torpedoes. Thus thwarted, he aborted the attack, withdrew to sea, and met von Forstner in U-402. Thereupon the two skippers worked out a plan to guard the two exits from Horta: Pfeifer in South Channel, von Forstner in North Channel.

Meanwhile, the Admiralty directed Gibraltar to provide assistance to Llangibby Castle. Bockett-Pugh in the destroyer Wescott sailed with a reduced Striking Force, that included the Hunt-class destroyers Croome and Exmoor and an oceangoing tug.

Wescott was the first ship of the Royal Navy to be equipped with a new, secret ASW weapon, the Hedgehog. This was a bow-mounted, multiple-barrel mortar capable of firing a salvo of twenty-four 65-pound bombs (with 30-pound warheads) into a small circular pattern about 250 yards ahead of the ship. The bombs were to be armed with the new and more powerful explosive Torpex, and had contact pistols that required no depth setting. They would not explode unless they hit a target or the ocean floor.

Hedgehog had several theoretical advantages over the conventional stern or stern-quarter launched or dropped depth charge. It eliminated the need for the attacker to run directly over the U-boat and speed up to sonar-deafening levels to avoid depth-charge damage to its own stern, and also eliminated the useless, sonardeafening explosions of depth charges that usually missed. With Hedgehog, so the theory went, the attacker could maintain sonar contact with its quarry at all times and frustrate the usual U-boat evasions during the run-over and the depth-charge explosions.

Hedgehog also had several disadvantages. It was big and had a terrific recoil, and could therefore be mounted only on the bows of the larger escorts.* It was a “precision instrument” that was complicated to arm and fire, and it still had many “bugs.” Moreover, inasmuch as a direct hit was required to detonate the bombs, there was no possibility of inflicting damage on a U-boat or of terrorizing the Germans with near misses. As a consequence, many escort commanders and their crews remained skeptical.

When Llangibby Castle sailed in the early hours of February 2 by the light of a full moon, the three destroyers of the Striking Force took station to seaward. Wescott and Croome were off the South Channel where Pfeifer in U-581 was waiting. Exmoor was off the North Channel where von Forstner in U-402 was waiting. Pfeifer saw the destroyers, dived, and boldly fired a torpedo at one of them, but it missed. Moments later, the port diesel-exhaust valve suddenly failed, flooding the engine room and dragging the boat stern first to 524 feet. To stop the descent and regain control of the boat, Pfeifer blew main ballast tanks. Wescott and Croome heard all this racket on sonar and closed to attack, just as the U-581 popped to the surface, running hell-bent for asylum in neutral Portuguese waters.

Sighting the boat, Wescott put on full speed to ram, but she miscalculated the angle and missed. As the two ships passed, side by side, thirty feet apart, Wescott dropped ten shallow-set depth charges, which exploded all over U-581. Unable to fire her main batteries because Croome was in the way, Wescott hauled out and turned 180 degrees and closed U-581 bow-to-bow for another ramming attempt. By then, Pfeifer had ordered his men to abandon ship and scuttle and most of his crew was topside, wearing lifesaving gear. As the vessels closed bow-on at nearly 50 miles per hour, the Germans leaped overboard.

Wescott struck U-581 abaft the conning tower, riding up and over the after deck, incurring minor damage to herself. The U-boat upended and sank immediately, stern first. Ironically, Wescott had had no opportunity to use her Hedgehog. Wescott and Croome(merely a spectator) rescued Pfeifer and forty men, including the unpopular engineer, Krummel. Six Germans were unaccounted for. One, the second watch officer, Werner Sitek, swam to shore and was later repatriated to Germany.* British intelligence officers, who exploited the bitterness of this unhappy crew, reported that apart from the officers, “only three men” of U-581 had had “any previous U-boat experience.”

When the rudderless Llangibby Castle sailed out of Horta, she took the North Channel, where von Forstner in U-402 was waiting. The destroyer Exmoor, joined by the destroyer Croome, assumed escort duties. Von Forstner fired a total of five torpedoes at one or the other of the destroyers, but all missed. Upon sighting U-402, the destroyers attacked with guns and depth charges, driving her off. Although he was low on fuel, von Forstner hung on to the formation until Heinz Hirsacker in U-572, returning from his second balk at the Gibraltar Strait, homed in on his beacons. But Hirsacker was no help; he made no attacks. To Kerneval’s chagrin, the Llangibby Castle, closely escorted by the three-destroyer Striking Force and later by aircraft, finally reached Gibraltar with her 1,000 troops.

Thus the half-dozen U-boats patrolling in southern waters during January sank just one confirmed ship: the ASW trawler Rosemonde. In return, Bockett-Pugh’s experimental Striking Force in two separate forays had sunk two U-boats: Elfe’s U-93 and Pfeifer’s U-581. In view of these losses and the lack of success, and the shortage of boats for the defense of Norway and the campaign in the Americas, Dönitz convinced the OKM that patrols to the Gibraltar-Azores area should be temporarily terminated.

* The fleet carriers: Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, Hiryu, Zuikaku, Shokaku. The battleships: Hiei, Kirishima. The heavy cruisers: Tone, Chikuma.

 Three of the four battleships that sank were salvaged; Arizona was not. Oklahoma did not return to service, but California and West Virginia eventually did. The four damaged battleships were put back in service within several months.

* For complete details, see my Silent Victory: The U.S. Submarine War Against Japan (1975).

 See Gannon, Operation Drumbeat, p. 177. He wrote that “two squadrons of the newest, long-legged destroyers had been removed to the Pacific Theater in late December.” This incorrect assertion is apparently derived from an error in the U.S. Navy’s Administrative History of World War II, No. 138 (Atlantic Fleet), p. 261: “Two squadrons of the best and newest destroyers were transferred to the Pacific in late December, 1941….” Normally, a destroyer squadron was composed of twelve vessels. Only Squadron 2, composed of two understrength divisions (3 and 4), transferred to the Pacific at this time. (For more detail, see Appendix 12.)

* S-1, S-21, S-22, S-24, S-25, and S-29. The S-25, renamed Jastrazab, and manned by a Polish crew, was accidentally sunk off Norway by Allied forces on May 5, 1942.

 Including the work of the Italian frogmen in Alexandria harbor, on December 19 and the Mediterranean-based U-boats, in a period of thirty-seven days the Royal Navy incurred its own “Pearl Harbor”: the carrier Ark Royal, the battleships Prince of Wales and Barham, the battle cruiser Repulse, the “jeep” carrier Audacity, and the light cruisers Dunedin, Neptune, and Galatea sunk; the battleships Valiant and Queen Elizabeth severely damaged.

* Of the 64 boats of the Atlantic force, fourteen (22 percent) were not combat-ready or available. The VIICs U-73, U-561, and U-572 were ordered to the Mediterranean in January to replace losses. The ex-Turk U-A was undergoing conversion to a provisional U-tanker. The IX U-43, the VIIs U-94, U-201, U-563, and U-101 were homebound to or in Germany for overhaul, battle-damage repairs, or retirement. The Arctic transfer U-752 was in Kiel for overhaul before going to the Atlantic. Four other VIIs were undergoing battle-damage repairs in French bases: U-71, U-202, U-558, and U-569.

* See Appendix 4.

 Perhaps to counteract the U-boat failures and lift morale, at this time five skippers received high honors: Otto Kretschmer, in a British POW camp, was awarded the coveted Crossed Swords to his Ritterkreuz; Reinhard Suhren in U-564, who had won a Ritterkreuz as first watch officer on the famous U-48, was awarded Oak Leaves to his Ritterkreuz, as was Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock in U-96. Eitel-Friedrich Kentrat in U-74 and Robert Gysae in U-98 received the Ritterkreuz. As skipper of U-564, Suhren had sunk eight confirmed ships for 27,136 tons and shared credit for two other sinkings. Lehmann-Willenbrock in U-96, the leading ace in tonnage sunk still in active combat, had sunk a total of 18½ confirmed ships for 143,604 tons. Kentrat in U-74 (then in the Mediterranean) had sunk five confirmed ships for 27,561 tons. Gysae in U-98 had sunk nine confirmed ships for 46,727 tons.

* According to the information available up to 1996, there was no coordination between the Japanese submarine assault off the West Coast and the German U-boat assault off the East Coast. Both assaults apparently evolved independently. By pure coincidence, the assaults were mutually supporting. For example, the Japanese submarine attacks held ASW aircraft on the West Coast for weeks and compelled Pacific forces to initiate convoying, heavily escorted by Pacific Fleet destroyers.

* And foolishly agreed with Raeder’s proposal that construction of Germany’s single aircraft carrier, Graf Zeppelin, for which no aircraft had yet been developed, be vigorously pursued, even though there was an acute shortage of high-grade steel and shipyard workers for the U-boat production lines.

 Rudolf Schendel in U-134, Burkhard Hacklaänder in U-454, Joachim Deecke in U-584, and Bernhard Lohse in U-585, based in Kirkenes on the Barents Sea in extreme northern Norway. En route to Kirkenes, Schendel in U-134 by mistake attacked and sank the 2,200-ton German freighter Steinbek off Tana Fjord, killing twelve men. Uninformed of German ship traffic, and defended by Dönitz, Schendel was held blameless.

* Morison wrote that the Navy was “woefully unprepared materially and mentally” for U-boat warfare, in part because it had not requested ASW vessels and escorts.

 Maritime Commission goals were expressed in the larger, more impressive deadweight tonnage figures. American shipyards were to produce about 85 percent of the projected tonnage. To do so was to require about 90 shipyards and 700,000 workers, a very large percentage of them women, personified—and glorified—by nicknames “Rosie the Riveter” and “Wilma the Welder.”

 Excepting giant British ocean liners, such as Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, and Aquitania, which were placed at the disposal of the Americans for transporting troops to distant Australia. These ships cruised at 26 knots and were therefore too fast for sustained escorts and, in any case, deemed unlikely to be hit by a U-boat, or if hit, unlikely to sink owing to dense compartmentalization.

 The Navy demothballed and recommissioned seventy-two four-stackers in Philadelphia and San Diego in the period from March 1 to June 30, 1940. Less the fifty for the British and Canadian navies, the American Navy got twenty-two. The American Navy commissioned eighteen new destroyers in 1940 (DD 415 to DD 432) and seventeen in 1941 (DD 433 to DD 444, DD 453 to DD 457, and DD 463).

 See Appendix 16.

* The British frigate and its American counterpart, the destroyer escort, were similarly armed: three 3/50 caliber guns, two depth-charge tracks on the stern, and eight depth-charge throwers on the port and starboard quarters. The slightly larger American version incorporated three torpedo tubes. In later models, the main battery of the American version was upgraded to two 5/38 caliber guns. Both the British and American types had extensive antiaircraft weaponry.

 During World War I, in his role as Assistant Secretary of the Navy (1913-1920), Roosevelt played an important part in the production of 440 110-foot, wood-hulled subchasers by 30 American shipyards. These little gasoline-powered, short-legged craft were suitable for relatively calm waters but not the rugged North Atlantic and, of course, they were not equipped with antiaircraft armament and ammo storage. Stark’s biographer, B. Mitchell Simpson III, wrote: “… The real need was for a larger ship that could be used in all kinds of weather. When he was Chief of Naval Operations, Stark struggled unsuccessfully to convince Roosevelt of this need, because Roosevelt favored smaller patrol craft.”

 The SC mounted one 3/50 caliber gun and a few depth charges. The PC mounted two 3/50 caliber guns and depth charges. The guns were no larger than the gun on the Type VII U-boat and smaller than the guns on the Type IX. Owing to the lack of space for antiaircraft weapons, neither craft could operate safely where Axis aircraft might be encountered.

* See Appendix 14.

 The keels of the first two of the fifty British vessels were laid on February 28, 1942. Altogether, only ninety-two destroyer escorts were laid down in American yards in 1942, fifty for the British, forty-two for the Americans. Owing to the low priority (for a time, tenth place) none was commissioned until 1943. By prior agreement, the Americans ultimately retained forty-five of the fifty British vessels, delaying delivery of the rest until well into 1943.

* Bibb, Campbell, Duane, Alexander Hamilton, Ingham, Spencer, Taney. The Alexander Hamilton retained her full name to distinguish her from the four-stack Navy destroyer Hamilton.

* King to Rear Admiral Adolphus Andrews, November 17, 1941, King Papers, Library of Congress. His italics. Andrews responded, with considerable asperity, that such port organizations were already in place and reminded King that two prototype convoys had sailed from New York, one in July, one in September 1941, admittedly, however, attended by a great deal of confusion.

 King to CNO Stark, November 17, 1941, cited in Marc Milner, North Atlantic Run, pp. 90-93.

* Contrary to the impression in some accounts, these ten corvettes did not arrive in American ports for months. In a sense they were quid pro quo for the ten Lake-class Coast Guard cutters transferred to the Royal Navy a year earlier.

* In British accounts, it is asserted that King deceptively sent these eleven so-called “missing” destroyers to the Pacific.

 In early 1942, the Canadian Newfoundland Escort Force could call on eighty-three Canadian warships: thirteen destroyers and seventy corvettes.

* See essay in Boutilier (1982) and appendices 12 and 16. According to the U.S. Navy’s daily ship position reports, in the period February 10 to February 20, 1942, there were still five American Escort Groups (A-1 to A-5), composed of twenty destroyers, serving on the North Atlantic run, plus two Treasury-class cutters. These were escorting cargo convoys HX 175 and 176, ON 67 and 69, and SC 70. By mid-March, the number of American destroyers in that duty was twelve, plus one cutter. By May 1, the number was about ten destroyers plus two cutters in the five American escort groups. Canadian or British escorts increased these American MOEF groups to full strength.

 Love, History of the U.S. Navy (1992), vol. 2, ch. 4.

* Later Berlin propagandists released fabricated still and motion pictures of “the lights of New York,” ostensibly photographed by Tölle. Although the fabrications were amateurish, German audiences accepted them as authentic. The stills and movie footage were still in circulation in 1996.

* At this time Coastal Command had four Catalina squadrons in the British Isles: 209, 210, 240, and the Canadian 413. These had a total of thirty-six aircraft, plus reserves and trainers. The other British Catalinas were based elsewhere.

* These four were model Ks, the “mass”- production blimp of World War II. They were 252 feet in length, armed with Mark XVII depth charges, and had carrier pigeons (!) for secure communications with Lakehurst. In June 1942 Congress authorized a total blimp strength of 200 K types or variations. Goodyear Aircraft contracted to build 134 Ks during the war plus a number of 149-foot model L trainers, duplicates of its five-ship prewar “advertising fleet,” which the Navy bought soon after Pearl Harbor.

* War-planner Eisenhower fumed in his diary that if someone shot King it might help win the war.

* In books Drumbeat (1990) and Slide Rules and Submarines (1990), respectively.

* Brazos collided with the British “jeep” carrier Archer in workup in the Caribbean.

* The Big Inch, begun in July 1942, delivered the first crude to the Philadelphia area about a year later, in August 1943. The Little Big Inch, begun in April 1943, delivered the first product to Linden, New Jersey, in March 1944. During the war, these two lines delivered about 380 million barrels of oil and product. The Plantation, built in 1941, came into full operation in 1942.

 Excluding Panamanian-registered vessels.

* Including one ship sunk on the duck U-147, Hardegen’s confirmed sinkings were eleven ships for 60,787 tons. Owing to the vivid and precise description of the sinkings of the two “unidentified” ships for 8,000 tons in Hardegen’s log, Gannon was persuaded to credit them. An American researcher, Edward R. Rumpf, suggests that those two ships could have been the 1,300-ton Norwegian Octavian and the 5,300-ton Panamanian Olympic, whose loss has been attributed to another U-boat.

 With these two sinkings, Hardegen’s claimed score for the patrol rose to ten ships for 66,135 tons, the best patrol in recent memory. The final, confirmed score was seven ships for 46,744 tons, not counting the two “unknowns.”

* Bleichrodt was wrongly credited with sinking the 6,100-ton British freighter Empire Kingfisher, which ran aground.

* Intercepted by the Australian cruiser Sydney in Australian waters on November 19, 1941, soon after giving Spreewald her prisoners, Kormoran sank Sydney with the loss of all hands. Kormoran herself was so badly wrecked in the engagement she had to scuttle, with the loss of eighty-five of her 400-man crew.

* Cremer himself was first to reveal the full story in his book, U-boat Commander (1982).

 Some of the boats of the second wave sailing in January overlapped the December boats and sank ships in January. Some of the December boats sank ships in early February. Totals by both groups in the month of January only: forty-two ships sunk (fifteen tankers) for 230, 685 tons; five ships (four tankers) damaged.

 Twenty-two of the twenty-four trawlers were standard 170-foot coal-burners with a top speed of 12 knots. They were equipped with a 4” bow gun, depth charges, and British sonar. One, Northern Princess, was believed to have foundered in heavy seas en route to Newfoundland and was lost with all hands. Actually, she was torpedoed by Otto Ites in U-94 en route to America. The first ten trawlers did not reach New York until March 12. The others came later in the month. Many were in need of voyage repairs or refits and did not carry spare parts or metric-gauge tools and required scarce high-grade coal, but the British crews were indomitable and inspiring.

* James Phinney Baxter III, in his book Scientist Against Time (1950).

* In support of his argument that the North Atlantic run was “quiet” at this time and therefore a shift of ASW forces was prudent and justified, Gannon cites figures to show how few convoys were attacked and ships were lost in that area. But these figures are not convincing, as ship losses to U-boats in that area were seldom high. As related, 98 percent of the ships in North Atlantic convoys—literally thousands upon thousands of vessels—reached destinations.

*Catalinas helped escort Troop Convoys AT 10 and BT 200. Others provided escort for the new British “jeep” carrier Archer, which, as related, collided with another vessel during workup in the Caribbean and was being towed to Charleston by the Navy tug Cherokee.

*Owing to the difficulties of operating Catalina seaplanes in the freezing waters of Newfoundland, the Army had grudgingly agreed to equip the Navy’s Patrol Squadron 82, based in Argentia, with “land-based” Hudsons that had been earmarked for the RAF. Bristol’s message, on January 28 at 2317 hours, concluded: “Pilot D F Mason Amm 1st Class NAP whose first report was Sighted Sub Sank Same.”

* By January 1, 1942, seventy-three ships (fifty-nine corvettes, fourteen destroyers) of the Royal Navy in all waters had been fitted with Type 271 centimetric-wavelength radar.

* Examples: Commissioned on November 22, 1941, U-438 sailed from the Baltic on August 1, 1942. Commissioned on December 11, 1941, U-600 sailed on July 14, 1942. Commissioned February 26, 1942, U-611 sailed on October 1, 1942.

* The British submarine Unbeaten sank U-374 off Sicily on January 12, 1942, and recovered one survivor, a bridge lookout. British aircraft sank U-577 off Tobruk on January 9, 1942, with the loss of all hands. The U-331 ran hard aground off Tobruk on January 27, 1942, but in an amazing display of resourcefulness and seamanship, von Tiesenhausen saved her and returned to base.

An Italian agent, employed in the American Embassy in Cairo, had broken into a safe and photographed the American “Black” code materials, which the military attaches used to inform Washington of British plans and operations and military strength in North Africa.

*Corvettes and the fifty British frigates under delayed construction in the United States and their American counterparts, the destroyer escorts, were to be fitted with Hedgehogs. The Americans had in the works a small version of Hedgehog, called Mousetrap, for installation on SCs and PCs. The Mousetrap was designed to forward fire eight contact bombs by means of rockets, which had no recoil.

* Pfeifer filed formal, written charges against the British, asserting that while in distress, his ship was unlawfully sunk in neutral Portuguese waters. Bockett-Pugh, awarded the DSO for the sinking, rightly dismissed the charges as nonsense. The Admiralty concurred.

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