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eS 
UNIVERSITY OF 


CALGARY 
PRESS 









DAVID J, BERCUSON 
AND HOLGER H, HERWIG 





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HITLER'S WAR AGAINST CARIBDEAN Olt 


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University of Calgary Press 


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LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS: HITLER’S WAR 
AGAINST CARIBBEAN OIL 
David J. Bercuson and Holger H. Herwig 


ISBN 978-1-55238-760-3 


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LONG NIGHT 
rut LANKERS 


HITLER'S WAR AGAINST CARIBBEAN OIL 


LONG NIGHT 
Tur LANKERS 


BEYOND BOUNDARIES: 
CANADIAN DEFENCE AND 
STRATEGIC STUDIES SERIES 


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ISSN 1716-2645 (Print) ISSN 1925-2919 (ONLINE) 


Canada’s role in international military and strategic studies ranges from peace- 
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No. 3: Inthe National Interest: Canadian Foreign Policy and the Department 
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No. 4: Long Night of the Tankers: Hitler’s War Against Caribbean Oil David J. 
Bercuson and Holger H. Herwig 





DAVID J. BERCUSON 
AND HOLGER H. HERWIG 


LONG NIGHT 
rue LANKERS 


HITLER'S WAR AGAINST CARIBBEAN OIL 


Beyonp BounpbariEs: CANADIAN 
UNIVERSITY OF DEFENCE AND STRATEGIC STUDIES SERIES 
CALGARY 








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© 2014 David J. Bercuson and Holger H. Herwig 


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Liprary AND ARCHIVES CANADA CATALOGUING IN PUBLICATION 


Bercuson, David Jay, 1945-, author 
Long night of the tankers : Hitler’s war against Caribbean oil / David J. 
Bercuson and Holger H. Herwig. 


(Beyond boundaries ; 4) 

Includes bibliographical references and index. 

Issued in print and electronic formats. 

ISBN 978-1-55238-759-7 (pbk.).—ISBN 978-1-55238-760-3 (open access pdf).— 
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1. World War, 1939-1945—Naval operations—Submarine. 2. World War, 
1939-1945—Naval operations, German. 3. World War, 1939-1945—Campaigns— 
Caribbean Area. 4. Petroleum industry and trade—Caribbean Area—History— 
20th century. I. Herwig, Holger H., author II. Title. III. Series: Beyond 


boundaries ; 4 


D781.B47 2014 940.5451 C2014-902466-5 
C2014-902507-6 


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To Barrie and Lorraine 


TABLE OF CONTENTS 


Oo AN DN FP W NHR 


ae en ee 
nA B&B W NH FP OO 


Acknowledgments 

Prologue 

Introduction 

“Rum and Coca-Cola”: The Yankees Are Coming! 
Attack on Aruba 

Long Night of the Tankers 
Martinique 

“The Ferret of Port of Spain” 

War Comes to St. Lucia 

Torpedo Junction 

Hunting Off the Orinoco 

War Beneath the Southern Cross 
The Allies Regroup 

White Christmas 

The Allies Strike Back 

A Hard War: Hartenstein and U-156 


High Noon in the Caribbean and the South Atlantic 


Gundown: U-615 and U-161 
Conclusion 

Glossary 

Notes 

Bibliography 

Index 


107 
125 
145 
161 
179 
197 
213 
231 
243 
255 
275 
287 
297 
319 
333 


vii 


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 


I am indebted to Marjan Eggermont, Senior Instructor at the Schulich School 
of Engineering, University of Calgary, for assisting me with the translation of 
Dutch materials concerning the Chinese stokers’ uprising on Aruba in 1942; 
and Dr. Herb Emery, Department of Economics, University of Calgary, for his 
help in converting 1942 florins and guilder to current US dollars. The book owes 
much to the ongoing efforts to provide documents, maps, and photographs on 
the part of the staff at both the Deutsches U-Boot Museum (formerly Tradition- 
sarchiv Unterseeboote, U-Boot Archiv) at Cuxhaven-Altenbruch, Germany; and 
the Federal Military Archive (Bundesarchiv-Militaerarchiv) at Freiburg, Ger- 
many. And most pleasantly, Admiral Pierre Martinez, Commandant la Marine 
4 Lorient, provided me with a personal tour of the Villa Kerillon on July 22, 
2006. 


- HOLGER H. HERWIG 


Thanks to Alex Heard, Marshall Horne, Stephen Randall, and Nancy 


Pearson Mackie. 
~ DAVID J. BERCUSON 


PROLOGUE 


‘The waters north of Scotland are nasty at the best of times. During the 
long winter months, Force 6 to 10 storms with sleet and ice are normal. 
Winds of 30 to 40 knots howl over the heavy gray waves, with breaking 
crests forming streaks of foam. But Kapitanleutnant' Albrecht (“Ajax”) 
Achilles considered himself to be a lucky man — in fact, doubly lucky. In 
December 1941, Hans Witt, the first commander of the brand new U-16/, 
had broken his leg in an accident on shore, and on the last day of the year, 
Achilles, until then First Watch (or Executive) Officer, at age 28 had been 
given command of the 1,200-ton Type IXC boat. His companion from 
pre-war merchant shipping days, Oberleutnant? Werner Bender, became 
the new executive officer. And now, the second piece of luck: the first 
week of 1942 brought only moderate Force 2 to 3 light breezes in those 
usually turbulent seas between the Shetland and Faeroe Islands. The sky 
was overcast, good protection from patrolling British aircraft. Gray boat. 
Gray seas. Gray skies. 

U-161 was running well, covering more than 230 nautical miles per 
day. Ahead to the southeast lay the German-occupied French naval bases 
in the Bay of Biscay, the boat’s first port of call. On January 7, Achilles 
received a garbled message from Group North that a convoy had been 
sighted just west of his position, but he was too far off to the south to join 
the hunt. Then, around 12:30 p.m.’ on January 9, U-161 received a terse, 
coded “for-officers-only” radio message from Vice Admiral Karl Dénitz, 
Commander U-Boats. “Proceed to Lorient at once.’ What emergency 
had prompted this sudden haste, Achilles wondered? Was it a routine 
dispatch announcing that Lorient was to be U-161’s new home? Or was 
there a new theater of operations in the cards? Orders were orders. Achil- 
les at once shaped course for Lorient. Within minutes, a smoke smudge 
appeared on the horizon. “Ajax” gave chase, but to his dismay, the target 
was moving too fast and was protected not only by a surface escort but also 
by an aircraft. U-161 again shaped course south-southwest for Lorient. 

Shortly before noon on January 10, the Old Man put his crew through 
the paces of an emergency dive. Within minutes, the boat became heavy 
by the bow and quickly plunged to depth “A,” 80 meters. Chief Engineer 


Xi 


Klaus Ehrhardt managed to trim the boat at that depth and reported that 
Dive Tank IV on the starboard side had unexpectedly taken on air due 
to a faulty seal and that seawater was penetrating the tank. Moreover, 
Ehrhardt suspected that oil was leaking into the dive tank from its hy- 
draulic pressure hoses. 

Back on the surface, the Atlantic was beginning to show its true win- 
ter face: Force 5 winds, with a fresh breeze and long waves cresting into 
foam and spray. On the bridge, Achilles discovered that U-161 was indeed 
leaving an oil slick behind. No choice but to proceed as ordered. Fortun- 
ately, heavy leaden skies kept enemy bombers away. For the next five days, 
U-161 crashed through the rising seas en route to Lorient. On the after- 
noon of January 15, the bridge watch sighted the low, gray shape of the Ile 
de Groix, an eight-kilometer-long rock that protected Lorient from the 
often tempestuous southwesterly gales.* The Kéroman and Scorff River 
U-boat pens lay further inland. 

As Achilles carefully steered his boat toward the naval base, he could 
not help but take in the history and geography of the German com- 
mand post. Off his port side lay Larmor-Plage, recently upgraded with 
a steel-reinforced concrete artillery post; off his starboard side was the 
massive stone fortress Port-Louis, originally built to protect the trade of 
the Compagnie des Indes and under Louis XIV expanded into a star-shaped 
citadel. The waters between the two points were about a kilometer wide, 
but this was deceiving since countless submerged rocks and mud banks 
studded the Larmor-Plage shore; in reality, the navigable channel of the 
Kernével Narrows was a mere 200 meters wide. Mariners since the days of 
the Celts and Julius Caesar had passed on the adage, “You must be crazy 
to moor in the Blavet River,” the main tributary into the harbor. 

With the heavy gray winter sun sinking off its port side, U-161 
passed through the narrow channel and entered the Rade de Lorient, a 
two-kilometer-wide bowl formed by the confluence of the Scorff, Ter, and 
Blavet rivers. It was a maelstrom of fresh water, tidal sea water, heavy 
silt, and harbor offal. Off the left bow, Achilles could make out three 
elegant late-nineteenth-century villas along the beach of the resort town 
of Kernével: Kerillon, Margaret, and Kerozen. Completed in 1899 by a 
wealthy Breton engaged in the sardine fishing trade, they had been confis- 
cated by German naval commander Dé6nitz in mid-October 1940 and the 


x11 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


owners given 24 hours to vacate. The middle building, the Villa Kerillon, 
was the headquarters of Commander U-Boats; the two flanking struc- 
tures housed his staff. 

Achilles was ordered to put into the narrow basin leading up to the 
large Kéroman U-boat pens. He made fast at the pier at precisely 6:50 p.m. 
The next day, Chief Engineer Ehrhardt would supervise repairs to the 
faulty diving tank by way of an ingenious system of wet and dry bunkers.° 
U-161 was scheduled to be taken into an enclosed “wet” berth, on whose 
sloping floor rested a 45-meter-long cradle. Once secured on the cradle, 
water would be pumped out of the berth and cradle and the U-boat, se- 
cured by an overhead crane, would be lowered onto a wheeled trolley. The 
boat would then be hauled out of the water, up a sloped slipway, placed on 
a 48-meter-long traversing unit on eight sets of rails, and thereby aligned 
with and directed into any of the two sets of five “dry” Kéroman bunkers 
on either side of the traversing unit. The operation would take up to two 
hours. Amazingly, never once did Allied bombers manage to damage a 
single boat undergoing this transfer process. 

Would there be time for shore leave, Achilles wondered? Perhaps 
a quick trip to Paris? No such luck. No sooner had U-161 been safely 
berthed, than “Ajax” was peremptorily ordered to report to Dénitz’s head- 
quarters. As darkness set in, a staff car took him across the Ter River 
to the Villa Kerillon. It was a veritable fortress: an anti-tank ditch sur- 
rounded the modest chateau and three 5-cm anti-tank guns as well as the 
turret of an old French tank protected it against land attack; numerous 
small-caliber anti-aircraft guns mounted in concrete pillboxes and count- 
less searchlights studded the coastline along the narrow channel guard- 
ing against hostile aircraft.’ The wiry, athletic Achilles quickly bounced 
up the eight stairs of the villa and via a small foyer entered a vast space 
of three interconnected rooms. ‘This was the admiral’s operations nerve 
center. Elegance abounded: the ceilings were six-meters high, the floors 
had been constructed of inlaid oak planks, plate-glass windows offered 
splendid views of the harbor channel as well as the flood-lit openings of 
the “wet” Kéroman bunkers, and an exquisite spiraling wooden staircase 
led to the upper two floors of what Dénitz’s staff had dubbed “le chateau 
des sardines.”® 


Prologue X11 


From the great window of the central room, Achilles could see that 
the lawn leading down to the beach had been replaced with a brownish 
concrete slab — the roof of three steel-reinforced concrete bunkers com- 
pleted by the Organisation Todt’ in 1941 as protection against enemy 
bombs, which had first fallen on Lorient on September 1 and 27, 1940, 
just to remind the Germans of the air dimension to the Battle of the At- 
lantic. The bunkers housed D6nitz’s communications center, called “Ber- 
lin” by its staff. Further off toward the land approach to the Villa Kerillon 
was another set of massive bunkers, these for the command post’s naval 
security detail. 

The villa’s three rooms were Dénitz’s operations center.1? Maps and 
charts studded the walls in the two “Situation Rooms.” Pins and small 
flags marked the positions of the U-boats on patrol as well as anticipated 
convoys and known dispositions of Allied anti-submarine warfare (ASW) 
forces. Others consisted of weather charts, world time zones, ice and fog 
conditions in the North Atlantic, dates on which U-boats were expected 
back from patrol, and times when new boats were scheduled to deploy. A 
globe one meter in diameter gave a realistic picture of the broad sweeps of 
the Atlantic, allowing better distance calculations due to the curvature of 
the ocean’s surface. The third room was the so-called “Museum,” where 
yet more charts and graphs tracked sinkings at sea, U-boat losses, average 
sinkings per day at sea, and success rates against convoys. 

Achilles noticed immediately that several men were already sitting 
around a massive oak table. All were of the same rank as he — Kapitan- 
leutnant. He recognized the senior member of the group, the 33-year- 
old Werner Hartenstein, the gruff commander of U-156. Korvet- 
tenkapitan Viktor Schiitze, 2"’ Flotilla Leader, then introduced himself 
as well as three other skippers: Jiirgen von Rosenstiel of U-502, Gunther 
Miiller-Stockheim of U-67, and Asmus Nicolai Clausen of U-129. Ob- 
viously, Dénitz had chosen his skippers carefully. All were “regular navy,” 
men who had graduated from the Naval Academy and then served on 
surface warships. All were senior commanders who had just turned 30 or 
were about to reach that milestone. Donitz calculated that they would be 
up to the rigors of two- to three-month-long journeys over some 10,000 
nautical miles, much of it in temperatures reaching 40 degrees Celsius 
inside the boat. Two civilians completed the group." 


xiv LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


After brief acknowledgments, Schiitze introduced Captains Striiwing 
and Kregohl, both former merchant skippers of the Hamburg-Amerika 
Line. Both had plied the waters of the Caribbean Sea before the war. 
Achilles sat up at once. So, this was the reason for the terse command 
to head for Lorient without delay. He, Achilles, also had worked for the 
same shipping line as a cadet officer, mainly in the waters around Trini- 
dad, as had his Executive Officer, Bender. For the next hour, the U-boat 
captains took detailed notes as Stritwing and Kregohl briefed them on 
currents and reefs, shipping routes and harbor installations, and the sail- 
ing patterns of numerous Caribbean steamship lines. 

Late in the evening, “the Great Lion,” as Donitz was called by his 
U-boat crews, joined the group. His large forehead and ears and thin 
mouth gave his head an unbalanced look. But his chin was set and his 
small, steely blue eyes penetrating. His admiral’s uniform sat immacu- 
lately on his lanky frame. He had not put on a pound since his days as 
commander of U-68 in the Adriatic Sea during the Great War. He took 
his place at the head of the table and eyed each man in turn. Then he 
got down to business. Whereas Adolf Hitler until recently had vetoed all 
plans by the navy to interdict the trans-Caribbean flow of crude and re- 
fined oil or to shell the large refineries because “oil centers belong to Stan- 
dard Oil, thus American corporation,” now that the United States was 
officially in the war, there was no further impediment to action. The boats 
were to mount a special operation, code-named “Neuland,” or New Land, 
an assault on the oil tankers and bauxite carriers that plied the Caribbean 
basin. The operations orders were precise: “Surprise, concentric attack 
on the traffic in the waters adjacent to the West Indies Islands. ‘The core 
of the task thus consists in the surprising and synchronized appearance 
at the main stations of Aruba a[nd] Curacao.”"* The group was to com- 
mence operations during the new moon period beginning on February 
16, 1942. Miiller-Stéckheim’s U-67 was to take up station off Curacao; 
Hartenstein’s U-156 and Rosenstiel’s U-502 off Aruba; Achilles’ U-161 
was to attack Port of Spain, Trinidad; and Clausen’s U-129 was to patrol 
the coast of the Guianas. Primary targets, apart from the oil tankers and 
bauxite freighters, were also the mammoth oil refineries on Aruba that 
produced almost 500,000 barrels of gasoline and diesel fuel per day. An 


Prologue xU 


ocean-going tanker with 3.5 million gallons of refined gasoline in its bun- 
kers would be a splendid target! 

Donitz then pushed back the pile of papers on the table before him 
and assumed a more relaxed posture. His skippers knew well that the time 
had come for the customary pep talk. The admiral impressed on them 
the importance of the operation and its expected effect on enemy land, 
sea, and air operations. He informed them of the rich harvest that the 
six boats currently deployed in Operation Drumbeat (Paukenschlag) were 
taking off the United States’ eastern seaboard. He expected no less from 
Neuland. He reminded them yet again that the Atlantic was “the decisive 
theater of the war.” He demanded victory at all cost. “Be strong! Do not 
falter!” The Fuhrer and his Wehrmacht stood at the gates of Moscow. 
“Faith in the Fuhrer is a German officer’s first and foremost duty,” Donitz 
sternly lectured the Kaleus. “Find, engage, destroy!” “Attack, attack like 
wolves!” The pep talk behind him, “the Great Lion” turned the briefing 
back over to Schtitze and his staff. 

“Operations Order No. 51 “West Indies’,” formalized on January 17, 
1942, defined specific targets. Aruba stood at the top of the list. The oil 
refineries, first and foremost the Standard Oil of New Jersey Lago plant 
at San Nicolas and secondarily the Royal Dutch Shell refinery north of 
Oranjestad, were the main targets. Willemstad on Curacao was home to a 
much larger Royal Dutch Refinery. “The oil is brought to Aruba as well as 
Curacao from the Gulf of Maracaibo [Venezuela] in shallow-draft tank- 
ers of about 12 to 1,500 tons with a draft of 2 to 3 m[eters], is refined there 
and loaded onto large ocean-going tankers.” The Gulf of Maracaibo was 
protected by a large sand bank and as a result of the shelling of Mara- 
caibo’s Fort San Carlos in January 1903 by the German cruiser Vineta,“' 
Juan Vicente Gomez, the Venezuelan dictator, had refused to dredge the 
sand bank for fear that other foreign warships might enter the Gulf. Thus, 
only small tankers could exit Maracaibo and only at high tide, “usually 
at day break.” Trinidad offered another target-rich environment, as it not 
only contained oil refineries and tank farms but was also the port of des- 
tination and transshipment site from the Guianas of valuable bauxite, vital 
for airplane production. Furthermore, it was the departure point for traffic 
bound for Cape Town, South Africa. A third target was the Florida Strait 


xUL LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


and the tankers that traversed it en route to New Orleans, Galveston, and 
Port Arthur. 

Antisubmarine defenses, the former Hamburg-Amerika merchant 
captains reported, existed only at Trinidad. But it was likely, Schiitze’s 
staff allowed, that the first “wave” of attacks would in time bring antisub- 
marine nets, aerial reconnaissance and surface U-boat hunters to the 
Caribbean. Still, the lack of war experience of what was expected to be 
hastily dispatched and inexperienced American forces would render ASW 
“of little fighting value.” All U-boats were to proceed to the West Indies 
running on one diesel engine only, to save fuel oil. Once they crossed the 
line 40 degrees west longitude, they were to radio in their position and 
fuel supply. Kernével would then give the signal to commence operations: 
“Neuland 186,” with the first and third letters denoting the day, Febru- 
ary 16. The initial attacks were to be driven home “five hours before day 
break.” 

Werner Hartenstein was to command the assault group. The skip- 
pers were to interpret their zones of attack liberally and independently 
—a departure for Dénitz, who liked to keep tight control of operations. 
They were free to repeat their attacks after initial strikes. “Thus, do not 
break off [operations] too soon!” ‘They were to use their torpedoes first and 
thereafter their 10.5-cm deck guns if land targets were in the offing. Last 
but not least, Schtitze handed the commanders commercial sea charts for 
Aruba, Curacao, and Trinidad, as well as the most recent sailing plots for 
the West Indies. 

Unbeknown to the Kaleus, a bitter dispute as to targeting had broken 
out behind the scenes between D6nitz and Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, 
Commander in Chief Kriegsmarine. While Dénitz as ever was fixated 
simply on “tonnage war” (sinking ships), Raeder demanded that shore in- 
stallations such as refineries and tank farms be given priority. He had a 
point. The world’s largest oil refinery was the Standard Oil “Esso” facility 
at San Nicolas, Aruba; and with the Royal Dutch Shell refinery at Eagle 
Beach, they together produced 5,000 barrels per day of critical 100-oc- 
tane gasoline for aircraft alone. Raeder also knew that Pointe-a-Pierre on 
Trinidad was home to the largest refinery in the British Empire, Trinidad 
Leaseholds Ltd. The “Great Lion” chose to leave the targeting issue for 
further discussion. 


Prologue xU1L 


“Ajax” Achilles was delighted. He and Bender had sailed the waters 
off Trinidad before the war and they knew intimately its reefs and currents 
as well as harbors and onshore installations. They planned to exploit this 
advantage. Moreover, the Caribbean was virgin territory for the U-boats. 
Surprise was thus assured. Surely, Knight’s Crosses (Ritterkreuze) would 
be in the offing. And what a welcome relief the warm waters of the Carib- 
bean would be from the frigid wastes of the North Atlantic. The meeting 
broke up precisely at 10 p.m., Donitz’s self-imposed bedtime. 


Operation New Land was, of course, but one part of the greater Battle 
of the Atlantic, “the most prolonged naval campaign in history.” For 
six long years, German surface and subsurface raiders fought a tenacious 
battle for control of the North Atlantic sea lanes that connected Brit- 
ain to its vital allies in North America. Most specifically, Karl Donitz 
launched more than 1,000 of his “gray sharks” from their lairs in the Bay 
of Biscay in so-called “wolf packs” against the Allied lifelines; roughly 780 
boats and 30,000 sailors never returned from the Atlantic. For the Allies, 
175 warships, 2,700 merchant ships, and 30,000 merchant sailors met a 
similar fate. In time, an army of technical experts mounted a complex 
and sophisticated air and sea assault against the U-boats, while especial- 
ly American industry ramped up merchant-ship production to the point 
where already by July 1941 the number of new vessels entering the Allied 
shipping pool surpassed total losses. 

As the war escalated, especially after America’s entry as a result of the 
Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Donitz sent his 
U-boats ever further west, seeking out the Allied convoys at their North 
American point of egress. His most spectacular campaign was dubbed 
Operation Drumbeat (“Paukenschlag”), launched on January 13, 1942, 
with the arrival of five U-boats in the waters between the Gulf of St. 
Lawrence and Cape Hatteras; eight boats followed in March and April.'° 
It was a stunning surprise: in what S. E. Morison, the official historian 
of the US Navy in World War II termed “a merry massacre,” the raiders 
destroyed 470,000 tons of Allied shipping off the eastern seaboard of the 
United States in February, and 1.15 million tons to the end of April 1942. 


XUIIL LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


Thereafter, sinkings declined precipitously as the US Navy finally adopt- 
ed convoy, blackened its ports, and concentrated its air and sea resources 
against the German raiders. 

‘The greater story of the Battle of the Atlantic is well known and well 
told — nearly 300 titles in the catalog of the Library of Congress and 90.9 
million Google hits’ attest to this. It is not our story. Rather, we con- 
centrate on the post-Drumbeat period, when Donitz redirected his “gray 
sharks” to the waters of the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico to wreak 
havoc with the Allied supply of vital stocks of crude oil, refined diesel 
and gasoline, and bauxite. For without those resources, the Battle of the 
Atlantic would have ground to a halt. 


Prologue xix 


INTRODUCTION 


No man knew more about the importance of oil for the Allied war effort 
than British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill. On June 22, 1941 
— the day Nazi forces invaded the Soviet Union — Churchill informed 
his countrymen during a BBC radio broadcast that Germany’s “terrible 
military machine must be fed not only with flesh but with oil.”' As First 
Lord of the Admiralty prior to World War I, he had been the key fig- 
ure pressing the Royal Navy to change from a coal-fired to an oil-fired 
navy. He agreed with Sir Marcus Samuel, one of the principal owners of 
Royal Dutch Shell (formed in a merger of Samuel’s Shell Oil Company 
and Royal Dutch Petroleum in 1906) that oil was a much more efficient 
fuel for warships than coal. Samuel had campaigned for the conversion 
since 1899, but the tradition-bound Admiralty had dragged its heels, even 
though some of the newest and most powerful British warships, such as 
HMS Dreadnought (launched in 1906), were in fact fitted with oil-fired 
boilers. 

In 1912 Churchill established the Royal Commission on Oil Sup- 
plies, headed by First Sea Lord Sir John Fisher to examine the advantages 
of oil. The commission’s finding was predictable — Fisher was a strong 
advocate of the conversion — and the result was decisive: coal was obsolete; 
oil would fire all Royal Navy ships in future. In Churchill’s words, “oil 
gave a large excess of speed over coal. It enabled ... speed to be obtained 
with far greater rapidity. It gave 40 per cent greater radius of action for 
the same rate of coal. It ... made it possible in every type of vessel to have 
more gun-power and more speed for less size and cost.” 

The sudden conversion of the world’s principal navies — especially the 
British, American, French, and Japanese — to oil, combined with the rapid 
expansion of those navies in the decade prior to the war, made the prob- 
lem of securing oil supplies a matter of utmost importance. Britain was 
particularly concerned since the Royal Navy was the United Kingdom’s 
principal source of international power and the guardian of both its trade 
and its independence. Thus, Churchill was also in the forefront of Brit- 
ain’s drive to ensure that the Royal Navy had both secure and adequate 
supplies. The world’s largest producer of oil by far was the United States, 


which was also self-sufficient in oil. Since it was simply inconceivable to 
the British government that it might rely largely on US sources, Churchill 
was forced to secure the UK’s own oil supply. 

The British Isles had virtually no oil resources. Thus, Britain encour- 
aged UK financiers such as Samuel to secure whole or partial ownership 
of as many new or newly expanding fields in other parts of the world as 
possible. Russia, Romania, Persia (Iran), Iraq, and the Caribbean were 
the best choices. As a result, British-owned companies such as British 
Petroleum, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (51 per cent owned by the 
UK government), and Royal Dutch Shell (40 per cent owned by Samuel) 
came to dominate the international oil scene outside the United States. In 
the interwar years Britain came to depend almost exclusively on supplies 
from the Far East (the Dutch East Indies), Iraq and Iran in the Middle 
East, and Venezuela, which by 1939 was the world’s third largest producer 
and second largest exporter. The British supply system constituted a global 
network of oilfields, pipelines, refineries, tank farms, and oil ports, linked 
by some 500 British-flagged tankers capable of moving about 20 million 
barrels of oil at any one time — the largest tanker fleet in the world by far. 

On the outbreak of World War II, both the Axis and the An- 
glo-French allies were fully aware of the importance of securing their oil 
supplies. Not only were the economies of these industrialized societies 
highly dependent on oil, but oil was essential for their war machines. ‘The 
Allies appeared to be in a much more favorable position than the Axis 
since neither Germany nor Italy had natural oil reserves and both coun- 
tries had very little tanker capacity. The British and French set out almost 
immediately to lease as many tankers as they could from countries such 
as Norway (which was neutral until April 1940), both to ensure their own 
supplies and to deny those ships to the Germans. But Germany was far 
from bereft of oil. 

German scientists had been working on the means to produce syn- 
thetic oil from coal since before World War I. Even though the synthet- 
ic product proved to be six times as expensive as natural crude, the ex- 
orbitant cost was a price Adolf Hitler was willing to pay, at least until 
Germany could acquire natural crude through diplomacy or by conquest. 
Thus, the Nazis contracted with the chemical giant I.G. Farben to sub- 
sidize synthetic oil production. By 1939, synthetic oil accounted for just 


2 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


over one-third of Germany’s oil needs. Immediately after the German 
army rolled into Poland in September 1939, special units fanned out to 
seize existing oil stocks and to take control of the small fields in Galicia 
before the Soviet Union did. This move was only partially successful; the 
Red Army occupied a sizeable chunk of that region as it took the territory 
allotted Moscow under the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact. But Stalin 
was willing to be reasonable: the USSR sold oil to Germany literally until 
June 22, 1941, the day Hitler pounced on Russia. Romania was another 
major German supplier, especially after it joined the Axis in the summer 
of 1940. Romania soon became Germany’s primary source of both crude 
oil and refined products from the giant and very modern refining complex 
at Ploesti. After the French surrender in June 1940, a small French-con- 
trolled field in Alsace was also commandeered. Although the German 
army seized key oilfields in the Soviet Caucasus in the summer of 1942, 
the Wehrmacht was expelled by the Red Army before any significant 
amount of Caucasus oil could be sent to Germany.’ 

Allied oil resources suffered from severe structural weaknesses which 
quickly became apparent. The greatest of these was the reliance on oil 
tankers. As well, the United States proclaimed strict neutrality at the start 
of the war and adopted a policy of “cash and carry” toward the belliger- 
ents. In other words, the Allies or the Axis could purchase whatever they 
wanted from the United States, but in cash, and they had to carry it away 
in their own ships. While this policy allowed both Britain and France to 
purchase oil or refined products from the United States, it was unclear 
whether the more than 400 US-flagged tankers would be allowed to carry 
oil or refined petroleum products to Allied ports in charter. Normally, 
neither country would even think of relying on American (or other neu- 
tral) tankers — except that the Battle of the Atlantic and the “tonnage war” 
waged by the German submarine force began to cut into Allied tanker 
capability from almost the very start of the war. And the more Allied 
tankers lost, the greater the damage to the worldwide system of supply 
that Britain had carefully built up since the earliest days of the oil-fired 
Royal Navy. 

The initial blows fell early. On September 8, 1939, submarines sank 
the British tankers Kennebec (5,548 tons) and Regent Tiger (10,177 tons). 
Two more tankers were lost by the end of September, for a total deficit of 


Introduction 3 


34,007 tons. By the end of May 1940, twenty-two British flagged tankers 
had gone down to torpedoes, gunfire, or mines, for a loss of about 150,000 
tons — with another 67,000 idled by damage, mostly from mines. Other 
Allied tankers and neutral tankers were also lost, though not nearly as 
many.’ At first glance, the British tanker loss appears minor compared 
to the total tanker fleet — about 4 per cent of capacity over a nine-month 
period. But at a time when British ship-building capacity was taken up al- 
most exclusively by the production of warships, when tanker construction 
had fallen, and when Britain had also lost about 200,000 tons of other 
merchant shipping that had to be replaced, 4 per cent was a significant 
number. If current losses continued, a deep cut in British tanker capacity 
seemed unavoidable. But then German attacks appeared to slacken, and 
negotiations between Britain and Norway resulted in an increase in the 
number of Norwegian tankers available for charter by the Allies. Thus, by 
the end of March 1940, in the words of the official history of British oil 
policy and oil administration in World War II, “the barometer [measuring 


295 


the future of British oil supplies] was set ‘fair’. 


ok OK ok 


On April 9, 1940, Germany attacked Norway. The fighting raged over 
much of the country’s coastal areas. The Norwegians were aided by Brit- 
ish, French, and other Allied forces, but surrendered in early June. The 
Norwegian king and government fled to London. A few Norwegian tank- 
ers were in port at the time of the German victory and were seized by 
the Nazis, but the vast majority were at sea, in charter, and now available 
without restriction to the Allies. That was certainly a positive event, but 
it was more than cancelled out when, in May 1940, Germany attacked 
France and the Low Countries and Italy entered the war. The Dutch and 
the Belgians were both quickly defeated; their governments fled to the 
UK; and control of the vast majority of their tankers was assumed by Lon- 
don. “These summer months of 1940,” in the words of the official history, 
“formed a unique interlude in the history of wartime oil supply; a period 
when tankers were in surplus.”* 

When France surrendered in late June 1940, its navy remained under 
the control of the ostensibly neutral but decidedly pro-Axis French Vichy 


4 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


government. So did all of French North Africa. Suddenly, the Mediter- 
ranean had effectively become an Axis lake — mare nostrum (“our sea”), as 
the fascist Italian regime put it. From Suez to Gibraltar, the Royal Navy’s 
only port of call was Malta and most of the northern and southern shores 
of the Mediterranean were hostile or neutral. Britain’s shipping in the 
Mediterranean was subject to air attack along most of its length. Its oil 
supplies from the Middle East were virtually cut off. It could still obtain 
oil from Iraq and Iran or from the Dutch East Indies via the Cape of 
Good Hope, but that route was very long and vulnerable to submarine 
attack. Since Britain began the war with virtually no strategic reserve, the 
oil supply picture suddenly grew very dark once again.’ 

The British government did everything it could to reallocate fuel from 
civilian to military consumption. A government-appointed Oil Control 
Board, consisting of both government and industry representatives, took 
control of all British oil companies and their operations. Strict civilian 
rationing was imposed, storage tanks were moved to areas less susceptible 
to bombing, underground tanks were hurriedly prepared, and aviation gas 
was carefully husbanded. All of these moves helped, but none came close 
to alleviating Britain’s growing petroleum shortage. 

In the high summer of 1940, the German Air Force began a concerted 
bombing campaign against the British Isles, beginning with attacks on 
coastal shipping and ending with the London Blitz — the ceaseless, mostly 
nightly raids against the capital that began in the fall and continued until 
late May 1941. At first the Germans’ main objective was the bases and 
installations of the Royal Air Force. But they also attacked docks and oil 
terminals, oil storage facilities and refineries, rail yards, and transporta- 
tion hubs, not to mention most of the industrial cities and shipbuilding 
and ship repair yards that were in range. ‘The attacks on Britain’s east coast 
ports, which were closer to German air fields, were especially damag- 
ing. In raids against Plymouth and the Clydeside, Royal Navy oil stocks 
suffered severe damage. If the Luftwaffe had sustained its attack against 
British refineries and oil storage facilities, it might have done considerable 
damage, but it did not. Bombing of British oil installations was sporadic 
and ineffective much of the time. Hence, although British stocks ran low 
— sometimes dangerously low — they never came close to running out. 


Introduction 5 


The problem for Britain was not so much the maintenance of daily 
stocks as it was trying to ensure future stocks in what was certain to be a 
long war, especially now that Britain stood alone. That was a significant 
challenge because in late 1940 its tanker fleet began to deteriorate once 
again. France’s surrender gave Germany two major advantages over the 
UK it had not had at the outbreak of war. First, French ports and naval 
bases on the Atlantic were now open for use by submarines; a substantial 
number of U-boats were transferred from Germany to newly built shelters 
and maintenance facilities along the Bay of Biscay. This significantly cut 
the distance that U-boats needed to travel to get to the North Atlantic and 
to waters south of Newfoundland. It also increased their time on station 
and thus their ability to find and sink ships. Second, German aircraft 
based at French airfields could cover much more of the UK while long- 
range aircraft, such as the four-engine Focke Wulf 200 Condor, could fly 
far out into the Atlantic to attack convoys or to vector U-boats to them. 

One British response to these dangers was to curtail shipping to its 
east coast and the Thames River. This kept ships somewhat out of harm’s 
way but led to massive congestion in the UK’s west coast ports and the 
rail lines and roads that ran from and into them. Congestion led to delays, 
which made the ships and their cargoes more vulnerable. There was an 
increase in both sunk and damaged tankers. Soon, British shipyards were 
overwhelmed. Oil stocks began to slide again; this time it “was beginning 
to look catastrophic,”* despite everything being done to speed up tanker 
unloading and to ease rail and road congestion. By February 1941, more 
than a million tons of tanker capacity was immobilized. 

It was not just tanker losses that put a major squeeze on Britain’s oil 
reserves. As Churchill told the House of Commons in a secret session on 
June 25, 1941: 


‘The protective measures of the Admiralty — convoy, diversion, 
degaussing (mine-proofing of steel hulls), mine clearance, the 
closing of the Mediterranean, generally the lengthening of the 
voyages in time and distance, to all of which must be added 
delays at the ports through enemy action and the blackout — 
have reduced the operative fertility of our shipping to an extent 
even more serious than the actual loss.’ 


6 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


Put simply, the problem was the friction caused by war added to the nor- 
mal business of conveying oil. Convoying, as Churchill mentioned, was 
a particular difficulty. Even those tankers which were not sunk, or dam- 
aged, were greatly impeded in their passage by measures that Britain was 
forced to take to protect wartime shipping from the U-boats. Prior to the 
war, for example, Caribbean crude or refined products (which made up 
a large part of Britain’s domestic oil supply) were shipped directly to the 
UK from the refineries on Trinidad, Aruba, and Curacao. But very shortly 
after war was declared, the Royal Navy took control of all commercial 
traffic into and out of the UK and, together with the Royal Canadian 
Navy, instituted the convoy system. It became compulsory for all vessels 
crossing the Atlantic to deliver cargo to the UK to travel in convoy from 
east coast Canadian ports. Vessels that could steam above 15 knots were 
exempt from sailing in convoys, but tankers slower than 15 knots (the 
great majority at that time) were forced to sail in “HX” or “fast” convoys 
from Halifax or “SC” or “slow” convoys that departed from Sydney, Nova 
Scotia. 

A tanker headed for the UK from Trinidad, for example, would have 
to make its way to Halifax. When it arrived, it had to wait until a convoy 
was formed. Once the convoy sailed, the tanker was forced to stay with the 
convoy at the convoy’s best speed, which was determined by the slowest 
ship. When the tanker arrived in UK waters, it had to proceed in a local 
convoy to a port as far from German bomber bases as possible. ‘The oil 
would then be offloaded into local storage facilities or railway cars, or the 
tanker would join a coastal waters convoy that could take as long as three 
weeks to travel from, say, Northern Ireland to the farther destinations on 
the UK coast. All this additional waiting and convoying added literally 
weeks to the normal journey. 

Thus, turn-around times for tankers increased dramatically. In the 
spring of 1940 a tanker might be expected to make an average of six round 
trips a year between the UK and the Caribbean; that dropped to 4.5 trips 
by winter. This 25 per cent reduction in carrying capacity could only be 
made up by adding at least one extra tanker for every four already in ser- 
vice. By the end of May 1941, oil stocks in the UK had fallen “below the 
level that had been declared to be the absolute minimum for safety.” 


Introduction 7 


More tankers were needed; the United States stepped in decisively. 
At the end of June 1941, the Americans made tankers available to cover 
the “Canadian trade” (carrying oil from Venezuela to the major refinery 
complexes at Montreal), thus relieving eight Canadian and eight Norwe- 
gian vessels chartered to Canadian companies. They also made tankers 
available to cover the trade of five long-charter Norwegian tankers work- 
ing in South American waters. Later in July, 19 more long-charter Nor- 
wegian tankers were relieved. These moves effectively freed up 30 tankers 
for the North Atlantic. Then 26 US-owned, Panamanian-flagged tankers 
were pressed into service bringing oil from the Caribbean to New York or 
Halifax, where the cargo was transferred to British-chartered vessels. The 
United States paid the entire cost for these charters; by the fall of 1941, 
British oil stocks were recovering nicely." 


oh Ok Ok 


Even before Britain effectively lost access to Middle East oil, it had be- 
come highly dependent on oil from the Caribbean; by 1940, some 40 per 
cent of its petroleum requirements came from Trinidad and Venezuela.” 
In less than four decades, the Caribbean basin had emerged as one of 
the fastest growing oil-producing regions in the world. By the late 1920s, 
Colombia’s oil fields were pumping from 40,000 to 69,000 barrels a day, 
most of it for Standard Oil of New Jersey or one of its affiliates. By 1940, 
Trinidad, a British colonial possession, was lifting some 58,000 barrels 
a day. Its refineries, including the Empire’s largest at Pointe-a-Pierre, 
were churning out more than 28 million barrels a year, much of it from 
Venezuela. 

In fact, by the outbreak of World War IT, Venezuela had become the 
third-largest oil producing country in the world. Its daily output was over 
half a million barrels, 80 per cent of it produced by Standard Oil of New 
Jersey and Royal Dutch Shell in fields under and near the eastern shore 
of Lake Maracaibo. Due to a lack of deep-water ports on the Venezuelan 
coast, the shallowness of Lake Maracaibo, and the turbulence of Vene- 
zuelan politics, American and British producers had long ago decided not 
to refine Venezuelan crude locally. Instead, it was transported to refineries 
in the Dutch West Indies (Aruba and Curacao) and Trinidad via slow, 


8 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


shallow-draft, tankers. Purpose-built for the Lake Maracaibo-Dutch 
West Indies trade, these ships were terribly vulnerable, as was the entire 
sea-borne line of supply. Cut that line and the refineries on Aruba and 
Curacao would have closed in short order. 

When taken together, three Caribbean islands — Aruba, Curagao, and 
Trinidad — were home to the largest refining complex in the world. The 
Lago Oil & Transport Co. at San Nicolas, Aruba, a subsidiary of Standard 
Oil of New Jersey, produced about 300,000 barrels of refined product per 
day. It employed between 8,000 and 10,000 people, most of the island’s 
adult population. The company ran the island almost like a private pre- 
serve, building its own grocery stores, restaurants, movie theaters, tennis 
courts, and golf courses. The American executives, engineers, and other 
professionals who lived on Aruba had their own American schools with 
American teachers and an American-style hospital staffed with American 
doctors. There were a few Britons there as well. They and Netherlanders 
ran the small Royal Dutch Shell Arend (or Eagle) refinery at Oranjestad 
with a through-put of some 8,000 barrels daily. 

On Curacao, the Royal Dutch Shell Santa Anna refinery produced 
200,000 barrels daily, the crude arriving via pipeline from the deep-water 
terminal at the Bay of Caracas. Together, Aruba and Curacao had a re- 
fining capacity of slightly more than half a million barrels daily. Add- 
ed to this was the 80,000 barrel-a-day refining capacity of Trinidad.’ 
‘This surpassed some of the world’s other major refining complexes at the 
time: 280,000 barrels a day at the Anglo-Iranian refinery at Abadan, Iran; 
230,000 barrels a day at the Soviet plant at Baku; and 100,000 barrels a 
day at the American refineries along the Gulf of Mexico coast. 

The Caribbean was highly important to Britain because the Standard 
Oil of New Jersey refinery on Aruba was one of the key global sources for 
the newly developed 100-octane aviation gasoline, a product obtained by 
a complex process known as catalytic cracking, first developed experi- 
mentally in the 1920s. Through a variety of production processes pion- 
eered by Standard, Shell, and other companies, a sort of hybrid gasoline 
was developed from ordinary gasoline that could be used in high-com- 
pression engines. The gasoline was given a rating of “100 octane,” which 
was a measurement of its anti-knock capability or its ability to fire high 
compression engines without roughness or engine knocking, which occurs 


Introduction 9 


when the fuel-air mixture fed in to the cylinder is too imperfect to burn 
cleanly, quickly and with the maximum push. The 100-octane gasoline 
enabled a great increase in engine power without increases in the size or 
weight of an aircraft engine. Higher compression ratios “enabled a plane 
to achieve greater speed, climb at a higher rate, and fly at higher altitudes 
... the extra power [also] increased a plane’s carrying capacity.”™ 

The US Army Air Corps adopted 100-octane gasoline as the standard 
for all its combat aircraft — fighters and bombers — in 1937. The Royal Air 
Force did the same shortly after. The Germans chose not to. Instead, their 
fighter aircraft manufacturers, such as Messerschmitt, concentrated on 
producing fuel-injection systems versus the carburetors used in the early 
models of British Hurricanes and Spitfires. Prior to the outbreak of war, 
refineries in the United States began to produce substantial quantities of 
aviation gas — in June 1935, the US Army Air Corps purchased its first 
million gallons of 100-octane gasoline. Two years later the RAF con- 
tracted with Standard to produce aviation gas at its refinery on Aruba 
because the British were worried that, in the event of war, Washington 
might adopt a policy of strict neutrality and not allow Britain access to 
US aviation gas. 

That did not happen. When war broke out in September 1939, the 
United States continued to sell aviation gas to Britain. When this was 
combined with the aviation gas supplied by refineries in the Caribbean, 
at Abadan and the Dutch East Indies, and in the UK itself, the RAF was 
able to maintain sufficient stocks to defend the British Isles and fight the 
Luftwaffe in the Battle of France. After the Mediterranean was effectively 
closed to the UK, Britain was forced to rely entirely on the United States 
and the Caribbean for aviation gas. But as the United States began to 
build up its own air force after the surrender of France, even US supplies 
were not completely guaranteed. 

Britain relied on the Caribbean for more than oil and aviation gas. 
The southern shore of the Caribbean and Central and South America 
were a treasure trove of strategic materials such as tungsten, manganese, 
chromite, copper, tin, industrial diamonds, mica, platinum, nickel, and 
quartz.’ All of these minerals were necessary for the production of mod- 
ern weapons and the machine tools and modes of transportation that 
would produce and carry them. Many or most were in short supply even in 


10 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


the United States, and even though Canada had large deposits of nickel, 
both countries needed to look south for the rest. The virtual total lack of 
any means of land transportation from either the east or the west coast of 
Central and South America to North America, let alone the Caribbean, 
meant that these minerals had to be transported by sea lanes that were 
vulnerable to German submarine attack. 

One of the most important of these minerals — the raw material from 
which aluminum is made — was bauxite. It was absolutely vital for Amer- 
ican and British aircraft industries. British Guiana and Dutch Guiana 
(Suriname) together produced 1.5 million tons of this strategic mineral 
each year, most of it through a virtual monopoly exercised by both the 
Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA) and the Aluminum Com- 
pany of Canada (ALCAN). The two colonies accounted for close to 40 
per cent of total global production. The rapid increase in the manufacture 
of warplanes in the UK after September 1939 and another increase in the 
spring of 1940, and US plans for a multifold increase in the US Army 
Air Corps, drove up the value of bauxite from this region. Britain’s entire 
requirement of 302,000 tons came from British Guiana. US President 
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s audacious plans, announced in December 1941, 
to increase US aircraft production a hundred-fold (the United States in 
fact accomplished it in only three years) could only be fulfilled if both 
British Guiana and Suriname increased shipments to at least 2 million 
tons each per annum. Suriname was the source of some 60 per cent of the 
US aluminum industry’s supply of bauxite." 

By the summer of 1940, Britain had come to rely heavily on the 
Caribbean for crude oil, aviation gas, and bauxite, among other crucial 
commodities. Put simply, Caribbean crude kept Britain in the war. The 
fortunes of war had made this beautiful and tranquil sea a key theater of 
war. And yet, the Caribbean trade stayed virtually untouched for the first 
18 months of the war. This was partially because the United States and 20 
other American states on September 23, 1939, issued the Panama Dec- 
laration, which not only proclaimed their neutrality but also announced 
the formation of a Maritime Security Zone to extend 480 kilometers into 
the Atlantic from the coasts of the United States and Central and South 
America. The area, which included much of the western Caribbean and 
all the American-owned islands such as the US Virgin Islands and Puerto 


Introduction 11 


Rico, was then patrolled by US planes and ships. To avoid conflict with 
the United States and to ensure that the neutral American states were not 
dragged into war, the Germans observed the zone and kept their warships 
clear. Until Pearl Harbor. 


The United States produced sufficient oil for virtually all its needs before 
Pearl Harbor. Imports amounted to just 2.9 per cent of requirements, or 
roughly 140,000 barrels a day (daily domestic production pumped out 
3.8 million barrels).” But the United States still relied heavily on ocean 
tankers to supply those parts of the nation that were far away from the 
producing regions; 95 per cent of the Atlantic coast’s requirements came 
by sea. There were no large-capacity pipelines from California, Texas, 
Oklahoma, or the Gulf of Mexico to the east coast. Most of the oil that 
heated the homes and fed the factories and refineries of New York, New 
Jersey, and Pennsylvania, among other industrial states, for example, came 
by sea. In the fall and winter of 1940—41, and as winter approached again 
at the end of 1941 — always peak demand seasons for oil products — the 
U-boat offensive in the Atlantic caused serious disruptions in supplies as 
Allied, neutral, and even some American tankers were sunk in increasing 
numbers. Neither the railroads nor the highways were capable of handling 
enough petroleum supplies to make up the difference. In the words of one 
historian of the period, “The Administration’s response to such problems 
was slow and haphazard.” 

The major fault lay with Congress. No doubt swayed by the powerful 
petroleum lobby, it was reluctant to interfere in the allocation and dis- 
tribution of oil. As a result, President Roosevelt delegated his executive 
authority to deal with the nation’s war-related supply problems to Secre- 
tary of the Interior Harold Ickes, a lawyer and a political reformer who 
was no friend of business. In May 1941, Roosevelt appointed Ickes Pet- 
roleum Coordinator for National Defense (later known as the Petroleum 
Administrator for War or PAW). In usual Roosevelt fashion, the title was 
more impressive than Ickes’ powers, which remained vague and ill-de- 
fined. But Ickes was determined to define his own powers by creating a 
virtual government-business alliance to coordinate production, allocation, 


12 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


and distribution of petroleum products. His first move in making peace 
with the industry was to select Ralph K. Davies, vice president of Stan- 
dard Oil of California, as his deputy and vest him with power equal to his 
own. That went a long way to win the oil industry over. On June 19, Ickes 
and Davies met with some 1,500 oil men and told them the government 
was determined to build a partnership between the oil business and the 
government and that no measures would be imposed on the industry that 
had not been agreed upon beforehand.” Ickes also managed to convince 
the US Attorney General to exempt the oil industry from antitrust char- 
ges as they pooled resources and equipment or cooperated in coordinating 
supply. 

Under Ickes’ stewardship, the companies voluntarily reduced deliv- 
eries to gasoline and fuel oil retailers by 10 per cent; the diverted product 
was used to produce aviation gasoline and other defense-related products. 
Ickes sought to rationalize the overland delivery of oil and petroleum 
products by pooling and coordinating the movement of railway tank cars. 
The result was a dramatic increase in rail shipments of oil to the east from 
40,000 barrels per day in June to 140,000 per day in October 1941.” But 
even this was not enough; the east coast remained about 100,000 barrels a 
day short of its requirements. Ickes thus also proposed the construction of 
a 22- to 24-inch crude pipeline, capable of delivering at least 60,000 bar- 
rels per day from the Southwest to the Atlantic coast. Due to Roosevelt’s 
plan to rapidly expand war production, however, there was not enough 
steel available to begin production before Pearl Harbor. 

On the eve of its entry into World War II, the United States was in 
far better shape than Britain to ride out the blows that were about to fall 
on its oil supply. But due to the lack of a national pipeline network, it was 
still far from being able to meet its own requirements for both civilian and 
defense needs, let alone offer the increased aid to Britain that would be 
so necessary for victory. And like Britain, the United States was almost 
totally dependent on South America for bauxite and other important stra- 
tegic materials. Any widening of the war at sea — in the North or South 
Atlantic or in the Caribbean — would add significantly to the strains the 
United States was already under in the late fall of 1941. 


Introduction 13 


The Panama Canal was a vital strategic interest of the United States, 
whose fate it had been deeply involved in determining since the turn of 
the century. Completed in 1914, the canal was greatly beneficial to much 
of the world’s shipping for obvious reasons, but particularly to the United 
States, which used it heavily for sea transport from coast to coast. It also 
allowed the United States to quickly move its fleet (larger US warships 
were specifically built to allow them to pass through the canal’s locks) 
from one ocean to another. Not surprisingly, as Germany and Japan began 
to build powerful fleets in the interwar period and grew more aggressive 
on the world stage, the United States took steps to shore up its defenses in 
the Canal Zone and on US-held islands and bases to the east of it. 

Initially, the Americans worried more about sabotage of the canal by 
potential enemy agents. By the late 1930s, however, that concern had been 
surpassed by the possibility that enemy aircraft carriers might attack the 
canal from one ocean or the other, or that islands or airbases held by un- 
friendly countries might allow their territories to be used for air attacks 
against it. As soon as war broke out in Europe, additional US troops and 
aircraft were deployed to both Panama and Puerto Rico. The bulk of the 
aircraft were obsolete open-cockpit P-36 monoplane fighters and Douglas 
B-18 bombers that were limited in bomb load and had an operational 
radius of less than 600 miles. The task of defending the Canal Zone and 
Puerto Rico fell to the US Army, while the US Navy was responsible for 
defending the Caribbean. Not only did the two services clash often about 
both strategy and priorities, but the facilities available for defense in the 
fall of 1939 were very limited. The navy had a base at Guantanamo on the 
eastern tip of Cuba, a radio station at San Juan, Puerto Rico, and a small 
Marine Corps airfield at St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. 

During the first six months of 1940, the US garrisons and air contin- 
gents in Panama and Puerto Rico expanded rapidly; new airstrips were 
built, new barracks constructed, new radio and radar facilities created. 
But the surrender of France and the conquest of the Low Countries by 
June 1940 changed the entire Caribbean defense picture. The French 
Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique fell under the control 
of the new pro-Axis Vichy government. Martinique possessed an excel- 
lent harbor and naval base; at the very moment of the French surrender, 
the aircraft carrier Bearn, with 106 US-built planes, was anchored there.” 


14 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


‘The British took responsibility for the defense of Aruba and Curacao from 
the Dutch government-in-exile. On May 24, British ambassador to the 
United States Lord Lothian sent a cable to London suggesting that the 
UK make a formal offer to the United States to ask it to lease lands for 
air bases in Trinidad, Newfoundland, and Bermuda. At first the British 
Cabinet balked at this suggestion. After all, the United States had done 
virtually nothing at that point to help the Allies. But with the French 
surrender on June 22 and the first arrival of American rifles, ammunition, 
and some artillery to the UK, the Cabinet’s thinking shifted. On June 29, 
it agreed to offer leases to the United States for base sites in Newfound- 
land, Bermuda, and the British West Indies. 

On September 2, 1940, US Secretary of State Cordell Hull and Lord 
Lothian signed an arrangement” whereby the United States would trans- 
fer to the UK 50 World War I flush-deck destroyers in return for leases for 
bases in Bermuda, the Bahamas (Great Exuma Island), Antigua, St. Lu- 
cia, Trinidad, British Guiana, and Newfoundland. The United States had 
chosen well. Newfoundland, already under Canadian protection, flanked 
the first 1,000 miles of sea route from the east coast of the United States 
and Canada to the UK. Bermuda sits near the main oil tanker routes from 
the Caribbean to the UK. ‘The other bases extended on an arc from the 
Bahamas, close to the coast of Florida, to northern South America — an 
outer ring of defenses for the Panama Canal. 

But the Caribbean bases-to-be faced significant challenges. Local 
governors had to be won over to the American choice of base sites. Local 
populations consisted of multiple cultures — Blacks, Asians, South Asians, 
who were both Muslim and various Christian denominations, and small 
but socially and economically dominant White minorities. Each of these 
peoples had long-developed cultures and most — even the non-American 
Whites — clashed significantly with the American way of doing things. 
‘The social issues were not helped by a climate in British Guiana and Trini- 
dad that was hot, rainy, and humid and thus tended to exacerbate and 
magnify cultural differences.” 

The US military began preliminary site visits and initial engineering 
work shortly after the destroyers-for-bases deal was signed, but British 
agreement to negotiate leases was just that — agreement to negotiate. The 
negotiations turned out to be long and protracted with arguments and 


Introduction i 


disagreements over a wide range of issues from base sites to postal author- 
ity to jurisdiction over criminal matters (extra-territoriality). Roosevelt’s 
announcement of his “lend-lease” offer to the UK on December 17, 1940, 
did not, at first, smooth the discussions. In March 1941, however, the new 
US ambassador to the UK, John G. Winant, told the British that Con- 
gress might not approve Roosevelt’s Lend-Lease Bill without a successful 
conclusion to the lease negotiations. Churchill quickly broke the deadlock 
by essentially ordering the British negotiators to concede on almost all of 
the contentious points. The leases were signed on March 17, the same day 
Roosevelt signed the Lend-Lease Act. 

In anticipation of the successful conclusion of the lease negotiations, 
the US Army began to consider a command structure for the new bases as 
early as the fall of 1940. Eventually, a Caribbean Defense Command was 
established under General Daniel Van Voorhis; on May 3, 1941, the new 
command was officially approved. It had three departments, one each for 
the Panama, Puerto Rico, and Trinidad sectors. The Panama Department 
was responsible only for Panama; the Puerto Rico Department included 
commands for Puerto Rico and the US bases in the Bahamas, Jamaica, 
and Antigua. The Trinidad Department would command the US bases in 
Trinidad, St. Lucia, and British Guiana. The Caribbean Defense Com- 
mand was officially inaugurated on May 29. 

Although the US Army with its Army Air Corps (soon to become 
the Army Air Forces) was responsible for the defense of the Canal Zone, 
Puerto Rico, and the US bases themselves — and the air defense of the 
sea lanes between them — the US Navy had the responsibility to patrol 
the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, and the 400 miles of 
ocean to the east of the Windward and Leeward Islands — the neutrality 
zone proclaimed at the Panama Conference in September 1939. It must 
be remembered that at this point — mid-1941 — the United States still 
thought the main threat to the Panama Canal and other US territory in 
the region (including the new bases) would come from German aircraft 
carriers — even though Germany had none. No one was thinking very 
seriously about a U-boat threat. It would be the Navy’s responsibility to 
deal with any threat from an enemy fleet. ‘Thus, in June 1941, the Navy 
set up the Caribbean Sea Frontier, which extended from the Yucatan 
Peninsula to an area west of the island of Grand Cayman, northward 


16 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


to Cuba, out through the Bahamas, eastward into the Atlantic north of 
Puerto Rico, then southeast to the coast of Brazil. Eventually, the Carib- 
bean Sea Frontier was divided into the Panama, Trinidad, Puerto Rico, 
and Guantanamo sectors.” The islands, and especially Trinidad, awaited 
a tsunami of Americans and their culture. 


Introduction 17 


“RUM AND COCA-COLA’: 
THE YANKEES ARE COMING! 


Allied antisubmarine warfare defenses in the eastern Caribbean were an- 
chored on two islands — Puerto Rico and Trinidad — and the American air 
and naval base at Guantanamo Bay on the eastern tip of Cuba. By 1940, 
the Americans had become familiar enough with Guantanamo — which 
they referred to as “Gitmo” — and Puerto Rico, having taken possession 
of both with the Treaty of Paris (1898), ending the Spanish-American 
War. But Trinidad was another matter. Though a small contingent of 
British troops and seamen were based there, they and much of the island’s 
population would soon encounter thousands of American troops — some 
16,000 by October 1941, many more thousands after Pearl Harbor — who 
knew little or nothing of Trinidad’s unique history, culture, government, 
or social institutions. 

Although most middle- and upper-class Trinidadians were loyal to 
Britain and the anti-Nazi war effort, they soon found that the irritation 
arising from life with their new ally was almost more than they could 
bear. That, combined with dashed expectations that Britain would reward 
Trinidadians for their war service, gave way to cynicism, if not bitterness. 
In 1943 the much-respected and highly educated physician-mayor of Port 
of Spain, Tito P. Achong, wrote in his annual report: 


We, West Indians, are passive onlookers of the great game 
of power politics. We are not supposed either to think or to 
express any opinion on what is going on. ‘The role assigned to 
us, in the British Colonial Empire, is to shout hosannas at the 
amoral exploits of the mighty Aryans [sic] into whose hands 


19 


Jehovah has delivered us for safe-keeping, and then to get back 
to our natural task of hewers of wood and drawers of water.' 


Before the war, Trinidad, in the words of the journalist and labor activist 
Albert Gomes, “was a remote and forgotten back-water of the world. It lay 
deep and still in its sweaty sleep.”? Sugar, cocoa, and oil were Trinidad’s 
major exports; ownership was mainly in British, French, American, and 
South African hands. Wages were low, poverty a way of life. Malaria, 
hookworm, tuberculosis, and venereal disease were rampant in parts of 
the island. Trinidad’s racial make-up was a colored patchwork of white 
and black, East Indian and Chinese, East Indian Creole, and Chinese 
Creole, Syrian and Jewish, and people of “mixed” heritage, referred to as 
“colored.” 

‘There had always been high demand for cheap labor in Trinidad, first 
by the Spanish, then by the French, and finally by the British planta- 
tion owners. Black slaves had been brought in from Africa, and on the 
eve of World War II their descendants constituted about 46 per cent of 
Trinidad’s population of half a million.’ The British abolition of the slave 
trade in 1807 and the formal emancipation of the slaves on Trinidad in 
1834 prompted plantation owners to turn to India for cheap labor. From 
1845 to 1917, about 143,000 indentured laborers, both Hindu and Mus- 
lim, were imported to the island. In 1939 the “East Indian” population on 
Trinidad stood at 158,000. 

Trinidad’s few cities were served first by a small Portuguese commer- 
cial class, and then by the Chinese, who soon controlled its many general 
stores, leaving the Portuguese to run the lucrative rum business. In the 
1930s the Chinese community, the so-called “Coolies,” numbered about 
5,000; not quite 1,000 Syrians came after the Chinese. There was also a 
small Jewish contingent, mainly engaged in banking and business. Final- 
ly, there was a substantial South American migrant population. Distinct 
and apart from these social groups, and almost autonomous in every way, 
stood the White, powerful, and largely foreign oilfield communities. ‘The 
overnight demands for cheap labor occasioned by the arrival of the first 
American military and civilian authorities in the spring of 1941 resulted 
in the further influx of thousands of West Indian migrant workers, raising 
the black contingent on Trinidad to just over half the total population. 


20 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


As was to be expected, given this patchwork of races and cultures, 
socio-economic and racial relations were both ambiguous and complex. 
The dominant European cultural — as opposed to business — community 
on Trinidad contained Spanish, French, and British elements.* While the 
operative language was English, the French Creole dialect, known as pa- 
tois, was widespread, especially among the poor, mostly black population. 
Spanish and French forms of Catholicism remained the near universal re- 
ligion, although large segments of the black and the black Creole popula- 
tions had turned to religious syncretisms such as African Shango or Ori- 
sha and Shakerism (Shouting Baptists). Roughly, the racial composition 
of Trinidad during World War II broke down as follows: white 2.7, black 
46.8, “colored” 14.1, and East Indian 35.1 per cent. 

The locals had a permissive attitude toward assimilation. As a result, 
Trinidad’s social elites were an “association” of white, black, and “col- 
ored” communities. “Miscegenation, acculturation, and assimilation,” in 
the words of one scholar of Trinidad’s “plural society,” established “a single 
continuum in racial, cultural, and social terms.” That “continuum” was 
simply labeled “Creole.” Consisting of people born within the West In- 
dies, but excluding East Indians, the term generally refers to white, black, 
and mixed white-black ancestry. These groupings, along with mainly 
British businessmen and a small “mulatto bourgeoisie,” coexisted — some- 
times uneasily, and largely free from external pressures.* 

The most obvious symbol of authority — and for many, of colonialism 
— was the British administration, from the august figure of the governor 
down to the most junior civil servant. In the early years of the war Sir 
Hubert Young ran Trinidad aristocratically, almost as a feudal fiefdom 
handed him by his liege in London. He was there to exploit the island for 
the Crown, not to develop and much less to enrich it. He had little sym- 
pathy for its chronic fiscal, labor, political, and social problems as well as 
injustices and was mainly interested in upholding the dominant financial, 
political, and social position of the planter aristocracy. Sir Hubert and the 
ruling white elite patronized the swank Union Club on Marine Square, 
which offered billiards and cards as well as lager beer and crab-backs. 
They took tea at St. Benedict Monastery. They shot birds in the Caroni 
marshes. 


1: The Yankees Are Coming! 21 


‘The British upper crust viewed the indigenous population with what 
can only be called disdain and arrogance. ‘The governor’s wife, Lady Mar- 
garet, in 1940 expressed the feelings of many of the British ruling elite in 
a private letter to Secretary of State for the Colonies Malcolm McDonald: 


Local white creoles have no conception of manners, loyalty or 
any other civilized virtue. They simply do not live in the same 
box as ordinary human beings ... they are as strange and remote 
morally as the African and low-caste Indians.° 


‘The war merely validated Governor Young’s aristocratic inclinations — and 
gave him a splendid opportunity to clamp down on the few freedoms that 
the native Trinidadians enjoyed. And he was not about to share power, 
graciously or otherwise, with the Americans who arrived in early 1941 
and to whom the government of Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill 
had given 99-year leases on parts of his fiefdom. The Americans would 
ultimately conclude that “Trinidad proved to be the most difficult of all 
the British colonies to deal with.”’ 

Poverty defined Trinidad. It was the glue that held the poorer seg- 
ments of its society together. Gomes put it thus: 


Poverty in Trinidad is not an extremity of coldness. On the 
contrary, it is suffocatingly hot and humid, bug ridden and 
flea-infested. Its olfactory characteristics consist in the main 
of emanations from the ubiquitous cesspits, stale piss and the 
aromatic goat flavour of sweating, unwashed bodies.* 


Wages, whether in the oil patch, on the sugar and cocoa plantations, or 
in the small service sector, had been kept at bare subsistence levels. Wild 
fluctuations in the global sugar market in the 1930s and a precipitous 
plunge in 1940 in the price of raw sugar to below one cent per pound had 
brought more economic misery and uncertainty. Overpopulation made 
an already bad situation even worse. Last but not least, most food sta- 
ples such as rice, wheat flour, salt fish, and lard had to be imported by 
ship. With the arrival of the U-boats of Operation New Land, Trinidad’s 


22 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


huddled poor literally lived from ship to ship bringing food, mainly from 
the United States. 

Labor unrest had shaken the island just before World War IT in what 
Gomes called “a crude surgery of murder, riot and arson.”” On June 19, 
1937, police officers had attempted to arrest the labor activist T. Uriah 
Butler while he was addressing a large crowd of workers of Apex (Trini- 
dad) Oilfields Ltd. at Fyzabad. Butler was born in Granada and had seen 
service in World War I with the West India Regiment. He had come to 
Trinidad after the war to seek employment in the oil fields; he was badly 
injured on the job and left with a permanent limp, but received no com- 
pensation. It is not known whether it was this experience that set him off 
on a second career as the “Chief Servant” of Trinidad and prompted him 
to establish the British Empire Workers and Citizens Home Rule Party, 
but he quickly became a central figure on the island, combining religious 
fervor, showmanship, and anger at social injustice at his public meetings. 
As he drew larger crowds, his oratory grew angrier and more violent, pos- 
sibly even seditious. On this particular afternoon, warrants were issued for 
his arrest and the bungling police decided to serve these at a large public 
meeting where Butler was speaking. 

The mob rushed the police and gunfire broke out; the police chief 
was shot dead and another constable was severely beaten and burned to 
death." Within 48 hours, the wildcat strike had spread to the other oil- 
fields and refineries on Trinidad, most notably the United British refin- 
ery at Point Fortin and the Trinidad Leaseholds plant at Pointe-a-Pierre. 
From there, the labor unrest had moved to the sugar mills and asphalt 
works. Stevedores and lighter-men in the ports had refused to report for 
work, thereby disrupting shipping of vitally needed food. Over the next 
weeks, the violence and looting had escalated and spread to the sugar and 
cocoa plantations. By early July, about 15 people had been killed and 45 
seriously injured in the riots. 

British authorities reacted swiftly and forcefully, for Trinidad’s three 
refineries provided 63 per cent of the Empire’s fuel oil. HMS Yor, a heavy 
cruiser with 8-inch guns and flagship of the Royal Navy’s America and 
West Indies Squadron, had been dispatched from Bermuda to Trinidad at 
once, as had troops of the Sherwood Foresters. They, along with about 200 
hastily armed civilian guards, had helped to put an end to the violence and 


1: The Yankees Are Coming! 23 


to provide security for the oilfields and refineries. As war clouds gathered 
over Europe, London had been developing plans to build massive plants 
on Trinidad to produce high-octane aviation fuel for the Royal Air Force 
and hence had been in no mood to tolerate organized unrest in the oil- 
fields. To ameliorate its heavy-handed military response, the Government 
had agreed to raise the pay for non-skilled, non-agricultural laborers in 
the cities, and it had promised to regulate the price of food for staples such 
as rice, coconut oil, salt fish, and flour. 

A Royal Commission established to examine the causes of the 1937 
unrest placed most of the blame on the island’s appalling living conditions: 


Fyzabad, a village which has grown up on the edge of the oilfields 
without any apparent regulation or control or observance of 
elementary rules as to structure, space or sanitation ... forms 
a suitable rendezvous for all the undesirable elements which 
congregate in the neighbourhood ... similar examples of the 
worst housing conditions adjacent to the oilfield exist at Frisco 
Junction, Point Fortin and Cochran Village Guapo." 


In addition, lack of machinery to promote collective bargaining and a 
general belief that it was time for greater representation for the islanders 
in their government all combined to create conditions ripe for social ex- 
plosion. Although improvements in living conditions and labor relations 
slowly followed, little was done about the political situation until well af- 
ter the war. 

Wages on Trinidad in 1939 remained abysmal” by any standard.™ 
What made the lot of Trinidadian workers utterly unbearable was the 
fact that the British colonial administration had set up a taxation system 
designed, in the words of the journalist Arthur Calder-Marshall, who 
visited the island in 1938-39, “to spare the rich and to soak the poor." 
Additionally, colonial authorities had established a network of nefarious 
customs tariffs — at an ad valorem rate of 10 to 20 per cent — on imported 
building materials, clothing, coffee and tea, condiments, flour, household 
utensils, meat, medicines, shoes, and oils of every kind. A vast array of 
exemptions — for the Colonial Government, the Church, the diplomatic 


24 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


corps, and even the Constabulary Sports Club — made perfectly clear the 
thrust of the legislation. 

In September 1939, Trinidad was automatically sucked into the vortex 
of war against this backdrop of fiscal and labor inequity. Not surprisingly, 
for many Trinidadians — and especially the well-to-do who had been edu- 
cated in New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania — the United States 
was a beacon of liberty and enlightenment. They found American society, 
especially in the North, to be more open, less class-ridden, and not as pa- 
tronizing as that of Britain. They listened to American short-wave radio, 
kept up with American sports, read American magazines, saw Hollywood 
movies, and dreamed of someday owning a second-hand Ford, Chevro- 
let, or Pontiac. Many spoke openly of “secession” (from Britain) and of 
“anion” (with the United States). 

Trinidadians showed their pro-American and anti-British sentiments 
in numerous ways before the war. They cheered at the cheap movie the- 
aters when newsreels showed photos of Adolf Hitler and Benito Musso- 
lini. They refused to stand for “God Save the King,” their small way of 
“getting the better” of their British overlords. And they openly welcomed 
American visitors to Trinidad. The “Yanks” spent their money freely, more 
of them (than British) came to the Island, and when there, more of them 
hired taxis and tipped handsomely.’ They swayed to the music of Trini- 
dad’s famous calypso singers, such as “Attila the Hun,” “The Lion,” “Lord 
Invader,” and “Radio.” They enjoyed their sojourns in the island paradise. 

President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s stirring announcements of the Four 
Freedoms (of speech and worship, from want and fear) and of the Atlan- 
tic Charter (the rights of all peoples freely to choose their form of gov- 
ernment) resonated in Trinidad. The historic “destroyers-for-bases” deal 
of September 1940 stirred many hopes for better days ahead in Port of 
Spain — for the inevitable clashes between the brash Yanks and the crusty 
Governor Young could only play into the hands of Trinidad’s political 
activists. Broad sections of the population anticipated that there would 
be the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Washington in- 
itially estimated the costs for military bases in the Caribbean basin at 
roughly $200 million, with almost half earmarked for Trinidad.” There 
would finally be jobs, real jobs at good American wages. New highways 


1: The Yankees Are Coming! 25 


would crisscross the island. New docks would bring the world’s commer- 
cial traffic to Trinidad. New airfields would connect it to the rest of the 
Americas. 

Thus, hopes ran high in the fall of 1940 when the first United States 
mission arrived in Trinidad on the light cruiser USS S¢. Louis and immedi- 
ately made it clear that its members were coming, not to defend the British 
Empire or enrich the locals, but to advance American security needs. Not 
surprisingly, a bureaucratic “cold war” broke out at once among Governor 
Young, the US War Department, General Frank M. Andrews, chief of 
the Caribbean Defense Command, and Rear Admiral J. W. Greenslade, 
who headed the mission." 

Governor Young officially welcomed his “guests for such a long time” 
— 99 years, to be exact — and then launched into a plethora of concerns 
about what he believed the Americans wanted, including a significant ex- 
pansion of the fleet anchorage and bases “dotted about in different local- 
ities all over the Colony.” He claimed that the Americans seemed to leave 
no role at all for Britain concerning ASW measures to be taken. They 
viewed Trinidad alone as being worth “forty out of the fifty destroyers 
that had been handed over by the United States Government” as part of 
the September 1940 deal. They intended Trinidad, rather than being the 
center for the fight against German U-boats, to be the primary “jump- 
ing-off ground for operations by the United States Army in South Amer- 
ica.” Given that the U-boat attacks in the Caribbean were still a year and a 
half away, there was no doubt much to this, but then Young had no better 
foreknowledge of the U-boat campaign than did the Americans. 

The US mission demanded vast tracts of Trinidad as sites for air 
bases. The testy governor at first offered what the Americans deemed to 
be a “large, miasmic swamp” between Port of Spain and San Fernando.” 
Greenslade rejected this outright and insisted on the greater part of Trini- 
dad’s northwest peninsula, and especially an area known as the Cumuto 
Reserve west of the town of Sangre Grande, for the US Navy. In effect, 
Young had offered the Americans some of the worst land on the island 
and the Americans insisted on some of the best.”° Young would have none 
of it. On December 4, he flew to Washington for discussions with US 
Secretary of State Cordell Hull and the British Ambassador, Lord Lo- 
thian. President Roosevelt then appointed a special commission to resolve 


26 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


the base sites problems and sent them to Trinidad. The commission sided 
with Greenslade, but Young dug in his heels. On December 20, the presi- 
dent announced that the Trinidad bases question was to be a matter of 
direct negotiations with Prime Minister Churchill.”? The Americans car- 
ried their case in March 1941 — in part because Roosevelt let it be known 
to British authorities that if he “leaked” the details of these desultory ne- 
gotiations, the result might be defeat of the Lend-lease Bill, then before 
Congress.” 

Thus, the Americans acquired the Cumuto Reserve, where they built 
Waller Air Field and the Fort Reid army base on 18 square miles. ‘They 
also received the entire northwest peninsula east of Arima, the five “quar- 
antine islands” off Port of Spain for their fleet anchorage, a small recrea- 
tion strip on Trinidad’s eastern coast, “supply and gun wharf facilities” in 
the capital itself, and an auxiliary airfield east of Longdenville. As well, 
Rear Admiral Greenslade insisted that the US Navy occupy and arm the 
islands of the Dragon’s Mouth and the Serpent’s Mouth to protect the 
entrances to the Gulf of Paria. 

The Americans selected Port of Spain to be their primary naval base 
and materials shipment center. Although its harbor had to be dredged 
regularly, it provided good docking facilities at King’s Wharf, which, in 
turn, had a decent rail connection to the city. But the vast amount of men 
and materials scheduled to garrison Trinidad against the U-boat threat 
soon overtaxed Port of Spain’s facilities, and hence the Americans es- 
tablished a second base, Docksite, adjacent to King’s Wharf. Extending 
along the Gulf of Paria for some 1,000 meters, Docksite in 1941 was 
an undeveloped, tidal mudflat of about 28 acres. It would eventually be 
expanded to include 183 acres and to reach as far west as Chaguaramas. 

Preparations for the site of the US Navy base at Chaguaramas began 
March 1, 1941; on the 31st the Americans formally took possession; on 
June 1, they commissioned the base. Under the existing Defense Regu- 
lations and the Trinidad Base Agreement, they expelled local residents 
to construct the naval base. By mid-March, the last 25 families had 
been given notices to leave their homes at Nicholas. By mid-December, 
residents at Staubles Bay, Saline Bay, and Tetron Bay had received similar 
notices. Their homes were demolished and, to add insult to injury, they 
were denied use of their former beach clubs and holiday homes. 


1: The Yankees Are Coming! 27 


The first American contingent of six officers, 995 enlisted men, and 
ten civilians arrived on May 5, 1941.7 Within months, contractors at 
Port of Spain and Chaguaramas threw up a plethora of buildings: general 
depots, warehouses, repair shops, seaplane hangars, administration build- 
ings, a theater, a hospital, and even a new, large army wharf. Concurrent- 
ly, work gangs labored around the clock to dredge deep channels through 
the mudflats for use by ocean-going tankers, bauxite carriers, and mer- 
chant steamers. Local black labor had long worked the mudflats. British 
journalist Calder-Marshall left a vivid description: “Fivepence an hour, 
ten hours a day.... Nightshift, dayshift, nightshift. Ten hours on, fourteen 
off.... The noon sun blazing, rain like gravel on the back, the sudden cold, 
the steam of drying.” 

According to island legend, the Americans at Chaguaramas gave birth 
to the steel band. Base personnel threw out garbage in empty steel (mostly 
oil) drums and burned the contents at noxious dump sites. Trinidadians 
working on the base observed that as the drums heated up in the fire, they 
gave off peculiar sounds, “and so began the long and laboured experimen- 
tation that resulted in the unique music from empty steel containers.” 

The dramatic expansion of port facilities between Port of Spain and 
Chaguaramas did not sit well with Trinidad’s educated elite. Eric Wil- 
liams, the future first prime minister of an independent Trinidad and To- 
bago, lamented both the length of the leases (99 years) and the United 
States’ selection of Chaguaramas, the natural site for any future expansion 
of Port of Spain, for its major naval base.”° He argued that no formal deed 
of lease had been registered at Port of Spain. He remonstrated that many 
residents of Chaguaramas had received inadequate compensation when 
the US Army expropriated their homes for base construction. He com- 
plained that islanders had suffered from the spiraling inflation brought 
about by this massive infusion of “Yankee dollars” — the cost of living had 
escalated from a base of 100 in 1939 to 170 by 1942.?’ Yet, in the end, 
“wartime necessity” overruled such considerations. 

Having been rebuffed by Washington on the matter of strategic bases, 
Governor Young turned the discussions toward the environment. ‘The 
Aripo River at best supplied 4 million gallons of fresh water a day. He of- 
fered the Americans 20 to 25 gallons per man per day; they demanded 100 
gallons because Americans “were accustomed to take shower-baths.” With 


28 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


as many as 40,000 soldiers, sailors, contractors, and construction crews 
expected to arrive soon, Young calculated that the Aripo River reserves 
would be totally exhausted.** His argument fell on deaf ears. 

Young then returned to his earlier offer of the Caroni Swamp. His 
“naval, military and air advisers,” he allowed, had calculated that this vast 
site south of the capital would permit the Americans to place all their air 
and naval assets in one central area; would obviate the need to punch new 
roads through the mountainous terrain of the Northwest; would permit 
use of existing shore batteries to protect the oil refineries; would facilitate 
the building of two airfields; and would “eliminate the possibility of con- 
structing any form of British naval base in Trinidad for the next hundred 
years.” The last argument, especially, was hardly attractive to Greenslade. 
The admiral’s consulting engineers countered that reclamation of the 
Caroni Swamp would “be quite impractical for military purposes” as it 
would “take 15 years to complete,” given that the swamp would have to be 
built “up to a height of 10 feet on the shore line and 15 to 20 feet inland.” 
More, the mud of the Caroni River would not support “the heavy weights 
necessitated by military requirement.” In short, any military development 
of the swamp would “be fighting against nature.” Greenslade insisted 
that his naval base be sited at Chaguaramas. It was. 

‘The indefatigable Governor Young then shifted his diplomatic offen- 
sive to the fiscal and customs privileges extended to the American forces 
as well as to military and civil jurisdiction on the bases. He demanded 
that British laws and taxation prevail. He lost the battle on all fronts: the 
Americans simply were unwilling to place base security in British hands 
or to recognize British civil courts. They insisted on (and received) com- 
plete extra-territorial rights at all base sites. The final settlement between 
Washington and London was clear on the matter. “His Majesty's Govern- 
ment agree that the United States may exercise ... all such rights, powers 
and authority as may be necessary for conducting any military operations 
deemed desirable by the United States.”** The document left no room for 
Anglo-American “joint” efforts, or even for mutual consultation. 

Governor Young’s final gambit was to demand that British contractors 
be allowed to bid for construction of the American bases. In this, too, he 
lost. The Eastern Division, US Corps of Engineers, made certain that 
contracts went to American firms on a negotiated cost-plus-fee basis. It 


1: The Yankees Are Coming! 29 


also decreed that most of the construction materials had to come from the 
United States. Its commander, Colonel Joseph D. Arthur, Jr., dispatched 
the first construction crews to the Docksite area at Port of Spain in March 
1941. As for Governor Young, continued labor unrest combined with de- 
teriorating Anglo-American relations on Trinidad prompted London to 
recall him (on grounds of “ill health”) in June 1942 and to replace him 
with the more diplomatic Sir Bede Clifford. Eventually the US Corps of 
Engineers spent roughly $82 million ($993 million in 2010 dollars) on 
construction in Trinidad, second only to what was spent defending the 
Panama Canal. 

By mid-May 1941, construction was well underway at all the base 
sites. Barracks and mess halls, hangars and runways, taxiways and control 
towers sprang up as local labor was hired and construction workers poured 
in from the United States. By the end of June, temporary runways were 
in use on St. Lucia, Antigua, and British Guiana. Heavy rain delayed 
construction on Trinidad, but a 5,000-foot runway was completed there 
by October. Almost immediately, labor problems erupted on Jamaica and 
Trinidad when local trade unions protested wages and working conditions 
and the lack of housing for domestic workers. The American commander 
of the Trinidad sector attributed the labor troubles to “Nazi sympathizers 
and Fifth Columnists in the Guianas.” No evidence was ever found to 
substantiate these charges. Most of the friction that arose from time to 
time between the islands’ peoples and the American military stemmed 
from the completely different cultural backgrounds of the two groups, the 
boisterousness of young men far from home seeking drink, women, and a 
howling good time when off duty, and the military’s failure to foresee the 
immense social strains that would arise. As the official history of the US 


Army in World War IT concluded: 


Too little cognizance was taken of the incapacity of Americans 
generally to adapt their ways to those of strangers or to take 
comfort or serious interest in unfamiliar surroundings. Too little 
attention was given to preparing the men for the antipathy of a 
local populace, however friendly, toward any foreign garrison, 
however well-intentioned.*! 


30 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


Despite the difficulties of climate, distance, differences of culture, and 
differences of nationality, the base construction went remarkably quickly. 
On Sunday, April 20, 1941, US infantry and coast artillery units arrived 
in Bermuda; four days later the men of the 1* Bomber Squadron arrived 
in Trinidad from Panama. ‘Their aircraft were flown in eight days after 
that. Then, on May 5, infantry and artillery units arrived from New York. 
On all the islands and in British Guiana, base airstrips were completed, 
coastal defense installations were manned, radar stations were put into 
operation, and planes — Navy Catalinas and Army bombers and fighters 
— arrived by the score. Great Exuma and Antigua hosted air strips while 
a small army base was established on Jamaica. St. Lucia had an exten- 
sive base capable of housing an entire army division along with a large 
air base. British Guiana hosted a small US Army unit that guarded the 
Georgetown airport where both American and British military aircraft 
were based. Trinidad was home to Fort Reid, a major army base and a 
large airfield. In all, 189 bombers and 202 fighters® were based across the 
islands, backed by a handful of Royal Navy ships and United States Navy 
destroyers. In August 1941, discussions began with the Dutch govern- 
ment-in-exile and the British to station US troops on Aruba and Curacao, 
to replace the two British infantry battalions that had been stationed there 
the year before and to establish a US garrison in Suriname. Close to 1,000 
US soldiers began to arrive in Suriname in late November 1941 with ar- 
tillery, bombers, and fighters. By December 1941, several squadrons of 
Army reconnaissance and bomber squadrons, equipped primarily with 
twin engine B-18 “Bolos” and A-20 “Havocs,” were deployed around the 
Caribbean as well as some Navy patrol squadrons equipped with twin 
engine Catalinas. 

The sporadic air patrols carried out by these aircraft were better than 
nothing, but the planes were not equipped for antisubmarine warfare, the 
crews were untrained in spotting or attacking subs and, quite simply, there 
were not enough of them. A number of old World War 1-era US Navy 
and Royal Navy destroyers plied the Caribbean and the odd Dutch naval 
vessel. But as one major study by the US Army on the antisubmarine war 
in the Caribbean later recorded: 


1: The Yankees Are Coming! 31 

















Douglas B-18B (S/N 37-530, originally a B-18A) with the Magnetic Anomaly Detection 
(MAD) tail boom. B-18s were frequently used for anti-submarine warfare in the 
Caribbean theatre (U.S. Air Force Photo). Source: National Museum of the US Air Force, 


http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil. 


That the U-boat menace would grow to gigantic proportions 
in this area was not predicted in the War Department or in 
the Caribbean Defense Command, and extensive development 
of procedures and materials to offset any underwater campaign 
was not included in the early preparations. The problem of 
antisubmarine measures at that time concerned the Caribbean 
Defense Command primarily as it should affect the Canal, 
although enemy U-boat operation in the whole Atlantic area 
had already begun to cause concern.” 


Beginning shortly after the United States entered the war, air and ground 
forces were dispatched to key islands in the Caribbean (Trinidad, Panama, 
Puerto Rico). Trinidad had the largest contingent of US forces: 12,000 
ground troops and 4,000 aircrew and command and maintenance person- 


nel. One bomb group of 55 aircraft, one pursuit (fighter) group of 130, and 


32 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 




















Douglas A-20A of the 58th Bomb Squadron over Oahu, Hawaii, on May 29, 1941. The 
United States Army Airforce deployed several A-20 “Havocs” for anti-submarine patrols 
in the Caribbean (U.S. Air Force photo). Source: National Museum of the US Air Force 
http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil. 


one reconnaissance squadron of 13 were also based there. In the Panama 
Canal Zone, the US Navy operated Patrol Wing Three composed of 26 
PBY Catalina flying boats while the Army Air Forces’ 59** Bombardment 
Squadron consisted of 12 A-20 “Havocs.” 

The aircraft operated by the US Navy and the Army Air Forces in 
the Caribbean theater were not well suited to the job of hunting and kill- 
ing U-boats. The PBY was first flown in 1935 as an amphibious naval 
reconnaissance aircraft. It was originally designed as a torpedo bomber 
but was almost never used in that role. The main armament on early mod- 
els was two .50-caliber machine guns in large waist blisters, one .50- or 
.30-caliber machine gun in the nose, and one .50-caliber in the bottom 
rear aft of the hull step. Early PBYs had no searchlights or purpose-built 
depth bombs. They were slow, with maximum speed less than 200 miles 
per hour, but did have a maximum range of 3,100 miles. The B-18 was a 
military version of the Douglas DC-2 transport with a thicker forward 


1: The Yankees Are Coming! 33 





Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina in white camouflage for hunting submarines. 
iStock photo. 


fuselage and a glassed-in nose. It carried only three light machine guns 
but could accommodate up to 4,000 pounds of bombs or depth charges in 
its bomb bay. It was about 20 miles per hour faster than the PBY but had 
half the range. The A-20 was by far the newest and best of the aircraft, far 
more heavily armed with a crew of three and a maximum bomb (or depth 
charge) load of 4,000 pounds and at least 100 miles per hour faster than 
the PBY or the B-18. Unfortunately, the A-20 light bombers were in great 
demand in all theaters of the war, and in this early period only very limited 
numbers were available to Caribbean Defense Command. Moreover, the 
bulk of the new four-engine B-17s and B-24s, with much longer ranges 
and carrying capacity than the navy planes or the B-18s and A-20s, were 
used to patrol the Pacific side of the Panama Canal. 

The available ASW aircraft were dispersed throughout the Carib- 
bean, with a squadron each at Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Saint Croix, An- 
tigua, St. Lucia, Trinidad, Georgetown, and Paramaribo — when Brazil- 
ian permission was obtained. Each base was to mount regular air patrols 


34 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


in seaward sweeps while naval vessels in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and 
San Juan, Puerto Rico, supplemented the coverage. As usual, competition 
between the army and the navy hindered a joint defense; less than a week 
after Pearl Harbor, the commanding general of the Caribbean Air Force 
refused to assume responsibility for long-range reconnaissance since “that 
was the mission assigned the Navy forces.”*4 

Prolonged and somewhat difficult negotiations between the Dutch 
government-in-exile and the United States — at one point the Americans 
began to prepare for an invasion of the Dutch islands from Trinidad — 
delayed the arrival of American aircraft on Aruba and Curacao until 
mid-January 1942, when units of 59" Bombardment Squadron arrived 
in the Netherlands West Indies from the Canal Zone. One flight was 
stationed at Dakota Field, Aruba; the other at Hato Field, Curacao. These 
were the first US combatants on the Dutch islands and they found the fa- 
cilities less than perfect. Dakota Field (today Queen Beatrix International 
Airport) was on the west side of the island, about 15 kilometers from 
San Nicolas harbor and the Lago refineries. Its 2,500-foot gravel run- 
way, like that at Hato Field, was too short for the A-20s and had to be 
doubled in length and paved. In the early days, officers and men lived in 
temporary wooden barracks; flight crews slept in tents near the aircraft; 
and almost all had to do with saltwater showers.*° The land defenses of 
the two Dutch islands in January 1942 consisted of Royal Netherlands 
Marines and Dutch military police, shored up by a British infantry bat- 
talion on each island. Little joint training was undertaken and almost no 
preparations were made for any possible invasion. As one US report put it, 
“British troops were anxious to leave and Dutch troops were equally anx- 
ious to have them do so.”** American troops began to arrive on the islands 
on February 11.°’ Their first task was to move into the facilities that the 
British had left. 

In the Caribbean as elsewhere, the German victory over France 
forced a rapid and thorough reconsideration of local defense measures and 
heightened American concerns about the security of the Panama Canal. 
This turn of events, along with Churchill’s desire to entice the United 
States to take more of the burden for the defense of shipping in the Battle 
of the Atlantic, led to a rapid buildup of US forces from Suriname to the 
Bahamas to Bermuda. When the U-boats arrived in Caribbean waters, 


1: The Yankees Are Coming! 35: 


there was at least some defense in place to meet them. It was ironic, how- 
ever, that the U-boat threat against the UK that had largely prompted the 
British to offer up the leased bases in the first place was so little considered 
in US defense planning for the Caribbean. When the United States went 
to war in early December 1941, its troops and aircraft were ready to take 
on the nonexistent German aircraft carriers but were completely unready 
for German submarines. 


oh OK Ok 


Back in Lorient, the U-boat crews wasted not a moment in preparing 
for their departure. As soon as the work details at the Kéroman bunkers 
had completed repairs to U-161 on January 20, Albrecht Achilles took 
his boat northward into the Scorff River. The technical gang stowed 25 
torpedoes, 15 below and ten in pressurized tubes under the upper deck’s 
wooden planks. Next, they hoisted on board 110 rounds of 10.5-cm shells 
for the deck gun as well as 2,625 rounds for the 3.7-cm and 4,250 for the 
2-cm anti-aircraft guns (FLAK). It was hard work in a wet, cold January. 
Then U-161 bunkered 214 tons of fuel oil, six tons of lubricating oil, and 
five tons of drinking water. Finally, it took on food supplies for the long 
journey by a crew of 49 officers and men. It was an awesome sight.** Below 
decks disappeared literally mountains of crates with canned goods: beef, 
pork, lamb, ham, sausages, sardines, herring, lentils, cauliflower, spinach, 
sauerkraut, asparagus, kale, mixed fruit, apple sauce, as well as an abun- 
dant supply of salt and sugar, coffee and milk. The arrival of 50 tropical 
pith helmets aroused a good bit of conjecture among the seamen. Last 
but not least, U-161 took on board 15 bottles of “medicinal” cognac, to be 
rationed out by Achilles for persistent “colds” among the crew. 

Finally, the moment of departure was at hand. U-67, U-156, and 
U-502 were first to put to sea on January 19, 1942, followed five days 
later by U-161 and U-129. On U-161 Werner Bender reported: “All hands 
present and accounted for! Engine room crew ready! Upper and lower 
decks cleared for departure!” Achilles snapped a brisk, “Thanks. Heil J 
WO.” Then to the crew:” “Eyes front! At ease!” Bender ordered, “Let go 
all lines!” The fenders were hauled in, hawsers cast off from the old hulk 
Isére. A military band struck up the navy’s unofficial anthem, Wir fahren 


36 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


gegen Engeland. Officers waved good-bye and wished the Kaleus “Good 
Hunting!” 

“Engines ahead one-third!” The electric motors began to hum. Slowly, 
U-161 glided into Lorient’s main harbor channel. The water was a turgid 
dark brown, a nauseous mix of oil, seaweed, tar, and sewage. An armada 
of dilapidated tugs and fishing boats, prams and ferries, lighters and oil 
barges, flitted about. A blast from the submarine’s “Typhon” signal horn 
summoned one of the patrol boats from the so-called “bedbug flotilla.” 
“Starboard engine slow ahead! Rudder hard to port!” The nine-cylinder 
MAN diesels roared to life, spewing out their gray-blue exhaust fumes. 

The hull and deck plates began to vibrate. Cold sea spray greeted the 
watch on the bridge. It was just past 1 p.m., January 24, 1942. 

Off the starboard side, the deck crews could make out a small number 
of Vice Admiral Karl Donitz’s staff officers waving their caps from the 
bunker roof of the Villa Kerillon.*° As U-161 passed the narrows between 
Kernével and Port-Louis, it picked up its escort boat, a minesweeper. Then 
it headed for Rendezvous Point Luci-2. The day was gray and overcast. 
Force 4 winds. Moderate sea swells. Achilles gave the order to shape a 
course: “Destination San Miguel (Azores).” It was the first rendezvous 
point. Ahead lay what the Kaleus joyously referred to as the “Golden West.” 


1: The Yankees Are Coming! 37 


ATTACK ON ARUBA 


As January gave way to February 1942, Group Neuland shaped course for 
the Azores. The weather was a mix of clouds and light rain, with moderate 
seas. Day after day, the boats, running on just one engine, averaged about 
170 nautical miles. The men referred to these long runs out to and back 
from the operations areas as “garbage tours.” It was boring, monotonous 
work. One by one, the cases of fresh provisions disappeared: meat after 
eight days, bread after 12, eggs after 21, and even potatoes as well as 
smoked hams after 35. Soon, crates of canned meats and vegetables were 
retrieved from the boat’s second toilet, much to the relief of the 49-member 
crew. Every crate eaten meant more living space. As the weather slowly 
warmed, the men took turns to sunbathe on the deck, to try their luck 
at fishing, to play cards and chess, and to listen to the shortwave radio 
— including the forbidden BBC, the Voice of America, and the “Black” 
radio programs such as Siegfried Eins and Radio Atlantic, emanating 
from London. ‘There were also 200 records on board. 

The leisurely crossing gave the mostly green crew time to take the 
measure of their new surroundings.’ At 1,541 tons fully loaded, the Type 
IXC boats had almost twice the displacement of the standard Type VIIC 
boats. They were sturdy craft of double hull construction, with the diving 
tanks and main fuel oil bunkers in the outer hull. Five watertight compart- 
ments protected the boat against cracking of the pressure hull — by depth 
charges or aerial bombs. Two nine-cylinder MAN supercharged “Jumbo” 
diesels, each capable of producing 2,200 horsepower, gave the boats a best 
speed of 18 knots on the surface. Sixty-two AFA batteries housed in boxes 
set on rubber shock absorbers and stowed underneath the interior deck 
plates powered two Siemens-Schuckert double electric motors at a best 


39 





\ 
* 


Hitt TON 











The aft facing twin 2cm antiaircraft guns of a Type IXC Uboat. Source: Ken Macpherson 
Photographic Archives, Library and Archives at The Military Museums, Libraries and 
Cultural Resources, University of Calgary. 


speed of seven knots submerged. Surface range was 14,035 nautical miles 
at ten knots; submerged range was 63 nautical miles at four knots. The 
boats had a safe diving depth of 100 meters (328 feet), but skippers often 
doubled that during particularly severe depth-charge attacks. 

Armament consisted of six 53.3-cm (21-inch) torpedo tubes, four in 
the bow and two in the stern. For the long journey to the Golden West, 
the boats carried more than their standard allotment of “eels”: six in the 
firing tubes, nine strapped under bunks, and ten stored in watertight con- 
tainers under the wooden planks of the top deck. Given that the new 
electric G7e T2 “Eto” torpedoes had often failed due to their faulty prox- 
imity and contact fuses, the boats had also been outfitted with the older 
but more reliable G7a T1 “Ato” torpedoes. Finally, the boats carried one 


40 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


10.5-cm? deck gun mounted on the forward deck; one 3.7-cm anti-aircraft 
gun on the after deck; and small 2-cm anti-aircraft cannons on the bridge. 

Only some 30 feet longer than the Type VIIC boats, the IXC class 
offered little more in the way of comfort for their crew of roughly 50 of- 
ficers and ratings. The boats were divided into four main sections. Mov- 
ing from the bow to the stern, the first section was the forward torpedo 
room with its four firing tubes and reloads stashed under the bunks which 
were shared, or “hot-sheeted,” by the ratings depending on which were 
off-duty. Stepping back through a heavy watertight bulkhead, one entered 
the petty officers’ quarters; these lucky few had their own bunks. Just be- 
hind the petty officer's quarters was the small galley, the domain of the 
cook, or Smufje. It consisted of a small refrigerator, two small ovens, and 
three hot plates. Moving back from the galley through another watertight 
bulkhead, one encountered the brain and nerve center of the boat: the 
officer’s wardroom and the captain’s cabin, adjoined by the radio room 
and the underwater sounding station. Most importantly, the radio room 
housed the Enigma cipher machine. This was where messages were en- 
coded as well as decoded (“officers only”), and where courses and positions 
were plotted on the secret grid charts (Quadratkarten). Hydrophone read- 
ings were taken in the underwater sounding station, where the war diary 
(Kriegstagebuch, or KTB) was also maintained. Clocks were always set on 
Berlin (GMT+1) time. 

Amidships, directly under the conning tower, was the mechanic- 
al heart of the boat, the control room — a bewildering array of gauges, 
switches, meters, valves, hand-wheels, pumps, magnetic and gyro com- 
passes, rudder and hydroplane controls, as well as chart closet and mess 
table. Appropriately named die Zentrale, this section was dominated by 
the two periscopes — the large sky scope and the smaller attack scope. Be- 
tween the periscopes were a ladder and hatch that led to a small conning 
tower above the control room. From there, the executive officer worked 
the attack calculator, compass repeater, and attack periscope to aim and 
arm the torpedoes during an attack. Directly above him was a watertight 
hatch leading to the bridge. 

Moving still further back inside the boat through yet another water- 
tight bulkhead, one entered the engine room, the noisy, grimy neth- 
er world of the chief engineer and his “black gang.” It housed the two 


2: Attack on Aruba 41 


massive MAN diesels, mounted side by side and with a narrow pathway 
between them to allow the engine crews to service the monsters. Just be- 
hind the diesels were the two Siemens-Schuckert electric motors, aligned 
on the twin shafts that ran from the diesels to the two three-bladed pro- 
pellers. Finally, through yet another watertight bulkhead one reached the 
aft torpedo room. Aside from the two stern torpedo tubes and reloads, it 
had eight bunks for a crew of sixteen and an auxiliary steering wheel. 

‘The boats turned into a veritable sewer within the first two weeks of 
a war patrol. Men wore what they called “whore’s drawers,” black under- 
wear to hide the sweat stains that daily grew once the boat reached its 
operations area. Humidity often approached 100 per cent inside the steel 
hull; dripping condensation turned paperback novels into paste. Especial- 
ly in the tropics, the temperature inside the steel hull reached 40 degrees 
Celsius. The bilge became a sluggish rivulet of oil, urine, and spilled bat- 
tery acid. Mold was commonplace. Cheeses stored in the torpedo rooms 
and sausages and slabs of smoked ham hanging off the bulkheads further 
fouled an already odiferous air. Human waste was launched through an 
empty torpedo tube as the toilets could not be flushed at depths greater 
than 100 meters. The men’s only hope to breathe fresh air was that their 
skipper would call them up on deck in warm climes and during non-com- 
bat hours. 

The Neuland boats had received two of the German Navy’s latest tech- 
nical innovations before leaving Lorient. The standard Enigma (or Sch/iis- 
sel M) machine had been given a fourth “a/pha” rotor to make it virtually 
impossible to crack. Already with just three rotors, each with 26 contacts, 
16,900 live posts were possible. The fourth rotor expanded those possibil- 
ities to 44,000 live posts. U-Boat Headquarters confidently projected for 
this new M4 machine with its “Triton” cipher circuit a theoretical total of 
160 trillion settings for a complete radio transmission.* Surely, no human 
brain could possibly unravel such staggering combinations! The second 
innovation was reserved solely for U-156: a fixed array FuMO 29 radar 
detector mounted on the front of the upper conning tower. ‘The device 
had a range of just under five miles and a field of view of but 60 degrees 
forward.° Neuland was to be its first operational test. 

Albrecht Achilles and U-161 had left Lorient the evening of January 
24, 1942, on a course of west-by-southwest. Destination: Trinidad, 3,600 


42 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


nautical miles from Lorient. Precisely one week later, they spotted their 
first two enemy destroyers. Luckily, they remained undetected.® Early in 
the morning of February 1, U-161’s lookouts spied the Arnel lighthouse 
on San Miguel Island in the Azores. Thereafter, Achilles altered course 
due west for Trinidad. 

For the crew of U-161, their new skipper remained a mystery. They 
knew only the barest details of his career. Born on January 25, 1914, he 
had just passed his 28th birthday. He was regular navy, having entered 
the service in April 1934. He had been assigned first to the old battle- 
ship Schleswig-Holstein and then the new 11-inch battleship Gneisenau. In 
April 1940 Achilles had transferred to the U-Boat Service and after three 
war patrols as executive officer on U-66 had received his own boat. 

Second Watch Officer Gotz Roth recalled his skipper in 1942.’ “He 
was still young, only a few years older than the crew, which on average 
were between 20 and 22 years of age.... Achilles was not tall — about 1.74 
meters. He quickly won our confidence.” The Old Man was “friendly,” a 
man who set the right tone for both the command bridge and the mess. 
He maintained strict, but not unbending, discipline on board and was a 
professional through and through. “Political topics were taboo on U 161.” 

As soon as the Neuland boats reached the mid-Atlantic, Vice Ad- 
miral Karl Doénitz reminded his skippers not to give their position away 
by attacking single freighters, however tempting they might be. As U-161 
crossed the line 40 degrees west longitude, it radioed in its oil situation, as 
ordered by U-Boat Headquarters: “Still have 190 cbm fuel.” On February 
10, Kernével sent out news that “a Spanish naval officer” had informed 
U-Boat Headquarters that the harbors at Curacao as well as Trinidad 
were “open, not mined, no blackout.” Shortly before midnight on Febru- 
ary 15, Achilles sighted the lighthouses of South Point and Ragged Point 
on Barbados. Twenty-four hours later, Trinidad hove into sight. U-161 
had reached its operations area. Grid Square ED 9596. 


3 ok ok 


U-156 also had an uneventful crossing. After leaving Lorient on Janu- 
ary 19, 1942, Kapitinleutnant Werner Hartenstein, the Neuland group 
leader, radioed the top-secret Operations Order 51 to his fellow Kaleus: 


2: Attack on Aruba 43 














U-156 returning home from a patrol. Source: Ken Macpherson Photographic Archives, 
Library and Archives at The Military Museums, Libraries and Cultural Resources, 


University of Calgary. 


44 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 





“Surprise, concentrated attack on traffic in the immediate vicinity of the 
West Indies islands of Aruba a[nd] Curacao. Codename: Neuland. At- 
tack 5 hours before sunrise [on February 16].”* Hartenstein’s destination: 
Aruba, nearly 4,000 nautical miles from Lorient. The weather also held 
for U-156: moderate seas, light winds, overcast skies with occasional rain 
squalls. 

As the days went by, the crew got to know their skipper. Born on Feb- 
ruary 27, 1908, at Plauen, Hartenstein spoke with a heavy Saxon accent. 
He was a stern taskmaster. A regular navy man, he had entered the service 
in 1928 and had been assigned mainly to torpedo-boats.’ In March 1941, 
he had transferred to the U-boat arm. He proudly wore the Iron Cross, 1st 
and 2nd Class. On February 2, he received word that he had been awarded 
the German Cross in Gold for “extraordinary bravery” while serving with 
the destroyers.” The loudspeakers on U-156 blared out martial music, the 
Old Man donned his dress blues, and the Smutje outdid himself with ox- 
tail soup, stuffed rolled flank steak, and chocolate pudding. Hartenstein 
reciprocated with three shots of the “medicinal” cognac for the mess. He 
was now just a few weeks away from his 34th birthday. He had a wiry but 
solid frame of medium build. His high cheekbones and eagle-like nose 
reminded some of the men of Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda 
minister. A rapier thrust from a duel during his two years at university had 
left a permanent scar on his left cheek. 

The men knew that he was a “loner.” The story had made the rounds 
that, as a newcomer to the U-Boat Service, he had run into Erich Topp at 
a bar in France. Topp already was an “ace,” a commander who would end 
his career ranked third on the list of all-time greats, with 35 ships of just 
under 200,000 tons destroyed. He was one of only five skippers to receive 
the Knight’s Cross with Swords and Diamonds. When Topp had taken a 
seat next to him at the bar, Hartenstein had merely growled: “My name is 
Hartenstein. I don’t give a damn what yours is.”" 

At 2 p.m. on February 4, the Enigma board lit up: “Neuland 186.” 
U-156 would be free to begin operations against Aruba five hours before 
sunrise on Monday, February 16, 1942. The next day and again five days 
later Hartenstein spied single freighters, unmarked and unescorted in the 
mid-Atlantic. Easy targets, but off limits. “Did not attack according to 
operations orders,” he dryly noted in the war diary. By now, U-156 was 


2: Attack on Aruba 45 





Werner Hartenstein. One of the most senior U-boat commanders, Korvettenkapitaen 
Hartenstein began his career on the light cruiser Karlsruhe, and in March 1941 transferred 
to the U-Boat forces. He undertook four patrols with U-161, sinking 19 Allied ships of 
97,489 tons. A Knight’s Cross holder, he became most famous for his actions to rescue 

the survivors of the 19,695-ton liner Laconia; his “bag” in the Caribbean included the 
destroyer USS Blakeley off Martinique. Source: Deutsches U-Boot-Museum, Cuxhaven- 
Altenbruch, Germany. 


46 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 





U-156. Commissioned at Bremen in September 1941 and commanded by 


Korvettenkapitaen Werner Hartenstein, U-156, a Type IXC boat, played a major role 

in the German attack on Aruba; it was sunk in March 1943 east of Barbados by depth 
charges from a US Catalina flying boat. Source: Deutsches U-Boot-Museum, Cuxhaven- 
Altenbruch, Germany. 


skirting the southern edge of one of the strangest and most notorious 
bodies of water on the planet — the Sargasso Sea, just above the Tropic of 
Cancer. Vast islands of green seaweed lazily floated on the ocean. As his 
boat sliced through the mats, Hartenstein noted that U-156 was now in 
the heart of the Bermuda Triangle. 

Under cover of darkness on February 10, 24 days out of Lorient, U-156 
passed the Guadeloupe Channel south of Antigua in the Leeward Islands, 
being sure to hug the friendly Vichy-French coast of Guadeloupe. It was 
now time to power up the second of the supercharged MAN diesels. These 
were halcyon days for the crew. The gentle Caribbean breeze and warm 
sea were welcome relief from the cold and rainy mid-Atlantic. Swims in 
the deep blue waters were much appreciated, as were showers from the fire 
hoses rigged up on deck. Few bothered with bathing suits. Hartenstein 


2: Attack on Aruba 47 


broke out the tropical gear: soft canvas shoes, tan tropical shorts, sleeve- 
less light tan jerseys, and pith helmets. The men detested the latter. Many 
had brought along their own khaki field caps, similar to those worn by the 
Afrika Korps.” In the 40-degree-Celsius heat inside the boat, the jerseys 
and caps were quickly stowed and replaced by a sweat rag worn around 
the neck. To the joy of the crew, Hartenstein introduced them to the 
exotic family exocoetidae, or flying fish. For some time, the men had seen 
blue and silver fish with long pectoral fins accompany the boat, oftentimes 
gliding through the air on these “wings.” Fishing was easy and breakfast 
now consisted almost exclusively of fried flying fish. Watches competed 
with one another in this piscatorial sport; the record was 60 fish in a single 
24-hour period. 

As the island of Curacao came into view, the Old Man decided that 
it was time to inform the men of their mission. “Soon it will be time for 
action. It is our job to upset as far as possible the course of tankers between 
Venezuela and the islands of Aruba and Curacao, and to attack the oil re- 
fineries — with our guns.” He informed them that U-67 and U-502 would 
also join the hunt and that all action against non-tankers (battleships and 
aircraft carriers excepted) was “forbidden” by headquarters. “Now — I wish 
you a good night. Dismiss.” Later that night, the officer on watch sighted 
a brightly lit passenger liner through his periscope and could make out 
couples dancing on the upper decks. It seemed from another place and 
another time. 

At 7:16 p.m. on February 13, Hartenstein brought U-156 to the 
surface. 

Grid square EC 9347. The northeasterly trade winds were blowing a 
fresh breeze, Force 4. Through the Zeiss binoculars, he could make out 
the Colorado light and the cliffs of Colorado Point on the southeastern tip 
of Aruba. U-156 had arrived at its operations area ahead of schedule. The 
surprise attacks on Allied oil in the Caribbean were about to be unleashed. 


oh Ok Ok 


Off Aruba on February 13, it was time for Hartenstein to reconnoiter.™ 
Slowly, U-156 pointed for the Colorado light and then made its way up the 
west coast of the island. An “oily haze” hovered above the surface of the 


48 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


sea. Shortly before 11 p.m., Hartenstein, having carefully noted Aruba’s 
treacherous coral reefs on his chart, approached San Nicolas Harbor to 
within 900 meters. An awesome sight spread out before him: “4 large 
tankers inside the harbor; 3 small tankers in the offshore roads.” What 
he called “factory installations” were “brightly lit up.” In fact, this was 
the giant Lago “Esso” Refinery, over whose 2,716 acres Standard Oil of 
New Jersey in 1928 had received a 99-year lease. It was a beehive of ac- 
tivity, working around the clock to refine Venezuelan crude and reship 
the desperately needed high-octane fuel to the United States and Britain. 
‘The bright lights were a wonderful change from blacked-out Europe. The 
skipper let the crew come up top in small groups to take in the sight. 

Hartenstein made quick mental notes. He gauged the configuration 
of San Nicolas harbor, the location of the tanker piers, the tank farm and 
refinery, and the lake tankers anchored just outside the lagoon. He espe- 
cially reconfirmed the deadly coral reef that protected San Nicolas, creat- 
ing a bright turquoise lagoon between it and the shore. ‘The lagoon was too 
small to maneuver the 240-foot-long boat; too shallow to submerge and 
hide; and without sufficient range (180 meters) for the torpedoes to arm 
once fired.'’ Finally, he noted the high phosphorescence of the warm sea, 
a possible give-away to alert hostile aircraft. 

Hartenstein continued his course northwest. He arrived off the cap- 
ital, Oranjestad, just after midnight, and passed through the gap in the 
reef. Entering the mouth of the harbor, he saw little traffic. In the dark- 
ness he easily evaded several light aircraft. He also took note of another 
valuable reference point — the 541-foot-high, cactus-studded Hooiberg 
(“The Haystack”) that towered over Oranjestad. 

Satisfied, Hartenstein slipped away from the capital to scout the 
Caribbean Sea approaches to Aruba. Early on February 15, he returned 
to Oranjestad. A Dutch patrol craft was flitting about the harbor. Stealth 
was his best friend; he submerged U-156 until dusk. At 5 p.m., he spied 
a large ocean-going tanker leaving the refinery. Two-engine aircraft were 
buzzing overhead. Three hours later, Hartenstein continued on to Col- 
orado Point and shaped a course for the sea lanes between San Nicolas 
and Maracaibo, where he undertook a practice attack on an unsuspecting 
tanker. 


2: Attack on Aruba 49 


oh Ok Ok 


Sunday, February 15, 1942, dawned bright and clear on Aruba. It was the 
middle of the dry season: blue skies, brilliant sunshine, perfect weather for 
picnics and beach parties. The ever-present trade winds blew at a steady 
15 knots out of the northeast and soon the temperature climbed above 30 
degrees Celsius. By late morning, the residents of Seroe Colorado at San 
Nicolas emerged from their $24-per-month company rental bungalows 
and started off to the Lago Community Church. Some headed straight 
for the pleasures of Rodgers Beach and Baby Beach, both safely inside the 
reef. Others searched out the fish markets at Savaneta, the island’s oldest 
town and former capital, for the Sabbath meal of fresh barracuda, crabs, 
sailfish, wahoo, blue and white marlin, or black and yellow fin tuna. Small 
wooden boats had come across the Caribbean Sea from Venezuela to sell 
their tropical bounty: avocados, bananas, guava, kiwi, mangoes, melons, 
and Jalapefio peppers. Many Seroe Colorado residents lunched on fresh 
crab and fish, followed by lazy strolls on the beaches or along the high 
ground on the dry, bare island. 

Few even took notice of the newly arrived American coast defense 
gunners who lounged lazily in the barracks around San Nicolas harbor, or 
watched as crews began the laborious job of unloading their artillery, the 
American 155-mm “Long Toms.” Almost a thousand American troops 
under the command of General Frank Andrews had descended on the 
island just four days earlier to relieve the Queen’s Own Cameron High- 
landers, British veterans of Dunkirk who had departed on February 13. 
What little news penetrated Aruba from the outside world came by way 
of American shortwave radio stations or the island’s weekly newspaper, 
the Pan Aruban. That past Sunday, the paper had reported the most im- 
portant American college football scores: Alabama 29 — Texas A&M 21, 
Oregon State 20 — Duke 17, Georgia 40 — TCU 26. And it had informed 
anxious pugilists that in the prize fight of the year, Joe Louis, “The Brown 
Bomber,” had knocked out Buddy Bear at 2:56 of the first round at Madi- 
son Square Garden in New York. Hollywood had entertained the island 
throughout January with In the Navy starring the Andrews Sisters, The 
Captain Is a Lady with Charles Coburn and Beulah Bondi, and New Moon 
with Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald. Given that the United States 


50 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


had curtailed all exports of automobiles after the Japanese attack on Pearl 
Harbor, Arubans eagerly scanned the Pan Aruban for used cars: most 
popular in the advertisements were 1934 Fords and 1936 Chevrolets for 
150 florins each (three-months salary for a lake-tanker sailor) and upscale 
Buicks for 250 florins." 


38 ok ok 


Hartenstein for a third time reconnoitered San Nicolas harbor after dark 
on February 15. Again, it was perfect. Houses and warehouses were 
brightly lit up, as were the refinery and the ships in the inner harbor. He 
noted laconically in the war diary: “Brisk traffic. Harbor well populated.” 
Suddenly, his Enigma machine sprang to life. Final orders from Vice Ad- 
miral Donitz: 


Main task is the attack on shipping. Once such attacks have 
taken place, artillery may be deployed against land targets 
already on the morning of the [first] day of Neuland, should 
the opportunity for this prove favorable. In case no ships can 
be targeted, authorize use of artillery against land targets 
beginning evening [first day of] Neuland. 


The “Great Lion” had decided to ignore Grand Admiral Raeder’s orders to 
concentrate on the refineries. 

Satisfied with his reconnaissance of San Nicolas, Hartenstein took 
U-156 west to the Los Monjes Islands. “The Monks,” which were in Vene- 
zuelan waters, consisted of gray, barren rocks far removed from the major 
shipping lanes. Time for some last minute ersatz Jan Maats smokes, card 
games, and swims. Chief Engineer Wilhelm Polchau studiously meas- 
ured the water temperature: 29 degrees Celsius, or 84 degrees Fahrenheit. 
It was a welcome relief from recent temperatures in the boat that had 
reached 37 and even 42 degrees Celsius. 

U-156 retraced its course to Oranjestad, using the Hooiberg as ref- 
erence point. Hartenstein evaded several sailboats and a large passenger 
freighter. Surprise was critical. Moderate seas and a fresh breeze continued 
unabated. It was a bright, starry night. He ignored a single tanker taking 


2: Attack on Aruba 51 


on product at the piers and continued down the coast. Trimmed to where 
just the conning tower was above water, Hartenstein proceeded outside 
the reefs until he was off San Nicolas harbor. It was 1:35 a.m., February 
16. The time for reconnaissance was over. His orders were clear: “Attack 5 
hours before sunrise.” 

Silhouetted against the bright lights of the Lago Refinery were two 
lake tankers riding at anchor.'* “Battle stations!” Remembering that he 
was regular navy, Hartenstein put on his dress-blue blazer. The bow tubes 
were loaded with a mix of G7a and G7e torpedoes. Executive Officer Paul 
Just counted down to zero hour: “Just three more minutes.” At 1:59 a.m., 
Hartenstein barked out, “Tubes I and II ready to fire!” He then counted 
off the range: “800 — meters — 700 meters — 600 meters.” The tension 
in the boat was electric. It was, after all, their first hostile engagement. 
Every eye strained for a glimpse of the Old Man. How would he hold up 
under pressure? How much longer the wait? Some stared at their watches. 
It was 2:01 a.m., precisely one minute into the official start of Operation 
Neuland. 

“Tube I... Fire!” Lieutenant Just slammed down the firing knob. The 
G7a “Ato” torpedo shot out of the tube at 44 kilometers per hour. There 
was a slight jolt to the boat. Hartenstein could watch the torpedo’s tell-tale 
wake of bubbles on the surface of the sea. Good thing that it was dark. 
He then ordered the boat to come about slightly to starboard. Range to 
second target: 700 meters. Time: 2:03 a.m. “Tube II ... Fire!” Again, Just 
slammed down the firing knob. This time there were no surface bubbles, 
for the skipper had opted to fire the G7e electric torpedo. Anxiously, the 
boatswain’s mate counted off the seconds. The men on U-156 were pain- 
fully aware of the miserable track record of the navy’s G7e “eel,” which all 
too often failed to explode on impact. 

After what seemed an eternity came the welcome cry: “Detonation af 
ter 48.5 sec. Tanker burns immediately. 3080 t[ons].” U-156’s first torpedo 
had penetrated the sides of the 4,317-ton British tanker Pedernales’” amid- 
ships. There followed a thundering explosion that seemed to lift the vessel 
up in the water. Two minutes later, a similar fate befell the second tanker: 
“Detonation after 53.2 sec. Tanker burns immediately. 2740 t[ons].” The 
2,396-ton British lake tanker Oranjestad also had been torpedoed amid- 
ships. Burning oil poured out through the gaping holes of the two tankers 


52 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


and spread over the water. Screams could be heard across the burning 
sea as terrified sailors scrambled into lifeboats or jumped off the slanting 
decks. 

Hartenstein watched the destruction with satisfaction. He had thirst- 
ed for action, and now the moment had finally arrived. He called his men 
up to the conning tower in small groups to watch the Oranjestad roll over 
and settle in the waters just outside the lagoon; it was burning furiously. 
The Pedernales, also seemingly settling into the shallow sea just off the 
reef, likewise was a raging fountain of fire. Thick, black smoke drifted 
over the reef and harbor. Herbert White, an Associated Press photog- 
rapher assigned to cover the arrival of the first contingent of American 
troops on Aruba, caught the moment: “The harbor scene was like a raging 
forest fire right in our own front yard.... The blaze was shooting up high 
over the waterfront.... I could see the decks of [one] ship as a mass of 
flames.” 

Hartenstein ordered U-156 to come about to 300 degrees. “Course: 
harbor!” He could clearly make out the refinery silhouetted against the 
well-lit furnaces and the yard lights. Having carried out his primary mis- 
sion against shipping, he was now free to attack land targets. “Clear the 
decks! Prepare to fire artillery!” The gun crews clambered out of the boat 
under the command of their artillery officer, Lieutenant Dietrich von dem 
Borne. They slammed the first shell into the breech of the 10.5-cm deck 
gun. Borne trained it on the refinery. Hartenstein laid U-156 parallel to 
the coast, 500 meters away. It would be a turkey shoot. It was now 2:11 
a.m. 

“Both engines stop! Fire at will!” Hartenstein yelled down to the gun 
crews. 

Seconds later he saw a bright flash from the big gun and heard a deep 
rumble. ‘The 3.7-cm gun was also beginning to fire on the tanks filled with 
precious aviation fuel. Hartenstein spied two bright tracer shells speeding 
toward shore. But there was no fire from the 10.5-cm gun. “Fire 10.5-cm!” 
he screamed down to Borne. Nothing. Only the small afterdeck cannon 
continued to bark out. “Cease Fire!” Furious with his artillery officer and 
gun crew, Hartenstein leaped down from the conning tower and raced 
along the forward deck. As he reached the gun platform, he heard a low 
murmur. “10.5 out of action — Explosion in the bore!” 


2: Attack on Aruba 53 


It was Lieutenant von dem Borne. He was propped up against the 
conning tower, his right lower leg shattered. Next to him lay the motion- 
less body of Seaman Heinrich Biissinger; his stomach was lacerated and 
exposed, his thighs scored. Both men had been struck down by red hot 
pieces of metal. Blood covered the deck. In their excitement to destroy the 
refinery, Borne and his crew had forgotten to unscrew the tampion — the 
muzzle cap that kept salt water out of the barrel when the boat was sub- 
merged. The muzzle had splayed open like an “overcooked cauliflower”; 
more than a foot of the barrel was missing. An artillery expert, Harten- 
stein at once realized that the gun was beyond immediate repair. He had 
the technical staff put a clamp on the barrel at the point of the blast. 

The 3.7-cm cannon fired 16 rounds at the refinery. Several landed 
in its compound. Hartenstein detected what he called a “tongue of fire” 
in the tank farm: one shell had struck Tank 111, making a four-inch by 
six-inch dent, without rupturing it. Twice more, the small gun spat out 
fire — without effect. No use to continue. “Cease fire!” Hartenstein roared. 
With no night sights and with black smoke enveloping San Nicolas Bay, 
there was no sense risking the boat. 

By sheer coincidence, Frank Andrews, Commanding General, 
Caribbean Defense Command, was spending the night on Aruba when 
Hartenstein attacked. The explosions in the harbor woke him up.” His 
aide, Captain Robert Bruskin, later remembered: 


[A]n explosion knocked me out of bed.... I looked out the 
windows. Flames were shooting straight up and seemed 
mountainous. The ship [Pedernales] just seemed to break apart. 
Flaming oil spread over a wide area under a steady wind. I could 
hear cries out in the water, which I learned were badly infested 
with barracudas.” 


No shore installations returned fire. The crews of the 37-mm guns recent- 
ly set up at San Nicolas Wharf could not see through the smoke and fire, 
while those at Camp Savaneta, about five kilometers up the coast, could 
not be brought to bear. The larger 155-mm American guns with ranges of 
at least 20 kilometers were still lying on the docks. A complete blackout of 
the island followed in short order.” 


54 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


At sea, the British tanker Hooiberg had just arrived off San Nicolas 
when suddenly, in the distance, the crew saw the Pedernales and the Or- 
anjestad blow up. Its captain realized immediately that his ship was in 
danger and ordered the helmsman to turn the ship about to steam back in 
the direction of the Gulf of Venezuela. After running southwest for about 
three hours, Hooiderg turned around and returned to Aruba, making port 
at 8 a.m. The crew was aghast to see the immense wreckage of the two 
ships and the smoke and damage at some of the installations. 

Up the coast at Dakota Field, word of the attack was slow to arrive. A 
Dutch guard reported that guard posts at the army base near the refinery 
at San Nicolas were under fire and that the refinery was also under fire 
and apparently burning. A single A-20 Havoc from 59 Bombardment 
Squadron took off at 2:30 a.m. The pilot soon radioed back that he could 
see ships burning “in the harbor and oil spread over the sea was also burn- 
ing,” but the crew did not see any tracer or other signs of gunfire from the 
sea.”4 Acting for General Andrews, Captain Bruskin ordered the A-20 to 
keep flying over the harbor and the refinery until daylight. At about 3:10 
a.m., a second A-20 took off on a submarine search to the west of the is- 
land. Reports came in to Dakota Field that a tanker was on fire about 45 
miles southwest of Aruba. The second A-20 was sent over to investigate; 
the crew saw “a ship on fire [the British lake tanker Monagas] and being 
abandoned.” ‘The tanker had been torpedoed by Jiirgen von Rosenstiel’s 
U-502 about an hour after Hartenstein’s attack on San Nicolas. The long 
night of the tankers had already begun. 

Hartenstein’s attack was a shocking surprise, though as early as Janu- 
ary 26, 1942, a US Navy naval intelligence report had reached headquar- 
ters, Caribbean Defense Command, in Panama that a large number of 
German submarines were entering the Caribbean. Although there had 
been no solid intelligence as to where they were headed, it warned that 
“attacks on tankers from Venezuela, Curacao and [the] vicinity of Trini- 
dad [are] possible.””® The warning went unheeded; when war came to the 
southern latitudes in February 1942, German submarines, not Japanese 
aircraft carriers, had proved the real menace. 


2: Attack on Aruba 55 


LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


Kapitanleutnant Jiirgen von Rosenstiel had taken U-502 well out into the 
Caribbean Sea, close to the Venezuelan shore. It proved to be a target-rich 
environment. At 2:05 a.m. on February 16, some ten miles off Point Ma- 
colla, he spied a bright flame in the direction of Aruba: Hartenstein’s at- 
tack on the two tankers at San Nicolas. “Free to attack,” Rosenstiel noted 
in the war diary.' Two hours later, the lookouts reported a tanker as well as 
what they took to be a Venezuelan gunboat at a distance of 1,000 meters. 
At 3:44 a.m., Rosenstiel fired. 

The “eel” slammed into the tanker. “High column of fire, the entire 
ship is aflame under a developing cloud of strong smoke and sinks.” He 
watched intensely as its boilers exploded. The ship heeled over on its side 
and then sank. It was the 2,650-ton British lake tanker Monagas en route 
from Maracaibo to Aruba with a full load of crude. Twenty-one survivors 
were later picked up by the Dutch tanker Fe/ipa. 

‘The Monagas was not alone in the waters off the Paraguana Peninsula 
in the early hours of February 16. The previous evening four lake tank- 
ers had left Maracaibo at regular intervals: Monagas was followed by the 
2,395-ton British Tia Juana; close behind came the 2,391-ton San Nicolas, 
also British-flagged; and the last ship in line, leaving about four hours 
after the others, was the British Yamonota, about 2,300 tons. 

Less than an hour after attacking Monagas, Rosenstiel spied the Tia 
Juana at a range of 1,400 meters — as well as a dark shadow just behind 
the brightly lit tanker. That shadow was San Nicolas. As Rosenstiel closed 
in, his radio operator picked up a distress call from Aruba: “To all ships. 
U-boat in vicinity of Aruba.” This was no time to be timid. Rosenstiel was 
determined to sink both tankers as quickly as possible. At 4:28 a.m., he 


57 


attacked. The torpedo struck Tia Juana amidships, in the engine room. But 
it refused to go under. Fourteen minutes after the first torpedo, Rosenstiel 
decided to deliver the coup de grace for fear that the approaching dawn 
would deny him a clear shot at the third tanker. The torpedo ran true for 
300 meters, and then suddenly veered off to the left. It struck Tia Juana in 
the stern. Looking through the periscope, the Kaleu thought the tanker 
was staying afloat, but in fact, it was not. 

Rosenstiel immediately went after his third kill in less than four 
hours: the San Nicolas. His KTB recorded the action at 5:34 a.m. “Tube 
V ... Fire! Inexplicable miss, assume it went under the target.” He loosed 
a shot from Tube IV. This time the torpedo ran true. “Hit admidships. 
Tanker flies completely into the air.” The torpedo sliced through the ship’s 
sides and exploded in the engine room. Seven of its crew of 26 died in- 
stantly. Witnesses on the San Nicolas later reported: 


About 3:00 A.M.? February 16", the S.S. Tia Juana (British) 
which was immediately ahead, received two torpedoes in her 
engine room, exploding the after end of the ship. The ship 
sank immediately. We were picking up survivors of the SS Tia 
Juana when at 4:00 A.M. February 16", we were struck by two 
torpedoes. 


The Yamonota was still somewhere behind in the dark. ‘The ship’s captain 
recorded: “[A]t about 4:00 A.M. February 16" ... I observed a red flare 
immediately ahead and on coming closer I saw that a ship was on fire. I 
realized probable cause of the fire and immediately veered off to the west.” 
Three hours later, Yamonota returned to the scene and found the bow of 
the San Nicolas protruding from the water. They picked up four of the 
crew while a “Venezuelan Government craft was searching the area for 
survivors.” Yamonota steamed for Aruba, arriving at 4:00 p.m. 

As the first rays of sunlight were breaking over the horizon, Rosen- 
stiel decided to break off the kill. About an hour later, U-502 was running 
on the surface when one of the patrolling American A-20 light bomb- 
ers spotted it and attacked. The Havoc dropped four 300-lb. demolition 
bombs — completely unsuited for antisubmarine operations — which fell 
into the sea and exploded about 100 meters from the submarine. No 


58 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 

















U-502. Commanded by Kapitaenleutnant Juergen von Rosenstiel, the Type IX C U-502 
was part of the initial German assault on Caribbean oil off Aruba; it was lost in the Bay 
of Biscay due to depth charges from a UK Wellington aircraft in July 1942. Source: 
Deutsches U-Boot-Museum, Cuxhaven-Altenbruch, Germany. 


damage was done. Returning to the surface just before 10 a.m., Rosen- 
stiel spotted another tanker, this one empty and on its way to Maracaibo. 
He worked his way to within 800 meters of the target and then fired. 
Another “Inexplicable miss. Assume [torpedo] ran under the target.” A 
Venezuelan gunboat suddenly appeared and fired five shells, all well off 
target. It was time to dive. And to learn first lessons. “Decide not to fire 
any more eels at empty tankers. Artillery of little use during daytime due 
to aerial reconnaissance.” 


3 ok ok 


While Rosenstiel was picking off lake tankers, Hartenstein’s U-156 was 
the subject of intense air activity — most of it in the wrong direction. When 
the American A-20, which had been dispatched to the vicinity of the 


3: Long Night of the Tankers 59 





Juergen von Rosenstiel. Kapitaenleutnant von Rosenstiel fought in the light cruiser 
Karlsruhe during the Spanish Civil War, and in March 1940 transferred to the U-Boat 
service. He commanded U-502 on three war patrols, sinking 14 Allied ships of 78,843 
tons, mostly off Aruba in the Caribbean Sea. On 6 July 1942, returning from his third 
patrol, Rosenstiel and U-502 were sunk with all hands by an aircraft in the Bay of Biscay. 
Source: Deutsches U-Boot-Museum, Cuxhaven-Altenbruch, Germany. 


60 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


sinking Monagas at around 3:00 a.m., began to return to Aruba, a radio 
message from Dakota Field informed it that a long-range SCR-268 radar, 
hastily set up on the south coast of the island, had detected a submarine 
about 20 miles due south of Aruba. The pilot turned in the direction of 
the contact report and, after a few minutes, dropped a flare. He and his 
copilot thought they saw a submarine, but the bombardier saw nothing; 
with nothing to aim at, the bomb run was aborted. In fact, Hartenstein 
was nowhere near the spot. With the shore defenses alerted and aircraft 
buzzing about in the night sky, he decided to quickly leave San Nicolas 
harbor and head up the coast. U-156’s crew was amazed by their skipper’s 
tenacity and coolness under fire. From now on, their nickname for him 
was “Crazy Dog.” 

The dark of night, the dense smoke from the burning tankers, and 
plain bad luck denied Hartenstein two further “kills.” For inside San 
Nicolas harbor was the Henry Gibbons, a US Army ship loaded with 3,000 
tons of TNT. Its crew had insisted on taking a coffee break before sailing, 
and, by the time the ship finally eased away from the pier shortly after 
2:00 a.m., the sky was lit up by the explosion on the Pedernales. While the 
Henry Gibbons skipper wanted to continue full ahead, the Aruban pilot 
refused the command and instead returned the ship to its berth.° 

U-156 now steamed northwest to Oranjestad. Perhaps new targets 
had arrived from Maracaibo. The submarine slid past the tanker Hooi- 
berg in the last remaining dark, unaware of its proximity. Hartenstein 
disappeared below deck to check on the two injured men. There was little 
hope for Seaman Heinrich Biissinger; the 19-year-old died 45 minutes 
later without ever regaining consciousness. Lieutenant Dietrich von dem 
Borne presented a grisly sight.° His right knee and leg had a large open 
wound with multiple splinters. Blood spurted from the arteries. There was 
no choice but to amputate. Borne was given some of the Old Man’s special 
cognac, and, while four sailors held him down, one of the wireless oper- 
ators, on temporary sick-bay duty, began to saw just above the knee. The 
leg, with its shoe and sock still attached, fell into a bloody pail. 

At 3:16 a.m., Hartenstein maneuvered U-156 into the opening in the 
reef just outside Oranjestad harbor. He was in luck. A tanker lay at the 
Eagle Refinery pier. Range: 600 meters. It would be a simple surface shot 
from Tube III. Executive Officer Paul Just slammed down the firing knob. 


3: Long Night of the Tankers 61 


Once more, the boatswain’s mate counted off the seconds. Nothing. After 
sixty seconds, Hartenstein noted the obvious in the war diary: “No deton- 
ation. Inexplicable miss.” Had the contact pistol failed again? Or had the 
depth-keeping mechanism malfunctioned? 

Cool as at San Nicolas, Hartenstein left the harbor and prepared for 
a second attack approach. At 3:30 a.m., he fired his last bow torpedo at 
the seemingly hapless tanker. Yet again, the boatswain’s mate called out 
the seconds. Yet again: Silence. “No detonation. Inexplicable.” Furious 
and with all bow “eels” expended, Hartenstein ordered U-156 to come 
about for a stern shot. At 3:43 a.m., he fired a third torpedo at the tanker. 
‘The crew waited anxiously for the sound of a detonation. Again: Silence. 
Ruefully, Hartenstein entered into the war diary: “Miss. After 1 min. 29.5 
[seconds] detonation on the beach.” At 70,000 Reichsmark per torpedo, 
this was a costly misadventure. Morale in the boat, Executive Office Just 
recorded, had “plummeted to zero.” Unbeknown to Hartenstein, not all 
three “eels” had missed their target. One had struck the side of the empty 
and degaussed 6,452-ton American tanker Arkansas, formerly the Aryan 
and hastily renamed in 1940, which suffered only the force of the explo- 
sion of the torpedo’s 600 pound warhead.’ Four Dutch demolition experts 
died on Eagle Beach two days later when they tried to disarm the beached 
“eel,” 

‘The bridge watch suddenly heard the sound of an aircraft approaching 
from nearby Dakota Field. It was time to leave Oranjestad. Staying on 
the surface, Hartenstein shaped a course for the northern end of Aruba 
and then headed out to sea to raid the traffic bound for Mona Island, off 
Puerto Rico. At 6:28 a.m., he informed Vice Admiral Karl Dénitz of his 


actions: 


Sank 2 tankers 5800 tons, 2 misses at tankers at the pier. 
Explosion in the bore, 2 men seriously injured, including 
Second Watch Officer. May I head for Martinique to hand over 
[Borne]? 159 cbm [fuel oil]. v. Hartenstein. 


Once well out to sea, Hartenstein ordered Biissinger’s corpse sewn into 


a canvas sheet, brought up on deck, and covered with the navy’s battle 
flag. The skipper intoned the Lord’s Prayer; the crew sang the traditional 


62 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


lament, I Had a Comrade; and then the corpse was quietly delivered into 
the waters of the Caribbean. At Kernével, Dénitz’s staff investigated the 
legality of landing Borne on the Vichy-French island of Martinique. 
U-156 received permission to do so around midnight on February 17. 


took ok 


As U-156 and U-502 carried out their attacks off Aruba, Oberleutnant 
Ginter Miiller-Stockheim’s U-67, another of the large Type [XC boats, 
had been sizing up the port facilities on Curacao. There, Maracaibo tank- 
ers offloaded their crude at Caracasbaai, a deep-water terminal on the 
southeast coast of the island, from where it was carried by pipelines to the 
Santa Anna refinery at Willemstad. The latter was a daunting target. A 
menacing coral reef guarded the waters off the Curacao capital and a long, 
narrow channel, Santa Anna’s Bay, connected the Caribbean Sea to the 
inner harbor, the Schottegat, where the Royal Dutch Shell refinery and 
a fleet of tankers were located. It would be suicide to attempt to enter the 
inner harbor, guarded by three forts. Thus, Muller-Stockheim made the 
only decision possible: to attack the fully laden tankers anchored about a 
mile off Willemstad.* 

As he approached the targets at 2 a.m. on February 16, Miiller-Stock- 
heim saw a flickering tongue of flame 290 degrees on the horizon. “Ap- 
parently Hartenstein is active there,” he noted in the war diary. At 3:52 
a.m., he fired a double spread at the nearest tanker, a mere 500 meters 
away. “Inexplicable miss.” Caracas radio was broadcasting warnings to all 
shipping concerning U-boats. “Not clear to me why, because they cannot 
possibly see me from there,” he wrote in the KTB. Obviously, the radio 
reports pertained to Rosenstiel’s U-502. Miiller-Stockheim pursued the 
tanker, which remained oblivious to the danger lurking nearby. At 4:11 
a.m., he fired a third torpedo. The crew on the bridge counted off the 
seconds. Silence. Then they heard several slight rings, like those of bells. 
Duds. Again, the “eel” had struck its target but had not exploded. ‘The 
chronic problem with the contact pistols on the G7e electric torpedoes 
continued to dog the U-boats. 

Another loaded tanker hove into sight. Angrily, the skipper turned 
U-67 until its stern pointed at the new target. ‘This time he fired one of 


3: Long Night of the Tankers 63 




















U-67. One of 54 commissioned 1200-ton ocean-going boats, U-67 was commanded by 


Korvettenkapitaen Guenther Mueller-Stoeckheim off Curacao. It was sunk by aircraft 
in the Sargasso Sea in July 1943. Source: Deutsches U-Boot-Museum, Cuxhaven- 
Altenbruch, Germany. 


the older “Ato” torpedoes. Time: 4:30 a.m. The torpedo ran true. “After 
22 seconds hit just abaft midships. Column of fire and smoke. Tanker ... 
breaks in half, up 15-20 degrees by the bow and stern. Slowly tanker begins 
to sink. Fires on deck are extinguished after 15 minutes.” Miuller-Stock- 
heim decided to deliver the coup de grace. “Nothing.” The tanker had run 
aground near one of the forts guarding the entrance to the harbor. He 
was mystified why the “eel,” even if it missed the target, did not explode 
“against the coast or the bottom of the channel.” Then the crew on the 
bridge heard a tremendous explosion: the 3,177-ton Dutch tanker Rafaela 
burst into flames, lighting up other tankers as well as U-67. 

Shells from the shore batteries began to splash all around U-67. Its 
hydrophone operators reported the sound of rapidly approaching “high- 
pitched propellers.” Warships. His six tubes empty, Miiller-Stockheim 
decided to leave the scene of destruction. But then, the Enigma machine 
lit up. The “Great Lion” from France ordered him to shell the Royal Dutch 


64 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


Shell refinery with the deck gun. Miiller-Stockheim could not maneuver 
U-67 close enough to attack because of the warships buzzing all around 
the harbor. A second order next morning to attempt again to shell the 
refinery likewise foundered on enemy warship activity. This would later 
earn Miller-Stockheim a stinging rebuke from Donitz. “The command- 
er should have pursued more energetically the attempt to attack the oil 
refineries on Curacao.” Still, the tally for the first morning of Operation 
Neuland now stood at six tankers. Refinery authorities on Aruba and 
Curacao immediately ordered a temporary halt to all further shipments of 
crude from Venezuela. The Associated Press reported that 14 lake tankers 
had been recalled to Maracaibo. 


ook ok 


Back off San Nicolas, the grisly rescue attempts proceeded in fits and 
starts in the darkness. Within an hour of being torpedoed, the Oranjestad 
started its final descent to the bottom of the sea. Its skipper, Herbert Mor- 
gan, and a small group of three officers and sailors had huddled until the 
last moment on a section of the bow not yet on fire. They waved pieces of 
clothing for nearly an hour in hopes of attracting attention on shore. No 
one saw them. ‘They all had lifejackets, except the second officer. As the 
bow slipped beneath the waves, they were washed off their safe haven. 
For nearly an hour, Morgan and his group drifted through the burning 
oil. Finally, at 3:30 a.m., they and the remaining six others of the 25-man 
crew were fished out of the oily waters by a Dutch patrol boat and a local 
fishing boat. The careless second officer had drowned. 

The Pedernales continued to burn, but remained on the surface. The 
torpedo’s explosion had broken its back and both stern and bow stuck out 
of the water at 20-degree angles. Herbert McCall, the ship’s master, gath- 
ered up a small group of five sailors and guided them to the Pedernales 
port lifeboat. They lowered it, but at an uneven keel, with the result that 
the boat’s oars were lost. Once in the burning waters, they ripped up some 
floor boards to use as paddles. To no avail. The boat drifted out to sea, 
northward off Oranjestad, where they were sighted by a fishing boat and 
towed to shore. Eight of the crew of 26 had died that night. 


3: Long Night of the Tankers 65 


Still, the Pedernales refused to go down. “Charred, twisted and crum- 
pled,” it lay in the waters off San Nicolas.'° By late morning, the fires had 
burned themselves out. Tugs towed the hulk to Oranjestad and grounded 
it on the beach. ‘Thereafter, shipyard crews dynamited it in two and tugs 
towed the bow and stern sections back to San Nicolas. Lago shipyard 
crews fitted the two sections together and the plucky Pedernales, now 124 
feet shorter, steamed to Baltimore. There it again was cut in half, a new 
extended mid-ship section was floated in, and the three parts were re- 
connected. Pedernales returned to service, just in time to take part in the 
Allied assault on North Africa in late 1942. 

For the residents of the 600 Lago Colony bungalows at San Nicolas, it 
had been a night of sheer terror. Who was the intruder? Was it just a sub- 
marine or a warship? Had the Germans mounted a full-scale invasion of 
the island? Or had the refinery staff simply been careless in handling the 
highly volatile aviation fuel? Only one thing was certain: these could not 
have been the acts of fifth-columnists, for Dutch authorities had removed 
all Germans from Aruba back in May 1940 and interned them on nearby 
Bonaire Island. 

At first, few could believe the fiery hell that spread before their eyes 
just off the reef. The war was thousands of miles away, in Europe and in 
Asia. Surely, they were not in harm’s way! As the noise of the explosions 
rattled windows and shook some of the bungalows near the refinery, and 
as the bright light of the burning tankers flickered through their win- 
dows, most residents of Seroe Colorado reacted with both curiosity and 
indifference. A case in point was the Fred C. Eaton family in waterfront 
Bungalow 12." The glow of the burning Pedernales awakened Mrs. Eaton 
who, in turn, roused her husband from his sleep. Someone must have 
been careless, he reassured her, it must have been an accident. When the 
Oranjestad also exploded, Fred Eaton reassured his spouse that the brisk 
Trade Winds must have blown a spark across the water and ignited the 
second lake tanker. As streaks of white light flashed across the refinery 
compound, he was certain that the flares in one of the rocket boxes on the 
tankers had ignited. Then reality hit home: those were not flares but tracer 
shells fired by some enemy lying offshore. Eaton gathered the family in his 
car to take them to the shelter of the Lago Community Church. The only 


66 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


injury that the family suffered came when Fred’s blacked-out car collided 
with another vehicle en route to the sanctuary. 

John B. Teagle watched the inferno from Bungalow 77. “I had a 
front row seat to watch the burning of the three [sic] Lake Tankers.” 
His son Lenny also recalled: “We had a full view of the burning ships. 
At 10 years of age this left an everlasting impression.” A neighbor, Nancy 
MacEachern, was witness to one of U-156’s errant 3.7-cm shells slamming 
into the radiator of a car parked at Bachelor Quarters. Another neighbor, 
Jane Andringa, remembered what she called a “conspiracy of silence” im- 
mediately after the attack. “I do not remember any discussion at school, 
from teachers or students. [Parents] discouraged questions.” 

Most residents of Seroe Colorado were intensely curious. Something 
big was happening on their little island and they wanted to be part of it. 
They turned on the lights in their bungalows and then piled into their 
Fords and Chevrolets and drove down to the lagoon area, lights blazing. 
Only slowly did they realize that what they saw was no accidental fire at 
the refinery, but an act of war against two ships off the reef. Most extin- 
guished their car’s headlights and went home to pack up their most pre- 
cious belongings in order to head out for relatives in other, more tranquil, 
parts of Aruba. They were spurred on by the sound of aircraft engines 
droning high above. Were they friendly or hostile? 

Countless others, panicked with fear, had but one thought: out into 
the cunucu, the Papiamento term for “countryside.” Quickly, a mass exo- 
dus ensued. It was a poor decision. The cunucu was a rock-strewn desert 
punctuated by dry, nasty forests of kadushi, yatu and prickly pear cacti, 
aloe, and small, wind-bent Divi-divi trees. It was a dangerous place to be. 
Ankles turned and cacti needles punctured arms and legs. In the mor- 
ning, more than two dozen residents sheepishly returned to San Nicolas 
to be treated for minor wounds in the Lago hospital. There had even been 
talk of seeking refuge in the many caves on the north side of the island, 
but thankfully no one opted for this course of action. 

One of the few who kept their head was the refinery’s general man- 
ager, Lloyd G. Smith.” In horror, he discovered that there was no way to 
switch off the row of lights that illuminated the boardwalk that ran from 
the Main Dock to the Lake Tanker Dock. It provided perfect lighting 
for whoever lurked out there beyond the reef. With cool resolve, Smith 


3: Long Night of the Tankers 67 


walked the length of the boardwalk and doused the lights one by one by 
throwing rocks at them. Today, the main street of Oranjestad bears his 
name. 

At around 8:00 a.m., Caribbean Defense Command finally reacted. It 
dispatched two flights of B-18 bombers to Dakota Field, one from Puerto 
Rico and the other from Trinidad. They arrived at about 1:30 p.m. After 
refueling, the planes took off again to patrol the approaches to the island. 
The B-18s spotted and attacked one submarine at 10:15 a.m. and another 
an hour later, but in neither case did they do any damage. Two A-20s of 
59" Squadron already had attacked a submarine at about 11:33 a.m. some 
100 kilometers southwest of Dakota Field. They had dropped eight bombs 
and seen “an oil slick and air bubbles,” leading Squadron Headquarters 
to conclude that a U-boat had been destroyed. Neither Hartenstein nor 
Rosenstiel recorded any such attack in their KTBs. At the end of a very 
busy day, 59°" Squadron’s war log recorded ruefully: 


This unit was not notified of enemy action for sometime after 
it started, slowing down the attack of this unit. The submarine 
shelling the refinery would have been an easy target with proper 
notification. The lack of depth bombs caused this unit to be 
very uncertain of the damage done to submarines attacked with 
three hundred (300) lb. demolition bombs." 


Some semblance of normality returned to San Nicolas late on February 
16. Lago Hospital took in 27 sailors fished from the burning seas, while 
San Pedro Hospital at Oranjestad cared for others. ‘The fires at Lago Re- 
finery were kept low until sheet-iron blackout shields could be rigged up 
for the furnaces. The lake tankers resumed their Maracaibo runs several 
days after Hartenstein’s assault. US Navy warships and Army Air Force 
planes escorted the Maracaibo-to-Aruba runs, which were temporarily 
diverted through Amuay Bay on the Paraguana Peninsula. About 140 
women and children (from 58 families) elected to return to the United 
States, leaving their husbands to work at the Lago Refinery. Just to be on 
the safe side, for almost a year following the attacks the US government 


68 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


refused to issue passports for family members to travel to Aruba. Full 
censorship was introduced. In its February 21, 1942, issue, the Pan Aruban 
informed its readers with “regrets” that it could not report on the week’s 
big news.'° Nor did the island’s other paper, the Aruba Post, report on the 
San Nicolas attack. 


took ok 


Hartenstein and U-156 resumed their war patrol. The skipper was still 
furious over the “Ato” torpedoes that had run errant at Oranjestad. En 
route to Fort-de-France, Martinique, the bloody “eels” continued to be- 
devil him. At 10:35 a.m. on February 19, two-thirds of the way on his 
northeasterly course from Aruba to Martinique, he sighted what he esti- 
mated to be a 3,500-ton freighter.’* Given that a Force 5 fresh breeze and 
three-foot waves were buffeting his slender craft, he opted for a submerged 
shot. “Missed! Checked targeting data! Probably fired under him!” He at 
once launched a second torpedo at the freighter. Same result. “Missed! 
Not clear why!” Angrily, he noted in the war diary: “That is now the 3rd 
inexplicable miss, after 2 torpedoes had already found their targets.” Both 
of the “misses” were “Eto” electric torpedoes. ‘The first failed to detonate 
under the freighter; the second simply missed the target. He cursed the 
Torpedo Directorate. 

In the first dawn light of February 20, west of Martinique, U-156 
came across another lone freighter.’ Course: 300 degrees. Range: 5,000 
meters. Hartenstein ordered battle stations and approached the target 
submerged. At 6 a.m., he fired a first “eel.” The “Eto” struck the freighter 
amidships, but apparently did little damage. It stopped and opened fire 
with its stern gun. As it was then almost full daylight, Hartenstein had 
but one choice: to attack submerged. He fired another “Eto” at the enemy. 
“Miss! Inexplicable!” Livid, he ordered a third shot, this time with the 
older, more reliable “Ato” torpedo. “Miss! Freighter turns off to the left!” 
Hartenstein then switched back to the electric “eels.” The fourth torpedo 
ran for 35 seconds and seemingly struck the target, but the Kaleu was not 
able to see the explosion because the hostile kept firing at his periscope. 

Hartenstein had emptied all four bow tubes. By now in a towering 
rage, he repositioned U-156 and fired a fifth “Eto” torpedo, this one from 


3: Long Night of the Tankers 69 


the stern tubes. “Miss! Inexplicable!” The freighter continued to fire at the 
U-boat’s periscope and it put out SOS calls. In short order, an unidenti- 
fied PBY flying boat dropped four depth charges near U-156, but well off 
target. The Catalina dogged U-156 for the next seven hours. “Can’t seem 
to shake this character!” With Borne slipping in and out of consciousness 
and vomiting up all food offered him, Hartenstein decided to shape course 
for Martinique. An Enigma message, “A son born, mother and child 
healthy!,” brought little joy to U-156’s executive officer, Lieutenant Just. 


The German assault on Aruba ended on a note of mystery and suspense. 
According to panicky local reports, a submarine surfaced in the still waters 
of Oranjestad’s side harbor, just inside the reef, the day after Hartenstein’s 
attack at San Nicolas.'* Soldiers guarding the piers at first took it to be an 
American craft. But residents near the shore could clearly make out the 
intruder: it was German and there were men on its bridge looking at the 
city and its protective fort through binoculars. At once, the cry of “Nazi 
submarine” went around the capital. Much of the population, including 
the students returning to Juliana School after lunch, flocked down to the 
docks to get a closer look at the invader; others headed out of town for the 
safety of the cunucu. It was U-502, coming to Aruba to have a look. But 
the schoolchildren were not the only ones to spot U-502 — which had run 
aground not more than 400 meters from the end of Dakota Field.” 
Rosenstiel was certainly brazen. Using the Hooiberg as his reference 
point, he maneuvered U-502 half submerged into Oranjestad roads. It 
was 10:30 a.m. Well aware of the reefs that guarded the port, he rang up 
“Dead Slow.” But the strong current was driving him off course. “Hit bot- 
tom. Boat rises quickly. Full speed reverse!” For two hours, U-502 refused 
to budge. Rosenstiel peered through his sky periscope. “Precisely at the 
entrance of Oranjestad. Impossible drift due to the current.” He ordered 
the hatch to the bridge opened and the diving tanks blown. From the 
bridge, he barked out, “Hard a-starboard, Full speed head!” Both diesels 
roared up to full power. Slowly, U-502 began to move off the sandbank. 
‘The current drove the boat into a harbor buoy. Rosenstiel ordered the ma- 
chine-gun crews up on deck in case of hostile air attack. He took a look 


70 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


around the harbor. “No escorts in sight. Harbor empty. My first somewhat 
involuntary view of Aruba,” he cheekily noted in the war diary. 

Suddenly, at 1:16 p.m., “Alarm!” A “warship” (in reality, a Dutch motor 
launch) had come out of nowhere and was driving for U-502. Rosenstiel 
ordered an emergency dive — just in time. At Dakota Field every available 
plane was scrambled. As the first A-20 Havoc took off, the onlookers at 
the airfield saw the submarine make a crash dive apparently with his diesel 
engines running judging from the blue smoke that followed the craft. The 
A-20 pulled into a tight turn and made its bombing run, followed by at 
least one other craft. Bombs suddenly began to explode near the U-boat: 
“2 depth charges in the vicinity. 2 closer. 1 relatively close. 1 really close. 1 
far away,” the KTB recorded. ‘The surface attacker crossed U-502’s wake, 
but then disappeared. Rosenstiel escaped without damage and shaped 
course for Los Monjes Islands, off Venezuela. His action proved to be the 
last German “attack” on Aruba for the duration of the war. 

Yet, the island’s rumor mills could not be silenced. Dan Jensen recalls 
his father telling him how after the raid on the Lago Refinery, “neutral 
Spanish tankers” would put into San Nicolas and purchase fuel — to resell 
at great profit to German U-boats. And how French boat operators would 
buy diesel fuel on Aruba, fill 55-gallon drums at St. Barts Island, stow the 
drums on “fishing boats,” and take them out to sea — to sell to the German 
raiders in exchange for gold.”° Other stories circulated about submarines 
pulling alongside inter-island schooners to take on supplies of fresh oran- 
ges, lemons, bananas, avocados, and bread fruit. And about daring U-boat 
officers coming on shore and attending local movie theaters. 

‘The island defenders were so jittery that just before dark on the mor- 
ning of February 19 “shell fire was heard and flares observed over the 
Lago Refinery.” The base defenders reported two star shells (illumination 
rounds) and explosive shells fired at the refinery. Three A-20s were dis- 
patched and one reported spotting and attacking a submarine. In fact, the 
star shells had been mistakenly fired by the destroyer USS Winslow, newly 
arrived at San Nicolas after the attacks. Two of the “shells” did slight 
damage to some houses in the Lago Colony.”! 


3 ok ok 


3: Long Night of the Tankers 71 


‘The attacks that began on February 16, 1942, were but the opening rounds 
in the fight for Allied oil in the Caribbean. In the last twelve days of Feb- 
ruary, Hartenstein and his comrades sank Monagas, West Ira, Tia Juana, 
San Nicolas, Oranjestad, Nordvangen, Delplata, Scottish Star, Kongsgaard, 
Circle Shell, J.N. Pew, Kennox, Thalia, West Zeda, Lihue, George L. Torrain, 
La Carriere, Esso Copenhagen, Cabadello, Macgregor, Everasma, Oregon, and 
Bayou and damaged Pedernales as well. Seventeen Allied tankers or cargo 
vessels of 115,856 tons went to the bottom.” Disaster loomed. Shares 
traded on the New York Stock Exchange dropped sharply as a result of the 
attacks, while President Franklin D. Roosevelt warned Americans that 
the Axis could hit the United States and that the shelling of New York or 
even Detroit was possible.” The all-important tanker traffic that was sus- 
taining Britain and supplementing US stocks was in danger of complete 
paralysis. But the attacks had also galvanized the defenders. Venezuela 
abruptly granted the United States permission to use its airfields for ASW 
patrols and the Dutch government-in-exile placed its armed forces under 
American control. Ships, men, and aircraft headed to the Caribbean 
to bolster the local defenses. But for now, it was too little, too late. The 
U-boats were the masters of the Caribbean. 


72 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


MARTINIQUE 


Shortly before 8 p.m.! on February 20, 1942, Kapitanleutnant Werner 
Hartenstein brought U-156 up to the surface. The sea was relatively calm.’ 
A welcome breeze was blowing and large wavelets rippled off the boat’s 
gray steel hull. He could smell tropical blossoms and wood fires. Off the 
right bow, he spied the lights of Martinique. He had drafted his own 
chart of the west coast of the island from the commercial map that the 
Kriegsmarine had given him at Lorient. A cautious man, he ordered battle 
stations. He was not “fully certain,” he noted in the war diary, whether he 
could “trust the loyalty” of the French colonial authorities on the island, 
“far away from Vichy.” For “security reasons” he ordered the boat’s em- 
blem to be covered and the new experimental FuMO 29 radar detector to 
be stowed below decks. 

U-156 approached the coast at half speed. Bright moonlight illumin- 
ated the broad sweep of the bay of Fort-de-France. The lights in the har- 
bor had been extinguished and all shipping buoys removed. Hartenstein 
ordered running lights and set lanterns to light up the battle flag raised 
on the extended periscopes. It was 9 p.m. He signaled French shore au- 
thorities in his best high-school French. “German vessel. Please dispatch 
a boat for a wounded man.” After a while, a small lighter appeared. Its 
captain spoke no German. The Kaleu tried his high-school English. No 
response from the lighter. The Frenchman disappeared into the darkness. 

At 10:35 p.m., a patrol boat approached U-156. On its deck, Harten- 
stein could make out three officers and six black sailors, all smartly turned 
out in crisp white uniforms and caps. The officers, the skipper happily 
noted, were “very cordial.” One of them, an Alsatian, spoke some Ger- 
man. The boat also had a medical doctor on board. The French officers 


73 


asked Hartenstein to douse his lanterns. Under the cover of darkness, 
Lieutenant Dietrich von dem Borne, his bleeding staunched but his fever 
out of control, was brought up on deck and handed over to French sailors. 
Fortunately, Vichy had alerted Martinique to Hartenstein’s arrival. A few 
last farewells and best wishes for a speedy recovery for Borne,’ and U-156 
headed westward back out to sea at flank speed.* The entire undertaking 
had taken less than three hours. 


oh Ok ok 


The lush tropical island of Martinique lies between St. Lucia and Do- 
minica, both British possessions in 1942. It prides itself on being “the 
queen of the Caribbean islands.” Its Indian name, “Madinia,” translates 
into “the island of flowers.” Distinguished manor houses and old rum dis- 
tilleries evoke the splendors of the past. Nestled in the turquoise and blue 
sea, fantastic white beaches graced by king palms dot its shores. One of 
Martinique’s major claims to fame is that it was the home of Napoleon 
Bonaparte’s first empress, Joséphine. In February 1942, it was the most 
feared western bastion of Vichy France. 

The island’s capital, Fort-de-France, in the words of a US Navy officer, 
was “a potential Gibraltar of the Caribbean.”> A protective semicircle of 
high mountains rings the capital and its port. The bay that fronts Fort-de- 
France is a massive 13 square miles in area; the entire 1942 US Navy could 
have anchored in its calm, yet deep waters. ‘The entrance to the bay was well 
guarded: Fort Tartenson to the west had four 16-cm guns and two 8-cm 
mortars as well as anti-aircraft guns; a second installation farther east and 
right near the coast was Fort Desaix. It was “sturdy, easily defended, well 
armed and well supplied.” Its 17th-century walls were “solid rock hewn 
out of the mountain surrounded by a dry moat 150 feet deep and 50 feet 
wide.” One easily defended road accessed the fort, which counted two 
9.5-cm guns and five 8-cm mortars as well as a battery of eight anti-air- 
craft weapons. It was well camouflaged by vegetation and trees and was 
difficult to spot from the sea. Below the fort were a military hospital and 
the artillery headquarters and barracks for the French West Indies and 
French Guiana.* Roughly 5,500 Vichy French troops with artillery, ten 
warships, and 106 fighter and bomber aircraft were based on Martinique. 


74 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


The US War Department’s BUNGALOW Plan for a possible war with 
Vichy France estimated that it would take a reinforced infantry or Marine 
division of 21,100 men — augmented by 75 fighter aircraft, 30 medium and 
ten light bombers, four cruisers, and 16 destroyers — to take Martinique. It 
wildly anticipated casualties at anywhere between 250 and 18,000 men.’ 
Presiding over this large garrison was Admiral Georges Achille Marie 
Joseph Robert, High Commissioner for the French Antilles, serving at the 
pleasure of the Vichy government of Field Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain. 
Robert, a crotchety bachelor, had retired in the grade of vice admiral in 
1937 but had been recalled to service in September 1939 and promoted 
admiral as the Republic's commander in the western hemisphere. He had 
made the transition to the Nazi puppet state based at Vichy seamlessly. He 
saw Pétain as the very “incarnation of Eternal France.” He viewed both 


the “Anglo-Saxons” and “Gaullism”® 


as France’s primary enemies. He 
seemed to share the visceral dislike that his boss, Admiral Jean-Francois 
Darlan, Commander in Chief French Fleet, had for British “dishonesty” 
and “untrustworthiness and treachery” in general, and for the “drunkard,” 
Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill, in particular.’ 

At various times, Admiral Robert commanded a formidable fleet of 
warships totaling 70,000 tons, based on Martinique and Guadeloupe.” 
Shortly after the collapse of France in June 1940, its only aircraft carri- 
er, the rebuilt 28,000-ton Béarn, had put into Fort-de-France. On board 
were 106 American Brewster Buffalo and Curtiss fighter aircraft. They 
had been sold by the US government to the Anglo-French Purchasing 
Commission, then moved to Halifax, Canada, and in June 1940 loaded 
onto the Béarn. Robert also had command of two 6-inch light cruisers, 
Jeanne d'Arc and Emile Bertin, both displacing about 6,000 tons. As well, 
Robert could call on the service of the 5-inch destroyer Le Terrible and 
the armed merchant cruisers Estere/, Barfleur, and Quercy. Six tankers and 
nine freighters of 80,000 tons rounded off his flotilla. 

Of special interest to the Allies was the Emile Bertin, then the pride 
of the French navy. It had arrived at Martinique on June 24, 1940 — with 
a precious cargo estimated as high as $300 million in gold. On June 16, 
the French government had ordered all gold reserves held by the Bank of 
France, including those of occupied Belgium and Poland, to be evacuated. 
When Premier Paul Reynaud’s request for an American cruiser to be sent 


4: Martinique 75 


to Bordeaux to pick up the gold fell through, it was decided to put the 
bullion on the French cruiser and dispatch it to Canada. But the French 
armistice was signed, and the allegedly neutral — but in fact collabora- 
tionist — Vichy government under Marshall Pétain was installed after the 
Emile Bertin reached Halifax on June 18. 

The Canadian government of Prime Minister William Lyon Mack- 
enzie King was challenged by the cruiser’s presence. Canada was at war 
with Germany, but not with France, or what remained of it, rump or not. 
Mackenzie King tried to persuade the French Ambassador to Canada, 
René Ristelhueber, to let the Emile Bertin stay in Halifax and transfer the 
gold to the Bank of Canada," but the Vichy government insisted that the 
ship be allowed to leave. The Canadian Minister of National Defence, 
Colonel J. L. Ralston, and the deputy head of the Bank of Canada, Don- 
ald Gordon, urged Mackenzie King to restrain the ship by force. But the 
prime minister was afraid that armed action against the ship (“folly and 
injury”) would cause “no end of trouble throughout Canada” because “the 
British Admiralty had expressed the view we should not let the ship go.”” 
King and his government cogitated for three days, then decided to allow 
the ship to depart. The captain of the Emile Bertin seized the initiative and 
left under his own steam on June 21. He then sailed straight for Martin- 
ique, trailed all the way by the heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire, which did 
not interfere with its passage." 

Admiral Robert was delighted. As soon as the cruiser arrived at Fort- 
de-France, he ordered the gold unloaded. Fearing what he slyly called 
“the eventuality of ulterior transport ... (if the need arose),” he ordered 
the colony, “under duress” as he maliciously noted in his memoirs, to build 
8,000 crates to store the “precious cargo” in uniform weights of 35 kilo- 
grams (77 pounds) each. Thereupon, it disappeared into the rock caverns 
of Fort Desaix.’ Robert’s gold reserve is generally estimated at 12 billion 
francs — which translates into $3.85 billion in 2012 US dollars!* Robert, 
with his fleet of ten warships, 106 airplanes, and 12 billion francs in gold, 
was a man to be reckoned with in the western hemisphere. Solidly in the 
hands of Vichy, Martinique was perceived as a major threat to Allied in- 
terests in the entire Caribbean. In the words of the official history of the 
Trinidad sector, “it was in the position of being able to inflict considerable 


76 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


damage on American bases as well as to supply a headquarters for enemy 
intelligence, operations or supply in the Western Hemisphere.”” 

Well before Hartenstein showed up, stories circulated around the 
Caribbean basin about German activity on the island. In late April 1941, 
US Army Intelligence in the Panama Canal Department received a report 
that German pilots flying for commercial airlines in South America were 
stationed in Martinique and preparing to carry out bombing missions 
against the Panama Canal. Apparently, this story followed the unloading 
of “airplane equipment” at Martinique." Other tales indicated that all the 
customs inspectors were German and that the roads on the island were 
being mined. 

After the United States entered the war, surveillance of Martinique 
was increased. Intelligence was gathered from Pan American clipper pi- 
lots flying the Martinique-Trinidad route. People who escaped from the 
island were closely questioned, but their information was often contra- 
dictory. Not long after the Pearl Harbor attack, many officers and men 
began leaving Martinique to join Free French forces. On December 21, 
two men from Martinique landed at St. Lucia in a canoe. One was a 
French artillery officer, the other a student. Their hands were raw after 
paddling for 24 hours. 

On February 21, the US consul in Martinique reported Hartenstein’s 
arrival in Fort-de-France and the transfer of “a wounded man” ashore to 
US Secretary of State Cordell Hull. Two hours later, the State Depart- 
ment instructed Ambassador William D. Leahy, a recently retired US 
Navy admiral and personal friend of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to 
inform the Vichy regime that the United States “cannot permit any of the 
French possessions in the Western Hemisphere to be used as a base for 
Axis operations.” Apparently, the landing of a wounded sailor had already 
escalated into a German assault on the Caribbean. Leahy poured fuel on 
the fire on February 26 by informing Hull that the wounded sailor in 
question was “the son of an officer high in the German Admiralty.”” And 
Anthony Eden, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, lectured 
Hull “that in his opinion the United States Government should immedi- 
ately have proceeded to occupy Martinique as a result of this incident.” 

Given the state of developments on Martinique, it is no wonder that 
Hartenstein’s landing of his wounded officer on February 20 set off a flurry 


4: Martinique 77 


of diplomatic activity. Secretary of State Hull was still fuming over what 
he termed the “so-called Free French” seizure of the Vichy-controlled 
islands of St. Pierre and Michelon off Newfoundland on Christmas Eve 
1941, and especially the storm of protest his comments had aroused in the 
American press.”! He was in no mood for further French transgressions in 
the western hemisphere, be they Vichy French or Free French. To make 
matters worse, Admiral Ernest J. King, Commander in Chief US Fleet, 
warned the Secretary that the aircraft on the Béarn were still “useable and 
might be used very effectively against us.”” 

Hartenstein’s arrival in Fort-de-France harbor further set off a new 
and more frightening cycle of rumors and stories about German subma- 
rines and Vichy collaboration. A Pan American crew reported to the US 
Army on Trinidad that people on Martinique were very irritated because 
the Vichy authorities were permitting U-boats to refuel there. Two stow- 
aways who landed at St. Lucia in mid-March asserted that there was a 
large number of Germans on the island. ‘They also reported flying over a 
submarine lying in harbor at Portsmouth on the eastern side of Dominica, 
100 kilometers northwest of Martinique. One of the more fantastic stories 
alleged that bauxite carriers coming to Martinique, which were owned by 
the American aluminum company ALCOA, were actually bringing food 
and provisions to the island in violation of a British embargo on the French 
West Indian islands proclaimed after the establishment of the Vichy state. 
It was alleged that, although ALCOA owned one of the largest fleets 
in the Caribbean, it had suffered relatively small losses. Was ALCOA 
somehow in cahoots with the Germans? One captain of a torpedoed ship 
claimed that a U-boat had slipped alongside his life raft and had provided 
provisions to the survivors, including two cans of milk “bearing the name 
of a Martinique distributor.” 

Something had to be done to defuse a tense situation. Hull turned to 
Admiral John W. Greenslade, who had been on Martinique since August 
1940, to deal with Robert about the US-built aircraft. The American ad- 
miral had found Robert extremely arrogant, even by French standards. 
Robert acted as virtual head of state and sovereign in Martinique. But 
Greenslade understood power. He ordered two US Navy destroyers oper- 
ating out of the American base still under construction at St. Lucia to pa- 
trol off Fort-de-France, at all times within sight of its inhabitants. Robert 


78 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


had relented, to a degree, and agreed that his warships would not leave the 
West Indies and that he would give Washington 48 hours notice before he 
moved the larger units. But out of a sense of “honor,” he refused to return 
the 106 aircraft on the Béarn to the United States. 

Greenslade then stepped up the pressure. The US destroyers now pa- 
trolled routinely off Fort-de-France by night, and PBY Catalina flying 
boats, also based on St. Lucia, by day. Robert relented some more. He 
agreed to remove the Brewster Buffalo and Curtiss airplanes from the 
carrier and to put them ashore, where, presumably, the “elements” would 
“take their toll” on the craft. When the State Department sent a special 
delegate, Sam Reber, as well as Admiral John H. Hoover, Command- 
er Caribbean Sea Frontier, to Martinique to press the American case, 
Robert collapsed completely. He agreed to immobilize his warships, and 
American crews removed engine parts as well as reduction gear pinions 
from the Béarn and shipped them to San Juan, Puerto Rico. And when 
it seemed that American forces might actually land on Martinique in the 
face of the grave U-boat threat, French flyers, under orders to “destroy the 
planes” in such an eventuality, chopped off the tail assemblies of numer- 
ous aircraft and set countless others on fire.” It was an inglorious end to 
Admiral Robert’s once-proud fleet and air arm. 

It was not until early March 1943 that the Americans finally received 
some reliable information about the state of affairs on the French island. 
On March 6, three young men from prominent island families made their 
way to Trinidad to join Free French forces. ‘They reported that they were 
certain that the army forces on Martinique would fight if the island was 
invaded and the French naval ships scuttled. There was an acute food 
shortage on the island, which was having a profound effect on its politics 
by undermining remaining support for the Vichy government. In fact, 
they claimed, nearly all inhabitants had rejoiced at the news that the Brit- 
ish and Americans had taken North Africa. When asked if there had been 
any contact between German submarines and Martinique with the ex- 
ception of Hartenstein’s entry into Fort-de-France harbor, all three were 
“very positive” that none had occurred. In light of the serious shortages of 
both food and fuel on the island, the notion that the Germans were using 
it as a supply base was “extremely foolish.” 


4: Martinique 79 


The news should have come as no surprise. The embargo on food and 
fuel shipments to the French islands, proclaimed in November 1942, had 
caused massive unrest. French Guiana deserted the Vichy cause under 
American pressure in March 1943, and there were anti-Vichy riots on 
Guadeloupe in late April. That month, the Americans finally cut diplo- 
matic relations with the island. Robert’s position was becoming increas- 
ingly unstable. The US Army and Navy had already initiated plans for an 
invasion of the island using American troops from Guantanamo, Trinidad, 
and San Juan. The Trinidad Mobile Force, as it was called, would consist 
of the 33" Infantry Regiment, accompanied by a regiment of engineers. In 
May 1943, these troops were concentrated in Trinidad and began to prac- 
tice amphibious landings.” But the landing never happened. What the 
unpublished official history of US Army operations in the Caribbean in 
World War II termed “probably the most inflammable situation of the war 
in the West Indies” was resolved peacefully and the invasion “at the last 
moment became unnecessary.”” Local resistance forced Robert to resign 
at the end of June; he was replaced by a representative of the Free French. 
The gold was recovered and the Emile Bertin, ironically, was refitted in 
New York and later put to sea as part of the revived Free French fleet.”* 


oh Ok ok 


After leaving Martinique, Hartenstein resumed the hunt for ships. He 
headed west to search the waters between Trinidad and the Anegada 
Passage just east of the British Virgin Islands; and thereafter the Trini- 
dad—Mona routes. He was champing at the bit. By now, Kernével would 
have had time to assess the disaster with the deck gun’s tampion, and thus 
his failure to destroy the Lago refinery. As well, they would have heard 
from enemy reports that he had not spotted the Henry Gibbons inside San 
Nicolas harbor and that he had missed the Hooiberg just arriving from 
Maracaibo with a full load of crude. A reprimand was sure to result. 

Shortly after midnight on February 21, Hartenstein fired off a terse 
after-action report to Vice Admiral Karl Donitz at Kernével: 


Transfer [Borne] without incident. Day before yesterday in CM 
55 empty freighter 2 misses Eto. Secure targeting data. Depth 3 


80 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


and 2 meters. Yesterday JK 65 2 hits. 3 misses against 4,000-ton 
stopped freighter. Could not observe sinking due to flying boat. 
140 cbm.” 


He could only hope that better times lay ahead. 

In the evening of February 21, Hartenstein, on a course for the Trini- 
dad—Mona sea lanes, stopped to reload the torpedo tubes. It was damned 
hard work. Not even the cool of the evening eased the torpedo gang’s 
sweaty labors. Each of the seven-meter-long and 1.5-ton-heavy “eels” with 
their 300-kilogram warheads had to be hoisted out of its watertight com- 
partment under the Prussian Scotch pine planks that covered the upper 
deck and ever so gently hoisted by block and tackle down into the bow of 
the boat, where it had to be placed on tracks and moved forward into the 
tubes. The torpedo gang then worked hours to load and arm the “eels.” 
In the always terse words of the war diary: “Transferred 4 Atos from the 
upper deck into the boat. Duration: 2 hours, 40 minutes from the start of 
the operation until 4 Atos under deck.”*° 

But this was just the start of heavy-duty operations that night. As 
the last of the torpedoes disappeared into the forward torpedo compart- 
ment, Hartenstein called the remaining technical staff up top to deal with 
the deck gun, whose muzzle had exploded at San Nicolas. Yet again, the 
boat’s sparse war diary gives no sense of the ardor of the task. “Sawed off 
destroyed 10.5-cm gun muzzle’s 53cm length with hacksaw. Duration: 7 
hours 20 minutes.” In fact, what Hartenstein and his crew accomplished 
quickly became legendary even in the daredevil “Volunteer Corps Dénitz.” 

The Old Man was an artillery expert. Ever since his cadet days at the 
Navy School in 1931, he had rotated through a series of peacetime artillery 
assignments and at the start of the war had been assigned artillery officer 
to destroyers. It was now time to put that training to work. Hartenstein 
had a good sense of humor. The deck gun was cumbersome and unwieldy, 
so he dubbed it the “lazy Susan.”*! Moreover, he liked to poke fun at con- 
voluted German naval terminology, referring to the gun as “number-so- 
and-so-many-centimeter rapid fire cannon in submarine-mounting C 36.” 

More seriously, how to remove the splayed muzzle? “By acetylene 
burner or with the hacksaw?” he mused aloud. Puzzled faces. Was the Old 
Man suffering from heat stroke, Executive Officer Paul Just wondered? It 


4: Martinique 81 


had to be a joke. Surely, no one could seriously consider cutting through 
Krupp-hardened steel in the middle of the Caribbean — and expect the 
mutilated gun to fire with any degree of accuracy! Hartenstein merely 
shrugged his shoulders. “But if we get close enough to a steamer, we can 
hit it even with the shortened barrel.” Given that the burner would give off 
an intense bright light, he opted for the hacksaw. “How many on board?” 
the Old Man asked. ‘The reply was 14. "Well then, we will use the better 
half of those.” With tape and chalk, Hartenstein measured off the length 
of barrel to saw off. Two men began the job. After half an hour the blade 
was dull. Hartenstein measured: 4-mm into the barrel. Hour after hour, 
the men worked in shifts. Blade after blade gave out. Shortly after 5 a.m., 
the deformed muzzle fell onto the deck. Mission accomplished. 

It was time to get out of sight of possible prowling aircraft. First 
Watch Officer Just, a former navy flyer, agreed. The next day brought 
home to Hartenstein the fact that enemy air assets were being daily en- 
hanced. Twice he had to crash dive to avoid wheeled aircraft. When he 
finally spotted a lone tanker at 5:30 p.m. on February 23, it had air cover. 
Twice more, U-156 had to seek safety by emergency dives. It was mad- 
dening work. The Kaleu turned the boat into the trade winds on “Slow” 
in order to preserve precious fuel. U-156 was now 34 days out of Lorient. 

At 7:30 p.m., Hartenstein resurfaced just west of the Dominica 
Channel.” 

“Steamer in sight!” The moon sparkled on the waves. The target was 
making 12 knots and steering a zigzag course. After four hours, the moon 
dipped below the horizon. It was pitch black. Every time the Old Man 
made a run at the vessel, it veered off. “I suspect detecting [U-156] with 
sound locator.” Finally, Hartenstein maneuvered U-156 to a position 900 
meters behind the target. It presented a sliver of a shadow. He fired a sur- 
face “Ato” torpedo, hoping against hope that it would hit the propellers. 
“Miss! Attack broken off.” Was it another defective firing pin, or had the 
depth mechanism failed again? It was like shooting with blanks. ‘The radio 
room took it to have been the 5,127-ton British freighter “De/ Plata.” It 
had cost U-156 14 hours. 

Just after noon on February 24, the bridge watch spied two tankers 
in line-ahead on a southerly course. One was a small Aruban lake tanker, 
the other an ocean-going tanker. They were moving along smartly at 13 


82 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


knots. “Both engines full ahead!” The chase was on. Hartenstein pursued 
the targets for the rest of the day and well into the night.** He was proud 
of the Jumbos. “Performance of the diesels most delightful: both engines 
at three-quarter speed 17 knots against Force 3 [seas] and, despite tropical 
cooling water, can maintain this for hours.” 

Since the full moon was out early, around 7 p.m., he positioned U-156 
four kilometers ahead of the large tanker and submerged. At 8:18 p.m., 
an “Ato” torpedo leaped out of Bow Tube HI. While the boatswain’s mate 
counted down the seconds, Hartenstein struck again, this time with an- 
other “Ato” from Tube IV. He ordered Chief Engineer Wilhelm Polchau 
to maintain U-156 at periscope depth. No guessing what else might be up 
there. Then the first welcome news: “Heard detonation! 1 min. 43 sec.” 
More anxious seconds. ‘Then, more welcome news: “Hit stern of ship be- 
tween mast and engine! Thus first hit must have been amidships. Running 
time 1 min. 43 sec.” Through the periscope, he saw the tanker stop, flood 
the decks with lights, blow off steam, and settle into the sea. 

Just then the Enigma machine lit up. A press report out of Lisbon 
confirmed the sinking of the 5,127-ton American freighter De/plata, en 
route from Buenos Aires to New Orleans with a general cargo, last Friday 
in the eastern Caribbean. An American airplane had spotted the wreck, 
called in a US Navy warship, and as a result 52 survivors had been safely 
landed in an unnamed port in the Antilles. Hartenstein was delighted. 
“That one goes to our credit from 20 [February].” Apparently, two of the 
five torpedoes he had fired at the pesky freighter that day had, in fact, 
found their target. 

No time to gloat. After a ten-minute chase, he spied the small lake 
tanker, course 350 degrees, speed nine knots. It was in ballast. Harten- 
stein decided to cross its wake to the starboard side, forge ahead four 
kilometers, submerge, and repeat the attack. Just before midnight he was 
ready to press the kill. There were still two “Ato” torpedoes in the stern 
tubes. Again, the agonizing countdown. Again, silence. “Both Misses!” 
‘Then, after 40 seconds, a bright flame on the tanker’s stern. Perhaps one 
of the “Atos” had hit? “Joy premature,” the Old Man ruefully noted in the 
war diary. The tanker was firing at the head of the bubble trail of the G7a 
“eel.” All the while, it was turning away hard. One torpedo was left in the 
bow tubes; no need to save it for another day. 


4: Martinique 83 


By now, the moon had dipped over the horizon. Hartenstein raced 
ahead of the tanker for a third time and submerged. He fired at the in- 
credible distance of 1,800 meters. Time: 0:21 a.m. He immediately or- 
dered a hard turn to starboard to avoid ramming the tanker, which was 
coming straight on. Again, the seconds ticked away. Silence. Then: 


Hit in the fore-ship! Running time: 1 min. 33 sec. Tanker sinks 
quickly. Stern out of the water. Lifeboats swung out. Fore-ship 
slips under. Tanker rises into the air and then falls away. 2 min. 
after hit! All torpedoes fired off! 


God bless the last “eel,” Hartenstein thought. Its victim was the 5,127-ton 
British steam tanker La Carriere, in ballast from New York to Trinidad. 
Fifteen of its crew of 41 died that night. 

It was time to shape a course for Lorient, still a very long 3,000 miles 
away. In the distance, Hartenstein could see the lights of Puerto Rico. 
Mona Passage and the open Atlantic lay just beyond. Still, there was one 
piece of unfinished business: the sawed-off deck gun.** What if some 
easy target came into sight? The Old Man called the repair crew back up 
on deck at 1 a.m., February 25. Years of ballistics training now paid off. 
Hartenstein quickly calculated that the barrel had lost 40 kilograms (88 
pounds) weight, and hence the breech tilted down toward the deck. He 
ordered two cast iron ballast weights each of 25 kilograms (55 pounds) 
to be removed from under the floor plates and brought up on deck. After 
arduously drilling two holes through each, the crew mounted them onto 
the barrel with long connecting rods and nuts to counterbalance the heavy 
breech. Still, it was jerry-rigged. Hartenstein had the ballasts and con- 
necting rods welded onto the barrel. 

Sailors held blankets to form a protective screen around the electric 
welder. Then it was time to submerge. The first rays of light were just 
breaking over the eastern horizon. 

In the morning light of February 26, the Old Man decided to test the 
gun. 

What would the new muzzle velocity and windage be? Would the 
gun’s recoil mechanism still function? Would the two ballasts attached 
to the barrel hold under the jolt of firing? Hartenstein ordered the repair 


84 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


crew below deck. He then hooked up a line to the gun’s trigger and from 
the bridge gave it a sharp pull. The 10.5-cm shell flew out of the barrel. A 
water column rose some 500 to 600 meters downrange. “Fired gun. Gun 
seems to be combat worthy. Windage unaltered. Recoil mechanism sufh- 
cient.” He would later recall, “One just has to want it badly!” 

The killer instinct in “Crazy Dog” refused to let go. He decided to 
scout the roadways of Aquadilla on the west coast of Puerto Rico, and 
then to slide past Arecibo on the northern shore as far as San Juan in the 
hope of encountering strays. After all, he still had the deck gun and more 
than 200 shells. And German naval intelligence had intercepted an Allied 
radio signal instructing merchantmen to hug the coasts of the islands as 
U-boats were operating in the central Caribbean. En route, the Enigma 
again lit up: the neutral press had reported the sinking of SS La Carriere 
off Puerto Rico the previous Wednesday. Hartenstein registered his “dis- 
appointment” over its tonnage (reported as 5,685) in the war diary. 

At 4:35 a.m. on February 27, U-156 stood off Silver Bank, north of 
Haiti. Just barely visible in the falling moon, Hartenstein spied the dark 
shadow that he had been pursuing for the better part of ten hours. He had 
the 10.5-cm ammunition brought up on deck by a human chain. Then he 
ordered “Hard-a-port” and brought the boat on a parallel course with the 
shadow. Range: 1,000 — 800 — 700 — 600 meters. Calm Sea. Moderate 
wind. 

“Clear the decks. Prepare to fire artillery! Open fire with all guns!” 
Now the acting artillery officer, Hartenstein was in his element. The in- 
cendiary shells landed amidships, ripping apart side hull plates, while the 
smaller guns sprayed the hostile’s bridge. It returned fire with its stern 
deck gun and then tried to send out an SSS signal, which U-156’s radio 
crew managed to jam. Soon, the bridge watch heard a loud explosion and 
saw bright flames shoot up into the darkness. The burning vessel began 
to list to port. All the while, Hartenstein pumped more shells into the 
wreck: 92 10.5-cm and 111 3.7-cm shells, of which 25 to 30 per cent found 
their target. 

Suddenly, a brightly lit ship off on the horizon began to open fire 
on U-156. “Crazy Dog” was no fool. It would be suicide to engage what 
obviously was a hostile warship in an artillery duel with a sawed-off, jerry- 
rigged deck gun in the approaching daylight. Since the burning ship was 


4: Martinique 85 


swinging its lifeboats out, Hartenstein ordered “Cease Fire!” He gave the 
crew, gathered in four lifeboats, sailing instructions to the nearest land. 
As the ship slipped beneath the waves with a loud hissing noise, he or- 
dered Lieutenant Just to shape a northeasterly course at full speed. 

Hartenstein would later learn that the “Lazy Susan” had dispatched 
the 2,498-ton British steam freighter Macgregor, loaded with 2,621 tons of 
coal and bound from Tyne to Tampa. It was a nice birthday present for the 
34-year-old Hartenstein. True to form, the Old Man allowed no reference 
to his birthday in the war diary on February 27. 

‘The sinking of the Macgregor only whetted Hartenstein’s appetite. In- 
stead of continuing on to Lorient, he ordered the boat to make one more 
pass at the traffic coming out of the Mona Passage — or possibly even to 
scout the north coast of Puerto Rico. It was a wise choice. Just before 6 
p-m., the bridge watch reported: “Tanker in sight!” It was fully loaded and 
running on a zigzag course. No deck guns visible. No escorts in sight. 
Hartenstein could not make out its grimy flag. Again, the arduous chase 
— nine hours this time. Again, a human chain brought the heavy shells up 
on deck. As far as the men were concerned, “Crazy Dog” was fully justi- 
fying their nickname for him.” 

At 5:17 a.m., Hartenstein opened fire on the tanker. The first two 
shells slammed into the bridge. Range fell to 400 meters. ‘The target’s 
decks soon were enveloped with flames. But its captain threw the wheel 
hard-a-port. He was heading straight for U-156! In the excitement of the 
action, Hartenstein had not foreseen this clever move. Several thousand 
tons of flame and smoke were bearing down on the slender U-boat. ‘The 
men on deck could feel the intense heat and smell the putrid black smoke 
of the tanker. 

“Starboard engine full ahead! Port engine full reverse! Rudder hard- 
a-port!” But before hunter and prey could separate, the two collided in 
a screech of iron and a shower of smoke and fire. U-156 heeled over to 
port, then righted itself again. The forward diving plane on the starboard 
side scraped against the burning hulk, sustaining considerable damage. It 
could not be repaired. Thankfully, there were no casualties among the gun 
crews up on deck. 

As soon as the two antagonists ground past one another, Harten- 
stein ordered the guns to blaze away. The jerry-rigged ballast that he had 


86 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


attached to the deck gun flew off the barrel under the strain of rapid firing 
and collision. This notwithstanding, Hartenstein fired at the tanker at 
almost point-blank range. Later, he recorded the night’s action in the war 
diary: 


Continued to fire. Expenditure: 58 rounds 10.5-cm, 304 rounds 
3.7-cm, and 101 rounds 2-cm shells. Observed about 25-30 hits 
by the 10.5-cm and 200 hits by the 3.7-cm. Tanker brightly 
flaming amidships. 10.5-cm and 3.7-cm ammunition expended. 
Expect later sinking [of tanker]. 


‘The victim turned out to be a rich prize: the 7,017-ton American steam 
tanker Oregon, en route from Aruba to New York with a load of high-oc- 
tane gasoline. 

After setting a decoy course of northeast, Hartenstein at last shaped a 
course for Lorient. U-156 was down to 101 cbm*’ fuel. Still, it had been a 
daredevil act: the B-18 bombers of No. 45 Squadron on Puerto Rico were 
within easy range of U-156, and he had risked all for another kill. But he 
still had on board 1,300 rounds of 2-cm anti-aircraft shells. To the dis- 
belief of the crew, “Crazy Dog” was not yet content. Like a Weimaraner 
that has chased down and killed its first wounded deer, the scent of blood 
was in his nostrils.** He plotted anew: 


Plan: in case a freighter is encountered on the march home 
during the day, steam directly ahead of it, dive, observe if it is 
armed, surface at a distance of 500 meters at an angle of 100 
degrees, suppress its stern gun with the 2-cm cannon, signal 
it with semaphore or radio: ‘Stop and Surrender. Sink with 
blasting charges. 


‘The adrenaline slowly ebbed. Hartenstein returned to his professional, 
rational self. Late on March 2, he refused to attack a freighter with his 
2-cm anti-aircraft guns. The next morning he chased another freighter 
but then saw that it had a heavy aft deck gun manned by four men in 
uniform. He broke off the chase. “No, this is not right. They will open 


4: Martinique 87 


fire before my antiaircraft crew is ready to fire. Abandon attack. Surface. 
Proceed on course 51 degrees.” 

Day after day, the “garbage tour” proceeded on its tedious course. The 
Old Man had a shower rigged in the engine room and ordered each man 
to wash off the sweat and grime of two months at sea — and to shave off his 
beard. As well, he had dress blues pressed. Shortly after 9 a.m. on March 
17, U-156, flying six pennants from the extended periscope tubes, tied up 
alongside the hulk Jsére in Lorient harbor. Precise as ever, Hartenstein 
made his final entry in the KTB: “58 days at sea, 10050 nautical miles. 3 
tankers, 1 freighter sunk; 1 tanker, 1 freighter probable. 23632 tons.” 

It had been a highly successful first war patrol. Overall, the Neuland 
boats had destroyed 22 ships in ten days in the Caribbean; 17 had been 
tankers. In terms of surprise and impact, Operation New Land had out- 
stripped the earlier Operation Paukenschlag assault on the US eastern 
seaboard. 


&8 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


“THE FERRET OF PORT OF SPAIN” 


Werner Hartenstein’s U-156 was the first boat to return from the Carib- 
bean on March 17, 1942. He and his crew received a tumultuous welcome, 
with the band of 317" Infantry Regiment playing rousing marches and the 
naval female service, the Blitzmadchen, assembled near the Isére. Second 
Flotilla Commander Viktor Schtitze was waiting as the sub tied up. “U- 
156 back reporting from war patrol!” Hartenstein declared, throwing 
Schiitze a snappy salute. “Hlei/ to the crew of U-156!” The men roared out 
in unison: “Hei/ Herr Korvettenkapitan!” 

At that moment, a black Mercedes rolled up to the pier. Out stepped 
Karl Donitz — the “Great Lion” to the German submarine service. “Atten- 
tion! Eyes Right!” The men, smartly turned out in their blue dress uni- 
forms, snapped to attention. “At ease!” Donitz and Schiitze walked down 
the gangplank onto the deck of U-156. His eyes narrow slits and his thin 
lips pursed, Donitz reviewed the assembled crew. He had a few words for 
each man. He stopped in front of Hartenstein and pinned the German 
Cross in Gold — mockingly dubbed “Hitler’s Fried Egg” because of its 
overly large round shape — onto the Kaleu’s coat. Then he had Hartenstein 
show him the deck gun with its temporary clamp still on. Well done! 
Only then did Hartenstein recognize the third narrow, gold “piston ring” 
above the broad gold bands on Dénitz’s jacket sleeves: he had been pro- 
moted to the rank of admiral three days earlier. 

With two months’ wages tucked in their pockets, the men of U-156 
headed for some much-needed and well-deserved shore leave. A third 
would be assigned to new boats; another third would go on furlough; and 
the remainder would stay behind to supervise repairs on U-156 for the 
next war patrol. Midshipman Max Fischer, who was about to turn 20, had 


8&9 














A crowd welcomes the return of U-67 from a patrol. Source: Ken Macpherson 


Photographic Archives, Library and Archives at The Military Museums, Libraries and 
Cultural Resources, University of Calgary. 


already been selected as a replacement for Lieutenant Dietrich von dem 
Borne. For rest and relaxation, the U-Boat Service had requisitioned two 
houses each in Carnac and Lamor-Plage for officers, and three large hotels 
in Carnac for the ratings. 

‘Then it was off for the post-patrol banquet at Staff Headquarters — and 
mail call. Next came lunch, glorious lunch! Hot sausages, white bread, 
fresh vegetables, French desserts — and, of course, real Beck’s and Falstaff 
beer. The dining room soon became a blue-gray haze as the men lit up 
pipes and their favorite Atikah, Memphis, and Gold Dollar cigarettes. Later 
that night, it was off to the “Street of Movement,” where the action was. 
“Decadent” American jazz, French chansons, scents of perfume, and glori- 
ous mesdemoiselles. “Come in, sailor! Good music, beaucoup dance, good 
drink, amour.” The Kriegsmarine had established special “houses” with 
“ladies of pleasure” in Lorient’s Rue de Sully for its U-boat crews; civilians 


90 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


were not allowed. The “houses” were routinely inspected by medical per- 
sonnel. After sex, each “lady of pleasure” had to hand her customer a spe- 
cial card that noted her name, date, and time of tryst for later “inspection” 
of the “client” by the medical authorities.’ 

‘That “inspection” was undertaken before the next war patrol during 
a mandatory one-week health cure at the Institute of U-Boat Diseases at 
Carnac, where medics meticulously searched the men for the “Luftwaffe 
antelopes” that they might have picked up from the mesdemoiselles.’ Syph- 
ilis and gonorrhea — which the Germans called “the French disease” — in- 
itially were treated with Albucid tablets. If these brought no relief, then 
the doctors reverted to the older method of injecting permanganate of 
potash through a urethral syringe. And when all else failed, they applied 
the “Kollmann treatment,” using a metallic expandable instrument to di- 
late urethral strictures.‘ 

Hartenstein, meanwhile, settled into the officers’ billet at the Hotel 
Majestik — and then checked in at the officers’ mess at the Hotel Beau 
Sejour. Wide French beds with clean white sheets were a welcome relief 
after two months in a 52-inch-long bunk with an artificial leather mat- 
tress. There was steaming hot food and rivers of vintage red wine — at a 
paltry 20 francs (or one Reichsmark) per bottle. He walked the beach 
at Carnac and reveled in the thunder of the surf. And there was a small 
chateau nearby for special encounters: “Officers Only!” 

One final item of business: the after-action report. It was well known 
in the U-Boat Service that the “Great Lion” read every war diary after a 
patrol, so the Old Man had to be precise, yet careful, for much had gone 
wrong during Operation Neuland. Hartenstein began his report with the 
first-ever observation of conditions in the Caribbean. These waters were 
so translucent, he wrote, that even at full speed with a strong bow wave, 
one could clearly see the bow hydroplanes; and at periscope depth, the 
boat’s fore- and afterdeck appeared as a “gray shadow” through the peri- 
scope. Suggestions: deck and bridge had to be painted black; the light 
pine decking had to be replaced with dark, impregnated wood; and the 
conning tower had to be painted to resemble teak. And space had to be 
made available on deck to store more torpedoes, for all Neuland boats had 
returned due to lack of “eels,” not shortage of fuel. 


5: “The Ferret of Port of Spain” a 


Finally, Hartenstein turned to “lessons learned.” First, the next wave 
of boats desperately needed precise sailing schedules for individual ports 
and roads in the Caribbean. Second, they needed civilian airlines’ sched- 
ules to avoid accidental sightings in congested areas such as the waters 
around Aruba, Curacao, and Trinidad. Third, they needed a manual on 
international maritime law, as every encounter raised new issues of legal- 
ity. The boats also “desperately needed” some form of air conditioning. 
Aircraft had sometimes forced them to stay underwater for as long as 13 
hours off steaming-hot Caribbean ports with temperatures in the boats 
rising to 40° Celsius and with unbearable humidity. Thirteen hours under 
water in the tropics resulted in “severe diminution of the crews’ efficiency.”® 

As always, Donitz carefully read U-156’s war diary and Hartenstein’s 
after-action report. After all, here was a senior group commander just re- 
turned from a first, potentially war-winning, operation. Initially, Donitz 
had censured Hartenstein’s action off San Nicolas as too timid and evan- 
escent; the skipper should have kept his eye on the prize, the tankers and 
not the refinery. But how could he argue with sheer tenacity and eventual 
success? He penned his evaluation: 


Very well executed first operation of a commander with a new 
boat. Dash, aggressive spirit and calculated actions on the part 
of the commander brought the boat a very nice initial success, 
unfortunately impaired by inexplicable [torpedo] misses. It 
is regrettable that the artillery deployment against the oil 
refinery at Curagao [sic] was thwarted by a misfire (firing with 
tampion in place). Later measures for renewed deployment were 
recognized.° 


He summoned Hartenstein to the Villa Kerillon, and congratulated the 
Kaleu on the tankers and freighters torpedoed, on the repair of the deck 
gun, and on his attempt to shell the “Esso” refinery. Later that night, 
at his favorite restaurant, Le Moulin de Rosmadic 4 Pont-Aven, Donitz 
mused about “Crazy Dog” Hartenstein. He liked the wiry, eagle-beaked 
commander and thought him “an excellent officer, tough in battle and 
humane when it was over.”’ He would need Hartenstein to head a second 
wave of assault boats in the Caribbean. 


92 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


oR ok ok 


Hartenstein was not the only one of the five Neuland captains to chalk 
up an impressive list of kills. While Hartenstein in U-156, Rosenstiel in 
U-502, and Miiller-Stéckheim in U-67 had focused mainly on the waters 
around the Netherlands Antilles, Kapitanleutnant Albrecht Achilles in 
U-161 had tackled the difficult job of attacking shipping in the Gulf of 
Paria. Achilles arrived on station off Trinidad at 6 p.m.* on February 16, 
1942. “Trinidad in sight.”? For much of the next day he circumnavigated 
the island. Both Achilles and Executive Officer Werner Bender took care- 
ful notes of its many bays and peninsulas, its sand banks and mud flats, 
and its air and surface defenses. It brought back memories of when both 
men had sailed these waters for the Hamburg-Amerika Line. 


3 ok ok 


Trinidad’s northern and southern peninsulas reach out like “arms” due 
west toward Venezuela, almost in the shape of a “reverse C.” Between the 
two “arms” and the coast of Venezuela lies the Gulf of Paria, a shallow 
body of water no deeper than 275 meters (900 feet) with an overall area 
of 7,800 square kilometers. The Gulf has two entrances. The southern is 
the Boca de la Serpiente (the serpent’s mouth) separating the southern tip 
of Trinidad from the northern coast of Venezuela. The strait is less than 
20 kilometers wide at its narrowest point. The northern is the Bocas del 
Dragon (the dragon’s mouth), about 25 kilometers wide. Vessels entering 
the Bocas del Dragon had to transit one of four channels interspersed 
with small islands; most used the largest, the Boca Grande — the main 
shipping channel to the northwest coast of Trinidad and its major harbor 
and capital, Port of Spain. The Boca Grande and the other channels were 
rock strewn and noted for their strong currents. Most ships transiting 
the Dragon’s Mouth did so slowly and carefully. By February 1942, most 
of the islands in the Bocas had been fortified with British or American 
coastal guns, some of them newly arrived US-built 155-mm “Long Toms.” 
About halfway down the west coast of Trinidad was the largest oil refin- 
ery in the British Empire — Trinidad Leaseholds Ltd. at Pointe-a-Pierre, 


5: “The Ferret of Port of Spain” 93 


outputting 21 million barrels in 1941." It was protected by a mere brace of 
6-inch coastal guns. Port of Spain was the home of a British naval station, 
HMS Benbow, with a single unit of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve 
commanding a few yachts and minesweepers. 

The defenses of Chaguaramas, near the western tip of the northern 
arm of Trinidad, were more formidable. The port had been included in 
the September 1940 Anglo-American “destroyers-for-bases” deal, and by 
May 1941 was home to US 11" Infantry Regiment as well as several units 
of 252°¢ Coastal Artillery Regiment. Six PBY5 Catalina flying boats were 
scheduled to be based at Chaguaramas, once its silt-laden harbor had been 
dredged. For the time being, the US Navy berthed two 1,000-ton World 
War I “flush-deck” destroyers, the USS Barnley and the USS Blakeley, 
at Chaguaramas. Built in 1918, they mounted four 4-inch guns but had 
terrible “sea legs” owing to their slender beam, great length, and high 
superstructure." 

Further inland, the US Army Air Forces had stationed squadrons of 
twin-engine Douglas B-18 “Bolo” bombers of 1** Bombardment Group 
at Waller Field in the Fort Reid complex near San Rafael on the Caroni 
plains. It had also selected Trinidad’s civilian Piarco Field, 20 kilom- 
eters south-southeast of Port of Spain, as the training site for these units. 
While the effort was impressive on paper, American “disorganization was 
so complete” that it would take seven months before the patrol planes and 
bombers were fully operational.'* Moreover, there was a confused com- 
mand structure: President Franklin D. Roosevelt had designated the Navy 
as the service with overall responsibility for the defense of the central and 
eastern Caribbean but had also chosen the Army to defend the Panama 
Canal Zone and its approaches. But most of the fighting forces in Puerto 
Rico, the Lesser Antilles, the Leeward Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, 
the Netherlands Antilles, and Jamaica were army personnel (with Dutch, 
British and Canadian troops also present) while the great majority of the 
aircraft were Army Air Forces. General Henry C. Pratt, US Army, com- 
manded the overall Trinidad Sector; Captain S. P. Oineder the US Naval 
Air Station; and Lieutenant Colonel Waddington of the Army Air Forces 
Waller Field. Admiral Sir Michael Hodges, Royal Navy, outranked all 
three Americans; and above him towered the difficult British Governor, 
Sir Hubert Young, who despised anything “American.” 


94 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


3 ok ok 


Achilles and Bender were eager to exploit the situation. On February 16, 
Kernével infomed U-161: “Achilles Free to Attack!” Hartenstein had al- 
ready assaulted Aruba, and so there was no reason to hold off. Achilles 
monitored the sea and air traffic while he planned his approach through 
the Dragon’s Mouth. Running on the surface, he guided U-161 safely 
through the Boca Grande at 3 a.m. on February 18, in good part thanks to 
well-lit navigation buoys and shore lights. A British-laid “antisubmarine 
loop” under the sea detected the intruder, and soon the bridge watch heard 
the drone of aircraft overhead — B-18 bombers out of Waller Field sent to 
investigate the contact — along with a few patrol boats. Incredibly, few of 
Trinidad’s defenders had heard anything at all about the attacks around 
Aruba and north of Lake Maracaibo. They were far from alert. 

At 10:34 a.m., Achilles set U-161 down on the bottom at 60 meters 
off Chaguaramas under the very noses of the patrol craft and bombers. He 
did not know it at the time, but the two American destroyers Blakeley and 
Barney had left their moorings to charge westward toward Curacao. The 
antisubmarine alert was called off in mid-afternoon, but Achilles chose 
to stay on the bottom until dark, and then surface to charge the batteries. 
‘Then, and only then, would he attack the freighters riding at anchor in 
Port of Spain. He made a mental note not to approach the shore at depths 
less than 15 meters for fear the torpedoes would not run true, since they 
first dove upon leaving the tubes, then rose to their preset depth. “Inten- 
tion: Before operating in the entire area, will drive into the harbor [Port of 
Spain] since unnoticed until now and defenses hardly anticipating this.” 

Achilles brought U-161 to the surface at 7:32 p.m. The hatch was 
cracked and cool evening air rushed into the conning tower. Achilles 
sprang up through the narrow opening, followed by the rest of the bridge 
watch. Bender stayed below. The sea was calm. Search lights from Cha- 
cachacare Island played on the waters. A few clouds danced overhead. 
An aircraft flew by. The U-boat went completely unnoticed. There were 
targets in the roadstead off Port of Spain. “Freighters are well defined 
before the well-lit town,” Achilles noted in the KTB.™ All were brightly 
lit, oblivious to the lurking danger. “Ajax” could clearly make out vintage 


5: “The Ferret of Port of Spain” 95 





Albrecht Achilles. “Ajax” 
Achilles first served on 

the German battleship 
Gneisenau and joined the 
submarine forces in April 
1940. On six patrols with 
U-161 he destroyed 14 
Allied ships of 104,664 
tons, and damaged the 
British light cruiser Phoebe. 
His actions off St. Lucia 
earned him the nickname 
“ferret” for his ability to 
destroy enemy vessels in 
their ports. He died on 

27 September 1943 when 
U-161 was sunk with all 
hands off Bahia, Brazil. 
Source: Deutsches U-Boot- 








Museum, Cuxhaven- 
Altenbruch, Germany. 





American cars moving slowly along the shore as well as fishing boats bob- 
bing up and down in port. ‘The piers were littered with tarred fishing crates 
and nets. The watch took in the bewildering tropical scents: the sweet 
smells of damp earth and tree bark, of warehoused sugar and nutmeg; the 
fragrant scent of orchid and cocoa trees as well as oleander; but also the 
sulfurous stench of mangrove swamps, tar pits, and cesspits. 

Achilles was ready. To guard against an unexpected attack, he pos- 
itioned the boat with its bow facing out into the Gulf of Paria for a quick 
escape. Range: 3,700 meters. Sea: calm. Time: 11:32 p.m., February 18. 
Bender fired both stern tubes. After four minutes, “Hit freighter amidships. 
20 m[eter]|-high water column, thereafter thick, dark cloud of smoke.” The 
7,460-ton Mokihana, en route from Baltimore to Suez with general cargo, 
heeled over and began to settle almost immediately. Twenty-eight seconds 


96 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 














U-161. Another large Type IXC boat, U-161 under Kapitaenleutnant Albrecht Achilles 
operated most dramatically off St. Lucia, Caribbean; it was destroyed by depth charges 
from a US Mariner aircraft near Bahia, Brazil, in September 1943. Source: Deutsches 


U-Boot-Museum, Cuxhaven-Altenbruch, Germany. 


later, a second detonation. “Hit freighter amidships, very high fire col- 
umn, parts of the superstructure fly into the air.” The bow rose above the 
sea, the target “broken apart amidships.” It was the 6,900-ton tanker 
British Consul, bound for the United Kingdom with a load of fuel oil. The 
burning vessels lit up Port of Spain — as well as U-161. 

“Both engines full ahead!” U-161 sliced into the Gulf of Paria. Achil- 
les ordered a test dive. The bow almost immediately sank into the soft mud 
of the harbor floor. With engines in full reverse, the sub was freed and 
raced toward the Bocas on the surface. “High-speed escape in the direc- 
tion of Chacachacare Island!” Achilles noted for the KTB. Flare bombs 
lit up the Boca de Navios. “Emergency Dive!” But the strong current pre- 
vented progress with the electric motors. “Prepare to surface!” Achilles 
opted to drive U-161 west toward neutral Venezuela “to seek protection 
from searchlights.” Then, in the midst of the confusion caused by his at- 
tack, he would attempt a daring escape northward, through the Bocas, on 
the surface. 


5: “The Ferret of Port of Spain” 97 


U-161 had scored a complete surprise and plunged Port of Spain into 
chaos. 

Coastal defense gunners fired their weapons off without ever spotting 
a target. Patrol boats raced out of Chaguaramas, without any idea of what 
they were looking for. The island’s overburdened telephone system broke 
down. Air raid sirens wailed. Someone cut off the city’s power supply, 
cutting radio communications and throwing military installations into 
utter darkness. Antisubmarine personnel at HMS Benbow had to work 
by flashlight." 

How to make good the escape through the treacherous Dragon’s 
Mouth? Achilles decided that audacity was his best chance.” He kept 
U-161 on the surface, reduced his speed, trimmed the boat to where the 
decks were just awash, set only a few running lights, and mixed in with 
a small flotilla of fishing boats and US Navy and Royal Navy launches. 
No one would suspect such cheek. He passed the guns of the Royal Ar- 
tillery sited 300 feet up on Caspar Grande Island, so close to shore that 
they could not be depressed sufficiently to fire at him — even if its gunners 
had spotted the U-boat. There remained a last hurdle: eight US 155-mm 
coastal defense guns on Chacachacare Island. Beyond lay open sea. Achil- 
les stuck to his daring plan and coolly ran for three miles under the gun- 
ners’ noses. Not a shot was fired at U-161. Its crew took full notice of their 
skipper. At home, the German propaganda machine celebrated Achilles 
as “the ferret of Port of Spain.” 

Achilles’ bold penetration of the Gulf of Paria has been likened to the 
earlier feat of Giinther Prien, who on October 14, 1939, had slipped his 
U-47 into the closely guarded British fleet anchorage Scapa Flow and had 
sunk the 29,150-ton battleship HMS Royal Oak. Achilles’ audacity was a 
key factor in his success, but so were the unpreparedness and the lack of 
training of the defenders.'* In effect, his and Hartenstein’s successes sym- 
bolized the battle for the Caribbean at this stage of the war — U-boats with 
daring commanders and a highly flexible command structure challenging 
the poorly organized, untrained and under-equipped Allies and creating 
great slaughter as a result. 

Following their foray into the Gulf of Paria, Achilles and Bend- 
er hatched yet another daring scheme: why not return to Trinidad and 


98 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


resume the hunt off its northwest peninsula? Surely, no one would expect 
the intruder to return so soon after its miraculous escape. 

They were quickly rewarded.” At 7:20 a.m. on February 21, the 
sounding room reported: “Screw noises at 350 degrees. Tanker, 3000 
tons.” Achilles closed range. He decided to repeat his first attack and fire 
from the stern tubes. Tube V: “Miss!” He had overestimated the tanker’s 
speed and underestimated the distance to target. Tube VI. “Miss!” ‘The 
target had suddenly veered off to port. Had its captain seen the U-boat? 
Or the track of the “eel”? “Torpedo probably passed in front of it,” Achil- 
les dryly recorded in the war diary. He ordered a new plot for a bow shot. 
But then the target veered off course again. By this time, hostile aircraft 
circled above the prey and two surface escorts approached at high speed. 
‘There was nothing to do but to head away from the scene of this mis- 
adventure submerged. 

Just after 3 p.m., the hydrophone operator reported a contact at 345 
degrees, northwest of the Boca Grande. “Ajax” brought U-161 to peri- 
scope depth. “Tanker, 5000 tons. No neutrality marking. Flag extremely 
small, hard to make out, probably American.” The unsuspecting target 
was approaching U-161 at high speed. Achilles submerged and for an 
hour awaited its arrival. Range: 910 meters. Achilles fired a double spread. 
After 59 seconds, “Hit amidships. High column of water, as high as the 
masts.” After 69 seconds, “Hit just ahead of the funnel. Likewise, high 
column of water.” The first torpedo blew out the plates on the starboard 
side of the target, ripped through the inner bulkheads, and sliced open the 
plates on the port side. The second blew the stern off, taking rudder and 
propeller away with it. The tanker began to list heavily to starboard and to 
go down by the stern. But it did not sink. Its savvy skipper used his ballast 
pumps to shift water to the port holding tanks and thus managed to right 
his ship. Achilles maneuvered to deliver the coup de grace. 

“Fliebo!”> The bastard had signaled his position and predicament by 
“code SSS” to Port of Spain. A Royal Navy Fairey Albacore bomber flying 
out of Piarco Field had delivered two near-lethal hundred-pound bombs. 
“Emergency Dive!” Achilles took U-161 down to 50 meters. Not a sound 
in the boat. The men took off their shoes; those off duty climbed into 
the bunks. At 4:23 p.m., Achilles brought U-161 up to periscope depth. 
He spotted the wreck. In the fading sun he noticed three hostile aircraft 


5: “The Ferret of Port of Spain” 99 


directly overhead: two American B-18s from Waller Field had joined the 
hunt. All three had clearly made out the U-boat’s dark shadow in the 
translucent waters. 

“Fliebos!” Now all three enemy flyers were depth-charging him. 
Again, the Old Man took the boat down to 50 meters. Chief Engin- 
eer Heinrich Klaassens calmly reported, “No damage.” U-161 came up to 
periscope depth. For the crew, this was insanity. “Tanker must be brought 
under water, in any event,” Achilles barked out. If not, it could probably be 
towed into Port of Spain. Given the pervasive air cover, Achilles decided 
to submerge and to await nightfall. At 6:49 p.m., he deemed the moment 
right and returned to periscope depth. For the next hour, he maneuvered 
into position. Range: a mere 370 meters. “Hit, funnel. Tanker sinks very 
quickly by the stern!” The crew managed to get the lifeboats out of the 
davits, and Achilles could clearly make them out in a long, white line. 
“Emergency Stations!” The flaming hulk seemed to be coming right at 
U-161, even though its stern had been blasted away. “Bow towers high out 
of the water in front of the periscope.” Was it drifting with the current? 
‘There was not a moment to lose. “Dive! Dive! 15 meters. Hard turn!” 

It had been a close call. Too close, in fact. Upon surfacing, Achilles 
found himself in a sea of fuel oil. He ordered a course in the general dir- 
ection of the Mona Passage, southeast of Dominica. It was high time to 
leave the Trinidad sector — and to recharge the almost depleted batteries, 
to ventilate the boat, and to reload the bow tubes. His third victim had 
been the 8,207-ton British tanker Circle Shell, in ballast from the River 
Clyde to Curagao, but diverted to Trinidad. It lost a single sailor in the 
action. 

Shortly before midnight on February 23, U-161, standing about 250 
miles west of the Martinique Passage, came across a fourth target. Since 
it was dark, Achilles ordered a surface attack. Range: 2,600 meters. He 
fired. After two minutes and six seconds, the torpedo slammed into the 
shadow’s fore-ship. It ground to a halt and began to go down by the bow. 
It was furiously signaling “Freighter ‘Lihue’ sends U-boat warning,” fol- 
lowed by “SOS I am hit sinking.” Achilles was irate. He was not about to 
expend another “eel” on the cripple — he had only eight left — and yet it was 
going down much too slowly for his liking. 


100 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


“Clear the decks! Prepare to fire artillery!” U-161 broke the surface at 
0:59 a.m. A human chain conveyed the heavy shells up on deck. Second 
Watch Officer Gétz Roth opened fire with the 10.5-cm deck gun. The 
prey immediately replied with its 3-inch cannon and several machine 
guns. A few shells splashed into the water near U-161. Too close for com- 
fort. “Alarm! Dive!” Achilles tracked the wreck, which had gotten up 
steam again, over the hydrophone set. At 1:24 a.m., he resurfaced. Roth’s 
artillery crew blazed away at it again with the deck gun, setting its entire 
length on fire. Still, it refused to sink. Livid by now, Achilles maneuvered 
to deliver the coup de grace. But the freighter’s wily skipper continued to 
zigzag, and then put his wheel over hard to ram U-161. “Angle 0, distance 
1500 meters.” 

‘The angle of the shot was more than 90 degrees — too risky — and so 
Achilles took the boat down, just to be safe. At 5:10 a.m., he resurfaced. 
“No sight of the freighter.” He shaped a course for where he estimated it 
might have gone. “6:28 a.m. Freighter again in sight.” By now, the sun was 
breaking over the horizon. Surely, hostile airplanes would shortly appear. 
He broke off his third plot. 

“Dive!” Doggedly, he followed the target, hoping to deliver a final 
submerged attack. He was like a terrier seeking to hunt its prey to ground. 
He resurfaced. For four hours, the freighter continued to zigzag at 8 
knots. All the while, it radioed its position and situation as well as appeals 
for help. Achilles plowed ahead. It was now noon, February 23. He took 
U-161 down for a submerged attack. Range: 5,000 meters. ‘The target’s 
bow was down three meters. Achilles fired from Tube VI. 

“Miss.” He closed the range to deploy the deck gun. “Freighter looks 
abandoned, but I do not trust it.” He broke off the surface plot. 

“New approach submerged.” Achilles decided on a double bow shot 
to kill this pesky adversary. Both “eels” missed the target. “Freighter must 
have been listening for the torpedoes.” Achilles lost all composure. He 
plotted and ran four more underwater approaches. To no avail. “Freighter 
always lies at dead stop, then shortly before I reach firing position turns 
away hard toward the boat.” He vowed not to expend another torpedo 
unless guaranteed success. “Freighter must be sounding the approach of 
the boat, even though I undertook the last two runs at great distance and 
at slow speed.” 


5: “The Ferret of Port of Spain” 104 


“Alarm! Aircraft approaching boat!” Achilles ordered “Emergency 
Dive! A-20.” U-161 crept along submerged and silent at 60 meters until 
4:20 p.m., when the starboard hydrophone operator reported “great noise” 
dead ahead. “Ajax” brought the boat up to periscope depth. Behind and 
off the port side, he could make out the target — and two airplanes circling 
above it. There was also a small tanker some five kilometers behind the 
cripple. 

Achilles ordered the boat to level off at 30 meters. The starboard 
hydrophone continued to pick up “noises.” At 4:40 p.m., the men in U-161 
heard “a weak detonation and following echo.” Achilles guessed that some 
“metal object” must have struck the outer fuel bunker and “clanked” along 
the length of the U-boat. He took U-161 down to 50 meters. A second 
detonation. He ordered Klaassens to take the craft deep, 110 meters. 
“Third detonation, weaker and higher up.” Was the enemy dropping depth 
charges? “Suspect that the freighter is a U-boat trap. Wants to maintain 
contact with the boat until escorts arrive.” 

There was no sense in further pursuit. “I let the freighter go since I 
cannot catch him submerged and since [U-161] can be seen on the surface 
due to the bright moon.” And there was another reason: “Absolutely must 
recharge batteries.” The plucky freighter, the Matson Navigation Line 
7,000-ton Lihue, bound from New York to Suez with a load of general 
cargo, would sink two days later. Its crew of 37 was rescued by the tanker 
British Governor. Its master, W. G. Leithead, brazenly reported that he 
had sunk a German sub. 

U-161 returned to its original northwest course on February 25 and 
headed for the waters between Trinidad and the Mona Passage. ‘The 
bridge watch finally broke the seal of the hatch and glorious fresh, cool 
air rushed into the boat. The men were delighted. They had undergone 22 
hours of harrowing plotting, attacking, firing, diving, surfacing, and then 
repeating the cycle over and over — no fewer than nine times in all — since 
first spotting the Lihue after midnight on February 23. The boat was a 
cesspool, the diesel buckets set out for the men overflowing with urine and 
excrement. The temperature inside the boat had reached 40° Celsius; the 
humidity almost 100 per cent. The men were white as sheets, their skins 
blotted and lacerated with sweat, diesel oil, and acid that had leaked from 
the batteries. In small groups, the Old Man allowed them up on deck to 


102 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


suck much needed air into their scorched lungs. Many had reached the 
limits of their physical and psychological capacities. 

But they were immediately reminded that this was a war patrol. 
Through a dark haze the bridge watch spied a lone freighter at 230 de- 
grees; then “suddenly a second freighter coming out of the mist.” The two 
hostiles converged, then one shot off at a sharp angle. Achilles followed 
the remaining freighter. At 8:42 a.m., he took U-161 down for a sub- 
merged attack. After an hour of blind pursuit, he was ready to pounce. 
Time: 9:58 a.m. Range: 900 meters. He fired a double bow shot. After 58 
seconds the hydrophone operator reported that the sounds of the torpedo 
and the target had “merged.” Another “Miss!” Achilles had set the “eels” 
to run at three meters, “too deep” for the half-laden freighter. 

Achilles pursued the target for nearly two hours, hoping for a night 
surface attack. When he came back up, “Ajax” spied not only the hostile, 
but also a periscope at 800 meters. “Alarm! Dive!” He could not risk a tor- 
pedo shot with another U-boat in the vicinity. “Perhaps it is Hartenstein 
in U-156.” But Achilles could not catch up to his prey. 

Shortly before 9 a.m. on February 26, the bridge watch cried out, 
“Alarm! Aircraft at 37 degrees! Range 7000 meters!” It was a B-18 out 
of Waller Field, coming straight for U-161. The bomber was undoubt- 
edly equipped with one of the new Anti-Surface Vessel (ASV) radars. 
In general, at that early stage of the Caribbean campaigns, B-18s and 
other American medium bombers such as the A-20s were armed with 
only machine guns and small 300-lb depth bombs; few American pilots 
had any idea at all as to how to attack a submarine. Achilles immedi- 
ately ordered “Emergency Dive!” to 50 meters. “3 detonations (probably 
Wabo).” The last depth bomb severely rocked the boat amidships. The hull 
groaned and creaked. Glass and china shattered. Buckets rolled around 
the floor. The men were frozen in their tracks. “Chief! Damage Report!” 
Achilles screamed. Klaassens’ report was a litany of woe. “Depth pressure 
gauge out of service, including back-up pressure gauge and Papenberg.”! 
All glass water-leveling gauges sprung. Lights out in many compartments. 
Glass fuel-level gauges for the engine-oil reservoir burst. Hence, diesel oil 
in the lubricating oil collecting tank.” 

The Old Man took stock of his men. “The crew’s composure good. 
Exceptions were quickly dealt with.” Obviously, some of the younger and 


5: “The Ferret of Port of Spain” 103 


less experienced hands had cracked under the strain of staring death in the 
face. The enemy above was daily growing bolder. 

Achilles thought about heading for Grenada to recharge the batter- 
ies and to reload the bow tubes, but the strong presence of enemy patrol 
planes convinced him instead to shape course due west, for Branquilla 
Island off neutral Venezuela. On the way, Klaassens and the technical 
crew repaired the gauges as best they could and drained the diesel from 
the lubricating oil collecting tank. It was hot, sweaty work. Later, Bender 
supervised the transfer of four torpedoes from under the upper deck plates 
into the bow torpedo room. More hot, sweaty work. U-161 then retraced 
its steps due east, headed for St. Lucia in the Windward Islands. Achilles 
hoped to intercept oil tankers heading north from Aruba, Curagao, and 
Trinidad. A week had gone by since the attack by the B-18. 

“Ajax” did not have to wait long. At 9:13 a.m. on March 7, the watch 
spied a ship about 40 miles off St. Vincent Island. Achilles drove the Jum- 
bos hard and positioned the boat for a submerged attack. Time: 11:59 p.m. 
Range: 1,500 meters. The first “eel” hit after 73 seconds. “Detonation. 
Boat is undercut.” The second followed 15 seconds later. “High detonation 
column with several smaller explosions.” Achilles could not resist a closer 
look through the periscope. “Freighter steams in circles, its engines still 
running. Boats have been lowered into the water but are only partly oc- 
cupied.” The twin explosions had rocked U-161, even though it was more 
than a mile away. The thing was big, damned big. It required another 
shot. After 34 seconds, the torpedo slammed into the wreck’s side just 
abaft the funnel. Again, Achilles could not let go of the periscope. “High 
detonation column. Several successive strong explosions. Vessel sinks by 
the stern after 3 minutes.”” It had flown no flag and shown no other iden- 
tification markings. As it sank, it dragged three of the four lifeboats down 
with it. For several minutes, the men in U-161 could hear underwater ex- 
plosions. Some feared renewed depth-charge attacks. Achilles estimated 
the hostile at 6,000 tons. Given the tremendous after-hit explosions, it 
must have carried ammunition, perhaps dynamite. 

He was wrong on both counts. He had torpedoed the 9,755-ton Can- 
adian tanker Uniwaleco, carrying a full load of 8,800 tons of refined gaso- 
line from Curacao to Freetown. Thirteen of its crew of 51 lost their lives, 
mostly when the wreck sucked down the lifeboats. It would later turn 


104 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


out that “Ajax” had torpedoed the second-largest tanker bagged during 
Operation Neuland. The men in U-161 were relieved when the Uniwaleco 
finally slammed into the seabed and the explosions in its holds ceased. 

Achilles took the boat down to assess his situation. Klaassens reported 
that they had just slightly more than 100 cbm of fuel oil, and most of that 
would be needed for the nearly 4,000 miles back to Lorient. There were 
three “eels” left on board. What a shame to take them back to France. 

Achilles brought the boat back up to the surface. U-161 was on a 
course due east. Achilles and Bender pondered their options. A turn south 
toward Aruba or Curacao, much less Trinidad, was out of the question 
due to the critical fuel situation. For the same reason, so was a sortie north 
to Mona Passage. As they brainstormed, a dark shadow appeared in the 
distance: St. Lucia. Its shores seemed to be totally blacked out. Welcome 
warm rain showers pelted the skipper, his executive officer, and the four- 
man bridge watch. 

Achilles and Bender went below and for hours continued to mull over 
their options. Soon, they were just off St. Lucia’s coast. Bender finally 
broke the impasse. He had sailed these waters before the war and thus 
knew the general layout of the island and its ports. Why not go out in a 
blaze of glory by repeating February 18’s cavalry charge into Port of Spain 
and Chaguaramas? Capital idea! Achilles and Bender raced down into the 
Zentrale to study the sea charts of St. Lucia. All they had for Castries, its 
major port, was a dated commercial sailing chart. “Intention,” Achilles 
quickly scribbled in the war diary, “lie off during the day; by night ap- 
proach St. Lucia anew; and, if possible, force entry into Port Castries.” St. 
Lucia was about to go to war. 


5: “The Ferret of Port of Spain” 105 


WAR COMES TO ST. LUCIA 


The mango-shaped island of St. Lucia, once thought to have been visited 
by Christopher Columbus on his fourth voyage in December 1502, is a 
lush, green jewel set in a turquoise and blue sea. Its interior is rough and 
precipitous. Its mountains climb steeply from the sea, their summits often 
shrouded in mist. Two in particular, the Gros Piton (798 meters) and the 
Petit Piton (750 meters), rise from their base at a sharp 60-degree angle, 
thus resembling immense, lush, volcanic pyramids. Since the days of Col- 
umbus, mariners have used them as reference points. For more than a cen- 
tury, the British and French clashed no fewer than 14 times for possession 
of the island before it finally passed into British hands in 1814. 

The United States presence on St. Lucia began with the “destroy- 
ers-for- bases” deal in September 1940. Washington considered St. Lucia 
vital for the defense of the Panama Canal, a sort of fixed aircraft carrier. 
Planes based there would be able to watch over the eastern entrances to 
the Caribbean — especially the St. Vincent, St. Lucia, and Martinique 
Passages — and defend the Leeward and Windward Islands. Short-range 
craft flying between Puerto Rico and Trinidad could stop at St. Lucia 
to refuel. The United States chose four locations for army bases and air- 
fields. The largest was at Vieux Fort on the southern tip of St. Lucia, 
where Minder Construction Corporation of Chicago, using molasses as 
a surfacing agent, was just putting the finishing touches to two 5,000- 
foot runways at Beane Field (today Hewanorra International Airport) 
in March 1942. Vieux Fort was already well guarded — by the 120-me- 
ter-high Mule 4 Chique headland and by Beane Field’s fleet of warplanes, 
well-camouflaged behind horseshoe-shaped earthen mounds that served 
as hangars. It was some ten miles (as the crow flies) away from the main 
port and capital of Castries, the only viable entry point for all US men and 


107 


equipment sent to St. Lucia. A small naval air station, home to 18 PBY 
flying boats, was established on Gros Islet just north of Castries. Another, 
much smaller airfield was built on the outskirts of Castries (today George 
F. L. Charles Airport). Before the Americans arrived, Castries had been 
connected to the rest of the island by a network of poorly surfaced, narrow 
roads unsuitable for any sort of heavy equipment. ‘The roads had been im- 
proved, but in March 1942 the best way to get from one coast to the other 
was still by sea. 

Originally called Carenage (“safe anchorage”), Castries had been re- 
named in 1785 to honor a German in the service of France, Charles Eu- 
gene Gabriel, Marquis de Castries. Much like Willemstad on Curagao, 
it was virtually impregnable.’ The small Ville Bay harbor is strewn with 
menacing rock formations and sand bars. Its entrance is only 200 meters 
wide, and it is almost land-locked by two headlands: D’Estrées Point to 
the north and the equally treacherous La Toc Point and Tapion Rock to 
the south. Its waters are but 10 to 15 meters deep. In 1942 the twisted 
inner navigable channel was guarded by massive Fort Charlotte on Morne 
Fortune, a fortress with a commanding sweep of the bay. It would be sui- 
cide for a 76-meter-long U-boat to enter Castries harbor. This, of course, 
was just the sort of challenge that Albrecht Achilles and his Executive 
Officer, Werner Bender, loved. When apprised of the Old Man’s inten- 
tions to penetrate the harbor and attack ships at anchor therein, the men 
nicknamed Castries Harbor “Devil’s Bay.” 

By 1 a.m.? on March 8, U-161 was approaching St. Lucia. Achilles 
spied a freighter heading for Castries and shadowed it for hours.? At 2:15 
p-m., he found another unescorted freighter, but it was too close to land to 
pursue. Four hours later, U-161 stood two miles off the harbor entrance. 
Nightfall was imminent. Achilles ordered the boat to surface. The hatch 
was cracked. The bridge watch joyfully took in the intoxicating smell of 
anthurium, bougainvillea, hibiscus, frangipani, and beach morning glory. 
Achilles drove U-161 ever so slowly up to the gap between D’Estrées and 
La Toc points, taking Atlas-echo soundings. Second Watch Officer Gotz 
Roth, who in 1939 had entered Castries with the training ship Gorch Fock, 
was on the bridge to assist with navigation.‘ There were no coastal artillery 
batteries visible, Achilles correctly surmised, “perhaps merely a machine 
gun on either headland.” At one point, U-161 softly scraped along a sand 


108 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


bank. Around 9:45 p.m., the watch made out the broad contours of Cas- 
tries. The city was blacked out, but by the light of several lamps burn- 
ing on the piers the watch detected a shadow. Must be the freighter they 
had spotted earlier that day. Luck: the Americans, anxious to unload the 
freighter, had left the pier lights of Northern Wharf on. More luck: there 
was not just one ship at the wharf, but two others anchored in Ville Bay. A 
small flotilla of lighters with lanterns lit was transporting cargo from ship 
to shore. An hour before first light, Achilles spied what he called “Con- 
solidated” and “Marlin” flying boats out of the US Naval Air Station at 
Gros Islet circling overhead. With little darkness left, he decided against 
risking a cavalry charge and took U-161 back out to sea. He would return 
either at last light or under cover of darkness to deliver his attack. 


took ok 


St. Lucia’s residents were happily unaware of the danger lurking off their 
coast. The war in Europe was an ocean away. ‘That weekend, Clarke’s The- 
atre in Castries had run a twin bill: Boris Karloff in Before I Hang and 
George O’Brien in Racketeers of the Range. Bob’s Liquor Store had placed 
advertisements in The West Indian Crusader announcing a special cache of 
“Spirit of Love ... it’s a rum that can’t be duplicated.” The Department 
of Agriculture had let it be known that truckloads of cabbage, carrots, 
lima beans, potatoes, turnips, and Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans had just 
arrived at the local markets.* Not to be outdone, The Voice of Saint Lucia 
ran ads for Canadian Healing Oil and Eno’s Fruit Salts, as well as others 
promising “Keating’s Kills bugs, fleas, moths, beetles” and “Vic-Tabs Re- 
stores Manhood & Vitality.”* While Achilles planned his attack, the BBC 
entertained St. Lucians with music from the “International Staff Band 
Salvation Army” and with news from “Britain Speaks” and “Political 
Commentary.” 

No one gave much thought to the harbor. It was safe. About a mile 
off its entrance, the launch Welcome maintained a vigilant sea patrol. On 
the heights of D’Estrées Point, an equally vigilant crew manned the Vigie 
Lighthouse, while Meadows Battery guarded the north side of the harbor 
entrance with a Nordenfelt Maxim 303 machine gun. Across the narrow 
harbor entrance on the southern shore, another battery stood guard at 


6: War Comes to St. Lucia 109 


Tapion Rock with a Lewis Light machine gun. Both posts were manned 
with local police constabulary. Blackout operations were in effect for the 
town of Castries. 


Undaunted, Achilles approached Castries in the late afternoon of March 
9. He decided against penetrating the harbor semi-submerged at dusk due 
to its shallow waters. At 8:03 p.m., he surfaced. Ever so slowly and run- 
ning on the surface, U-161 approached Castries’ outer channel. There was 
no moon, Achilles noted, but the sky was “moderately clear.” Bender and 
Roth once again assisted in navigation. By 10 p.m., U-161 was between 
the two headlands. “Visibility is good, bright, starry night.” So far, so 
good. ‘The machine gunners on La Toc Point had to be asleep — or drink- 
ing, or playing cards — not to spot the intruder. The sub must have been 
easily visible, but no alarm was raised. Achilles decided to hug the north- 
ern headland off Vigie (ironically, French for a nautical “look-out”), from 
where he expected a more favorable “shooting position.” He took a chance 
that neither the sentries at the Castries landing strip nor the encamped 
soldiers at Vigie was expecting a visitor. 

Soon, U-161 was in the anchorage, a mere 200 meters off Vigie. 
“Great tension in the boat, since all is happening so close to land,” Achil- 
les tartly noted. Bender maneuvered the boat just north of the shipping 
channel, so that Achilles would be able to avoid Tapion Rock on the race 
out of Castries. It was 10:49 p.m. Achilles fired two bow torpedoes. The 
boat shuddered slightly as the “eels” shot out of their tubes. “Ajax” had 
selected the two closest targets. There would be no time to reposition the 
boat for a shot at the third vessel. 

“Both engines full ahead! Hard a-starboard!” Achilles screamed. 
U-161 heeled over hard, blue-gray smoke spitting from its exhaust, head- 
ing straight for the harbor entrance — and the open sea beyond. All the 
while, the watch waited for the explosions from the torpedo hits. ‘They 
came quickly. 


After 96 seconds (1490 meters), hit on passenger-freighter on 
the left, 8000 tons, high gray-white detonation column; can no 


110 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


longer see the stern, only bow and superstructure still above 
water. Fore-ship begins to flame. 

After 105 seconds (1500 meters), hit on the freighter off to 
the right, 5000 tons, bright, high fire-flash, very loud detonation 
with three subsequent explosions. A huge black smoke cloud 
looms over the freighter. Stern below water.’ 


By now, U-161 had raced to a point midway between Vigie and Tapion 
Rock. It was the moment of greatest danger. Machine gun fire and tracer 
bullets from both shore batteries cracked through the moist, tropical air. 
A few bullets pinged harmlessly on the hull. Achilles ordered the bridge 
cleared. Surely, no one could fail to spot U-161: white bow waves in front, 
bright phosphorescent wake behind, blue-gray smoke blowing from the 
exhaust, its silhouette lit by the flaming ships. The tension in the boat 
could be cut with a knife. The radio room picked up distress signals from 
shore: “sss sss sss de vhq submarine Castries harbour attacked shipping 
0240 gmt/lo.” Then, just as suddenly as it had begun, the machine gun 
fire ended. Why? Had someone called it off for fear of hitting one of the 
lighters? Or had they lost the submarine in the dark? It was immaterial 
to Achilles: U-161 was clear of both headlands and heading out into the 
Caribbean. A great shout went through the boat when the Old Man an- 
nounced the stunning victory over the intercom. 

Achilles’ first victim was the 7,970-ton Canadian passenger-freight- 
er Lady Nelson, bringing 110 passengers and general cargo to St. Lucia. 
Twenty of its crew died in the blast. The second victim was the 8,141-ton 
British freighter Umfata, en route from Durban, South Africa, to New 
York with a full load of chrome ore, asbestos, and meat — the latter for 
the island’s American garrison. Four of its crew, all from Calcutta, died 
that morning. Nineteen passengers and sailors injured in the attacks were 
taken to Victoria Hospital. US Marines rushed down from Gros Islet to 
render assistance at the Northern Wharf. 

Achilles’ audacious attack inside Castries harbor was the stuff of 
legends. He was the acknowledged “ace” of Operation New Land. Ger- 
man propaganda celebrated him also as “the ferret of Castries,” the 
Frettchen that had gone into the enemy’s den and devoured its inhabitants. 


6: War Comes to St. Lucia 111 


Joseph Goebbels’ minions could hardly wait for Achilles’ return to exploit 
the triumphs. 


For St. Lucia, the attack meant the end of innocence. The war was brought 
home to it by U-161, just as it had been to Aruba by U-156. Neither is- 
land would ever again be the same. But what had happened to Castries’ 
defenses? By approaching the entrance to the harbor submerged, Achilles 
had avoided the launch Welcome. Still, around 9:50 p.m., the guards at 
Vigie Lighthouse had seen “something rise from under the water.” It was 
approaching the inner harbor hard against the Vigie (or northern) side of 
the shipping channel. Police Constable B. Rachel recognized the intruder 
as a submarine. “I loaded my rifle.” Next, he alerted the lighthouse keep- 
er, who confirmed the sighting. "It’s a submarine.”* Rachel’s immediate 
superior, Police Constable T. Phillips, ordered Rachel to telephone the 
information to police headquarters — only to find that the officer on duty, 
Assistant Superintendent Conway, “was sleeping in his Office.” Frantic 
calls to the Northern Wharf, to the Tapion Gun Post, and to the harbor 
master’s office went unanswered. Police headquarters finally managed to 
contact the electric power station to get the lights on the wharf switched 
off. It was too late: two explosions rang out at that very moment. 

Chaos reigned inside the harbor. At Meadows Battery, Police Con- 
stable Spooner wildly fired off 208 rounds from the Nordenfelt Maxim 
Gun. At Tapion Rock, Lance Corporal Harris, one of only a handful 
of military men on guard duty that night, still refused to believe that a 
U-boat had penetrated the harbor. He rang up the Harbor Office “to en- 
quire what Launch it was he saw”! He never managed to get off a single 
round at the intruder. The Welcome raced back to port to render assistance. 
Just as it approached the narrow harbor entrance, its signal lamp suddenly 
went dead. Unable to give the agreed recognition signal (“BP” for boat 
patrol), it withdrew to nearby Cul-de-Sac Bay — amidst a hail of machine 
gun fire, not from U-161 but “undoubtedly coming from ‘Meadows Bat- 
tery.” As the final act in this opéra bouffe, Constable Rachel reported that 
he “saw the submarine going out stern first” under a hail of machine-gun 
fire from Meadows Battery. 


112 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


British censors at once placed a tight lid on news of Achilles’ brazen 
attack. Ironically, the very morning of the German raid, the island’s ma- 
jor newspaper, The Voice of Saint Lucia, in a front-page leader had warned 
residents, “Enemy Subs Believed Operating Near Panama Canal.” On 
March 17, the paper’s editors called on government authorities to abandon 
their studied “disinterestedness” in home defense and to create “bodies 
of Coast Watchers, Home Guard, Special Constables, Communication 
Service Red Cross Workers” — without ever mentioning the sinking of the 
two ships." St. Lucia’s other paper, The West Indian Crusader, only oblique- 
ly referred to what it called the “incident” of March 9 in Castries harbor. 

But Achilles’ action could not be covered up. On March 19, the editors 
of The Voice of Saint Lucia decided to ignore official censorship. The paper 
carried the front-page headline, “St. Lucia Can Take It!” In the story that 
followed, it gleefully announced that the sinking of the two ships had 
served finally to plaster over “petty” domestic disputes among the island- 
ers. The death and destruction in the port occasioned by the German 
raider “will have seared across the screens of their minds the indelible im- 
pressions of mingled dread and sleepy surprise as heavy explosions rocked 
them from sleep to the first grim realities of this war.”!' Most islanders 
had surmised, “An earthquake,” when they heard the initial blast — only 
to realize with the second explosion that the war had come home to them. 
The shock wave of the explosions had “wrenched off” many office doors 
and windows, had “upset” countless desks and shelves, and had scattered 
glass over three square blocks. Countless residents fled the capital for the 
safety of the rainforests in the interior of the island. Those who remained 
wondered whether more German submarines lurked off their shores. In 
utter defiance of official secrecy, the paper reported that 16 people had 
died and that 13 had been injured on the Lady Nelson, with another four 
dead and six wounded on the Umzata. Incredibly, it gave the names of the 
casualties that could be identified. 

The immediate first task at Castries was to douse the fires on the two 
freighters and to begin salvage operations at once since Castries was the 
sole point of entry for the Americans and their supplies. Just as quickly, 
an official inquiry into the disaster was launched by St. Lucia’s adminis- 
trator, Alban Wright. It was a sobering report.’ Castries’ defenses had 
lacked both a “harbor boom” and adequate “artillery protection.” There 


6: War Comes to St. Lucia 113 


had not even been “a searchlight to light up the targets at night.” The 
blackout had been “by no means wholly effective.” And the “more or less 
untrained police” that manned the defense posts at Vigie Lighthouse, Ta- 
pion Rock, and Meadows Battery had not been up to the task. In short 
order, an antisubmarine harbor boom was installed at the entrance to the 
harbor, and a battery of coastal 155-mm artillery was rushed in to guard 
D’Estrées and La Toc points. Another battery of the “Long Toms” was 
hastily dispatched from the United States to Beane Field at Vieux Fort, 
lest another “ferret” steal in and shell the complex. Training was stepped 
up for the machine-gun companies scattered about St. Lucia, which, after 
Achilles’ attack, had fired at anything that moved — much to the distress 
of the island’s residents. By May 28, Wright reported to Governor Charles 
Talbot at Grenada that all “main deficiencies” of March 9 had “already 
been made good.” 


While chaos reigned on St. Lucia, Achilles pointed U-161 west to throw 
off the expected aerial searches. He then shaped a course north for the 
Mona Passage and home. He radioed his recent success to Kernével, in- 
forming Admiral Karl Donitz that he planned to set out for Lorient on 
March 14. “Still one stern eel, 100 cbm, strong Trade Winds.” 

On March 10, Achilles spied lone freighters but had to let them go 
since they were too fast. In the early morning hours of March 13, he made 
out a tanker and raced after it for most of the day. While maneuvering for 
a shot, another tanker hove into sight. It was on course to run between 
U-161 and the first tanker. Achilles simply waited for it to come into 
range. At 8:30 p.m., it was a mere 580 meters away. “Ajax” fired the single 
stern torpedo. After 29 seconds, it slammed into the tanker slightly ahead 
of the funnel. “High water column with minimal fire-flame, apparently 
boiler-room explosion.” The target went down by the stern. It did not have 
time to put its lifeboats into the water. “Nothing more to be seen other 
than a large fuel-oil streak.” He later learned that he had torpedoed the 
1,940-ton Canadian freighter Sarniadoc. It was carrying a cargo of bauxite 
out of Demerara, British Guiana, for St. Thomas. All hands on board 
were lost. Achilles radioed news of the sinking to Kernével and informed 


114 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


U-Boat Command about the target-rich environment that he had found 
west of Guadeloupe. 

Just before daybreak on March 15, south of Hispaniola, the bridge 
watch spotted a blacked-out shadow at 256 degrees.'* Neither Bender nor 
Roth could find its silhouette in any of the commercial shipping books on 
board. It was slow — eight knots — it was small — about 1,000 tons — and 
it altered course every few minutes. Achilles’ first thought was: “U-boat 
trap.” But he decided to observe it for an hour. Satisfied that it was not 
some sort of new “Q-ship” (an antisubmarine vessel disguised as a mer- 
chantman), he moved to attack it head on at 0 degrees, “the dog’s curve” 
in German parlance. This would offer the hostile the smallest possible 
silhouette. It was 5:37 a.m. 

Achilles brought U-161 on a parallel course. “Free to fire artillery!” 
Lieutenant Roth opened up with the deck gun as well as with the smaller 
anti-aircraft guns. The victim at once signaled for help. “‘Acacia’ (Call-sig- 
nal NRWP), position, artillery attack, abandoning ship.” By now, Roth 
had unleashed a deadly hail of 68 10.5-cm, 92 3.7-cm, and 70 2-cm shells. 
Achilles watched the tracer shells from the bridge and concluded that half 
of the large shells had found the target. “Superb shooting!” But the 3.7- 
cm explosive shells were largely ineffective, and he made a mental note to 
suggest to Dénitz that he issue incendiary shells in future. 

At 6:11 a.m., Achilles ordered “Cease Fire!” The wreck was listing 
badly and burning profusely in at least three places. It sank within 20 
minutes. Its crew had taken to two lifeboats. As the ship went down, 
Achilles spied a “USA flag” in its fore-mast. “Departed at high speed 
since airplanes are to be expected on the basis of the freighter’s signaling.” 
U-161 shaped a course for the Guadeloupe Passage, sailing past the Brit- 
ish island of Montserrat on its way out into the Atlantic. 

‘The “mystery” ship later turned out to have been the 1,130-ton Amer- 
ican lighthouse tender USS Acacia. Originally constructed as the mine- 
layer General Joseph P. Story for the US Army, it had been acquired by the 
Coast Guard in 1927 and rebuilt and renamed. All 31 of its crew survived. 
Acacia was the first Allied warship lost in the Caribbean theater. 


3 ok ok 


6: War Comes to St. Lucia 115 


The fifth submarine in the first wave of Operation Neuland was U-129, 
commanded by Kapitanleutnant Asmus Nicolai Clausen. “Niko,” as he 
was known to his friends, had joined the navy as an ordinary seaman in 
1929 and thus was the second oldest among the five commanders. He 
joined the U-Boat Service in September 1935 and learned his trade under 
Werner Hartmann, who was destined to become one of the great U-boat 
aces of World War II. When war broke out, Hartmann requested Clau- 
sen as his Executive Officer on U-37, where “Niko” completed three war 
patrols. After a brief interlude commissioning U-142, Clausen was given 
command of U-37. He sank 12 ships on three war patrols and was award- 
ed the Iron Cross, First Class. In May 1941, he received the brand new 
Type IXC U-129, which he led on three fruitless war patrols, mostly in 
the Atlantic. Operation Neuland, he vowed, would be very different. 

Unlike the other four boats, U-129, with “Westward Ho” painted on 
the front of its conning tower, was sent to hunt and destroy the bauxite 
traffic steaming up from Georgetown and Paramaribo in the Guianas. 
Clausen informed Dé6nitz that the “peculiarities of the inshore water” — 
read, the 100-mile-wide shallow continental shelf — made for “unfavor- 
able operations,” and thus positioned U-129 about 50 miles east of Galera 
Point, on the northeastern tip of Trinidad. Just after 2 a.m. on February 
20, the unescorted 2,400-ton Norwegian steamer Nordvangen hove into 
sight. It was carrying a cargo of bauxite from Paramaribo, Dutch Guiana 
(Suriname), to New Orleans by way of Trinidad. Clausen fired a single 
bow torpedo. ‘The “eel” blew off the Nordvangen’s stern. It plunged to the 
bottom within a minute, taking all 24 of its crew with it.* There had been 
no time for its radio operator to get off a distress call. On March 6, a life- 
boat and some debris from the Nordvangen washed ashore at Trinidad, a 
sure sign of the ship’s fate. 

After sinking the Nordvangen, Clausen cruised to a point about 120 
miles southeast of Trinidad, right in the middle of the main bauxite ship- 
ping lane. Around 10 a.m. on February 22, just north of the Orinoco Riv- 
er estuary, all hell broke loose. A steamer suddenly appeared; neither the 
hydrophone operators nor the skipper had detected its approach. Clausen 
fired twice. “Missed!” He steamed away from the scene. Then another 
freighter suddenly hove into view. The radio operator reported an emer- 
gency signal from 35 kilometers away: “SSS SSS SSS ... Submarine seen.” 


116 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


Clausen suspected this pertained to three Italian subs north of him. U-129 
headed away from the site. At 4 p.m., a third steamer appeared. “A/arm! 
Aircraft at 45°, course SE, range 7,000 m[eters].” No time to lose: a single 
“eel” leaped out from Tube V, “Missed!” Then another shot, this time from 
Tube IV. The torpedo broke the back of the small ship instantly.° The 
victim was the 1,754-ton Canadian bauxite carrier George L. Torian out of 
Paramaribo. Four of its crew managed to clamber into lifeboats and were 
eventually rescued. 

U-129 remained in the target-rich waters between the Guianas and 
Trinidad — which the Allies soon dubbed “Torpedo Junction.” Within an 
hour of dispatching the George L. Torian, the lookouts spotted another 
heavily loaded freighter. A single “eel” struck the hostile amidships. It 
lowered two rafts, and sent out an SSS signal: “Torpeded [sic], torpeded 
[sic].” A coup de grace torpedo at 600 meters broke the ship in half.” It was 
the 5,658-ton American ore carrier West Zeda, bound from Mombasa, 
Kenya, to Trinidad. 

U-129 stood off the Orinoco for another 24 hours. Just before noon on 
February 23, Clausen spied yet another unescorted freighter. At periscope 
depth, he fired two torpedoes. “Two hits.” But the target steered straight 
at U-129. Clausen ordered a hard turn to starboard — just as the freighter 
began to break apart, its screws hopelessly turning out of the water. He 
had torpedoed the 1,904-ton Canadian ore carrier Lennox. Once more, 
the blue-green waters of the Caribbean were covered with gray bauxite 
dust. He steered toward the lifeboats, “full of whites and niggers,” and 
asked the fearful, weary sailors the name of their ship, its cargo, and its 
destination. Then he told them that Trinidad was 120 miles to the north- 
west and handed over some food and water. Unbeknown to Clausen, just 
before going under, the ship’s master, Daniel Percy Nolan, managed to get 
off an SSS. Trinidad Naval Station was alerted anew to the presence of 
“gray sharks” off its waters. 

Clausen decided to leave the area and move closer to the Guianas 
to attack the bauxite carriers at their source. Yet again, the shallow wat- 
ers of the continental shelf gave him little leeway to dive, and shipping 
seemed to have all but disappeared. After four days of frustration, his 
luck returned. Just after supper on February 28, he torpedoed the 2,605- 
ton Panamanian ore carrier Bayou. Then, another week of empty seas. 


6: War Comes to St. Lucia 117 


At dawn on March 3, a return to good fortune: Clausen destroyed the 
unescorted 5,105-ton American freighter Mary, carrying war stores from 
New York to Suez. And at dusk on March 6, a final strike: the unescorted 
6,188-ton American ore carrier Stee/ Age, caught off Vichy French Guiana 
(Guyane).” In all, Clausen chalked up seven ships at 25,600 tons.”? On 
March 13, Admiral Donitz awarded Clausen the coveted Knight’s Cross. 
Clausen was more methodical, perhaps, than the daring Hartenstein or 
Achilles, but with no less dramatic results as the Allies suddenly discov- 
ered that their major source for bauxite was also endangered by this new 
U-boat offensive. 


Albrecht Achilles was still not done. At dawn on March 21, he came 
across a tanker in Quadrant DE 9772, mid-Atlantic. He plotted a surface 
artillery attack. At a range of 3,500 meters, Lieutenant Roth and his gun 
crew opened fire with all three cannons. Then all three guns jammed. As 
well, the distance to target had been too great. Too bad, for it was a fat 
prize: the 6,000-ton tanker Empire Gold. It ran off at high speed, showing 
U-161 only its slender stern. Then it opened fire with a deck gun — shells 
with timed fuses splashed 150 meters off U-161. Next came three smoke 
bombs. All the while, the tanker was signaling its position. 

Within half an hour, Roth fired 30 shells from the 10.5-cm deck gun 
at the hostile. Achilles made out two hits, one amidships and one on the 
stern. Then the shells from the tanker’s gun ranged in on U-161 and so he 
took it down to avoid being hit. But the thought that the shell Roth had 
fired had landed on the tanker’s stern and might have damaged its rudder 
gear nagged Achilles. At 9:11 a.m., he was back up on top. It was hazy 
and rain began to fall. The target seemed to be turning circles — and then 
disappeared into the rain. Achilles passed its position on to U-Boat Com- 
mand in the hope that another sub might be in the area. 

U-161 tied up in Lorient at 9:30 a.m. on April 2. From its extended 
periscope tube flew eight pennants — for five ships of 27,997 tons sunk and 
three ships damaged — including two black pennants for tankers and a red 
one for the warship. A vast crowd was at dockside to celebrate the “ferret.” 
Goebbels’ camera crews were on hand to record the glorious scene for 


118 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


that week’s propaganda newsreel, Die Wochenschau. Second Flotilla Chief 
Viktor Schiitze, proudly wearing his Knight’s Cross, welcomed Achilles 
home. A young girl handed “Ajax” a huge bouquet of fresh flowers. Three 
shouts of “Hurrah!” thundered across the harbor.”! U-161 headed straight 
for the cavernous Kéroman bunkers for repairs. Achilles and his crew left 
the boat for the usual round of banquets and much needed shore leave. 

Admiral Donitz was delighted with the war patrol. Not content with 
the nickname “ferret” for Achilles, he devised one of his own: Lochkriech- 
er, or “borer.” His official evaluation gushed with praise: 


Superbly executed first operation by a young commander with 
a new boat. 

Especially to be praised are the penetrations of the Gulf of 
Paria and the harbor of Port Castries on Santa Lucia, executed 
with daring and cunning.” 


On April 5, the “Great Lion” awarded Achilles the Iron Cross, First 
Class. There was a man to be closely watched for future awards — and 
future war patrols. 


3 ok ok 


‘The first wave of Operation Neuland created panic and chaos in the Carib- 
bean and in Allied capitals. In just 28 days, the five Type IX U-boats sank 
41 ships, 18 of which were tankers, for a total of 222,657 tons; they dam- 
aged a further 11 ships. “Diplomats Blame Hull For New Sub Activities; 
Expect Cabinet Ouster” the Miami Herald declared in a front-page story 
on February 24. The newspaper’s Washington correspondent claimed that 
British and Russian diplomats were “indignant” that Secretary of State 
Cordell Hull had allowed a situation to develop wherein the Caribbean 
was “swarming with Nazi submarines based on the French islands.” This 
was an allusion to Hull’s careful approach to Vichy France and its colonies 
in the Americas. None of that was true, of course, which made the real 
implications of the disaster even more serious. The U-boats were steaming 
3,000 miles across the Atlantic, gliding easily through the gaps in the 
island chains, and striking at will from the Florida Strait to the waters east 


6: War Comes to St. Lucia 119 


of Trinidad. The Allies were unready, divided, disorganized, untrained, 
under equipped, and terrified. 

On March 12, Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill wrote President 
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s close advisor Harry Hopkins: “I am most deeply 
concerned at the immense sinkings of tankers west of the 40% meridian 
and in the Caribbean Sea.... The situation is so serious that drastic action 
of some kind is necessary.” Churchill urged the Americans to pull some 
of their destroyers out of the Pacific and to put them to work escorting 
convoys off the US coast, in the Caribbean Sea, and in the Gulf of Mex- 
ico. Britain had promised to give the US Navy ten Flower-class corvettes 
to bolster the defense of shipping off the east coast, where the U-boats 
had just completed another great slaughter in Operation Drumbeat, and 
Churchill hoped that these escorts, bolstered by American destroyers, 
would hold off the U-boat offensive in the Caribbean. He pointed out 
that, unless an effective form of convoy protection was worked out, the 
Allies faced two stark alternatives — temporarily stop the sailings of tank- 
ers, which would “gravely jeopardize our operational supplies,” or dimin- 
ish the number of convoys crossing the North Atlantic in order to release 
sufficient escorts to cover the Caribbean.* Either move was fraught with 
danger. But with the Imperial Japanese Navy romping over the Pacific, 
and US destroyer production just two years into a long-term expansion 
program, Churchill’s suggestion was ignored. 


By late April 1942, tensions between some 50 Chinese stokers and the 
Curacaose Shipping Firm Maatschappij (CSM), caused by the sudden loss 
of dozens of tankers since mid-February, exploded into what the Curacao 
historian Junnes Sint Jago has called “one of the greatest mysteries of our 
nation’s history.” In a tragic series of events “fifteen Chinese sailors [were] 
killed and dozens more wounded” by police bullets at a camp just outside 
Willemstad.”° The so-called S/oedbad, or “blood bath,” was brought about 
by the shipping company’s failure to address the growing fear of the Chi- 
nese stokers. 

Although CSM had immediately halted further transports of oil from 
Venezuela after U-67 had torpedoed the tanker Rajfae/a on February 16, 


120 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


news slowly seeped into Willemstad via United Press bulletins of U-156’s 
sinking of Oranjestad and Pedernales at San Nicolas as well as of U-502’s 
dramatic destruction of Tia Juana, Monagas, and San Nicolas off the coast 
of Venezuela. Three days later, word filtered through that another raid- 
er, U-161, had torpedoed British Consul and Mokihana off Port of Spain, 
Trinidad. Not surprisingly, these additional sinkings greatly alarmed the 
Chinese engine crews of the lake tankers. 

Some 500 Chinese indentured sailors lived in squalor in four large 
“lodgments” in Punda, the old part of Willemstad. They were non-union 
and without full citizenship rights. Most were men in their early to 
mid-forties. Many had come from Guangdong province to work for Dutch 
shipping firms before the war — hence, their common nickname “Rotter- 
dam-Chinese.” Many had accepted long-term contracts with the Dutch 
fleet of small tankers that in endless rhythm hauled crude oil from Lake 
Maracaibo to the Royal Dutch Shell Santa Anna refinery in Curacao for 
processing. None had bargained for war, or for U-boats. 

The Chinese stokers pleaded with their nearest consul, Hing King 
in Trinidad, and through him with the Chinese ambassador in London, 
Dr. Wellington Koo, to put pressure on the Dutch government-in-exile 
to mediate the dispute with CSM on Curacao. The stokers demanded a 
rise in wages from their current 50 florins ($450 in 2012 US dollars)”* per 
month; a 10 per cent cost of living allowance; a war bonus for dangerous 
work; repatriation to China after the expiration of their contracts with 
CSM; and, above all, the convoying and screening of the tanker fleet be- 
tween Willemstad and Maracaibo by Allied warships. 

To no avail. Neither CSM nor the Dutch authorities on Curacao or 
in London would budge. Exasperated, on March 14, the stokers mount- 
ed a peaceful demonstration near the Governor's Palace in Punda. The 
Dutch General Military Commissioner, Baron Carel van Asbeck, was not 
amused by what he and his staff termed a “mass strike” of an “aggressive” 
nature. ‘They rolled out military trucks and instructed the Chinese: “We 
go camp!” The police took them “over the hills” to Camp Suffisant, which 
had served as British barracks from June 1940 to February 1942. As num- 
erous other Chinese stokers returned from Maracaibo on board lake tank- 
ers, they voluntarily interned themselves, in an act of solidarity, at what 
was now called “concentration camp” Suffisant. The inmate population 


6: War Comes to St. Lucia 121 


quickly swelled to 420. News of additional sinking of tankers by U-boats, 
coupled with tight official censorship, further fanned the flames of unrest. 

The action by the “Rotterdam-Chinese” alarmed Dutch authorities. 
What if other, non-Chinese sailors joined their protest? Would the vital 
flow of oil out of Maracaibo be curtailed? And how would Curacao, which 
produced virtually no food and had no major artesian wells, survive if 
general cargo shippers also were crippled by strikes? An example had to 
be made. On April 18, Dutch civilian and military police as well as COM 
company guards, under the command of Willem van der Kroef, ordered 
58 putative “ringleaders” to muster in the barracks square for a peremptory 
roll call — and to receive instructions on how they were to be removed to 
another camp. Several Chinese sailors stepped forward and shouted some 
incomprehensible commands, most likely in Chinese. Thereupon, armed 
with pipes, rocks, and sticks, they stormed the entrance gate. Panicked by 
this act of defiance, Van der Kroef ordered the police, carrying carbines 
with bayonets fixed, to draw up ina line. Shots rang out. Thirteen stokers 
were dead and 40 wounded; two died later of wounds inflicted that day. 

The Dutch police seized the rocks, sticks, and pipes and ordered the 
Chinese to return to their barracks, and eventually to work. Most did — 
once they received promises that the lake tankers would, indeed, be con- 
voyed across the Caribbean Sea — but 52 hard-core “strikers” refused to 
return to work for CSM under any circumstances. They were sentenced to 
isolation arrest in police barracks at Camp Sufhsant. Subsequent attempts 
to dispatch what Dutch authorities now called “unwilling Chinese” to the 
United States or to send them to serve with the Chinese Expeditionary 
Army in India failed. No record of their eventual fate has ever been found. 
Twelve of the 15 stokers killed at Camp Suffisant are buried in a neglected 
cemetery at Kolebra Bérdé (Papiamento dialect for “green moray”) at Kas 
Chikitu on Bonaire Island. 


oh Ok Ok 


On the morning of April 20, 1942, Adolf Hitler exited his bunker at the 
Wolf’s Lair near Rastenburg, East Prussia. His paladins stood at attention 
in two parallel lines: Field Marshals Wilhelm Keitel and Erhard Milch, 
General Alfred Jodl, Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, Reichsftihrer-SS 


122 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


Heinrich Himmler, Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, Arma- 
ments Minister Albert Speer, and Chief of the Party Chancery Martin 
Bormann, among others.”’ A selected group of local children bounced up 
to the Fthrer and handed him bouquets of fresh flowers. It was Hitler’s 
53rd birthday. 

‘The day’s festivities had started shortly after midnight. For the first 
time since the invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, Hitler’s 
entourage had broken out champagne and heartily toasted their (albeit at 
the time absent) Fuhrer. Lunch — cutlets, red cabbage, potatoes, and fruit 
salad — was served with Rhine wine on white table linens, as was supper 
— ham with home fries and asparagus salad. Hitler, as usual, touched nei- 
ther meat nor wine. He entertained the birthday well-wishers with tales 
of how Deputy Fiihrer Rudolf Hess, who had mysteriously piloted a Bf- 
110D fighter-bomber** to Scotland in May 1941, would immediately be 
locked up in an insane asylum or summarily executed if he ever returned 
to Germany. That night Hitler watched the first newsreels featuring the 
new steel-reinforced concrete U-boat bunkers built by the Organisation 
Todt along Bay of Biscay ports in France. He had good reason to celebrate 
the opening of these behemoth bunkers. The submarine war was going 
well. Surely, the Allies could not withstand this onslaught much longer. 

For the Allies, in fact, things might have been far worse. Admiral 
Donitz apparently never realized that the shallow-draft lake tankers 
bringing Venezuelan crude from Lake Maracaibo to the refineries on 
Curacao and Aruba were purpose-built and limited in number. A few 
of these ships had been sunk at the very beginning of the operation, but 
they were never specifically targeted. If they had been, the flow of oil from 
Venezuela could have been stopped altogether, at least until sufficient es- 
corts were available and new tankers built.” It remains a mystery why this 
vital weak link was not cut. It may well be that Donitz’s almost religious 
belief that every Allied ship sunk constituted a loss to the Allied war ef- 
fort, and thus that all ships were to be attacked whenever and wherever 
they might be found, is at the heart of the mystery. This was Tonnagekrieg 
(tonnage war), a struggle that did not distinguish between a lake tanker 
and an ocean tanker, or even a dry cargo ship. In other words, a ship was 
a ship was a ship, and any effort to target particular classes of ships would 
result in opportunities lost to sink other types of ships. But whatever the 


6: War Comes to St. Lucia 123 


reason for this strategic mistake, Donitz certainly realized that the Carib- 
bean was a very important weak point in the Allied war effort. He quickly 
dispatched the next wave of U-boats to the Caribbean as Werner Harten- 
stein, Albrecht Achilles, “Niko” Clausen, Jiirgen von Rosenstiel, Giinther 
Miller-Stéckheim, and others, began to arrive back at Lorient. In the 
months that followed, the Germans would add significantly to the toll 
they had already taken. 


124 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


TORPEDO JUNCTION 


Admiral Karl Donitz launched the second wave of the Caribbean offensive 
five days before the first boat returned from the opening attack. ‘The first 
three Type IXC submarines to sortie from Lorient at the end of March 
were U-154, to patrol the Mona and Windward passages; U-66, bound 
for Trinidad; and U-130, headed to Curacao. U-108 followed in short or- 
der, directed to Puerto Rico. These boats, together with U-123, eventually 
destroyed 29 ships, 13 tankers among them, for a total of 164,000 tons.! 
U-130, commanded by Ernst Kals, surfaced to shell the Curacao refinery 
in the early morning hours of April 19, but the island’s defenders were not 
caught napping. The 155-mm “Long Toms” of 252"¢ Garrison Artillery 
were emplaced and ready to fire, and fire they did. Kals was forced to 
retreat to deeper water. 

Do6nitz used radio reports from the Neuland captains to paint a pic- 
ture of Allied defenses in the Caribbean and the prospects for future 
operations.” While Allied air cover over Aruba was sufficient numerically, 
Donitz concluded, it was “inexperienced and bad compared to English 
air surveillance.” Above all, the skippers had experienced no “crisp, well- 
thought out” antisubmarine operations; at best, only “spur-of-the-moment 
panic reactions” to the sinking of the tankers. Commander U-Boats was 
“surprised” that so much tanker traffic continued to operate in the Carib- 
bean, which to him only revealed how desperate the United States was 
for the oil, especially given that much of it had to be shared with Britain. 
As far as surface antisubmarine warfare was concerned, Doénitz surmised 
that due to lack of available escorts, there would be no “long-term real, 
effective protection” against the U-boats in the Caribbean. 


125 


Yet again, a heated war of memoranda had raged behind the scenes 
between Dénitz and Grand Admiral Erich Raeder concerning Neuland. 
From Berlin, Commander in Chief Navy on March 26 telegraphed 
Kernével that he wanted the U-boats to mount a “continuous occupation” 
of the Caribbean, with boats constantly spelling each other in the area in 
rotating “waves.”> Donitz replied two days later with what amounted to a 
lecture on submarine operations.‘ First, U-boats simply could not “occupy” 
any area of sea. Second, it took three to four weeks to reach the operations 
area. Third, to stagger departures from the Bay of Biscay, when boats were 
provisioned and ready to sail, would have “a very negative psychological 
effect on crews ready for war patrol,” as well as an “unwanted congestion 
of the [Biscay] bases and docks.” Fourth, there were only five boats avail- 
able at any time for Caribbean operations. When they departed, there 
naturally had to be a “hole” in further sailings. To sweeten the message, 
Do6nitz promised greater activity in the Caribbean once U-tankers were 
available to resupply the boats on station. 

Raeder took a week to respond. On April 2, he had his staff send 
Kernével an acid one-sentence telegram: “Commander-in-Chief wishes 
that his dispatched order [of March 26] will be carried out through de- 
ployment of all suitable units.”> Donitz chose not to respond. But, ever 
the consummate bureaucrat, he knew that his actions needed to be docu- 
mented. Thus, on April 14, he penned a lengthy justification of his “ton- 
nage war.” It was simple mathematics: 


1. ‘The shipping of the enemy powers forms one great whole. 
Thus, in this context it is immaterial where a ship is 
sunk; in the final analysis, it has to be replaced by a new 
construction. 


2. ‘The decisive question in the long run is the race between 
sinking and new construction. 


‘The real enemy in this area was the United States, not Britain. “Thus I will 
strike the evil at its root by tackling the supply, especially oil, at this center 
of gravity.” Every ship sunk translated not just into a lost bottom, but 
into a further diminution of the American shipbuilding and armaments 


126 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


industries. Every ship sunk translated into delaying a possible British at- 
tack on Nazi Germany. Therefore, the U-boats had to attack enemy ship- 
ping where it was “most rational” and “cheapest” in terms of potential 
U-boat losses. 

Do6nitz once more reassessed American ASW. While it was improv- 
ing in quantity, its quality (“its attentiveness, its will to attack and to de- 
stroy”) left much to be desired. “Soldiers do not fight [for America],” he 
philosophized, “but rather people who are paid for their presence in areas 
endangered by the U-boats.”’ The will to win would decide the war’s out- 
come. And that “will” was with Germany. 

The “Great Lion” had also come up with a technological innovation: 
the so-called “milk cows” (Milchkiihe).* These deep, broad-beamed 1,700- 
ton Type XIV craft were basic Type VIIC boats converted to oil tankers; 
each held 432 tons of diesel. By resupplying the subs in the Caribbean, the 
“milk cows” could extend the war patrols of twelve Type VIIC boats for 
an additional four weeks, or five Type [XC boats for an extra eight weeks. 

Kapitanleutnant Georg von Wilamowitz-Moellendorf’s U-459 was 
the first operational Milchkuh and was immediately assigned to the Carib- 
bean boats. Known throughout the service as “wild Moritz” for his antics 
both on shore and at sea, Wilamowitz-Moellendorf, a veteran of the 
Great War, was the right man for the job. Calm under the most violent of 
actions, he could be relied upon by Dénitz to undertake the arduous trip 
to the Caribbean. U-459 could refuel Type [XC boats at the rate of 35 
tons per hour; it also carried 34 tons of lubricating oil, 10.5 tons of fresh- 
and three tons of distilled water, spare parts, four torpedoes, extra rations, 
a modest medical service, and a bakery that could produce 80 loaves of 
bread per hour. Supplies and spare parts would be transferred in calm seas 
on a six-meter rubber dinghy; and in heavy seas on a “dead-man’s cradle.” 
Diesel transfers would be undertaken by way of a main fuel hose with 
several manila lines wrapped tightly around it for strength and to protect 
against chafing (and sparks) on the steel hulls. 

Positioning U-459 in the Atlantic south of Bermuda gave U-Boat 
Command the opportunity to send the smaller Type VII boats into the 
Caribbean as well. Dénitz actually preferred the smaller subs because 
they were more nimble and maneuverable, though with decidedly short- 
er range. ‘The first of the Type VIIs to venture into the Caribbean was 


7: Torpedo Junction 127 


Dietrich Hoffmann’s U-594, which had been patrolling the Atlantic sea 
lanes off the United States since March 1. Hoffmann replenished fuel and 
supplies from U-459 and then headed into the Caribbean. It was followed 
by U-69, U-558, and U-741. Hoffmann’s sortie was a complete flop, and 
he was relieved of command when he returned to France at the beginning 
of June; the other three sank more than 30,000 tons in total.’ 


oh Ok ok 


In the first half of 1942, Royal Air Force raids on Brest, only 60 miles 
north of Lorient, and a daring British commando raid against the St. 
Nazaire dry dock prompted Hitler and Raeder to order Commander 
U-Boats to leave Kernével for a safer location. Donitz resisted, but Hit- 
ler and Raeder insisted. The new headquarters were established on the 
Avenue Maréchal Maunoury in Paris, and, at 11:00 a.m. on March 29, 
1942, control passed from Kernével to Paris. Orders to the U-boats eman- 
ated from the powerful transmitter at the former French Colonial Office 
in Saint Assise, southeast of the capital. And just to be safe, the Fiihrer 
grounded Dénitz’s private Junkers Ju 52 aircraft; he could not afford to 
lose his most dedicated naval commander. 

‘The last two weeks of April were slim pickings for the German subs. 
The Americans, along with the British, the Dutch, and the Venezuelans, 
tried to halt tanker traffic temporarily in order to mount an interlinked 
convoy system over the major Caribbean and South Atlantic shipping 
lanes. Their main obstacle, as Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill had 
anticipated, was the lack of escort vessels. There were fewer than five de- 
stroyers in the entire Caribbean basin and all of these were World War I 
ships. Other vessels were on hand — sub-chasers, patrol craft, converted 
yachts, motor torpedo boats — but these did not have the range, arma- 
ment, or submarine detection equipment needed to battle the U-boats. 
As a prominent historian of the campaign in the Caribbean put it: “In the 
first five months of the Caribbean offensive the U-Boats’ only worry in 
the area, was the threat of air attack by [US Army] Air Corps aircraft.” 

But lack of escort vessels was not the only obstacle. Although both the 
US Army Air Forces and the US Navy had a not-insignificant air presence 
along the island chains, the Americans had almost no experience in the 


128 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


use of aircraft to escort convoys. The air crews were untrained in ASW, 
and a reliable system of relieving covering aircraft by other aircraft so as to 
provide air cover 24 hours and seven days a week had not been worked out. 
As well, some captains, answering primarily to their own ship owners and 
— if registered in neutral countries — outside the purview of the Royal or 
US navies, chose to continue steaming on their own. Advantage Donitz. 


took ok 


On April 22, 1942, Hartenstein left Lorient shortly after dusk on his 
second war patrol to the Caribbean. To his distress, U-156 encountered 
numerous French fishing boats in the Bay of Biscay the next day. “I do 
not like this gathering of fishing boats; it opens the door to collaboration 
with the enemy." Shortly before midnight on April 23, Donitz sent a 
long, convoluted radio message. Hartenstein quickly guessed its essence: 
“Means: Panama Canal.” He decided to enter the Caribbean through 
the Mona Passage and to “graze” off the northern coast of Puerto Rico, 
where he expected to encounter traffic from the canal to San Juan and St. 
Thomas Island. Many of the crew entertained themselves with tales of 
Caribbean pirates, Spanish galleons, and gold. 

Hartenstein and the other four boats of Operation Neuland had pi- 
oneered the Caribbean campaign, but by the end of April the waters in 
the Caribbean basin, the Gulf of Mexico, and immediately outside the 
island chains were swarming with submarines. At any given time that 
month, at least 13 boats, mostly Type [Xs but with a handful of Type 
VIls, were either in the area or en route to it. As Dénitz had told Raeder, 
in practical terms, the only way to keep the pressure up in the Caribbean 
was to mount continuous sorties. Thus, a conveyor belt process fed subs 
into the Caribbean as soon as they were ready from a previous war patrol, 
or as soon as they were commissioned and had had their first shake-out 
patrol. In the spring months of 1942, most of these boats concentrated 
on the waters of the Windward Passage between Cuba and Hispaniola, 
around the Dutch Islands, and in the waters surrounding Trinidad. Allied 
seamen came to call that area Torpedo Junction.” 

On this second passage out, Hartenstein’s “garbage tour” was sheer 
misery. Day after day, unending rain showers and fog. In the Bay of 


7: Torpedo Junction 129 


Biscay, British aircraft forced U-156 to submerge for 16 hours. On April 
30, U-156 passed San Marina Island in the Azores — without ever sighting 
its soaring cliffs due to unabated rain showers. Morale plummeted. This 
time, there were no swims in the warm waters, no fishing off the deck. 
‘The sea continued to roil. Four more days of howling wind and rough seas. 
Below decks, the first cases of pubic lice and crabs demanded attention 
with a special “Kuprex”'’ ointment before the affliction spread to the rest 
of the crew by way of the shared bunks and blankets. The only cheer came 
by news from Paris that Midshipman Max Fischer had just been promot- 
ed lieutenant. Schnaps for every man on board! 

At noon on May 5, the Enigma lit up: “Hartenstein area of 300 
nautical miles in Grid Quadrant ED 99.... Previous order rescinded ... 
proceed ... to north corner of Barbados.” Richard Zapp in U-66 had re- 
ported “moderate traffic” just outside the chain of the Lesser Antilles. At 
midnight, Chief Engineer Wilhelm Polchau reported that two steering 
racks and a fairlead bushing in the diesel compressor had broken down. 
A return to Lorient would mean four weeks of lost time. Hartenstein 
remembered that Zapp and U-66 were on their way home, and hence he 
radioed U-Boat Headquarters to ascertain whether Zapp could spare the 
parts. On May 7, Zapp replied that U-66 was desperately low on fuel and 
requested the transfer of five tons of oil. 

Three days later, the two boats met in Grid Quadrant DQ_7937. 
“Cloudy, misty, occasional rain.” Hartenstein steered a course parallel to 
U-66 until he was abreast of it at a distance of 25 meters. The two steering 
racks were floated across with the aid of a buoy, and then U-156’s rubber 
dinghy paddled the oil hose over to U-66. As always, the war diary was 
terse: “5 cbm in 26 min.” Zapp reported stray freighters in Quadrants EE 
36 and 39 as well as in EF 1190. Hartenstein was thrilled. “That seems to 
be the golden vein New York — Cape Roque [Brazil]. Am heading for it.” 
The northeasterly trade winds kicked in and U-156 made good time. The 
sun finally appeared. 

Zapp had been right on the money. At 2:05 p.m.“ on May 12, the 
bridge watch called out, “Steam freighter! 17 Degrees!” Quadrant EE 39. 
For hours, Hartenstein worked U-156 ahead of the target. It was a clear, 
star-filled evening. No moon to give the U-boat away. Strangely, no smoke 
from the target’s funnel. At 7:20 p.m., Hartenstein was ready for the kill: 


130 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


he fired two bow torpedoes. Anxiously, the boatswain counted down the 
seconds. Nothing. “Both misses!” Hartenstein approached the shadow in 
its wake — and discovered that it had drastically reduced speed at the mo- 
ment of attack. “That explains the miss. Reloaded.” A little before 10 p.m., 
he fired again. The electric torpedo was a surface runner! It veered off 
target, but then steered toward it. “Hit machine. Steamer is putting life- 
boats over the side. Steamer sinks by the stern.” The Old Man approached 
the lifeboats to ascertain nationality and displacement of the victim, but 
could not make out a mumble that sounded like “Ouney.” He could not 
find the name in any of his shipping registers. He would later discover that 
he had torpedoed the Dutch 4,551-ton motor freighter Koenjit, in transit 
from Halifax to Egypt with 8,000 tons of general cargo. The crew of 37 
was rescued. 

At 9:31 a.m. on May 13, the watch spotted a smoke smudge on the 
horizon off Barbados. ‘The target was running on an erratic zigzag course, 
but in the general direction of the U-boat. Given that it was daylight, 
Hartenstein opted for a submerged shot. At 4 p.m., the hydrophone oper- 
ator warned, “He is turning to run at us!” Calmly, Hartenstein counted 
down the range: 1,500 — 1,000 — 700 — 450 meters. He fired a stern shot 
from Tube V. The G7e headed straight for the target. “Hit just in front 
of the bridge. Stops. Swings lifeboats out. List of 2 degrees.” Still sub- 
merged, Hartenstein circled his victim. On the stern he could make out 
“City of Melbourne. Liverpool.” Lloyds Register listed it as a British 6,630- 
ton general cargo steam freighter. 

But the victim refused to go under. “Surface! Ready the Artillery!” 
It was time to test the newly installed 10.5-cm deck gun. Second Watch 
Officer Fischer and his gun crew pumped 24 shells into the fore-ship. 
It broke off and the stern lifted up out of the sea. “Steamer still refuses 
to sink!” Fischer fired another five shells into the wreck. “Slowly sinks!” 
Hartenstein was beside himself. Many of the shells’ nose fuses failed to 
detonate on impact and the missiles harmlessly passed out the other side 
of the ship. “Behavior of the 10.5cm ammunition unsatisfactory,” he la- 
conically noted in the war diary. The City of Melbourne lost only one of its 
crew of 78 that day. 

To preserve precious fuel, Hartenstein let the current take U-156. The 
men took turns coming up on deck to shower, to swim, and to wash their 


7: Torpedo Junction 131 


sweaty shorts and neck rags. Shortly after noon on May 14, the watch 
spotted yet another “smokeless” steamer. It seemed to be in ballast, and it 
mounted a heavy gun on the stern. A few minutes before 3 p.m., U-156 at- 
tacked. No detonation. “Inexplicable Miss! Probably ran under the ship!” 

For four hours, the two MAN diesels roared on full speed to get 
U-156 ahead of the target again. No moon. A star-studded clear night. 
Just before 8 p.m., Hartenstein fired from Tube II. Another terse entry in 
the war diary: “Inexplicable Miss!” And another hour to plot yet another 
attack. This time Hartenstein let loose from Tube II. The “Eto” broke the 
surface, but this time there was no mistake. “Hit amidships. 20 m[eter] 
high dark explosive cloud. Swings lifeboats out, begins to list. Steamer 
sinks!” The crew in the lifeboats revealed it to be the Norwegian 4,301- 
ton motor freighter Si/jestad out of Oslo. It was carrying general cargo and 
war material from New York to Alexandria, Egypt. Two of the crew of 
33 died. 

Hartenstein ordered four of the old “Ato” torpedoes to be moved from 
below the upper deck plates to the bow tubes. U-156 once more drifted 
with the current. At 8:26 a.m. on May 15, the watch screamed “Steam 
Freighter in sight!” Hartenstein began his approach. At that moment, the 
target blew off steam and stopped — to pick up survivors from the Siljestad. 
“They have a surprise in store for them!” the Old Man chuckled. ‘The 
freighter resumed its course, zigzagging wildly. At 3 p.m., Hartenstein 
was in position. Range: 1,200 meters. He fired a single bow torpedo. “Hit 
just in front of bridge and cargo room 2. Lists 2 degrees to port. Swings 
lifeboats out.” On its deck, Hartenstein could make out large wooden 
crates. The victim turned aimlessly in circles for 15 minutes, then the 
sea swallowed it. Hartenstein surfaced. A dozen lifeboats bobbed up and 
down on the gentle sea. They carried the survivors of both ships. The 
water was littered with wooden boxes revealing airplane and automobile 
parts. Hartenstein had the men fish 14 automobile tires and about 100 
inner tubes as well as packs of Chesterfield cigarettes out of the water. 
‘The survivors (39 out of a complement of 41) informed him that he had 
sunk the Yugoslavian 4,382-ton freighter Kupa, bound from New York to 
Egypt. 

For two days, U-156 encountered no new targets. Again, halcyon days 
for showers and swims up on deck as Hartenstein let the boat drift with 


132 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


the trade winds. Then, just before noon on May 17, the welcome shout, 
“Steam Freighter in sight!” The target mounted two guns on the stern and 
was laden down with wooden crates on deck: “Probably automobiles or 
airplanes.” For more than three hours, the Jumbos drove U-156 ahead of 
the target. At 3:04 p.m., Hartenstein fired a stern shot. The torpedo ran 
true. After 25 seconds, “Hit front of funnel. 40 m[eter] high black-brown 
column of fire. Steamer sinks.” 

“Surface!” U-156 broke the sea in an immense field of crated airplane 
parts. The watch spotted a figure floating amidst the smashed wooden 
crates. It was a young American sailor. He informed Hartenstein that he 
had sunk the British 5,072-ton freighter Barrdale, en route from New York 
to the Persian Gulf with “airplanes, tanks, automobile tires, and general 
cargo.” A good loss for Joseph Stalin and the Red Army, Hartenstein must 
have noted. He fished several of the large airplane tires out of the water as 
a “trophy.” ‘Then he drove the American over to the lifeboats. 

‘There was no time to rest. At 3:39 a.m. on May 18, the watch was at 
it again: “Dark shadow to starboard!” Hartenstein was up on the bridge 
in a flash. He decided to position U-156 west of the target to silhouette 
it against the first light of dawn. It would still be sufficiently dark to risk 
a surface shot. At 4:18 a.m., he fired. After one minute and 22 seconds, 
“Hit stern superstructure. 40 m[eter] high black column of fire and smoke. 
Steamer sinks.” The blast killed 11 of its crew of 41. Once again, Harten- 
stein approached the lifeboats. He was informed that he had torpedoed 
the American 4,961-ton freighter Quaker City, en route from Bombay to 
Norfolk with a full load of manganese ore. Junior Third Mate Charles 
Stevens recalled Hartenstein as being “very courteous” and giving the 
survivors the coordinates for the nearest landfall, Barbados.’* The men in 
the lifeboats declined the skipper’s offer of water and food but requested 
playing cards to while away the time. ‘These boys have a sense of humor, 
Hartenstein thought, and passed them three decks. 

Still, the crew of U-156 got no rest. At 8:07 a.m., the by now fam- 
iliar cry “Steamer in sight!” rang down from the bridge. For five hours, 
Hartenstein drove U-156 hard to get ahead of what he took to be a tanker 
in ballast. Just before 1 p.m., he decided on a double bow shot. The two 
electric “eels” ran for just over one minute. “Hit under the bridge. 2"¢ hit 
amidships.” The tanker began to list to port, but its wily skipper quickly 


7: Torpedo Junction 133 


ran his bilge pumps and managed to right the vessel. He continued on 
course at 11 knots and fired his deck guns at U-156. Hartenstein was 
furious. He pursued under water, hoping that the adversary would “stop or 
show a sign of weakness. Nothing of the sort.” Was it a U-boat trap? Was 
the “tanker” a decoy, a Q-ship? 

“Surface!” Hartenstein was determined to hunt this one down. At 
that moment, 5:18 p.m., the Enigma lit up: 


To Hartenstein. Proceed at once to Grid Quadrant ED 66. 
Task: 1. attack American warships suspected operating off the 
harbor. 2. Scout harbor and anchorages, if this can be done 
without being seen. 3. Destroy departing French warships and 
merchant ships so that they will not fall into American hands. 
[Aircraft carrier] “Béarn” especially important. 


Vichy France had cautioned the Germans that the Allies were patrolling 
Fort-de-France with one cruiser and four destroyers. 

What was taking place at Martinique was, in fact, a classic game of 
tit-for-tat. The Allies worried lest Admiral Georges Robert’s tidy fleet of 
70,000 tons of warships and treasury of 12 billion francs in gold would 
join the U-boats in their assault on the vital Caribbean oil supply. In the 
near-panic atmosphere of 1942, J. Edgar Hoover at the Federal Bureau 
of Investigation warned the Administration that “1400 airplanes and 50 
submarines are near readiness at Martinique for an attack on the Panama 
Canal, Puerto Rico, Florida or the Florida Keys and Cuba.”” The Ger- 
mans, for their part, were equally panicked that Robert, far away from 
Vichy, might have had a change of heart and joined the Allies. Whatever 
the case, both stepped up their surveillance of Martinique. 

Hartenstein did not have to consult the navy’s grid chart to know that 
Martinique was in Quadrant ED 66 — precisely where he had dropped off 
his Second Watch Officer during the last war patrol. But he was less than 
pleased. This was just the sort of micromanaging by the “Great Lion” that 
the U-boat skippers hated. “First the tanker must be disposed of. Half- 
finished work should not be allowed to languish. Course for Martinique 
will have to be shaped without me.” This bordered on insubordination. It 
had better result in a major success. 


134 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


An hour before noon on May 18, Hartenstein fired another torpedo 
at the tanker. It struck the hostile abaft the bridge after 37 seconds, caus- 
ing a 20-meter-high column of dark smoke to rise. Incredibly, the tanker 
continued on course at seven knots as if the torpedo had missed! Harten- 
stein pursued. Three hours later he fired yet another torpedo. After one 
minute and 16 seconds, it hit near the engine room. Still, the damned 
thing continued on course at seven knots. In a towering rage, Hartenstein 
leaped ahead of the target yet again. Since it had taken four torpedoes in 
the starboard side, he decided to “break it in half” with a shot in the port 
side. And since the torpedo gang had not had enough time to reload the 
bow tubes, he was forced to make a stern shot. At 3:17 a.m., the electric 
torpedo sped on its way — and missed! What did he have to do to sink 
this character? Doggedly, Hartenstein ordered “Pursue!” But the tanker 
outran him on an erratic zigzag course, swinging wildly from 120 to 330 
degrees south and west. 

Finally, “Crazy Dog” gave in. He let it go. He had spent 20 hours pur- 
suing the target, had plotted five attacks, and had torpedoed it four times. 
And nothing to show for it. Then, reality set in like a cold shower via the 
Enigma machine: “Shape course for Martinique at once.” 

Some time later, Hartenstein would learn that the tanker he had 
chased through the night was the 8,042-ton San Eliseo, in ballast out of 
Liverpool. Ironically, it belonged to the Eagle Oil and Shipping Company 
of San Nicolas, Aruba, the scene of his first Neuland war patrol triumphs. 
The San Eliseo had been severely damaged but managed to make it to 
Aruba. 

At 9:25 a.m. on May 19, the watch screamed, “Alarm! Aircraft! 270 
degrees! Course 0!” Executive Officer Paul Just had the watch. “Emer- 
gency Dive!” The lookouts tumbled down the hatch. The crew heard the 
air blowing out of the dive tanks. The diesels cut out; the electric motors 
began to whir. Thirty seconds and U-156 was below the surface, on a 
downward angle of 20 degrees. Within two minutes, two depth charges 
exploded near the boat. Glass broke. The lights went out. Dim emergency 
bulbs came on in the Zentrale. 

“Damage Control, report!” It was the Old Man. Chief Engineer 
Polchau was ready. “Damage to both hydroplane motors, vertical rudder 
motor, gyro indicator, lights, starboard electrical motor. Major damage: 


7: Torpedo Junction 135 


leak in ballast tank I, 2 batteries torn and slowly draining, echo sounder.” 
Emergency teams began their repair work. At 110 meters, just beyond 
recommended maximum depth, two more depth charges rocked the boat. 
Polchau ordered “Both hydroplanes up!” and finally leveled the boat. 

“Periscope depth!” Hartenstein surveyed the scene through the sky 
periscope. “Alarm! Airplane at 240 degrees!” U-156 dove again. This time 
there were no depth charges. The boat remained submerged until dusk. 
At 5 p.m., it resurfaced. Course: Martinique. For hours, the torpedo gang 
muscled four “Ato” torpedoes from under the upper deck boards into the 
bow torpedo room. At 9:40 p.m., Martinique came in sight. Lieutenant 
Just noted the strain on the crew. “30 day. 16 hours submerged with 
45-degree [Celsius] heat and 90 percent humidity in the boat.”"* Mildew 
had spread everywhere. The men were covered with heat sores. 

Cautiously, U-156 circumnavigated the island. Officers and men were 
on edge. Headlands appeared menacingly in the distance; the watch mis- 
took “La Perle” cliff for a hostile craft. Hartenstein submerged off Fort- 
de-France to reconnoiter the harbor. It revealed five tankers as well as the 
aircraft carrier Béarn. Off to the side in Flammand Roads, he spotted 
a modern passenger liner, Agittaire. Dead ahead was a warship: perhaps 
the cruiser Emile Bertin? Two American flying boats buzzed around Fort- 
de-France. U-156 remained on station. Suddenly, at 12:06 p.m. on May 
21, a dark shadow with two masts appeared. A signboard on the bridge 
revealed its name: President Trujillo. It flew a Dominican flag, “thus ene- 
my.” Hartenstein wasted no time, firing an “eel” from Tube II. After 29 
seconds the “Ato” ripped into the ship’s stern, sending up a 30-meter-high 
column of fire and smoke. The 40-year-old Dominican 1,668-ton freight- 
er sank within a minute, taking 27 of the crew of 39 as well as beer-mak- 
ing machinery and forage down with it. 

Three airplanes appeared at once and dropped depth charges random- 
ly. U-156 submerged. Every half hour, Hartenstein brought it to the sur- 
face to reconnoiter Fort-de-France. It was sheer hell for the crew. Sixteen 
hours submerged. Then 20 hours. Then 14 hours. Heat and humidity were 
almost unbearable. Finally, on May 25, U-156 surfaced in an isolated bay 
to recharge the batteries. Rain, glorious rain! It came down in sheets. ‘The 
watch could hardly see beyond one meter. Hartenstein called the men up 
in shifts to take in the tropical air and the sweet-cold sea spray. And then 


136 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


the rain stopped and the sun broke through. Steam rose from bay and 
boat. It was a sauna. 

Shortly after 1 a.m. on May 25, Dénitz was back on the airwaves. 
“Danger exists that ships in the main harbor will be turned over to the 
USA. Thus main task is attack on USA warships and other ships leav- 
ing port. Attack incoming ships only if identified as hostile.” U-156 was 
off Cape Salomon. The watch reported “Shadow ahead!” It was a fellow 
traveler, U-69. Paris had ordered it to join U-156 in patrolling Fort-de- 
France. Hartenstein returned to Fort-de-France. At 7:43 a.m. on May 25, 
the hydrophone operator reported, “Screw noises at 235 degrees.” Harten- 
stein ordered periscope depth. He could hardly believe his eyes. “Amer- 
ican 4 stack destroyer.” Would he finally get a crack at one of the “destroy- 
ers-for-bases” craft that Donitz had lectured the Kaleus about at Lorient? 

‘The destroyer was the 1,154-ton USS Blakeley. It had seven survivors 
from the Quaker City on board. Launched in Philadelphia in 1918, the 
“flush-decker” had seen no action in World War I and then had been 
decommissioned at Philadelphia from 1922 to 1939. It escorted troop con- 
voys to Curacao in February 1942. On May 25, Blakeley was assigned to 
patrol a base course roughly north to south off the west coast of Martin- 
ique. It was steaming at 15 knots and zigzagging with the galley deck 
guns and the .30- and .50-caliber machine guns manned. 

But it was too far off to attack. “Perhaps he will return,” Hartenstein 
wrote in the war diary. As per his wish, the destroyer reappeared two 
hours later off Precheur Light, zigzagging and making 15 knots. “He is 
coming! Battle stations!” Clear sky, calm sea. Range: 800 — 700 — 600 — 
500 meters. On board the destroyer, a fatal mistake: the sonar had been 
turned off at 1:45 p.m. while a maintenance man went to the tracking 
room to lubricate the equipment. But the Officer of the Deck wasn’t noti- 
fied. When the maintenance work was completed, the sound-detector 
gear was turned back on; it started to sweep off the starboard beam, but 
too late to deter Hartenstein. 

Time: 10:52 a.m. Hartenstein fired two bow shots. After 25 seconds, 
he gleefully recorded: “Hit in fore-ship. High column of fire. Fo’c’sle torn 
off. Hit must have been 2™ torpedo.” It was a strange sight: bow and 
fo’c’sle shot off and listing 15 degrees to starboard, the destroyer’s rump 
continued to move ahead. The oil from the forward tanks shot 1,000 feet 


7: Torpedo Junction 137 




















USS Blakeley after a direct torpedo hit to the fo’c’sle from U-156. Source: Ken Macpherson 
Photographic Archives, Library and Archives at The Military Museums, Libraries and 


Cultural Resources, University of Calgary. 


into the air and then showered the ship with “torrents of oil, water and 
debris.” The bow was lifted clear out of the water and the fantail was “set to 
whipping” by the explosion. Several sailors had seen the torpedo’s telltale 
“bubbles” at the last moment, but it had been too late to alert the bridge. 
The explosion was so powerful that radio tubes and resistors as well as 
the gyro compass on the U-boat were heavily damaged. But there was no 
time to deliver the coup de grace as enemy aircraft were already overflying 
the Bay de Fort-de-France and dropping depth charges all about. U-156 
headed back out to the open sea. 

Blakeley’s skipper, Lieutenant-Commander M. D. Matthews, at first 
did not know how badly damaged his ship was. As soon as the debris 
cleared, it became obvious that the B/akeley’s bow had been blown off and 
that it had developed a 15-degree list to starboard. He gave the order to 
prepare to abandon ship. But the damage-control party sprang into action. 
It pumped oil from the starboard tanks into the port tanks, righting the 


138 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


ship. Matthews concluded that Blakeley would stay afloat. He canceled the 
order to prepare to abandon ship and lowered a whaler to pick up several 
men who were in the water. He tried to back the ship into Fort-de-France 
harbor, seven miles away. The distance was too great. Matthews then or- 
dered the Blakeley turned about and, with 20 meters off its bow, steamed 
ahead into the harbor. ‘The destroyer docked alongside the Béarn some 
three hours after the torpedo hit. French surgeons treated the 21 wounded 
sailors. After the legal stay of two days, Blakeley was escorted to Castries, 
St. Lucia. Muster revealed that six sailors had died or were still missing.” 
‘The loss of the Blakeley came as a severe shock to Washington. The Navy 
Department hastily dispatched the destroyers Breckenridge, Greer, and 
Tarbell as well as two Catalina flying boats to the Caribbean to deal with 
the marauding “gray sharks.” 


3 ok ok 


For Hartenstein and U-156, the coming days brought only a succession of 
emergency dives to avoid attacks by land aircraft and flying boats. It was 
hell for the crew. Every time the boat surfaced to recharge the batteries 
and to take in fresh air, hostile aircraft forced it to dive. Day after day, 
aerial depth charges rained down all about the craft. Executive Officer 
Just again expressed concern about the state of the crew: 


We look like cellar wood lice. The skin is a greenish white; 
shriveled and wrinkled due to the constant sweating. Some of us 
are tortured by rashes and abscesses. Others have ear infections 
from the temperature changes [caused by the] dives. When we 
surface at night, the rush of air into the compartments is ice cold. 
The seawater shower in the diesel room brings no refreshment, 
but still stimulates a bit.”° 


Around midnight on May 26, Hartenstein surfaced off Pointe des Négres. 
“Alarm! Flying boat at 250 degrees!” The Catalina was flying 30 to 50 
meters above the water and coming straight out of a bright moon. “Engine 
full speed ahead! Hard-a-starboard!” As the boat heeled over to the right, 
three depth charges exploded in its wake. Close call. After surfacing, the 


7: Torpedo Junction 139 


routine set in anew. And then a chilling report from the radio room: “De- 
stroyer noises at 60 degrees!” The men could hear the sickening “pings” of 
the destroyers ASDIC bounce off the hull. Hartenstein ordered “Silent 
Running!” and took the boat down to 120 meters. Six depth charges burst 
around U-156. Glass broke, lights shattered, two of the heavy batteries 
shorted out, and both hydrophones broke down. Total darkness. For 
hours, U-156 crept along in the deep, listening to the occasional rumble 
of depth charges off in the distance. The heavy, humid air burned the 
men’s lungs. 

By3 a.m. on May 27, Hartenstein had no choice but to surface, for both 
the men and the electric batteries were drained. Forty minutes later came 
the dreaded cry, “Alarm! Flying Boat 160 degrees.” Down again. Then 
up again. After 20 minutes, “Alarm! Airplane!” To hell with this harbor 
patrol! Dénitz may have claimed that American air reconnaissance was 
“inexperienced and dad” and that there existed no “crisp, well thought-out 
antisubmarine operations,” but that was the picture back at Lorient and 
not here in the Caribbean. The Old Man ordered a course for the open sea 
with the last juice left in the electric batteries. At 7:24 p.m., he brought 
U-156 to the surface. Coast clear. “Both engines full ahead!” The Jumbos 
roared up to power and Hartenstein shaped a course for St. Lucia. 

At 11 a.m. on May 28, the watch reported, “Smoke cloud at 280 
degrees!” Hartenstein at once gave chase, but in the excitement of the 
moment he brought U-156 too close to the target. A torpedo detonation 
would have damaged both vessels. 

He followed the hostile, which was heading back to Martinique. 
Precious hours wasted. By 7 p.m., U-156 had caught up to the shadow. 
Hartenstein fired a single “eel” from Tube IV. The old “Ato” ran true. Af 
ter 30 seconds, “Hit amidships, down by the stern. Lists to starboard, but 
does not sink.” Afraid that he might already have drawn enemy aircraft, 
Hartenstein delivered the coup de grace from Tube II. After 45 seconds, 
“Hit forward hatch.” Then he discovered that the target’s stern deck gun 
was manned. Too late! The ship slipped beneath the waves with a last 
tremendous rattle of detonations. He had torpedoed the British 1,913-ton 
freighter Norman Prince, in ballast en route from Liverpool to St. Lucia. 
U-156 was down to its last three torpedoes. 


140 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


Shortly after 3 a.m. on May 30, Hartenstein fired off a unique radio- 
gram to U-Boat Command in Paris. After reporting on enemy traffic off 
Fort-de-France and his latest “kills,” he pressed on Donitz the toll that 
the war patrol was taking on the crew. “In 7 days in the tropics, 121 hours 
submerged. Limit of capacity reached.” The Old Man had taken careful 
measure of his young crew. They needed relief. He shaped a course for 
the Atlantic, planning to pass Vincent Channel in the Lesser Antilles 
between Barbados and St. Lucia. 

The first of June brought a fat target in Grid Quadrant ED 5329. 
The Old Man noted in the war diary: “Flies an indiscernible flag. Name 
painted over.” No time for niceties. He fired from Tube V. “Hit abaft 
mast. Sinks down by the stern.” He circled the victim. From its stern 
flew a small Brazilian flag. The smudged plate revealed the name Alegrete. 
‘The boatswain snatched up Lloyds Register. “Has 5,970-tons, Herr Kaleu!” 
Owner: Lloyd Brasileiro. Home port: Rio de Janeiro. Damn, it was a neu- 
tral! Hartenstein decided that he could not just leave the freighter to sink 
by itself. He surfaced and ordered Lieutenant Fischer to pump 20 10.5-cm 
rounds into the wreck. It sank by the stern, bow high out of the water. This 
would take some explaining back in Lorient. 

At 2:40 a.m. on June 3, Hartenstein spied a darkened schooner off 
Cape Moule a Chique, the southernmost tip of St. Lucia. He ordered 
it to strike sails. It refused. He sent a 3.7-cm shell across its bow. The 
schooner set 18 inter-island passengers off in a lighter and continued its 
course. From the abandoned passengers, Hartenstein learned that it was 
the Venezuelan sloop Lilian, loaded with rum out of Jamaica. He could 
read the thoughts on the crew’s collective face. But his temper broke at the 
cheek of its captain: Fischer fired 52 light rounds into the Li/ian. A terrible 
waste of good Jamaican rum. 

Paris ordered U-156 to shape a course for Lorient — 12 days away. But 
“Crazy Dog” still had supplies for 41 days, more than a hundred 10.5-cm 
shells below decks, and one torpedo in the tubes. At 10 a.m. on June 23, 
the watch detected a smoke smudge on the horizon. Hartenstein pursued. 
He wanted this one badly. The freighter ran a wild zigzag course. Time 
and again, the Old Man approached for a shot, only to see the target dash 
off at high speed in another direction. He was finally in position at 2:20 
a.m. on June 24. The “eel” fired from Tube I was a “hot runner”: it stuck 


7: Torpedo Junction 141 


in the tube, its small compressed-air motor running wildly. The danger 
of a premature explosion of its warhead was high. Executive Officer Just 
ordered double air pressure for Tube I and the torpedo finally left the bore. 
It veered erratically off target and then sank. 

“Clear the decks to engage with artillery!” Fischer fired 65 rounds 
from all three guns. ‘The target’s captain sent out a distress signal, from 
which Hartenstein learned that he was shelling the British 4,587-ton 
freighter Willimantic, in ballast from Cape Town to Charleston. Harten- 
stein took the ship’s captain prisoner. He learned from Master Leon Ever- 
ett that the crew consisted of elderly men (“well over 60”) taken from an 
existing “pool” of sailors. The Allies could build ships at great speed, but 
experienced skippers were hard to come by. Another 20 rounds from the 
deck gun and the Willimantic sank. 

U-156 glided through the Kernével Narrows and docked in Lorient 
at 2:06 a.m. on July 7, 1942. Ten pennants flew from its periscope tubes. 
‘The last entry in the war diary was terse, as ever: “Total distance 10,465.4 
nautical miles, of this 546.9 underwater.” For the first time, Hartenstein 
signed the KTB with his new rank: Korvettenkapitin (lieutenant-com- 
mander). He was especially pleased that he had offered water, food, and 
directions to every lifeboat from the ships that he had torpedoed. For July, 
the entire crew of U-156 was invited to be feted by their “sponsor,” the city 
of Plauen in Saxony, Hartenstein’s birthplace. Paul Just received his own 
command, U-6, and Lieutenant Gert-Fritjof Mannesmann took his place 
as Executive Officer. 

Chief Engineer Polchau used his final report on the war patrol to 
underscore the Old Man’s radio signal to Dénitz that the crew had reached 
the “limits” of their “capacity” off Martinique. “The boat remained under- 
water for a long time in tropical waters, once seven days in a row and 
on average 18 hours per day. Water temperature 30 degrees [Celsius], air 
temperature in the boat on average 34 degrees.” The capacity of the bat- 
teries had been reduced once the acid mix reached 42 to 44 degrees. And 
at 47 degrees, it had proved impossible to recharge the cells.”! It was a 
sobering report. 

Dénitz was pleased with the war patrol. “The commander exploited 
well the numerous chances for success and thus scored a very nice suc- 
cess. Especially to be praised is the special assignment off Martinique, 


142 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


conducted with tenacity.”” The new technological innovation, the “milk 
cow,” had proved its mettle: U-459 had resupplied two outbound boats, 
four returning boats, and five boats on station off the Caribbean Sea. 

En route to Plauen, Hartenstein paid the customary call on Donitz in 
the Avenue Maréchal Maunoury.”’ The “Great Lion” was in a particularly 
good mood and offered Hartenstein (as well as Karl Thurmann of U-535) 
his Mercedes limousine to do some sightseeing. Hour after hour passed. 
At 8 p.m., Donitz had to borrow a smaller car to take him to a meeting 
with the city commandant. “It is always the same story,” he growled to 
an aide, “If you offer these types your little finger, they’ll grab the whole 
hand.” When he returned from the meeting, the Mercedes was still not 
back. He ordered his adjutant to have both skippers report to him im- 
mediately upon their return. Well after midnight, Hartenstein and Thur- 
mann finally returned — after a night of barhopping and sampling what 
Paris had to offer. Seeing that both officers were three sheets to the wind, 
the adjutant suggested they wait until morning to report. 

Not Hartenstein. He put on his dress uniform and insisted on be- 
ing taken to Donitz. A workaholic, the admiral was still at his desk. He 
let loose with a tirade concerning the ingratitude of the two skippers. 
Hartenstein took it all in, saluted, and recited from the arch-rascal Baron 
Karl von Miinchhausen:* “On many a flag have I laid my hand swearing 
loyalty in this wicked war, many an admiral have I served.” As his voice 
trailed off, Hartenstein simply turned around and left the room. Donitz 
recounted the story the next morning at breakfast in great mirth. Things 
were going very well for the “Great Lion.” 


7: Torpedo Junction 143 


HUNTING OFF THE ORINOCO 


‘The struggle in the Caribbean between Dénitz’s submarines and the Al- 
lies was not confined to the Caribbean basin alone. ‘Tankers, bauxite car- 
riers, and other Allied merchantmen were just as easily torpedoed outside 
the island chain as they were within. And when the Allies really turned 
the heat on in the basin itself, Donitz merely sent his U-boats to the east 
and south, along the coast of Venezuela and Brazil. Tonnagekrieg, after all, 
knew no boundaries. Cargoes that would aid the Allies were sunk off the 
coastal bulge of Brazil, or even off the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, as they 
were near Trinidad or Cape Race. It did not take long before the Amer- 
icans realized that the defense of the Caribbean was closely tied in with 
the defense of mid- and South Atlantic waters. Even before the summer 
of 1942, the war began to spread beyond the Caribbean to the waters of 
the Torrid Zone and into the South Atlantic. 

Virtually all the men who commanded Karl Donitz’s “gray sharks” 
during Operation Neuland began their careers in the surface navy; Fregat- 
tenkapitian' Jiirgen Wattenberg, skipper of the Type IXC U-162, was one 
of them. He had entered the navy in 1921, and at the outbreak of World 
War II served as navigation officer on the “pocket” battleship Admiral Graf 
Spee. After Captain Hans Langsdorff, trapped by British Hunting Group 
G, scuttled his ship in the Rio de la Plata off Montevideo in December 
1939, Wattenberg escaped from the temporary internment camp at the 
Naval Arsenal in Montevideo. Friends provided civilian clothes, and the 
adventurous Wattenberg walked into Argentina, hiked across the Andes 
to Santiago, Chile, and coolly boarded a commercial flight to Germany in 
May 1940.? He at once volunteered for the U-Boat Service. U-162 was his 
first command. He thirsted for revenge. 


145 


Wattenberg’s first war patrol was disappointingly unsuccessful. In 40 
days at sea he sank only one ship, the British 4,300-ton freighter White 
Crest, out of homebound North Atlantic convoy ONS-67. Wattenberg 
returned to Lorient in March 1942 to a sharp rebuke from Donitz. He 
had not kept in constant touch with Kernével because he feared that the 
Allies were intercepting those signals. He had misjudged the course of 
a convoy near the Azores and had lost contact. He had been hesitant in 
attacking an escort destroyer and a lone freighter because he believed that 
the escort was part of a larger convoy, for which he had searched in vain. 
As far as U-Boat Command was concerned, he had “balked” at the chance 
for a “kill.” Donitz had been unsparing in his critique: “A commander 
never knows how a situation will develop, therefore always attack at first 
opportunity and never undertake experiments.”* 

Wattenberg’s war patrol to the Caribbean began on April 7, 1942. He 
headed for the waters off Venezuela, the Guianas, and Trinidad and spent 
a good part of the last week of April scouting enemy traffic. He did not 
see much, but each day dutifully sent back long reports on what he did 
see. On April 25, he received orders to proceed to Grid Quadrant EE, the 
suspected shipping lane for West Indies—Gibraltar sailings. En route, he 
put the artillery crew under Second Watch Officer Berndt von Walther 
und Cronex through their paces, firing at jettisoned wooden egg crates by 
day and by night. 

At 5 p.m. on April 29, the bridge watch spied the mastheads of a 
tanker. Wattenberg drove his boat hard for two hours to get in position 
to attack. Just before 9 p.m., he fired a bow shot at a range of 600 meters. 
“Surface runner!” He well remembered Dénitz’s reprimand, and ordered 
“Second bow shot at once.” Somehow, both torpedoes sliced into the shadow. 
It stopped and began to list. Its crew took to the lifeboats. The survivors 
informed Wattenberg that he had torpedoed the British 8,941-ton tanker 
Athelempress, in ballast out of Liverpool. Since the wreck refused to sink, 
Wattenberg had it riddled with shells from the 10.5-cm deck gun, where- 
upon it quickly slid beneath the waves. It was the Old Man’s first major 
success. 

Shortly after 1 p.m. on May 1, standing off the mouth of the Orinoco 
River, the watch reported first a smoke smudge and then masts on the 
horizon. The diesels roared to full power. For two hours, U-162 pursued. 


146 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


Wattenberg took careful measure of the target. “Freighter has stern deck 
gun, also a gray-green camouflage stripe and no flag, thus hostile.” At 2:46 
p-m., he fired a single bow torpedo at 600 meters. It struck the freighter 
abaft the funnel. It stopped at once, down by the stern, and swung out 
four lifeboats. Wattenberg surfaced and had Walther-Cronex fire several 
heavy shells into its superstructure. No reply from the ship’s gun. Watten- 
berg circled his victim. On both bow and stern, he could make out a name 
in small letters: “Pernahyba” out of “Rio.” He still believed it to be a “hos- 
tile.” Since it refused to sink, he pumped 56 rounds from the deck gun into 
the hulk. As it went down, he made out barrels of lubricating oil and in- 
testine skins on the deck. He had destroyed the German-built 6,692-ton 
Parnahyba, bound for New York with a cargo of coffee, cotton, and cocoa. 

Like Werner Hartenstein in U-156, Wattenberg had sunk a neutral 
vessel. He at once radioed the news to Paris. This undoubtedly would 
not sit well with Dénitz. Among the floating jetsam of oil and wood and 
guts, the watch spied a fat turkey perched on a barrel, chickens fluttering 
on the waves, and two black pigs swimming furiously among the wooden 
staves. They were all brought on board as “welcome booty” — then prompt- 
ly butchered to feast the crew.‘ Thereafter, Wattenberg shaped a course 
for the estuary of the Demerara River at Georgetown, British Guiana, to 
hunt bauxite carriers. 

The sinking of the Parnahyba was another blow to Brazilian neutral- 
ity. When the war began, Brazil was closer to the Axis than the Allies. 
There were a significant number of German expatriates in Brazil, and 
Lufthansa, the German airline, had pioneered air routes connecting sev- 
eral South American countries. Brazil was a potential buyer of German 
military equipment, especially anti-aircraft artillery from Krupp. But 
Brazil was also a potentially important partner for the Allies because of 
the raw materials, especially rubber, produced there, and also because of 
its geography. ‘The country’s eastern bulge — U-boat skippers referred to 
it as the “mid-Atlantic” in their war diaries — was a key refueling point 
for aircraft flying from the United States to Africa and the Middle East, 
and Brazil’s proximity to the sources of bauxite in the Guianas made it an 
excellent place to put antisubmarine aircraft. 

At the end of 1942 Brazil was swayed to break diplomatic relations 
with the Axis after receiving promises of US military aid and American 


8: Hunting Off the Orinoco 147 


airlines (especially Pan American World Airways) to fly Brazilian routes. 
But it was still officially neutral when Wattenberg and other U-boat com- 
manders began to sink Brazilian ships. As the U-boats penetrated further 
into the South Atlantic, Brazil’s shift to the Allied cause became the key 
to antisubmarine defenses in the area — especially given the pro-German 
“neutrality” of Argentina. Each sinking brought that day closer. 

Wattenberg’s decision to head for the waters off the mouth of the 
Demerara River was a good one. At 10 p.m. on May 3, the watch spied 
two shadows at two miles. Wattenberg approached them submerged, but 
decided that they were too small to risk losing the element of surprise. At 
1:27 a.m., the next day the watch again reported a shadow, dead ahead 
in the moonlight at 10 degrees. An hour later, U-162 loosed a bow shot 
at 2,800 meters. The boatswain counted off the seconds to 120. Nothing! 
‘The steam-driven torpedo apparently had not been fully charged and sank 
below the target. 

Wattenberg renewed the attack. Range: 3,800 meters. “Hit! The 
freighter’s stern sinks down to the base of the funnel.” He surfaced and 
circled his prey. “No name discernible.” It was 6 a.m. ‘The first light of day 
was beginning to break over the horizon. He assumed that the strick- 
en freighter would sink and left the area before hostile aircraft appeared. 
His victim was the American 3,785-ton bauxite carrier Eastern Sword, en 
route from New York to Georgetown. Eleven of its crew of 29 went down 
with the ship. 

Around noon on May 4, U-162 came across a three-masted schoon- 
er. It was the Florence M. Douglas out of Demerara, “thus hostile.” After 
ordering its crew into lifeboats, Wattenberg sank the schooner with 18 
rounds from the deck gun. He saw something floating in the debris. “Yet 
again, a small black piglet comes on board. It is too small to be butchered 
and so it will eat our scraps and leftovers. It is quickly named: ‘Douglas’.” 
No sooner had it been stowed in the diesel room than an aircraft appeared 
out of the sun. “Alarm! Aircraft dead ahead! Emergency Dive!” Somehow, 
the enemy pilot failed to spot U-162. “Douglas” survived the steep dive 
unharmed and came squealing into the control room. Wattenberg decreed 
it to be the boat’s “lucky pig.” 

Wattenberg headed out to sea. Shortly before midnight on May 6, 
the watch reported “Shadow with heavy smoke cloud 165 degrees!” Since 


148 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


there was a bright moon, he opted for a submerged attack with a stern 
torpedo. “After running for 10.4 sec. bright, yellow fire-flash against hull.” 
‘Then, a metallic, hollow “clank.” He had miscalculated, coming too close 
to the target — 180 meters — and thus the “eel” had not had ample time 
to arm the trigger mechanism. U-162 came round for a bow shot. “Miss! 
Miscalculated target’s speed!” It was now 2:33 a.m. The Old Man ex- 
pended a third torpedo on the target. “Hit amidships! High detonation 
column. Freighter breaks in half and sinks in 7 min.” The men cheered 
the hit and “Douglas” ran through the boat squealing with delight.’ The 
vessel’s master stated that his ship was the 7,000-ton bauxite carrier Run- 
ciman. But Wattenberg could not find it in any of his shipping registers. 
In fact, the wily skipper, Ingvald Hegerbeg, had given Wattenberg a false 
name. The victim was the Norwegian 4,271-ton freighter Frank Seamans, 
bound for Trinidad with a load of bauxite. The crew of 27 all took to the 
lifeboats; Wattenberg offered provisions and directions. 

Just before 10 a.m. on May 8, U-162’s watch sighted a new target. 
Wattenberg plotted a submerged attack with the stern tubes. But after 
the destruction of the neutral Parnahyba, he had grown cautious. “Can- 
not absolutely discern origin of the vessel. No zigzagging, no deck gun, 
no camouflage stripe, but also nowhere anything indicating marker as a 
neutral.” He could not make out the flag fluttering from its stern. On the 
bow, he saw what he thought was the name “Louis” preceded by the letter 
“M.” Was it a Vichy French carrier? He tracked the target for nine hours. 
It never set evening lights and so he guessed it to be “hostile,” possibly 
a Canadian bauxite carrier. At 10:12 p.m., he fired a bow torpedo at it. 
“Hit in the after-ship. Mighty explosion with resulting dark-black smoke, 
which immediately envelops the entire ship.” The vessel disappeared so 
quickly that he thought it loaded with explosives. His hunch had been 
right. It was the Canadian 1,905-ton freighter Mont Louis, en route from 
Paramaribo, Dutch Guiana, to Trinidad. 

Thereafter, the sea was empty. The radio room picked up urgent long- 
wave calls from “Navy Commander Bermuda” to Georgetown and Para- 
maribo warning ships to avoid “area seven.” The Old Man remembered 
from his days on the Graf Spee that British merchantmen used numbered 
codes for specific areas of the ocean. He decided to head for the more 


8: Hunting Off the Orinoco 149 


promising coast of Guiana, where he would hook up with Hartenstein in 
U-156. 

Once again, his decision proved to be right. Just before sunrise on 
May 12, still well off Barbados, the watch reported “Mast tops at 253 
degrees.” He pursued. Time for another submerged attack using the 
stern tubes. At 1:49 p.m., he fired two torpedoes; both missed the target. 
Wattenberg refused to give up. At 8 p.m., he was again in position to fire. 
But the target veered wildly off course, apparently hoping to ram U-162. 
Wattenberg coolly dived under the hostile at full power and came up on 
its other side. “Stern shot hits amidships, immediately causes oil bunkers 
to explode, so that a column of fire lights the entire ship for one minute.” 
‘The victim stopped and put its lifeboats in the water. Its captain reported 
it to be the 7,699-ton Standard Oil tanker Esso Houston, with a full load of 
crude from Aruba to Montevideo — scene of the Graf Spee disaster in 1939. 
Wattenberg delivered the coup de grace with another “eel.” 

U-162 stayed in the target-rich environment of Grid Quadrant EE 73. 
At 4 p.m. on May 13, it came across another tanker. After a three-hour 
chase, Wattenberg ran a nighttime surface attack: a single torpedo struck 
the target and caused a single column of flame to rise, but no further 
detonation. It blew alarm whistles. Its crew manned the stern gun and 
began to fire at U-162. “Immediately set out to renew attack from the 
East.” Another bow shot: the tanker saw the telltale bubbles of the “Ato,” 
heeled hard to starboard and avoided a hit. It continued to fire. Furious, 
Wattenberg plotted a new approach. At 1:39 a.m. on May 14, he fired 
a double spread. “Hit astern. High detonation columns combined with 
bright red fire flames, caused by a fuel bunker explosion on the target.” 
‘The crew took to the lifeboats. 

Still, the tanker remained afloat. Another torpedo failed to send it 
down. Wattenberg fired yet another torpedo at the target. “Huge fire 
flames combined with pervading black smoke clouds.” The tanker burned 
furiously and finally slid beneath the waves. Its captain informed Watten- 
berg that he had destroyed the 6,917-ton tanker British Colony, en route 
from Trinidad to Gibraltar. The kill had cost ten hours and six torpedoes. 
Later that night, Wattenberg had the last four “eels” brought below decks. 
Kernével radioed that a Wehrmacht communiqué reported 21 ships of 
113,000 tons sunk in the Caribbean and singled out U-162 and U-156 for 


150 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


praise. “Jubilation and pride” throughout the boat, the Old Man wrote in 
the war diary. “Douglas” squealed joyfully as ever. 


3k ok ok 


The initial Allied reaction to the spring U-boat offensive in the Caribbean 
was to put temporary halts to shipping, especially of tankers and bauxite 
carriers. Tanker traffic under Allied control was stopped in mid-February 
and mid-April; bauxite traffic was stopped after Nicolai Clausen’s first 
predations east of Trinidad with U-129. But clearly, this was no long-term 
answer to the Caribbean attacks. At a sequence of meetings of the US, 
Royal, and Royal Canadian Navies in Washington and Ottawa in late 
spring 1942, several key decisions were made regarding the Caribbean. 
British escort group B5, consisting of the Royal Navy destroyer HMS 
Havelock and four Flower-class corvettes, were to be taken off the North 
Atlantic run and sent to the Caribbean. The Royal Navy escort group was 
to receive air cover from No. 63 Squadron Royal Air Force (Coastal Com- 
mand), consisting of 20 Lockheed Hudson twin-engine bombers based at 
Trinidad. 

A Canadian escort group of four corvettes and an occasional destroy- 
er would escort tankers from the Caribbean to the east coast of Canada. 
Admiral Ernest J. King also redoubled his efforts to convince President 
Roosevelt to support the building of destroyer escorts, which eventual- 
ly began to appear in the Caribbean — but not for another year at least. 
‘The withdrawal of the British and Canadian escorts from North Atlantic 
convoy duty forced Britain to “open out” the convoy cycle — stretching 
the time of departure between convoys — while shortening the North At- 
lantic voyage by sending convoys on a more northerly route.° Both moves 
resulted in a decrease of tonnage reaching Britain. To this extent at least, 
D6nitz’s tonnage war in the Caribbean directly affected the Battle of the 
Atlantic. 

‘The first convoys to sail in the Caribbean appeared in the first half 
of May; within the next two months, a complicated network of convoys 
was put in place that locked into the new coastal convoys off the US 
coast. Some convoys proceeded directly to Britain from the Caribbean via 
Bermuda or Gibraltar, while others — mostly bauxite carriers — traveled 


8: Hunting Off the Orinoco DST 


between the waters off eastern Trinidad along the east coast of South 
America as far as the bulge on the Brazilian coast. Some of the prime 
routes were Halifax-Aruba-Halifax, Trinidad-Aruba/Curacao-Trinidad, 
Aruba-Guantanamo-Aruba, Aruba-Colén-Aruba, Guantanamo-New 
York-Guantanamo, Key West-New York-Key West, and Key West-Texas- 
Key West.’ 

On May 20, U-155 Kapitanleutnant Adolf Piening in U-155 spotted 
the first large convoy sailing from New York to Trinidad. The 31-year-old 
Piening had taken command of the brand new Type [XC boat in August 
1941; this was only its second war patrol, but Piening had already sunk 
six ships of 33,500 tons. The Kaleu approached the convoy off Venezuela’s 
Testigos Islands, 110 miles northwest of Port of Spain. He was spotted 
by the US Navy four-stack destroyer Upshur and dove to trail the convoy 
as it sailed toward the Dragon’s Mouth entrance to the Gulf of Paria. At 
dawn, about 40 miles out, Piening sank the Panamanian-registry 7,800- 
ton Sylvan Arrow. At Curagao the tanker had taken on 125,000 tons of 
bunker oil, which quickly blew all over the ship and burst into flames. 
U-155 received the usual plastering by depth-charges from Upshur and a 
patrol craft but escaped without damage.* 

‘The introduction of a convoy system into the Caribbean certainly did 
the “gray sharks” no service, but it did not hinder them much either. Sink- 
ings for the balance of May and June continued at a rate of from one to 
two ships per day. The convoy system in the Caribbean could never be 
as effective in fighting off, or avoiding, submarine attack as it was in the 
North Atlantic. There, the space was so vast that a convoy could shift 
course and avoid a U-boat concentration if intelligence indicated that subs 
were gathering on its track. Once a convoy left the east coast, wheth- 
er Halifax or Sydney in the early days of the war or New York later, it 
was in the open sea, and even the largest convoys could be difficult for 
the U-boats to find. Aside from the Strait of Belle Isle, which was only 
infrequently used, there were no narrow seas, nor “chokepoints” where 
subs could lie in wait for traffic. But the Caribbean was much smaller, 
meaning that convoys that attempted to take alternate routings to avoid 
U-boats were usually easily found; and the Caribbean was ringed with 
chokepoints. From the Florida Straits east and south along the arc of the 
island chain, the Windward Passage, the Mona Passage, and the rest of 


152 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


the narrow waters between the islands offered excellent ambush points. 
After all, at some point in time all the ships moving in the Caribbean Sea, 
except for inter-island traffic, had to enter or exit the Caribbean basin. 
And when they did, the “gray sharks” were often waiting for them. 


took ok 


With Hartenstein’s U-156 moving into Barbados waters, Wattenberg took 
U-162 into Bridgetown Roads. ‘The harbor was devoid of targets, but the 
shore was lit up as in peacetime. He could clearly make out brightly lit 
fishing boats, houses, and cars. He returned to the open sea. At 3:22 a.m. 
on May 17, the watch spied a tanker, but given that dawn was not far away 
and that he was well within range of land-based aircraft, Wattenberg de- 
cided to track it until he was in optimum position to attack. At 9 p.m., he 
fired two “eels” at the tanker. One hit. “The 1st torpedo exploded with a 
high black-gray detonation column. ‘The fo’c’sle broke in half.” The tanker 
sent its crew off in lifeboats and Wattenberg fired the coup de grace at the 
flaming hulk. “Hit amidships and caused the ship to sink in 10 minutes 
after showing a gigantic fireball and heavy smoke.” Its captain revealed 
it to be the British 6,852-ton tanker Beth, bound from Trinidad to Free- 
town. A single crew member lost his life. 

On May 18, Wattenberg dispatched a lengthy radiogram to Kernével, 
summarizing his experiences off Venezuela and Barbados. Enemy 
antisubmarine activity from the air was “minimal,” that from surface ves- 
sels “absent.” He deemed Quadrant EE 71 to be the “chokepoint” for all 
West Indies traffic bound for Gibraltar, Freetown, and South America. 
His experience with Athelempress convinced him that single “eels” could 
not sink crude-oil tankers and that the deck gun was inadequate to do the 
job. Bauxite carriers, on the other hand, were easy game. His bag to date: 
nine ships of 47,162 tons.’ 

Wattenberg had only a single old “Ato” torpedo left in the tubes and 
67 rounds for the 10.5-cm deck gun. He decided to head for Quadrants 
EE 30 to 60 in hopes of sinking a “capital South American” target as a 
“Whitsuntide roast.” But the sea remained empty for the next five days. 
‘The radio room intercepted a news flash from the Transocean Press Ser- 
vice stating that the United States had ordered a halt to all shipping in 


8: Hunting Off the Orinoco 153 


the area to save bottoms for the vital supply line to Britain. Wattenberg 
decided to return to the coast of Guiana, to fire his last torpedo at a tanker 
and perhaps to destroy some sailboats with the deck gun. 

“Whitsuntide roast at 183 degrees!” came the call from the bridge 
at 6 p.m. on May 23. “Another tanker. Jubilation throughout the boat.” 
Wattenberg decided to “dine” on the target under the cover of darkness. 
At 1:28 a.m., he fired his last torpedo. It harmlessly raced by the bow of 
the tanker, which for some reason had suddenly reduced speed. Had it 
spied the boat, or the torpedo’s bubbles? The sea churned up to Force 5. 
No weather for an artillery attack. 

Wattenberg shaped a course for Lorient. Ahead lay 12 days of the re- 
turn “garbage tour.” U-162 tied up to the hulk Jsére in Lorient at 7:10 a.m. 
on June 8, 1942. It proudly flew ten sinking pennants, including three 
black ones for tankers, from its periscope tubes. There was the custom- 
ary military band, the welcoming Blitzmdadchen, the post-patrol feast at 
Flotilla Headquarters, and crew rotations. “Total distance covered 9657.3 
nautical miles” was the last clinical entry in the war diary. “Douglas” was 
ceremoniously handed over to Commander Viktor Schiitze of 2* U-Boat 
Flotilla for “safekeeping.” 

Admiral Dénitz read U-162’s war diary with great interest. He was 
pleased: “Good and superbly conducted operation. The commander ex- 
ploited well the numerous chances for success and achieved a very good 
success. Very good firing technique.” Wattenberg had atoned for his first 
war patrol. 

The second wave of Neuland boats had enjoyed a “merry month of 
May,” sinking 78 per cent of the total bag of 109 Allied ships destroyed 
that month. The Caribbean boats alone destroyed more tonnage than was 
coming down US slipways. The simple mathematics of Dénitz’s “tonnage 
war” was proving to be on target and the admiral looked toward sum- 
mer 1942 with high expectations. With a few notable exceptions, neither 
Allied surface patrols nor Allied aircraft had caused German command- 
ers much concern. Despite the introduction of convoys, merchant ships 
— and especially tankers — continued to move as single units rather than in 
the convoys. The deployment of the U-boat tankers, the so-called “milk 
cows,” promised even greater operational time on station. Dénitz was de- 
termined to dispatch a third wave of New Land boats to the Caribbean at 


154 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


the earliest possible moment. This time, he would send them out in groups 
of three or four to maintain steady pressure in that theater of the war. 


3 ok ok 


As the Lorient boats in staggered formations began to head out once more 
for the Golden West, Dénitz used the transit time to reassess Operation 
Neuland with Adolf Hitler and Grand Admiral Erich Raeder. He re- 
mained ever the optimist. On May 14, 1942, he reassured Hitler that the 
“race between enemy new construction and U-boat sinkings” was “in no 
way hopeless.”"! The U-boat war was a simple matter of “combat against 
enemy merchant tonnage.” He regarded Britain and the United States 
“as one!” The trick was to deploy the U-boats where they could do the 
most damage with the lowest risk. They were sending some 700,000 tons 
of enemy shipping to the bottom of the seas every month — more than 
enough to stay ahead of US shipbuilding. Thanks to the U-boat tankers, 
the Type [XC boats could operate in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mex- 
ico for four to five weeks. Finally, Dénitz informed his Fuhrer that US 
antisubmarine warfare remained woefully incompetent. “American flyers 
cannot see anything; destroyers and their air escorts operate at too high 
speeds ... and they are not sufficiently tough in pursuing depth charge 
attacks after detecting U-boats.” In short, there was every reason to expect 
summer 1942 to bring another rich harvest in the Caribbean.” 

As soon as the third wave of New Land boats approached the Carib- 
bean, Donitz in a “secret assessment” reminded his commanders that 
Allied ASW efforts were largely ineffective. “Clumsy, questionable con- 
duct. Overall impression: security forces lack training and toughness; 
U-boats superior. Little ASDIC.” While there was moderate air cover in 
the Windward Islands and the Mona Passage, and “somewhat stronger” 
air cover off Curacao and Trinidad, Allied surface ASW forces remained 
“inconsequential.” 


3 ok ok 


Albrecht Achilles’ U-161 had barely spent three weeks at Lorient for re- 
pairs, refitting, and resupply before it, along with U-126 and U-128, was 


8: Hunting Off the Orinoco 155 


ordered out at the end of April 1942. Destination: Fernando de Noronha 
Island, off the eastern “bulge” of Brazil. Several old friends from the “first 
wave” (U-156, U-162, and U-502) would soon follow. 

On May 11, off the Cape Verde Islands, Achilles ran across a large, 
well-protected convoy. The 12 ships of SL-109 were arranged in three 
columns and screened by what the Kaleu took to be a dozen escorts. He 
realized that the enemy had learned some hard lessons. For three days 
and three nights, U-161 was repeatedly forced to crash dive by energetic 
depth-charge attacks by the escorts. Several times, the boat shook violent- 
ly as the bombs exploded close by. China and glass gauges shattered. Fresh 
food rolled on the floor. Lights blew out. Nerves were on edge. At night, 
a barrage of star shell illuminated the ocean and betrayed the U-boat’s 
whereabouts; during daytime, the hostiles had an uncanny ability to pin- 
point its position. Achilles informed U-Boat Command: “Enemy operates 
very effectively with listening device.” In fact, it was the new ship-borne 
“High-Frequency Direction-Finding” (HF/DF or “Huff-Duff”) that was 
causing U-161 such grief. 

Do6nitz ordered the boats to abandon their chase of SL-109 and to 
shape a course for their designated operations area off Brazil. But Hitler 
was uneasy about declaring Brazil a war zone and hence, on May 15, 
Do6nitz issued new orders. While the boats were still to proceed to Fer- 
nando de Noronha Island, thereafter they were immediately to work their 
way northwest, up the coast of Brazil toward British Guiana and the Less- 
er Antilles. There, they were to disperse. Unsurprisingly, “the ferret of 
Port of Spain” headed back to his old hunting grounds off Trinidad. 

‘The site of his former triumphs had been radically transformed: al- 
most every day during the first week of June, Achilles ruefully entered 
terse, telling comments into the war diary: “Alarm! Aircraft,” “Alarm! 
Flying boat!” Every time U-161 surfaced, it was met by an aircraft, some- 
times by two or more. They came out of the sun or through heavy rain 
clouds. They came by day and they came by night. They were bombers 
or flying boats. They delivered a constant hail of aerial bombs, star shell, 
machine-gun, and rocket fire. 

Shortly after surfacing around midnight on June 9, Able Seaman 
Otto Tietz had the bridge watch. “Alarm! An aircraft mounting lanterns 
is approaching the boat over the stern.” The rest of the watch split their 


156 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


sides laughing. “Dear Able Seaman,” one of the lookouts chided Tietz, 
“have you ever heard of an aircraft having identified a U-boat by night on 
the surface?” In seconds, the drone of the plane’s engines could be heard. 
“Alarm! Emergency Dive!” Three bursts of star shell illuminated the dark 
waters around the boat. Then, three aerial bombs detonated in the water, 
the last one “severely rattling” the slender craft as it began to slip beneath 
the waves. 

“Damage report. At once!” Chief Engineer Heinrich Klaassens was as 
efficient as ever. “Damaged: depth-regulator motor, gyrostabilizer, mag- 
netic compass, depth-pressure gauge, all water-gauge glasses.” For the rest 
of the night, U-161 stood out to sea while Klaassens and his technical 
crew undertook what repairs they could. U-161 had just survived its first 
encounter with the Leigh Light, the suspected “lanterns” swinging from 
under the plane’s fuselage.’ 

After endless days of tropical rain showers and almost daily attacks 
from the air, Achilles surfaced off the Dragon’s Mouth, the northern exit 
of the Gulf of Paria. The heat and humidity in the boat were unbearable. 
The men desperately needed fresh air and a few hours of rest. They got 
neither. As soon as U-161 broke the surface around 5 p.m. on June 13, 
the watch spied a tanker, then a freighter. For most of the night, Achilles 
shadowed the freighter. In fact, he had discovered a large convoy on an 
easterly course. 

“Ajax” awaited the convoy’s arrival at periscope depth just off the Los 
Testigos Islands. At 3:34 p.m., the merchantmen and their escorts hove 
in sight. 

“4 columns of 4 freighters each; one destroyer each on the port and 
the starboard side.” He took the boat down to position it between the two 
inner columns, “where the larger freighters are.” ‘The escort off the star- 
board side was already launching depth charges. How had it ascertained 
the U-boat’s position? Time: 6:12 p.m. Range: 1,250 meters. He fired two 
bow shots. The usual slight jolt and the G7a torpedoes were on their way 
to the targets. After one minute and 20 seconds, Achilles heard a muffled 
detonation. Through the attack periscope he could see two columns of 
water rising from the side of a large freighter. 

“Alarm! Alarm!” The hydrophone operator was screaming that, apart 
from the high-pitched whine of the torpedoes, he could hear the dull 


8: Hunting Off the Orinoco 157 


thrashing of a freighter’s propeller blades. In his excitement, Achilles had 
brought the boat too close to the foremost ship on the starboard middle 
column. “Hard a-port! Both engines full ahead! Down periscope!” It was 
too late. With a sickening feeling in his stomach, Achilles witnessed the 
horrendous screech and rending of metal as one of the freighters scraped 
along the entire starboard side of the boat. U-161 heeled hard to port. The 
steamer ground away part of the conning tower and the “shark’s teeth” net 
cutter on the bow. As U-161 righted itself, water trickled into the boat: the 
hostile had also sheared off several of the radio dipoles and jumping wire 
on the conning tower. But the pressure hull remained intact. Achilles at 
once took the boat down to 150 meters. The men in U-161 could hear the 
distant thunder of depth charges exploding. 

The Old Man apprised the crew of what had taken place over the 
intercom. “We just barely managed to escape that one. At the last moment, 
with rudder hard to port and full power on both engines, we managed to 
avoid a fat freighter and to bring in the periscope.... Perhaps they saw the 
periscope when I ran it out for the attack.” He was always straight with 
his men. 

After an hour, U-161 came up to periscope depth. The convoy had 
broken up, ships heading in all directions. The two destroyers were fran- 
tically working the strays like sheepdogs, trying to regroup the lost vessels. 
“Ajax” could make out only eight remaining targets. Since it was still light, 
he decided to stay down. At 10 p.m., he brought U-161 to the surface to 
survey the scene and to inspect the damage to the boat. He was barely 
able to squeeze through the damaged bridge tower hatch. An awful sight 
greeted him. ‘The collision had bent the starboard shielding of the tower 
inward. On the outer tower, some radio dipoles and jumping wire were 
gone, as was the starboard antenna. ‘The spray deflector had been ripped 
from the bridge. Both the bow and the stern net cutter on the starboard 
side had been cleanly sheared off. But neither of the periscopes had been 
damaged.” It had been a close call. Too damned close. 

The convoy was nowhere to be seen. The detonation of ammunition 
aboard U-161’s target had caused chaos within the convoy, and its captains 
had taken evasive action in every conceivable direction to avoid plowing 
into the burning wreck. Achilles had alerted Jiirgen von Rosenstiel to 
the whereabouts of the convoy, and it is likely that U-502 torpedoed the 


158 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


American 8,001-ton freighter Scottsburg out of New York, bound for the 
Persian Gulf with 10,500 tons of general cargo and war material, includ- 
ing five tanks and seven bombers, as well as the 5,010-ton freighter Cold 
Harbor, en route from New York to Basra, Iraq, with seven aircraft and 28 
tanks on board."* The unrequited slaughter of Allied shipping continued. 
So far, not a single Neuland submarine had been lost. But that was about 
to change. 


8: Hunting Off the Orinoco 159 


WAR BENEATH 
THE SOUTHERN CROSS 


On June 1, 1942, the brand new Type [XC U-157 departed Lorient under 
the command of Korvettenkapitan Wolf Henne, bound for the waters 
between the Bahamas and Cuba. Born in 1905 at Fuzhou, China, Henne 
had joined the navy in 1924 and had served mainly on torpedo-boats until 
he was seconded to the Submarine Service in March 1941. U-157 set 
course for the mouth of the Mississippi River via the Old Bahama Chan- 
nel and the Florida Straits. It arrived off the north coast of Cuba less than 
two weeks later. Just before midnight on June 10, Henne spied the lone 
American 6,400-ton tanker Hagan running northeast at about ten knots. 
It was carrying 22,000 barrels of blackstrap molasses from New Orleans 
and Antilla to Havana. At 2 a.m. the next morning, the Kaleu fired two 
torpedoes at Hagan; one struck its starboard quarter below the waterline 
in the engine room; the other the port side fuel bunkers, spraying burning 
oil over the ship. The tanker sank rapidly by the stern, but 38 crew mem- 
bers managed to scramble into two life boats and make their way to shore.' 

The Commander of the Gulf Sea Frontier, Rear Admiral James L. 
Kauffman, ordered “all available forces, both air and surface ... to hunt 
this submarine to exhaustion and destroy it.”? A radar-equipped Army Air 
Forces B-18 out of Key West spotted U-157 on the surface at first light 
on June 11. It swooped in for the attack. But the bomber’s bay doors were 
not fully open as it passed low over U-157: a startled Henne executed an 
emergency dive as the B-18 swung around for a second pass at 300 feet. 
‘This time it dropped four depth bombs, but all missed their mark. Henne 
apparently surfaced as soon as the hostile disappeared because U-157 was 


161 


spotted about four miles further west very shortly after by a Pan American 
World Airways passenger plane. 

Admiral Kauffman dispatched more B-18s to search the area while a 
small flotilla of 14 antisubmarine warfare vessels sortied from the ASW 
schools at Miami and Key West to the waters east of the Florida Straits 
between Key West and Havana. ‘The force included several old destroy- 
ers — Noa, Dahlgren, and Greer — as well as the Coast Guard cutters Thetis 
and Triton. The surface vessels failed to make contact during daylight on 
the 11th, but a B-18 flying from Key West spotted U-157 on its radar 
after nightfall the next day. Henne was running doggedly for the Gulf of 
Mexico under the cover of darkness. Kauffman recalled the Miami ships 
but ordered the force from Key West to search the area about 90 miles 
southeast of there. 

USS Thetis was a 165-foot “B” Class cutter designed and built to en- 
force prohibition. It and its Thefis-class sister ships were created to patrol 
the offshore waters of the United States to detain smugglers’ mother ships 
that offloaded illegal alcohol to smaller, speedier vessels, which took their 
cargoes ashore. But as Thetis patrolled the waters between Florida and 
Cuba on June 13, 1942, booze was the last thing on the mind of its com- 
mander officer, Lieutenant Nelson C. McCormick. His academic career 
was far from distinguished — he had graduated near the bottom of his 
Coast Guard Academy class in 1935 and, as a consequence, only received 
a temporary commission until late 1937. But by 1942, he had served on 
three different cutters and in command of Dione had gained a good deal of 
experience hunting submarines off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. 

Thetis began its search for U-157 at about 2:00 p.m. on June 13. Two 
hours later, the cutter’s soundman picked up a solid contact. McCor- 
mick ordered an immediate depth-charge attack, heeling Thetis about at 
14 knots and charging straight over the target. He dropped seven depth 
charges from the stern racks at five-second intervals and two more off 
both sides by the cutter’s “Y” guns. They were set for 200 and 300 feet, 
and it was not long before debris and fuel oil roiled to the surface. ‘The 
crew fished a couple of pairs of leather pants, some wood planking and 
an empty grease tube with “Made in Diisseldorf” from the water. Five 
other ships made runs on the target, but Thetis was given credit for the 


162 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


kill. U-157 was the first German casualty of the Caribbean campaign. ‘The 
second was to be U-158. 

Like U-157, U-158 was on its second war patrol, having departed 
Lorient for the Gulf of Mexico on May 4 under the command of Kapitin- 
leutnant Erwin Rostin. He had joined the navy in 1933 and commanded 
the minesweepers /-98 and M-21 before joining the Submarine Service 
in March 1941. On his first war patrol off the US east coast, Rostin had 
sunk or damaged seven ships of 54,049 tons. He began his second war 
patrol, en route to the Gulf of Mexico, on May 20, by torpedoing the Brit- 
ish 8,113-ton tanker Darina. His next sinking came two days later — the 
Canadian 1,748-ton cargo ship Frank B. Bair. But Rostin’s greatest suc- 
cesses were scored after U-Boat Command ordered him to pass the Flor- 
ida Straits and to patrol the coast of Mexico from the Yucatan Channel to 
Tampico, the country’s primary oil port. In what was to become the most 
successful war patrol by any U-boat in the Americas, between May 20 and 
June 29, Rostin sank twelve ships of 62,500 tons.> On June 28, Admiral 
Karl Donitz radioed the Kaleu the news that he had been awarded the 
Knight’s Cross. Rostin then headed home, again via the Florida Straits.‘ 

Rostin was a skilled U-boat commander who had chalked up a total of 
19 ships of 116,500 tons sunk or damaged on his two war patrols. But, like 
his fellow skippers, he had a bad habit (as ordered) of constantly reporting 
to Dénitz in Paris. Even though the Allies could not read his signals, they 
could follow his call signs and triangulate his positions with High-Fre- 
quency Direction-Finding. As a result, Rostin was tracked almost daily as 
he dodged American ASW patrols in the Florida Straits and headed for 
Bermuda on his way back to Lorient. On June 29, he stopped the Latvian 
3,950-ton freighter Everalda and forced its crew to scuttle it under threat 
of shelling from his 10.5-cm deck gun. This, too, he reported to Paris. 
And this signal was also picked up and an estimate made of his speed and 
course.° 

At 3:45 p.m. on June 30, a new US Navy Martin Mariner from Patrol 
Squadron 74 (VP-74) flown by Lieutenant Richard E. Schreder, a naval 
reservist based at Hamilton, Bermuda, searched for U-158 in the waters 
near that island. The Mariner was a large twin-engine flying boat, which 
had first entered US Navy service in the fall of 1940. With a range in 
excess of 3,500 miles, radar-equipped, and a large carrying capacity for 


9: War Beneath the Southern Cross 163 














The Consolidated “Mariner” (PBM-3) served the US Navy as a patrol bomber or 
transport. The crew of nine men was armed with 50-calibre machine guns and bombs. 
Source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, 
[reproduction number, LC-DIG-fsa-8b08013 (digital file from original neg.)]. 


ASW weapons, it was an ideal sub hunter. While flying above scattered 
cumulous clouds at 3,500 feet, Schreder’s radar man detected a target 
three miles off the starboard beam.° It was carelessly running on the sur- 
face. Schreder, flying at 175 knots, swung the Mariner to the right while 
descending rapidly through the clouds before steadying on a course right 
up the U-boat’s stern, 75 to 100 feet above the water. It took a minute- 
and-a-half before the large flying boat was on U-158’s wake. 

The Mariner’s bow machine guns opened fire and jammed almost im- 
mediately. Schreder was now so close to the sub that he could see “about 
fifteen men” lounging on the bridge tower and looking up at his aircraft. 
Two demolition bombs and two Mark XVII depth charges were ready 
in the plane’s open bomb bay, but the demolition bombs failed to release. 
Of the two Mark XVIIs dropped, one exploded under the submarine’s 


164 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


stern and the other crashed through the wooden deck slats about 15 feet 
aft of the tower and lodged there. At about the same moment as the first 
charge exploded under the stern, U-158 began a crash dive. The Mariner 
flew over the boat and as Schreder set up to make another attack, a large 
explosion rent the sea and a very large dark oil slick began to spread on the 
surface. Schreder later concluded that the second depth charge, wedged 
against the U-boat’s hull, must have blown up when the submarine des- 
cended to the depth at which the charge was set to explode. It was the end 
of Rostin and U-158. 


3 ok ok 


The cruel nature of the U-boat war for Allied merchantmen was an in- 
dividual affair — survival or death — from master down to seaman. When 
Albrecht Achilles’ U-161 torpedoed the 8,000-ton steamer Scottsburg in 
the engine room and the number one hold off Grenada around dusk on 
June 14, Merchant Seaman Archie C. Gibbs joined 43 of his mates in 
two lifeboats.” The next morning they were spotted by two patrol planes, 
as was a lifeboat with survivors from the 5,000-ton steamer Cold Har- 
bor, which Jiirgen von Rosenstiel had sunk northwest of Trinidad that 
same day. By afternoon, the 6,062-ton Matson Line freighter Kahuku had 
rescued the 112 men in the three lifeboats. Since Kahuku had only two 
lifeboats, Master Eric Johanson decided to tow a third boat behind his 
ship — just in case. He shaped a course for Trinidad. 

Kahuku never made it. Some time after 9 p.m., about 90 miles west of 
Grenada, Ernst Bauer’s U-126 dispatched Johanson’s vessel with a single 
torpedo. The men on board panicked and lowered the two lifeboats while 
Kahuku was still moving; 17 drowned as a result of their rash action. Gibbs 
made for the ship’s stern and slid down a rope to his old lifeboat. He missed 
the raft as it glided by in the darkness. He retrieved a flashlight from a 
small bag around his neck and frantically began to signal for help. It came 
quickly — in the form of U-126. Fished out of the water by Bauer’s crew, 
Gibbs was taken to the conning tower and for an hour watched helplessly 
as the Kaleu fired two more torpedoes into the Kahuku, then finished it off 
with 30 rounds from the deck gun. Later, Gibbs was fed what he called a 
“poor” diet of canned stew, vegetables, apricots, and peaches. 


9: War Beneath the Southern Cross 165 


On the morning of June 18, Kapitanleutnant Bauer brought his cap- 
tive up on deck. A small motor skiff, the Venezuelan Minataora, stood 
off to the side. The skipper ordered Gibbs to swim for it. He was hauled 
out of the water. By way of pigdin English and hand signs, he was in- 
formed that the vessel was carrying food and six cases of rum — as well as 
two Venezuelan prostitutes en route from LaGuaira. Some 40 miles off 
Willemstad, an unidentified U-boat fired five rounds from a machine gun 
at the Minataora and hailed it to halt. The U-boat’s captain ordered yet 
another Allied sailor to swim toward his rescue. Later that day, Gibbs and 
his companion were safely landed in the Curacao capital. 

Saving survivors almost never occurred in the cold seas of the North 
Atlantic. There, bad weather, rough seas, darkness, the need for the U-boats 
to keep moving under the growing threat of Allied escorts and ASW air- 
craft — not to mention official policy which forbade rescuing survivors — 
all militated against such efforts. But the warm waters of the Caribbean 
and the more leisurely pace of life on board the U-boats seemed to create 
a more permissive attitude toward the rescue of one or two individuals. 
Besides, the U-boat commanders liked to surface alongside boatloads of 
survivors, question the crew as to the name, course, and cargo of their 
ship, and even pass over food and water to ease their passage somewhat. 
‘These very real events, combined with the ever-present rumors of U-boats 
re-provisioning at Vichy French Martinique, led to bizarre tales of what 
German submariners did when they were not sinking merchantmen. 

Uninhabited islands off the Yucatan Peninsula, in the Bahamas, and 
in the Virgin Islands were havens for submarine crews who could air out 
their boats, swim in the warm Gulf Stream waters and catch fresh fish. 
One prominent historian of the Caribbean campaign writes: “Nearly all 
the boats in those golden days [the early period of the campaign] took 
an occasional day off to rest and recuperate.” He tells of boats stopping 
at small obscure ports to buy provisions and even “female company.” The 
most intriguing tale — never substantiated — tells of a U-boat commander 
stopping a small inter-island steamer and, after warning the captain not 
to continue on his journey, producing ticket stubs to a movie then being 
shown in Port of Spain’s leading theater and highly recommending the 
movie.* 


166 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


3 ok ok 


After he had torpedoed the Scottsburg at dusk on June 14, Achilles decided 
to head west to scour the eastern terminus of the Panama Canal for prey. 
En route, he came across the small Dominican sailing vessel Nueva Alta- 
gracia. It was a wonderful bag, full of fresh fruit and chickens. “Ajax” took 
its crew of eight on board and dispatched the 30-tonner with a single shot 
from the deck gun. Once underway again, U-161’s cook, Helmut Baier, 
decided to relieve the monotony of the war patrol. As the eight Dominic- 
ans huddled on the foredeck, Baier suddenly appeared from the forward 
hatch — scruffy beard, flowing blond wig, bare upper torso smeared with 
cooking oil, and a long butcher knife in his hand. Menacingly, he strode 
up and down the line of captives before selecting a frightened young cabin 
boy — to pluck the dead chickens still lying on the deck.’ After a delightful 
dinner that night, Achilles stopped another Dominican sailboat, Ciudad 
Trujillo, “liberated” more fresh fruit, threw its cargo of corn overboard, 
and placed his eight captives aboard for transport to Curacao. On June 
20, U-161 effected a prearranged rendezvous with Helmut Witte’s U-159. 
Lying under the protection of the Venezuelan shore, the two boats tied 
up alongside one another. Achilles took on 20 cbm of fuel oil and rations 
for seven weeks. 

Day after day, tropical rain showers pelted the boat and made life 
below decks a humid, moldy hell. By June 22, U-161 stood off Coldén, 
Panama. Achilles was quickly reminded yet again of how the balance in 
the U-war was shifting. The port was defended by a small armada of de- 
stroyers. Tethered observation balloons kept a sharp lookout for intrud- 
ers while flying boats and wheeled aircraft constantly buzzed overhead. 
U-161 was forced to remain submerged for most of the rest of June. On the 
few occasions when it dared surface, tropical showers and the heavy spray 
produced by the strong trade winds reduced visibility to a few meters. 

After being driven below the surface four times by aircraft on June 30, 
Achilles shaped a course for Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. From offshore, 
he spied smoke rising from the port’s piers. It was almost too good to be 
true: a perfect repeat of his earlier attacks on Port of Spain and Castries. 
In broad daylight, just before 2 p.m. on July 2, he took the submerged 
U-161 into the harbor, carefully weaving his way around rock formations 


9: War Beneath the Southern Cross 167 


and sandbars. Tied up at the pier was a single steamer of the United Fruit 
Company. Achilles retraced his steps out to sea, determined to deal with 
the vessel later that night." 

At 10 p.m., U-161 was back inside Puerto Limén harbor. ‘The piers 
were well lit and the city only partially darkened. Range: 1,650 meters. 
Achilles fired two “eels” from the stern tubes. Both ran true. “After 
105 seconds, first hit under the bridge at 1,650 meters. High fire col- 
umn, steamer goes down by the bow.” ‘The second torpedo hit amidships. 
“Strong, bright detonation.” Then the freighter disappeared from view as 
the lights in the port were doused. Still, Achilles had been able to make 
a positive identification: “Steamer was American ‘San Pablo,’ 3,305 tons.” 
The torpedoes had struck as the freighter was unloading its cargo; one 
crew member and 23 stevedores died in its hold. As confusion and fear 
gripped the port, “Ajax” once again made good his escape. 

‘The sinking of the San Pablo greatly alarmed US authorities. If a sin- 
gle U-boat could penetrate Puerto Limon with impunity, then Colon, just 
100 miles away guarding the Panama Canal, surely was equally vulner- 
able. Within days, work began on a massive minefield across the mouth 
of the port; coastal defense guns and infantry arrived; US Navy vessels 
were routinely stationed at Limon; and construction had begun on an air- 
field. Yet again, with a single dashing entry into a harbor, Achilles had set 
in motion a gigantic Allied effort to defend Caribbean ports against the 
feared “ferret.” 

By now down to 45 cbm of fuel oil, Achilles decided to return to 
Lorient, more than 4,000 nautical miles to the east. He drove U-161 past 
Jamaica and left the Caribbean via the Windward Passage, off the coast of 
Haiti. To keep the crew alert, shortly after 9 a.m. on July 16, he ordered 
a practice dive some 500 miles north of the Virgin Islands. “Alarm! Con- 
voy at 300 degrees!” The bridge watch had spotted the fast convoy AS-4 
headed for Sierra Leone. Its freighters were arranged in four columns and 
seemed to be escorted by only two Gleaves-class destroyers. Achilles de- 
cided at once to position U-161 inside the convoy, between the escorts and 
the biggest steamers. The sea was smooth as glass. But this time “Ajax” had 
put his hand in the proverbial wasps’ nest. AS-4 was a special fast military 
convoy out of New York on personal orders from President Franklin D. 
Roosevelt to resupply British Eighth Army after it had been driven out of 


168 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


Tobruk and back to Egypt by Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps. Hence, it 
was especially well escorted by two cruisers and seven destroyers. 

U-161’s hydrophone operator picked up the deadly ASDIC “pings” at 
3,000 meters.!' Undaunted, Achilles maneuvered the boat to loose a full 
bow spread at the nearest large vessels. He was about to fire, when at 9:42 
a.m. the entire convoy sharply wheeled ten degrees to starboard. There was 
not a moment to lose. Four torpedoes raced out of their tubes. After 215 
seconds, the Kaleu heard what he called a “short, weak, cracking detona- 
tion” at 3,300 meters. No visible confirmation. Thirty-four seconds later, 
he saw two detonations on what he took to be a 9,000-ton freighter. No 
confirmation of a hit from the fourth shot. “Emergency Dive!” Achilles 
took the boat down to 160 meters. He heard another explosion, perhaps 
the victim’s engines, bulkheads, or cargo. Then depth charges went off all 
around U-161 “in no discernible pattern.” The blasts from the detonations 
ruptured the outer door of Tube I and the balance valve in Tube II; sea 
water seeped into the boat through both tubes; the bilge-pump filter in 
the control room began to leak. Nothing serious, Klaassens assured him. 

After an hour, Achilles brought U-161 up to periscope depth. A de- 
stroyer was off in the distance at 5,000 meters; another closer still at 2,000 
meters. Cool as ever, “Ajax” had the technical crew replace the bilge-pump 
filter. Suddenly, the hydrophone operator reported rapidly approaching 
fast propeller noises. ‘The Old Man took U-161 down to 120 meters. Just 
in time: four depth charges rocked the boat severely. For nine hours, the 
destroyers USS Kearny and Wilkes savaged the boat. U-161’s ever-terse war 
diary gave some idea of the constant pounding: 


11:58 a.m. Out of action: all glass depth gauges; depth indicator 
outside control tower; repeater compasses; internal depth 
indicator, and lesser outages. 

5:52 p.m. Outage of port [electric] motor due to burnout of 
thrust bearing caused by increasing water intake in the aft-ship. 

6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Constant detecting noises from 3 
destroyers.... Go down to 140 meters.... Irregular depth 
charges off in the distance. 


9: War Beneath the Southern Cross 169 


Shortly before midnight, the hammer blows suddenly stopped. Achilles 
took U-161 back to the surface. Though severely mauled, the boat resumed 
the homeward trek to Lorient. 

Achilles’ one confirmed “kill” out of Convoy AS-4 was the American 
6,200-ton freighter Fairport. It was a grievous loss. In the rush to resupply 
the British in North Africa, the Americans had loaded 300 brand new 
Sherman tanks into fast cargo ships — without their engines. ‘These were 
later loaded into a single ship, the Fairport. All 300 engines went down 
with it. The Kearney had broken off its pursuit of U-161 to rescue 133 sea- 
men and US Army personnel. 

At 4 p.m. on July 22, U-161’s bridge watch joyfully sighted Lieutenant 
Wolf-Harro Stiebler’s “milk cow” U-461, appropriately adorned with a 
nursing she-wolf on its tower. U-161 took on board 40 cbm fuel oil, 1 cbm 
lubricating oil, and provisions for eight days. Most welcome were the fresh 
bread, fresh meat, and fresh lemons. The doctor on board U-461 tended to 
U-161’s numerous cases of boils, heat sores, stomach disorders, and diar- 
thea. In heavy seas, U-161 then pointed for Lorient and at 3:37 p.m. on 
August 6, it docked beside the hulk Isére. 

Achilles received yet another hero’s welcome. He had completed a 
record war patrol lasting 102 days and had destroyed three freighters of 
17,500 tons. Admiral Donitz in his evaluation took due note of the diffi- 
culty of the patrol: “Very long patrol by the boat, which, without blame to 
the commander, brought only minimal success despite determined, proper 
procedures.” U-161 would require five weeks of repairs at the Kéroman 
bunkers. 

In a special report to Dénitz, Achilles took stock of the effect of such 
long war patrols in tropical waters. Overall, morale had remained high 
— despite the constant attacks by aircraft. But fatigue had set in by the 
tail end of the patrol. Especially the technical crew manning the electric 
motors when the boat was submerged often worked for hours in 39-degree 
Celsius heat. The men suffered from skin sores, boils, digestive disorders, 
and exhaustion. The canned bread spoiled far too quickly and malnutri- 
tion added to the sailors’ woes.’ 

The three boats of the special Brazil group had torpedoed 96,000 tons 
of Allied shipping. Overall, the 13 boats operating in the Caribbean from 
April to July 1942 had shattered all existing records: 95 confirmed “kills” 


170 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 

















The German Navy’s grid chart (Quadratkarte) of the Caribbean basin, showing 
the quadrants to which the boats were directed by U-Boat Command in France. 


Source: Federal Military Archive, Freiburg, Germany. 


for a total of 483,000 tons. A single boat, Rosenstiel’s U-502, was lost in 
the Bay of Biscay on its way home. On his wall charts at U-Boat Com- 
mand in Paris, Dénitz cheerfully noted the record “kill ratio” of 95 to 1. 
He could only surmise that U-157 and U-158 would not be coming home. 


9: War Beneath the Southern Cross 171 


ok Ok Ok 


On May 16, 1942, all U-boats received instructions from Donitz to at- 
tack without warning all armed merchant ships belonging to Central and 
South American states that had broken off diplomatic relations with Ger- 
many, “that means, all states with the exception of Argentina and Chile.”™ 
The order drove Brazil closer to a declaration of war and to an active role 
in fighting the “gray sharks” in the South Atlantic. Rio de Janeiro had 
watched anxiously in the late 1930s as Adolf Hitler brought Europe clos- 
er to war. In November 1938, the Brazilian ambassador to the United 
States, Mario de Pimentel Brandao, advised Foreign Minister Oswaldo 
Aranha that Brazil would inevitably have to decide between Germany 
and the United States. Cyro de Freitas Valle, Rio’s ambassador to Ger- 
many, echoed these concerns when he reported that Hitler’s plans for the 
future included global spheres of influence based on a German-dominated 
Europe, a US-dominated western hemisphere, and a Japanese-dominated 
East Asia. Under such circumstances, he asked, would it not be better for 
Brazil to ensure that it was tightly within the American orbit?" 

This notwithstanding, President Getulio Vargas played it cagey with 
the United States; his primary interest was, quite naturally, to wring as 
many American economic and trade concessions as possible while at the 
same time building up Brazil’s defenses. He may have underestimated the 
fear growing in Washington that Axis influence in Brazil was rising to 
unacceptable levels; in late May 1940, Roosevelt approved Operation Pot 
of Gold, whereby 100,000 American troops would seize key spots along 
Brazil’s coast from Belém to Rio de Janeiro. Fear of such action and im- 
portant US concessions on building a major steel mill in Brazil changed 
matters very quickly. At the end of September 1940, the Brazilian gov- 
ernment decided that in the event of a German attack, all of the nation’s 
resources would be placed at the disposal of the United States. Shortly 
after, the Vargas government granted Pan American World Airways the 
right to fly directly from Belém to Rio, thus cutting three days off the trip, 
and quietly allowed the United States to begin setting up bases in Brazil’s 
northeast, particularly on Fernando de Noronha Island. 

‘The small bases in the northeast were just the start of a major Amer- 
ican presence in Brazil. In November 1940, the US Army negotiated a 


172 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


secret agreement with Pan American to set up a chain of airfields from 
the United States to the Brazilian northeast. The American base at Par- 
namirim, Rio Grande do Norte, as well as others, especially at Belém, 
Natal, and Recife, became major jumping-off places for flights ferrying US 
aircraft to British forces in the Middle East even before either Washing- 
ton or Rio entered the war. After Pearl Harbor, the US Navy began oper- 
ating in Brazilian territorial waters with Vargas’ permission, even though 
Brazil was still neutral. At the Rio Conference of January 15 to 28, 1942, 
Rio supported Washington’s efforts to persuade all of the Latin American 
nations (with the notable exceptions of Argentina and Chile) to cut dip- 
lomatic relations with Germany. Thereafter, U-boat attacks on Brazilian 
shipping mounted, with four vessels lost in February and March. In April, 
Vargas demanded that the United States provide convoy escorts and arms 
for Brazilian merchant ships, or he would embargo them; but a month 
later, he met with Vice Admiral Jonas H. Ingram, Commander, US Navy 
South Atlantic Force, and took the extraordinary step of secretly open- 
ing Brazil’s ports, repair facilities, and military airfields to the US Navy. 
And ordering the Brazilian military to cooperate fully with Ingram’s com- 
mand. In May, Brazil lost another four freighters to the U-boats. 

Hitler, outraged over what he considered to be Brazil’s blatant- 
ly pro-American basing policy, demanded on June 15, 1942, that the 
Kriegsmarine launch a sudden strike against Brazilian ports by ten sub- 
marines.’® Donitz reluctantly agreed; Foreign Minister Joachim von Rib- 
bentrop did not. He vetoed the scheme for fear that it would alienate the 
pro-German governments in Buenos Aires and Santiago de Chile. The 
operation was canceled on June 26.” 

Still, Donitz was not displeased when late in July Korvettenkapitan 
Harro Schacht, who had scored no “kills” off the coast of Freetown, Af 
rica, requested permission to take his U-507 across the Atlantic to Brazil. 
He readily approved the request — provided that Schacht was “extremely 
careful” not to sink Argentinean and Chilean ships and that he not at- 
tack Brazilian harbors. A long-time veteran — he had joined the navy in 
the spring of 1926 — Schacht had served on the light cruisers Emden and 
Niirnberg before joining the U-Boat Service in June 1941. The newly com- 
missioned U-507 was his first command. 


9: War Beneath the Southern Cross 173 


Schacht’s one-boat foray became a veritable slaughter for Brazilian 
shipping: beginning on August 16, and operating so close to shore off 
Arajacu and Sergipe that he could watch the locals playing tennis, he sank 
five ships for 14,822 tons in just two days.'* One of his victims that first 
day, the 4,800-ton Baependy, went down with 250 soldiers, seven officers, 
two artillery batteries, and other equipment; two others (the 4,800-ton 
Araraquara and the 1,900-ton Annibal Benévolo) sank with the loss of 131 
and 150 passengers and crew, respectively. Schacht’s actions caused an 
uproar in Brazil, with the result that Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop, 
again fearing negative repercussions in Argentina and Chile, demanded 
that the U-boats remain 30 miles offshore.” 

Schacht assured Donitz that he had operated well outside Brazil’s ter- 
ritorial waters and that none of the ships attacked had displayed either na- 
tional flags or “neutrality signs.” Then, on August 19, he brutally shelled the 
90-ton yacht Jacyra. It was the proverbial last straw: three days later Presi- 
dent Varga’s government declared war on Germany. Just for good measure, 
Schacht that same day sank the Swedish 3,220-ton freighter Hammaren 
with five torpedoes and eight rounds from the 10.5-cm deck gun. 

In September 1942, Vargas gave Admiral Ingram full authority over 
Brazilian air and naval forces and complete responsibility for the defense 
of the long Brazilian coastline. Equipped with new US-built sub-chasers 
and a growing fleet of eight former American destroyer escorts and Bra- 
zilian-built, British-designed Marcilio Diaz—class destroyers (adding to 
its existing small and mostly obsolescent fleet), Brazil’s navy helped im- 
mensely to throttle German blockade runners and U-boats crossing the 
Atlantic narrows between French West Africa and the Brazilian “bulge.” 
In the words of the official history of the Royal Navy in World War II: 
“The Allied shipping control organisation could now be extended almost 
to the great focal area off the River Plate ... but an even greater advan- 
tage was the stronger strategic control of the whole South Atlantic gained 
from the use of Brazilian bases.” American flying boats heading out to 
sea became a daily sight over Rio and Sao Paulo. As one expert on Brazil’s 
role in World War IT wrote: “It is incorrect to say that unwarranted Ger- 
man aggression compelled Brazil to become a belligerent. Vargas’s policies 
were unfolding to their logical conclusion.” However, the U-boat attacks 


174 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


in August 1942 “stimulated public support for mobilization and for un- 
reserved alignment with the Allies.”” 


3 ok ok 


In late summer 1942, Commander U-Boats reassessed the operational 
effectiveness of the three waves of boats that he had sent out to the Carib- 
bean. The balance sheet was not entirely positive. Vastly enhanced Allied 
ASW - through surface escorts with “Huff Duff” and centimetric radar, 
but especially through bombers equipped with new air-to-surface-vessel 
(ASV Mk.II) radar with a range of between one and 36 miles as well as 
22-million candlepower Leigh Lights installed under their fuselages — 
was taking a heavy toll on the U-boats. Donitz and his staff faced a cruel 
dilemma: the large Type IX boats could operate in the Caribbean for up 
to four weeks thanks to the “milk cows,” but they were unwieldy and slow 
in evading hostile air attacks; the smaller Type VII boats were much more 
maneuverable, but they lacked the necessary sea legs for Caribbean oper- 
ations. Moreover, Hitler, fearing an imminent Allied invasion of North 
Africa, ordered Donitz to transfer six Type VII submarines from the At- 
lantic to the Mediterranean, where four of the boats were soon lost. 

On September 28, 1942, Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, Commander 
in Chief, Navy, and Admiral Karl Donitz, Commander U-Boats, met 
with Hitler at the Reich Chancery in Berlin for two hours to discuss the 
overall situation. Raeder, in fact, had not wanted the meeting and as late 
as September 13 had refused to invite Donitz to meet with Hitler. As 
always, Hitler got his way. The Fiihrer began by heaping “great praise” 
on the “Volunteer Corps Donitz.” It, of all the service branches, seemed 
to appreciate fully his notion of Kampf, of struggle first and foremost. 
The “moral impact” of sinking merchant tonnage alone, Hitler allowed, 
greatly affected the Allied war effort. American new construction, despite 
the most blatant Rooseveltian “propaganda,” could never balance losses at 
sea. And the mere production of “hulls” could not overcome the dearth of 
men and machines to sail them.” He suggested two enhancements of the 
U-boat campaign: “new technical developments” to allay the Allies’ ASW 
campaign needed to be rushed to the front as quickly as possible so that 
they could be “practically deployed”; and something needed to be done 


9: War Beneath the Southern Cross 175 


about the “large number of sunken ships’ crews” that somehow managed 
to survive torpedoing and to “return to the sea on newly-built ships.” 

D6nitz replied in his usual cold, rational way. ‘The cost-effectiveness of 
U-boat warfare along the eastern seaboard of the United States had been 
vastly reduced by enhanced ASW efforts; thus, he was moving the war 
patrols back to the mid-Atlantic and to the South Atlantic, off the coast 
of Africa. He maintained that morale among his skippers remained high; 
that the enemy would not be able to offset tonnage torpedoed with ton- 
nage built; and that greater deployment of airpower in the form of long- 
range Heinkel-177 bombers as well as U-boats with faster speed while 
submerged could help Germany regain the initiative in the Battle of the 
Atlantic. 

Left unspoken was that the U-Boat Service still enjoyed superiority 
in the area of codebreaking.”? In February 1942, Donitz’s engineers had 
introduced a fourth rotor (a/pha) to the Enigma machine. Called “Triton,” 
the new M4 cipher raised the number of possible variations, or “cribs,” 
from 16,900 to 44,000. It blinded British codebreakers at Bletchley Park 
for most of 1942. Conversely, Naval Intelligence (B-Dienst) was now read- 
ing the Allied Cypher Number 3 with sufficient speed to allow U-Boat 
Command to use the information tactically against Allied convoys. 

Concerning Hitler’s suggestion to rush “new technical develop- 
ments” to the front, Donitz had several innovations ready. His com- 
manders had reported in detail on the Allies’ deadly combination of 
ASV radar and the Leigh Light. The answer seemed to lie in the area 
of radar detection. The French firms Metox-Grandin and Sadir had de- 
veloped a VHF-heterodyne receiver that, in combination with a primitive 
wooden aerial (Biscay Cross), could pick up incoming radar beams and 
alert a U-boat’s crew by a loud “pinging” in the receiver. The Metox receiv- 
ers were installed in U-boats beginning in August 1942. 

As well, German boats were outfitted with Bo/d sonar devices. Short 
for Kobold (goblin), these 15-cm diameter capsules filled with a calcium 
and zinc compound could be released from the stern of a submarine by 
way of a special ejector. They were designed to maintain neutral buoyancy 
at 30 meters depth and, upon contact with seawater, to produce hydro- 
gen gas that in turn created bubbles. To Allied ASDIC operators, these 
bubbles would resemble the “echo” produced by true submarine contacts. 


176 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


Interestingly, when Hitler had demanded production of such a device on 
September 28, Dénitz had been cool to the idea as it “might mean the 
regrettable loss of a torpedo tube.” 

Finally, the “gray sharks” received anti-radar decoys designed to create 
more false radar echoes. Codenamed Aphrodite, the system consisted of 
eight-meter-long aluminum foil strips or dipoles attached to a 120-me- 
ter-long wire that connected a large hydrogen-filled balloon to a sheet 
anchor. Crews were instructed on how to inflate the balloon on deck and 
then simply to toss anchor, wire, aluminum strips, and balloon overboard. 
Aphrodite, approved by Hitler in summer 1942, was operational by Sep- 
tember. The Battle of the Atlantic was becoming a chess game between 
white-smocked engineers while the growing number of sunken tankers 
and bauxite carriers continued to foul the azure waters of the Caribbean. 


9: War Beneath the Southern Cross 177 


10 


THE ALLIES REGROUP 


In the U-boat war in the Caribbean, the German force was united and 
operated at the direction of one commander, Admiral Karl Dénitz. He 
daily sized up the course of the campaign, evaluated Allied successes and 
failures, estimated Allied strengths and weaknesses, and deployed his 
forces accordingly. By contrast, the Allied defense was about as disunited 
as it could be. In the United States, army-navy rivalry was as old as the Re- 
public and had contributed, at least in part, to the debacle at Pearl Harbor. 
The United States and its Caribbean Allies — the United Kingdom and the 
Netherlands government-in-exile — agreed on the overall aim of the war 
and the Caribbean campaign, but disagreed on details. Central and South 
American nations drawn into the fray controlled all of the western and 
southern shore of the Caribbean; they had a long and troublesome history 
with their powerful northern neighbor. Unity of command would not be 
easy to achieve, but victory would not be possible without the help and 
cooperation of all the anti-Axis forces in the theater. 

Unity of command among US forces was the first obstacle to be over- 
come. Secretary of War Henry Stimson discovered on December 12, 
1941, that no scheme for establishing unity of command existed for Pan- 
ama, which was then considered the most likely target for attack by Japan. 
He asked Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall to draw up a 
directive placing all US forces in the Panama Coastal Frontier, except for 
fleet units, under army command. When Stimson laid the plan before the 
Cabinet later in the day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved the 
idea by the simple expedient of taking a map and scrawling “army” over 
the Panama Canal Zone and “navy” over the Caribbean Coastal Fron- 
tier, and then adding “O.K. — F.D.R.” When General Leonard T. Gerow 


179 


later took the papers to a meeting of high-ranking naval officers including 
Admiral Ernest J. King, Commander in Chief Atlantic Fleet, only one 
man — Admiral Richmond K. Turner — opposed the unity scheme. He 
was overridden by the argument that if the army and the navy did not 
work together effectively, the president might establish a new Department 
of National Defense to which both the army and the navy would be sub- 
ordinate. By December 18, Roosevelt’s directive had been instituted. The 
army assumed command of the defense of Panama, the navy that of the 
Caribbean; units of each service in either area would be at the disposal of 
the service commander in that area. 

In the weeks following the Pearl Harbor attack, reinforcements were 
sent to both Panama and the Caribbean as quickly as possible. The Canal 
Zone came first with two infantry regiments, two barrage balloon units, 
one field artillery battalion, and 1,800 artillery replacements. Anti-air- 
craft guns as well as fighter and bomber reinforcements were also dis- 
patched, raising the total garrison to 47,600 combatants by the end of 
January 1942. The buildup on Puerto Rico was impeded both by the flow 
of supplies to Panama and because it seemed to lie far beyond any enemy’s 
grasp. Thus, only about 800 men were added to the island in the two 
months following America’s entry into the war. US naval defenses in the 
Caribbean were wholly inadequate for the job. There, Rear Admiral John 
H. Hoover's force consisted of two old “four stacker” destroyers, three 
small “S” class submarines, two World War I vintage sub-chasers and 
twelve patrol planes. Trinidad, which was to play a key role in the battle, 
was covered by two converted yachts, two small patrol craft, and four 
patrol planes.? 

The overall defense plan for the area, RAINBOW 5, called for armed 
assistance to “recognized governments” in Latin America and for the 
“protective occupation” of colonies belonging to allied European powers 
to alleviate those Allies of the burden of defending their colonies — and 
also, no doubt, to shore up the defenses of the Panama Canal. Washing- 
ton shortly entered into discussions with the Dutch government-in-exile 
concerning the defenses of the Netherlands Antilles. The discussions were 
somewhat sticky — the Dutch were appalled at the prospect, wholly theor- 
etical, that Venezuelan troops might defend Aruba and Curacao — but were 
concluded on January 26, 1942. Eventually, a combined Dutch-American 


180 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


headquarters was established. In the meantime, six A-20 attack bombers 
flew to the islands in mid-January. A British garrison of 1,400 troops was 
pulled off and sent back to the United Kingdom; 2,300 American soldiers 
equipped with 155-mm coastal guns were sent from New Orleans in early 
February. The U-boats struck before those troops were ready. 

Local Combined Defense Committees were set up to coordinate be- 
tween the military and civil authorities. They consisted of the colonial 
governor as chair and convener, the senior officers of the local military 
(American and British in most cases), and other local bureaucrats. Only 
on Trinidad was there significant trouble, as the governor, Sir Hubert 
Young, insisted on his authority as local commander, a position the senior 
American officer refused to accept. Eventually, the Americans replaced 
the local commander with a man of higher rank; London fired its govern- 
or and dispatched a more reasonable man.* 


3 ok ok 


The attack on Aruba brought home to all Caribbean nations that German 
submarines were suddenly a clear and present danger to the lives, prop- 
erty, and livelihood of any whose existence depended on the commerce of 
the Caribbean Sea. Even so, the independent Latin American republics 
of the region had a long and troublesome relationship with the United 
States and, in some important cases, the mistrust generated thereby did 
not disappear overnight. 

Between 1890 and 1932, US military forces intervened in the Lat- 
in American republics 19 times. They occupied Cuba in 1906-8, and 
then returned twice after that. They intervened in Haiti in 1891 and in 
1914 returned for nine years. They operated in Nicaragua five times be- 
fore virtually occupying that country for 20 years starting in 1914. The 
United States also used troops to protect its interests in Argentina, Chile, 
Panama, Honduras, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Cos- 
ta Rica, and El Salvador. As well, Washington played a heavy hand in 
enforcing debt collection, backing major American-owned enterprises 
such as the United Fruit Company, intervening in elections, protecting 
allied dictators, or installing friendly regimes. Roosevelt declared a “Good 
Neighbor” policy toward these republics shortly after he was inaugurated 


10: The Allies Regroup 181 


in 1933, and three years later relinquished the “right” of the United States 
to intervene in Panama — a “right” which the United States had declared 
in 1903 when its intervention against Colombia had “allowed” Panama to 
declare independence. 

In 1936, Anastasio Somoza Garcia seized power in Nicaragua. On 
the night of December 7, 1941, the pro-American Somoza threw his 
country’s support on the side of the Allies and placed Nicaragua’s entire 
territory, including sea, air, and land, at the service of the United States 
until the Axis was defeated. The airports at Managua and Puerto Cabezas 
were operated by US Army personnel and the US Navy built a sea plane 
base at Corinto. In 1943, a medium-range radio loop station was opened 
at Managua airport and the runway was extended to facilitate long-range 
bombers flying antisubmarine sweeps between Managua and Guatemala 
City. Nicaraguan cooperation, combined with the considerable US air and 
naval contingents in the Panama Canal Zone, allowed the Americans to 
establish a formidable air presence over the southwestern stretches of the 
Colombian Basin and the northern approaches to the Panama Canal. 

Honduras began to mount its own antisubmarine sweeps on the 
Caribbean coast in July 1942 but did not notify the Americans. It also 
authorized the use of Puerto Castillo as an advanced naval air base for sea 
planes near the Strait of Yucatan. 

Mexico had cooperated with the United States in counterespionage 
and intelligence since before Pearl Harbor. President Manuel Avila 
Camacho, elected in 1940, took an increasingly pro-American position 
as Axis military triumphs mounted. On April 13, 1941, Mexico and the 
United States signed an agreement calling for reciprocal use of air bases 
for mutual defense, and nine days later Mexico closed all German con- 
sulates and expelled Berlin’s diplomatic corps in response to its perceived 
interference in Mexican politics. The Mexican government had little to 
offer in air and sea forces at the start of the Caribbean campaign, but 
its army and air force gladly accepted American weapons and training. 
Mexico granted permission to the United States to build an airfield on the 
island of Cozumel from which sweeps were conducted across the Yucatan 
Channel. On May 25, 1942, Mexico declared war on the Axis in the 
wake of the sinking of the Mexican-flagged tankers Potrero del Llano (by 
U-564) and Faja de Oro (by U-106). 


182 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


Cuban cooperation was vital to guarding the entrances to the Gulf 
of Mexico — the Yucatan Channel and the Straits of Florida. Both were 
easily patrolled by air from western Cuba, southern Florida, and Mexico. 
Cuba, in the words of the official US Army history of World War II, 
“promised a great deal as a cobelligerent,” but its “participation in definite 
activities was small.” The Cubans took little interest in protecting their 
coastline from submarine threats. After James L. Collins, Commanding 
General of the Puerto Rican Department, pressed Cuba in late September 
1942, Havana promised “the fullest Cuban cooperation.” Nonetheless, on 
a visit to the island a month later, Collins came away convinced that the 
Cubans were still dragging their heels in patrolling ”certain designated 
deep water shorelines” to deny their use by German submarines.* Never- 
theless, Havana granted Washington permission to build airbases near 
San Antonio de los Bafios and at Camagtiey, both of which allowed US 
aircraft to patrol the Bahamas Channel as well as the Strait of Yucatan. 
The US Navy also operated airship bases at San Julian on the western tip 
of the island and at Caibarién and the Isle of Pines. 

Cuba’s initial reluctance vanished quickly after signing a naval and 
military cooperation agreement with the United States on September 9, 
1942. The old cruiser Cuba was modernized, along with the school ship 
Patria. Cuba’s small flotilla of gunboats and patrol craft were also mod- 
ernized, while 12 patrol craft were transferred from the US Navy to the 
Cuban Navy. In May 1943, a flotilla of Cuban patrol aircraft in conjunc- 
tion with a US Navy Kingfisher aircraft sank U-176, which had destroyed 
11 Allied ships of 53,307 tons. By the end of the war, Cuban air and naval 
units had escorted close to 500 ships and rescued 221 shipwrecked sailors.° 

Colombian President Eduardo Santos Montejo in August 1938 had 
campaigned on a foreign policy that favored improved relations with the 
United States. His position stemmed partly from his distaste for the ra- 
cism of the Nazi government and partly because protecting the approach- 
es to the Panama Canal was a fundamental Colombian national interest. 
‘Thus, throughout 1939 and 1940, US air and naval missions began to work 
more closely with Colombian armed forces to concert defensive arrange- 
ments for the canal. But Colombia insisted on limiting just what Amer- 
icans would be allowed to do from its territory or airspace. It extended no 
invitations to the Americans to establish bases prior to Pearl Harbor. On 


10: The Allies Regroup 183 


March 17, 1942, after the first wave of submarine attacks in the Caribbean 
began, Bogota and Washington signed a lend-lease agreement providing 
for some $16.5 million of military assistance.’ 

When a Colombian schooner plying the waters between the main- 
land and the San Andrés Archipelago was sunk by a U-boat in August 
1942, and four of its survivors were machine-gunned in the water, Bogota 
granted the Americans permission to establish a base at Cartagena. Sub- 
sequently, the US Navy set up a PBY base near Cartagena and used the 
civil airport at Barranquilla as a base for army patrol bombers.* 

Venezuela was, without question, the most strategically important 
of the Latin American republics bordering the Caribbean. Its northern 
coastline constituted the longest shoreline of any Caribbean nation; the 
key islands of Trinidad and the Netherlands Antilles lay within easy fly- 
ing reach of its shores; and the oil fields of Lake Maracaibo were a major 
petroleum asset to the Allies. When war broke out in Europe in Septem- 
ber 1939, Venezuela declared strict neutrality and continued to trade with 
both sides. Right after Pearl Harbor, Venezuela’s new president, General 
Isaias Medina Angarita, reaffirmed its neutrality, but then froze Axis ac- 
counts, impounded Axis ships, and severed diplomatic relations with the 
Axis countries.’ 

Following the Third Conference of the foreign ministers of the Amer- 
ican Republics held at Rio de Janeiro beginning on January 15, 1942, 
Venezuela and the United States agreed to exchange information con- 
cerning western hemisphere defense, but little progress was made. Vene- 
zuela’s hesitant approach to Caribbean defense continued even after the 
February 16 U-boat attacks on Aruba and the lake tankers. On the one 
hand, Caracas and Washington concluded arrangements regarding black- 
outs of tankers, shutting off Venezuelan coastal navigation aids at times 
of danger, and placing the movements of the lake tanker fleet under the 
voluntary control of the Royal Navy on Curacao. On the other hand, a 
US initiative to work collectively in defense planning essentially led no- 
where. In March, military representatives from Venezuela and Colombia 
arrived at General Frank M. Andrews’ Caribbean Defense Command 
headquarters in the Canal Zone to coordinate defense planning with the 
United States. The Colombian officers appeared to be operating with a 
considerable degree of executive authority, but not those from Venezuela, 


184 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


who referred almost everything to President Medina — which was virtual- 
ly useless for planning purposes. In mid-May, two of the three Venezuelan 
officers returned home; Colonel Centano, the leader of the delegation, 
stayed in Panama until early 1943 but “performed hardly any service in his 
liaison capacity.” 

Venezuela’s armed forces — like those of all the Central and most of 
the South American states — were obsolete, under-equipped and poor- 
ly trained. The country eventually acquired a handful of gunboats and 
aircraft from the United States under Lend-Lease, but its greatest de- 
fense potential for the Allied war against the U-boats was its ports and 
airfields. Until the submarine attacks of February 16, President Medina 
refused to allow US military aircraft to fly over Venezuelan territory with- 
out 24 hours’ advance notice; eight days later he relented. The Americans 
constantly pushed for greater cooperation but with little success. As one 
US Army account of the period concluded, there was considerable dis- 
crepancy “between [Venezuela’s] expressed desire to cooperate with the 
United States on mutual military measures and her reluctance to take the 
necessary steps therefor.” In June, Medina allowed the US Sixth Air 
Force to station a small detachment at Maracaibo to service and refuel 
American antisubmarine aircraft, and gave US warships permission to 
enter Venezuelan waters. In mid-March, a detachment of 283 US soldiers 
was admitted to set up coast artillery units at Puerto de la Cruz and Las 
Piedras, about 150 miles east of Caracas.” 

The attack on Aruba galvanized the British, the Dutch, and the Cen- 
tral American Republics to cooperate far more fully with the United States 
in mounting a defense of the Caribbean. What mattered most was both 
the willingness of these Allies to give US forces virtually unlimited access 
to their air space and coastal waters and to allow the United States to set 
up bases for either land or sea-based antisubmarine aircraft. Once sufh- 
cient antisubmarine resources — particularly aircraft — were marshaled, the 
ring of bases around the Caribbean promised to turn it into an Allied lake. 


3 ok ok 


‘The first layer of defenses against the U-boats consisted of antisubmarine 
nets, searchlights, sea mines, and coastal artillery. The entrances to the 


10: The Allies Regroup 185 


Panama Canal were well guarded by all three by mid-February 1942, but 
little else was in the Caribbean or Gulf of Mexico. The US Army laid sea 
mines in the approaches to the Panama Canal, but none in the Puerto 
Rico or Trinidad sectors. The US Navy mined the entrances to the Gulf 
of Paria in Trinidad — over the objections of the Royal Navy, which main- 
tained that the fast flowing currents through the Serpent’s Mouth and the 
Dragon’s Mouth would render them ineffective. The Royal Navy’s pre- 
dictions proved all too true. The water flow pulled many of the 350 mines 
well below the surface and ships drawing up to 22 feet were able to pass 
safely over them. That included surfaced U-boats running the passages 
by night. Later, some of the mines broke from their moorings and began 
to drift, some as far as the waters around Curacgao and Aruba, posing a 
severe hazard to shipping.’’ After the war, a US study of antisubmarine 
measures in the Caribbean theater concluded that “the effectiveness of the 
minefields was extremely doubtful.” 

The buildup of coastal artillery around the Caribbean began shortly 
after the fall of France in June 1940. The gun batteries had two purposes — 
to protect minefields in those few places where they were laid, and to deny 
surfaced submarines (or other vessels) the ability to enter or even approach 
important harbors and chokepoints. Many US coastal artillery units were 
built around the 155-mm “Long Tom” howitzer, which threw a 95-pound 
shell some 15 miles with high accuracy, or the 90-mm anti-aircraft or an- 
ti-torpedo boat guns, which fired high-velocity rounds with a flat trajec- 
tory up to 12,600 yards. Dutch and British artillery were also emplaced. 

In March 1941, the 252" Coast Artillery Regiment, training at Fort 
Moultrie, South Carolina, was ordered to send its headquarters and “C” 
and “D” batteries to Trinidad, where it set up on Chacachacare Island. 
‘The unit was directed to guard the entrance to the Serpent’s Mouth. The 
unit’s “A” and “F” batteries were sent to Aruba. They began to arrive in 
early February 1942 but were not properly emplaced or ranged when Wer- 
ner Hartenstein and U-156 attacked and thus were unable to return fire." 
In July 1942, a composite field artillery battery of 121 men and four 155- 
mm guns was sent to Puerto Barrios on the Caribbean coast of Guate- 
mala. The men languished there. There was constant friction between the 
Americans and the locals. The Gls suffered high malaria and venereal 


186 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


disease rates and had to be relieved after six months. Eventually, the bat- 
tery was turned over to the Guatemalan government." 

This was the pattern throughout the islands. American troops were 
sent in small garrisons to Haiti, Antigua, St. Lucia, St. Croix, St. Thomas, 
Jamaica, Trinidad, Aruba, Curacao, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico, where 
they saw virtually no action — the vast majority of their guns were never 
fired in anger. The islands may at first have seemed like small Gardens 
of Eden, but everything was different from the life the men had known 
and they were far from homes and families. The opportunity for bored 
and pissed-off soldiers to get into trouble was everywhere, from too much 
island rum to too many island girls. In many cases, the Americans could 
hardly wait to turn these garrisons over to local forces. 

Nowhere was the problem more intractable than on Trinidad. In 
the fall of 1941, Rear Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf took command of the 
Trinidad Sector and turned Chaguaramas into a formidable naval sta- 
tion for six US Navy and three Royal Navy destroyers, six gunboats, one 
submarine, 14 patrol boats, and a host of smaller craft. Over the coming 
year, “Oley” Oldendorf and his staff greatly built up their forces to face 
the expected third wave of U-boats: some 50 US Navy and Coast Guard, 
26 Royal Navy and two Royal Canadian Navy escort vessels; 13 sea-gray 
Martin PBM Mariners (VP 74); and 12 PBY Catalinas (VP 53).!” The 
first American advance ground elements consisted of the 11" Infantry and 
the 252** Coast Artillery, whose 155-mm guns were sited on Chacachaca- 
re and Monos islands at the northern entrance to the Gulf of Paria. It was 
these units Albrecht Achilles and U-161 had outwitted after their daring 
raid on Port of Spain in February 1942. 

The pace of base-building in the interior of the island was frenetic. 
The Walsh Construction Company and the George F. Driscoll Company 
first removed a thick canopy of jungle vegetation over a 17,000-acre tract 
and then built a temporary gravel runway — followed in January and June 
1942 by two mile-long concrete runways. At a cost of $52.4 million ($717 
million in 2012 dollars), the most expensive Atlantic base ever built by 
the Corps of Engineers, Waller Field (and the adjacent Army post of Fort 
Reid) eventually housed 8,500 men and 51 aviation-fuel storage tanks. 
But even this gigantic complex was inadequate for the massive air as- 
sault being organized against the U-boats, and in December 1941 work 


10: The Allies Regroup 187 


began on new 5,000-foot runways at adjoining Xeres Field and Edin- 
burgh Field, about 12 miles southwest. Seasonal summer rains brought 
much delay, with the result that Waller Field’s temporary runway was not 
ready for operation until October 1941. The first American airmen — 432 
officers and men of the 1 Bomber Squadron based on Panama — arrived 
at the end of April and had to be housed in a tent camp at the commercial 
airport, Piarco Field. 

Over the next year, fleets of new aircraft such as the PV-1 Lockheed 
Venturas, the North American B-25 Mitchells and the Consolidated B-24 
Liberators arrived. Edinburgh Field alone received the PV-1 Venturas of 
US Navy bomber squadron VB-130, the B-25s of the US Army 7° An- 
ti-Submarine Squadron, the B-25 Mitchells of the 59" Bomber Squad- 
ron, the Douglas B-18 “Bolos” of US Army 10" Bomber Squadron, the 
23" Anti-Submarine Squadron, and a host of reconnaissance dirigibles. It 
was a far cry from the days of the first German wave of submarine attacks, 
when only the 1 Bomber Squadron had been stood up on Trinidad." 


‘The dramatic scale of construction virtually wiped out Trinidad’s chronic 
unemployment overnight. But it also upset the delicate wage scales on the 
island and became a major source of trouble. While President Roosevelt 
had expressed a desire that local workers be paid “top-scale prevailing 
rates rather than average-scale prevailing rates,” in reality wages paid 
to local workers — especially the unskilled — remained based on low local 
rates. Overall, the war brought little enhancement to wage scales — 17 to 
57 per cent in skilled industries, 3 to 7 per cent in the skilled agricultural 
sector, 1 to 11 per cent in sugar mills, and none for stevedores and lighter 
men.” The concurrent 70 per cent increase in the cost of living more than 
wiped out all of these minuscule gains. 

American labor, on the other hand, was paid United States union scale 
— plus an added “differential” for increased cost of living and overseas ser- 
vice. The sight of many American construction workers setting up black 
mistresses in fine homes, supplied with electric stoves and refrigerators 
“liberated” from base stocks, infuriated black Trinidadians.” Still, the 
prospect of work on the American bases brought about an uncontrolled 


188 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


influx of workers from Caribbean islands without US bases as well as an 
unwanted exodus of workers from local sugar estates and oilfields to the 
bases. All this caused further anxiety and ill-feeling. 

Perhaps most offensive for many Trinidadians was the vast swath of 
destruction that the American contractors brought to their island. Armies 
of workers armed with chainsaws razed entire stands of poui and palm 
and cocoa trees. ‘Thereafter, fleets of bulldozers leveled country homes and 
shanties alike. The novelist Ralph de Boissiére left a vivid picture of the 
beehive of activity swarming around Chaguaramas: 


Endless streams of military trucks, long trailers carrying 
bulldozers or tanks, moved between Docksite and Cumuto; 
planes roared overhead in such numbers that it seemed they 
bred like mosquitoes in the swamps of Caroni.... Out of the 
mud of the foreshore, out of the inland forests, arose complete 
American towns. 


He chronicled the effect of this feverish construction activity on one 
family estate: “The land lay naked, cut up like a corpse, and black work- 
ers swarmed all over it, like flies. The hill had disappeared, pushed into 
the swamp.... Huge and unfamiliar machines were everywhere at work, 
wiping out the past.”” Yet, thousands of West Indians, he noted, con- 
tinued to flock to Trinidad “as barnyard fowls who rush for the corn that 
is scattered by a lavish hand at sunrise,” attracted by the lure of high pay. 
Trinidad’s laborers reacted to pay inequity in various ways. Many 
worked excessive hours of overtime. Others overstated their qualifications. 
One of the characters in Samuel Selvon’s short story “Wartime Activities,” 
when asked by an American female clerk (“a good-looking sport sitting 
behind a desk”) what his “line of work” was, blurted out: “The first thing 
that come in my head is mechanic, so I say that.” He signed up at “twenty 
bucks a week.” Still others resorted to making off with base equipment — 
from flats of beer to food to construction tools — and selling it on the black 
market. Peremptory firing of these culprits brought a sharp rise in labor 
unrest and violence, and it soured relations between American military 
personnel and contractors, on the one hand, and local black workers, on 


10: The Allies Regroup 189 


the other. In time, even the “better-class” houses on Trinidad closed their 
doors to American soldiers, sailors, and construction workers. 


In May 1942, 2,484 black soldiers of the 99 Anti-Aircraft Artillery 
Regiment landed on the island. While the regiment would eventually 
constitute but 12 per cent of the total US force of 20,000 military person- 
nel on Trinidad, its presence caused significant problems for Trinidad’s 
British colonial regime and for the United States. From the start of the 
US presence, Governor Young had expected Washington to deploy only 
white troops to Trinidad; when the 99" arrived, he expressed his “very 
indignant” reaction to the Secretary of State for the Colonies.** He told 
London that the men of the 99" were “recruited from the lowest types of 
American Negro and are having an extremely bad influence ... debauch- 
ing [local black] people and their family life.” The American black soldiers 
had caused a crime wave to break out on the island, the Governor claimed, 
and he suggested they be replaced with Puerto Rican troops as the lesser 
of two evils. “Though neither are wanted here, Puerto Ricans would be 
preferable to United States Negroes.” Whatever London thought of the 
governor’s remarks, it could not afford to alienate the United States on 
such a sensitive matter. 

Official Washington had, of course, been alert to concerns about 
transplanting American black troops onto the heterogeneous Trinidadian 
society. The State Department as well as the War Department had been 
well informed by both the British colonial authorities and the Island’s 
local white and white Creole populations that they opposed such a move. 
They feared labor unrest among the local blacks due to the higher rates of 
pay that American black troops received. In particular, Governor Young 
had been apprehensive lest the delicate balance of colonial administration 
(wage scales, taxation rates, and customs tariffs) be disturbed by the arriv- 
al of well-paid and well-clothed American “Negro” soldiers. The quickly 
ensuing social unrest on Trinidad only confirmed such fears. 

The black soldiers of the 99" Anti-Aircraft Regiment manned the 
batteries on the Laventille Hills overlooking Port of Spain as well as the 
hills protecting Waller Field and at the Army Air Forces complex, Fort 


190 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


Reid. A rickety railroad linked Fort Reid to Port of Spain; later on, these 
two points were connected by the new Churchill-Roosevelt Highway 
that cut across the base of Trinidad’s Northern Range. The men of the 
99% Anti-Aircraft Regiment thus had ample opportunity to seek out the 
pleasure spots in the capital. 

The US Army did almost nothing to prepare American troops of 
either color for duty on Trinidad. A seven-page mimeograph entitled “The 
American Soldier’s Guide Book to Trinidad” explained almost nothing of 
the Island’s history, its social structure, or its multicultural population and 
their local taboos. Instead, there was a map of Port of Spain, a recreation 
of a poster showing a drowning sailor with the exhortation “Somebody 
Blabbed ... Button Your Lip,” and very brief sections on security, danger- 
ous insects, the basic geography and weather of Trinidad, shopping, sports, 
recreation facilities, and diseases, especially VD. American soldiers were 
told that the Island’s economy depended heavily on the export of pitch, but 
not a word about the oil fields or the refineries. It was a half-hearted effort, 
to say the least, and probably had little or no impact on the GIs. 

The worst fears of the critics of the policy to garrison Trinidad with 
black soldiers were soon realized. Race relations, both between American 
white and black soldiers and between American black soldiers and local 
blacks, quickly broke down. US black troops resented their segregation 
from white troops, their deployment in what they deemed to be “less de- 
sirable” sites, and the Army’s unstated assumption that only whites could 
command black troops. Their work often was boring and the hours long. 
‘They resented food rationing due to the rapacious activities of the U-boats. 
‘The only cheer seemed to come from readily available cheap liquor — and 
from indigenous black females. 

‘The inevitable clashes between American and Trinidadian blacks were 
not long in coming. In the words of historian Annette Palmer, “American 
soldiers were accused of manslaughter, indiscriminate shootings, armed 
robbery and assaults against the members of the local population.””° Few, 
if any, of the soldiers accused of such crimes were tried in local courts, and 
US Army military courts proved hesitant to convict American soldiers of 
crimes against local black civilians. As well, the “sight of white Americans 
engaged in manual labour or drunken white sailors shattered the image of 


white racial supremacy.””” 


10: The Allies Regroup 191 


Port of Spain became the focal point of much of the racial unrest. Al- 
ready overpopulated at the start of the war, the situation was exacerbated 
by the 20,000 new American military personnel and by the uncontrolled 
migration of black labor from the other West Indian islands, especially 
Barbados, seeking work on the bases. The nightly arrival of the black sol- 
diers of the 99" Anti-Aircraft Regiment based in Queen’s Park barracks, 
just outside Port of Spain, and from Waller Field, set the stage for con- 
frontation. Transportation was not a problem: buses charged three cents 
for a ride, trams four cents. 

The capital offered the soldiers an exotic alternative to the drab (and 
segregated) conditions that prevailed on the bases. Again, journalist Al- 
bert Gomes provided a rich portrait." Especially on weekends, the city’s 
streets bore witness to a “prosperity of swank American cars, traffic stran- 
gulation and neon signs.” The culinary odors of such local delicacies as 
black pudding, souse, acras, and floats wafted through the streets, as did the 
smell of warehoused sugar and nutmeg. Fresh markets bustled with vend- 
ors hawking bananas, plantains, pawpaws, green vegetables, and pork as 
well as shark meat. Peddlers spread before the foreigners their notions — 
pencils, sunglasses, lace, ribbons, combs. 

Away from Port of Spain’s commercial and administrative core, 
the air was filled with “the sulphurous stink from the nearby mangrove 
swamps, the flies and the incessant, suffocating, eye-smarting smoke from 
the burning mounds of fresh refuse,” as well as from the “foetid and suf- 
focating stink” of the city’s open cesspits. In Shanty Town, dead dogs, 
cats, and birds added to the pungent aroma. So-called “pharmacies” doled 
out exotic potions such as “Spirit of Love,” “Confusion Powder,” “Man 
You Must,” and “Vinaigre Sept Voleurs” as good “magic” to encourage ro- 
mantic encounters. ‘The halls run by the Shouter Baptists and the Shango 
Dancers, as well as the magic parlors of the Scarlet Sisters and Mother 
Holy Ghost, offered the soldiers a heady concoction of chants, drumbeats, 
prayer, ritual dances, and superstitions. Chinese opium dens vied with 
Portuguese rum shops for the “Yankee dollar.” In the colorful language 
of the novelist Robert Antoni, “half the whores in Venezuela” crossed the 
Gulf of Paria “in salt-fish crates” to get their piece of the action.” 

Unsurprisingly, fights, both among black and white sailors and sol- 
diers and among them and the local blacks, became the weekend norm. 


192 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


Crime and corruption were commonplace. Natives cheekily spoke of their 
island as “Trickydad.” Common diseases carried by the anopheles mos- 
quito, by the small vampire bat, and by hookworm as well as venereal 
disease from unprotected sexual encounters ran rampant. Soon, the US 
Army had no choice but to build the Caribbean Medical Center to control 
the “alarming” spread of VD. 

The spark needed to trigger a racial fire was struck at Arima, near 
Fort Reid, in April 1942, when an American soldier was charged with 
the murder of a Trinidad civilian.*° The local black population poured out 
into the streets to demand justice. ‘The police intervened. Some 33 persons 
were arrested, most of them Barbadian migrant workers. As one of his 
last acts as governor, Sir Hubert Young immediately raised the matter 
of jurisdiction, demanding that the accused American soldier be handed 
over to the British colonial administration. While Young and the State 
Department in Washington exchanged lengthy diplomatic memoranda 
on this thorny issue, General Ralph Talbot, Jr., commanding US troops 
in Trinidad, ordered a military court-martial to proceed with the case. 
The soldier was acquitted of the charges against him. Anglo-American 
relations on Trinidad hit their nadir. 

All of this was grist for the mills of local satirists, the calypso singers. 
For, in the competition for female company, the American black soldiers 
were the clear winners. They had hard currency, the glamour of a crisp 
uniform, and the attraction of being outsiders. One calypso singer, com- 
plaining as a victim, commented: “I was living with me decent and con- 
tended wife/Until the soldiers came and broke up my life.” Another noted 
that while local blacks offered only “love and misery,” American black 
soldiers held out “romance and luxury.” Yet another lamented that the 
local young girls had become “frisky frisky” upon the arrival of the Yanks. 
“They say the soldiers treat them nice/They give them a better price!”*! Of 
course, the classic social comment rested with “Lord Invader”: 


Since the Yankee come to Trinidad 
They got the young girls all goin’ mad 
Young girls say they treat ’em nice 
Make Trinidad like paradise. 


10: The Allies Regroup 193 


Drinkin’ rum and Coca-Cola 
Go down Point Koomahnah 
Both mother and daughter 
Workin’ for the Yankee dollar.” 


Behind the musical satire existed a harsh climate of racial tensions and 
open hostility. For, in the words of the US Caribbean Defense Command, 
American troops “conducted themselves in a manner more in keeping 
with the occupation of a captured country.” 

The incident at Arima forced official Washington to take action. 
Under-Secretary of State Sumner Wells appreciated that the entire issue 
was “most explosive,” and Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall con- 
sidered it “too dangerous to be handled on paper.”** He therefore suggested 
that closed discussions be held to resolve the issue. These apparently took 
place both within the Washington establishment and with the British 
Colonial Office. The upshot was that the War Department ordered the 
soldiers of the 99" Anti-Aircraft Regiment home — “at night on secret 
orders.” But nothing was ever secret in Trinidad. The railway line from 
Arima to Port of Spain, used for the regiment’s embarkation to the United 
States, was “thronged with women waving goodbye.” By the end of 1943, 
“white Puerto Ricans with a knowledge of English and high educational 
standards” garrisoned the Trinidad bases.** All the while Admiral Karl 
Donitz’s “gray sharks” continued to ravage the Caribbean sea lanes. 

The US descent onto Trinidad had brought much unrest. The hopes 
of well-educated Trinidadians that President Roosevelt would extend 
the Four Freedoms to their island never materialized. Nor did those that 
Prime Minister Churchill would apply to Trinidad the Atlantic Charter’s 
provision for peoples to freely choose their form of government. Moreover, 
wages rose but modestly and the sharp rise in the cost of living erased 
what few gains were made. An Anglo-American Caribbean Commission, 
established jointly by Roosevelt and Churchill in March 1942, brought 
about some improvement in methods of agriculture, housing, education, 
and public works, but it was largely viewed by local activists as another 
colonial administration in new garb. 

The hard reality was that Trinidad was but one small part of a global 
struggle. The US military and contractors had arrived in spring 1941 to 


194 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


throw up army, navy, and air bases to meet the mounting German sub- 
marine threat; they had little interest in rearranging the island’s labor, 
political, or social relations. The Germans had pierced the Caribbean 
basin with but one aim, to disrupt the Allies’ vital flow of oil and bauxite 
out of the region. They had no interest in native populations; their ra- 
cial doctrines held no appeal to Trinidadians; and their amateurish spy 
network operating out of the Panama Canal Zone found no fertile soil 
on Trinidad. The character “Cassie” in Ralph de Boissiére’s novel Rum 
and Coca-Cola perhaps best captured the great-power reality: “So now 
you hear, Friends, the English not givin’ us anything, the Americans not 
goin’ to give us anything, nor the Germans.”** Albert Gomes echoed the 
feelings of many fellow political activists during the war when he stated, 
“Whenever we pass into other hands, both hands must be our own.”*” 


10: The Allies Regroup 195 


11 


WHITE CHRISTMAS 


The Hollywood blockbuster for the fall of 1942 was the musical Holiday 
Inn with Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Marjorie Reynolds, Virginia Dale, 
and Walter Abel. Released in August, the picture became a national phe- 
nomenon in just a few months. As summer gave way to fall the movie's 
big number, “White Christmas,” written by Irving Berlin and sung by 
Crosby, became the unofficial anthem of the holiday season for the rest 
of the war. By the end of November 1942, more than 600,000 records 
as well as more than a million copies of the sheet music had been sold. 
“White Christmas” became the longest-running song ever played on the 
weekly radio show “Your Hit Parade.” In that dreary Christmas of 1942 
— the second Christmas coming in the midst of war in the United States 
— Berlin’s melancholy words gave voice to the heartfelt wishes of millions 
of Americans, at home and overseas, for a Christmas more joyous and 
brighter than the one they were about to celebrate. 

A modern American Christmas is a holiday of light — the colorful 
Christmas lights of homes and businesses, shop windows all ablaze, every 
city and town putting a tableau of the manger in Bethlehem by the old 
court house or town square, home fireplaces and Yule logs, and the na- 
tional Christmas tree on the White House grounds. But that year the 
deepening energy crisis in the United States, and especially in the coun- 
try’s most populous region and the heartland of its industry — the north- 
east and the Ohio River Valley — made Christmas a lot darker. Outdoor 
holiday lights were dimmer where they were found at all. Posters every- 
where exhorted Americans to save energy for the fight at the front and for 
the production of the machines of war that would ensure victory. Coal, 
oil, and gasoline for personal civilian use were tightly restricted. Car trips 


197 


to visit family were virtually out of the question. On top of all that, it was a 
cold and dry winter with little snow. Well did Americans wish for a white 
Christmas that year.! 

The severe energy and particularly oil shortage in the American 
northeast (and eastern Canada) was the inevitable result of the war that 
Admiral Karl Dénitz’s “gray sharks” had been waging against all shipping 
since September 1939, but especially against tankers. Tanker losses had 
started to mount over the winter of 1939-40, but the Anglo-French allies 
had initially been able to counter those losses by leasing neutral tankers, 
rationalizing tanker traffic, convoying, and other means. The constant 
struggle to preserve tanker capacity, and possibly to build more tankers 
than the enemy was destroying, suffered a severe blow with the entry of 
the United States into the war. Suddenly, every tanker in the Atlantic, the 
Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean was at risk. 

Shortly after his American offensive began, Donitz told the German 
people over the radio: “Our U-boats are operating close in shore along 
the coast of the United States ... so that bathers and sometimes entire 
coastal cities are witnesses to the drama of war, whose visual climaxes are 
constituted by the red glorioles of blazing tankers.”? Those “red glorioles” 
erupted 64 times between mid-January and mid-June 1942, when as many 
tankers (along with 62 other ships) were sent into Davey Jones’ Locker off 
the US east coast.> But these were not the only tankers lost in American 
waters or in proximity to American waters; from the opening of the sub- 
marine offensive in the Caribbean on February 16, 1942, until the end of 
that year, another 75 tankers were destroyed in the Caribbean, along with 
310 other ships. 

Every tanker loss meant that nearly 100,000 passenger cars on the 
east coast would be devoid of gasoline; 35,000 homes or small businesses 
would suffer with little or no heating oil for up to a year. The average 
tanker on an east coast run carried 80,000 barrels of oil up from the Gulf 
or the Caribbean every 20 days, thus delivering 4,000 barrels a day. This 
translated into 1.5 million barrels per year of carrying capacity.* When 
multiplied by the 222 US, British, and other Allied or Allied-chartered 
tankers lost in 1942,° the impact was staggering — 330 million barrels of 
carrying capacity lost. The Germans did almost no damage to the drilling, 
lifting, or refining capacity of the United States, Venezuela, or Trinidad. 


198 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


But they were making it very difficult to get any of that oil to points vital 
to the Allied war effort. 

The result of the great damage to the transporting capability of the 
tanker fleet was felt up and down the line. In the first six months of 1942, 
Venezuela was forced to curtail production by 12.5 million, Mexico by 
2.95 million, Colombia by 1.15 million, and Trinidad by 0.2 million bar- 
rels. The oil could not be shipped, so it had to be left in the ground — “shut 
in” — or stored somewhere near the drilling site.* No one had foreseen 
the need for major oil storage facilities, so the oil was left in place. Local 
and even national economies suffered. United States production destined 
for the northeast was drastically cut back. No pipelines existed to carry 
oil from Texas or Louisiana to New York or New Jersey.’ Daily tanker 
shipments from the Gulf of Mexico to the eastern seaboard dropped from 
the 1941 average of 1.42 million barrels per day to just 391,000 barrels in 
1942.° The excess was either shut in or stored in local tank farms. 

Here, too, production stopped, workers were laid off, local economies 
suffered. As early as the beginning of March 1942, Texas oilmen began to 
talk about reducing production by at least 10 per cent to ease the growing 
demand for above-ground storage.’ As early as the end of the first week of 
March 1942, US east coast stocks were 10.74 million barrels lower than 
they had been the previous year. British imports of both crude and petrol- 
eum products fell from 12.3 million tons in 1941 to 9.9 million in 1942, 
while total imports of refined gasoline, for both motor and aviation use, 
dropped from 4,768 tons per week in 1941 to 4,115 per week in 1942,” 
even as demand rose. Put simply, the Germans were sinking tankers far 
faster than Allied shipyards could replace them." On March 12, 1942, 
Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill wrote President Franklin D. Roos- 
evelt: “I am most deeply concerned at the immense sinkings of tankers 
west of the 40th meridian and in the Caribbean Sea.” General George 
C. Marshall, Chief of Staff of the US Army and Roosevelt’s chief military 
advisor, was somewhat less prone to dramatic statements than Churchill, 
but even he told Admiral Ernest J. King in June 1942, “The losses by sub- 
marines off our Atlantic seaboard and in the Caribbean now threaten our 
entire war effort.” 


3 ok ok 


11: White Christmas 199 


For civilians in the United States, Great Britain, and Canada, the most 
direct link between the slaughter of the tankers and their daily lives was 
the elaborate system of rationing and controls over energy consumption 
that would ultimately limit their ability to drive their cars or heat their 
homes and workplaces. But civilian demand was not a significant part 
of the problem. It was the newly and greatly expanded demands for war 
production — oil for everything from chemicals to explosives, plastics, 
and rubber; to pave new runways; to provide rainproof ponchos for the 
infantry; hydraulic fluid for brakes for motor vehicles and aircraft; and, 
most importantly, aviation gasoline for bombers and fighters. The ultim- 
ate solution to these shortages was to destroy the Nazi regime and the 
submarine fleet it had created; everyone knew that would take some time. 
In the interim, there were three solutions: in the short term, rationing; 
in the intermediate term (for the United States), transporting oil without 
tankers; and in the long run, building more tankers and sinking more 
submarines. Britain had imposed rigid controls over consumption, dis- 
tribution, transport, and storage of oil and petroleum products almost as 
soon as the war began in the fall of 1939. In July 1942, even further cuts 
were made and no gasoline was allowed for civilian uses except for 40,000 
individuals living in remote areas of the British Isles who were allowed to 
drive up to 120 miles per month." 

In the late winter and spring of 1942, Americans too began to feel 
the pinch. An immediate halt in the manufacturing of private cars and 
the shift of the auto industry to army vehicle and aircraft production es- 
sentially froze potential growth in the number of civilian vehicles on the 
road. On April 16, 1942, supplies of gasoline to retail dealers was cur- 
tailed by one third. A month later a temporary ration of five gallons per 
week for civilians was imposed on the east coast. On July 1, a permanent 
limit of 16 gallons a month was imposed on drivers west of the Appala- 
chians; 12 gallons a month for those on the eastern seaboard.’ Fuel oil to 
heat private homes was also cut; citizens were told to convert to coal and 
to keep their thermostats at 65° F during the daytime and 55° F at night. 

The British, Americans, and Canadians faced two separate but re- 
lated problems. For Britain, the tanker shortage meant less oil and pet- 
roleum products, period. For Canada and the United States, lost tankers 
created internal distribution problems of the first magnitude. Sufficient 


200 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


oil was produced and refined in the Canadian West to take care of lo- 
cal demand, but eastern Canada was heavily dependent on tanker-borne 
supplies from the Caribbean. Tanker losses — and shifting tankers from 
the eastern Canadian trade to other purposes — put enormous pressure on 
Canadian supplies. In the United States, the tanker shortage had its most 
serious impact on the east coast because of the roughly 576,000 barrels a 
day that flowed into the region; 414,000 barrels from the Gulf of Mexico 
and 115,000 from the Caribbean came by tanker and only 46,000 barrels 
by rail, truck, barge, or pipeline.’* The challenge, then, was to replace as 
much of the tanker-borne oil flowing to the east coast as possible by other 
means. 

Railway tank cars were the most obvious replacement. In June 1941, 
Harold L. Ickes, Roosevelt’s Interior Secretary and recently appointed 
Petroleum Coordinator for National Defense, began to press the oil com- 
panies to make greater use of tanker cars to supplement sea-going tankers. 
But Ickes faced several obstacles. First, it was at least ten times as expen- 
sive to move oil by rail as it was by sea. Second, any open move to coordin- 
ate the flow of oil by rail between the largest oil companies and railroads 
might easily be construed by the Department of Justice as a form of trust 
or monopoly, and thus prohibited by America’s tough antitrust legislation. 
Third, the railroads had little infrastructure to handle large traffic in oil, 
either loading and storage facilities or branch lines to enough terminals. 
Ickes thus urged the Interstate Commerce Commission to allow railroads 
to set rates for petroleum shipment that would produce richer returns 
while he won permission from the Department of Justice to encourage 
the major oil companies to pool reserves and coordinate shipments with 
the Association of American Railroads.” At the same time, grain cars and 
liquid gas cars were converted to oil carriers. 

Ickes’ campaign produced quick results. By March 1942, some 13,500 
tanker cars a week brought more than 435,000 barrels of oil to the east 
coast. Given the greatly increased wartime demand for oil and petroleum 
by-products in March 1942 over March 1941, it wasn’t nearly enough, but 
it was a start. Tanker trucks were also used to supplement rail deliveries — 
the War Production Board issued exemptions for the manufacture of tank 
trucks while states (Pennsylvania Turnpike) suspended rules that barred 
tanker traffic from some trunk highways." Another, though much slower, 


11: White Christmas 201 


alternative was to ship oil and other petroleum products by barge up the 
Mississippi and via the great rivers of the eastern and central states such 
as the Ohio and the Tennessee, as well as the extensive barge canals built 
in the nineteenth century. A barge starting at Corpus Christie, Texas, 
might make its way as far as Pittsburgh, or via the Missouri River, the 
Illinois Waterway, and the Great Lakes to Cleveland and even Buffalo.” 
Lake tankers were pressed into service to off-load oil from barges at major 
terminuses and carry it to lakeside cities such as Chicago. In June 1941, 
about 95 per cent of the petroleum deliveries to the east coast were made 
by tanker. In April 1945, only 22 per cent were brought by tanker, while 
30 per cent came by rail and 8 per cent by barge. But, by then, the remain- 
ing 40 per cent came by pipeline.” 


ok OK Ok 


There were about 100,000 miles of oil pipelines moving more than three 
million barrels of crude oil and petroleum products in the United States in 
1940, none larger than eight inches in diameter, and none from the major 
oil-producing regions in the southwest to the east coast. The trunk lines 
that did exist connected loading facilities in Texas, Louisiana, Oklaho- 
ma, and New Mexico to the Gulf of Mexico and its large tanker loading 
docks. A number also connected the southwest to California and to mid- 
west refineries.”! The heavy reliance on sea-borne oil to sustain the east 
coast posed no significant inconvenience to the oil industry or the public 
until the start of the war in 1939, and most particularly the surrender of 
France in June 1940. The subsequent slaughter of the tankers in the North 
Atlantic and off the US east coast after Pearl Harbor as well as in the 
Caribbean after February 16, 1942, convinced almost everyone involved 
in the business of organizing wartime energy supplies that the only real 
way to replace the tanker traffic was via a new emergency pipeline from 
Texas to the east coast. 

Ickes had warned Roosevelt in July 1940 that “the building of a crude 
oil pipeline from Texas to the East might not be economically sound [in 
peacetime]; but in the event of an emergency it might be absolutely ne- 
cessary.”” The problem was that the United States was not yet at war and 
in 1940 no one could foresee if it would join the conflict, or when. In the 


202 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


meantime, the president’s chief objective was to begin the long and com- 
plex job of building up American military strength. The United States was 
so weak in the summer and fall of 1940 that it could barely field a single 
modern, well-trained, armored division. 

On May 27, 1941, Roosevelt declared an unlimited state of national 
emergency; the next day he named Ickes oil tsar. Ickes’ war emergency 
duties were aided by the establishment by executive order of the Petrol- 
eum Administration for War (PAW) on December 2, 1941, with him as 
Petroleum Coordinator for War. As Secretary of the Interior, Ickes had 
been a strong conservationist and no friend of the oil industry, but he saw 
immediately that he could not succeed in preparing the United States to 
fight a modern oil-based war without industry’s cooperation. He over- 
came Big Oil’s misgivings by inviting the managers of the nation’s largest 
companies to join him to coordinate war supplies for energy, while he 
also persuaded the Department of Justice to relax its investigations, and 
prosecutions, of companies that cooperated with each other, especially in 
the shipping of oil. 

The companies responded with the creation of the Petroleum Indus- 
try War Council, a voluntary association of all the major American oil 
producers, with several important subcommittees such as the Petroleum 
Economics Committee and the Transportation Committee. Their inten- 
tion was to help the war effort in any way possible but primarily to — in 
effect — create one large oil consortium for the duration. As one dramatic 
example, companies even pooled gasoline, despite the near religious fervor 
with which one company’s brand had been extolled over another’s during 
peacetime. Ickes and the oil industry accomplished a great deal before the 
United States was dragged into the war, but it was not nearly enough to 
offset the disastrous loss of tankers that began in February 1942. 

When the impact of the tanker losses was first felt, Ickes and the oil 
companies bore down hard on solving the growing shortage of east coast 
oil by using existing pipelines, railroads, and barges; by pooling, exchan- 
ging, and sharing facilities and equipment; and by speeding up construc- 
tion of tankers, of which more than 800 were built by the United States 
alone by 1945.3 But Ickes remained convinced that a war emergency pipe- 
line from Texas to the east coast was the only long-term answer. As early 
as September 1941, he had formally requested the Supply Priorities and 


11: White Christmas 203 


Allocations Board (SPAB) — responsible for allocating all strategic ma- 
terials and supplies in the immediate prewar period, soon to be replaced 
by the War Production Board — to provide enough steel to build a 24-inch 
pipeline under the auspices of the newly incorporated National Defense 
Pipe Lines Company. The SPAB had rejected the request. 

Ickes pushed on. He had the authority to quickly get rights-of-way 
for construction from the Cole Pipeline Bill, signed into law by FDR on 
July 30, 1941, which bestowed on the president the power to designate 
any proposed pipeline as necessary to the nation’s defense and to confer on 
its builders the right of eminent domain — that is, the right to expropriate 
property at fair market value, if necessary, over the objections of the prop- 
erty’s owners.” The pipeline industry was heavily involved in Ickes’ bid, 
with eleven companies offering to finance and build the new line. Such a 
project would require hundreds of thousands of tons of new steel for pipe, 
pumps, valves, storage tanks, and loading facilities. The SPAB rejected 
the project again. As far as it was concerned, the steel was needed for more 
important things — ships, tanks, aircraft, guns, helmets, even bayonets. 
Oil transportation would have to make do for the moment. Two days after 
Pearl Harbor, the National Defense Pipe Lines Company was dissolved. 

The SPAB held fast to its opposition to the pipeline through the rest 
of the fall of 1941 and into the first half of 1942 — by which time it had 
been transformed into the War Production Board (WPB). On February 
24, 1942, the latter rejected a third proposal for a Texas—East Coast pipe- 
line. As The Oil Weekly declared in its edition of March 9, 1942: 


In turning down Ickes’ application [of the previous week], 
WPB accepted the SPAB [Supply Priorities and Applications 
Board] ruling of last November that the value of the line as a 
defense project was not great enough to justify the high priority 
ratings that would be necessary, and pointed out that materials 
shortages since that time have increased rather than decreased.” 


On March 23, engineers and management representatives of 67 oil 
and pipeline companies, all members of the Petroleum Industry War 
Council, gathered for three days at the Mayo Hotel in Tulsa, Oklaho- 
ma, to hammer out a domestic pipeline strategy for the war emergency 


204 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


period. The Petroleum Industry War Council’s Temporary Joint Pipe- 
line Sub-Committee was made up of some of the industry’s foremost ex- 
perts in pipeline construction and management, storage and shipment, 
and traffic control. They examined virtually every mile of existing pipe, 
every pumping station, every tank farm, and drew up a plan to effect- 
ively re-jig the existing national network for moving oil so as to increase 
the amount flowing to the northeast and to other areas where vital war 
activities such as ship construction were going on. 

The resulting Tulsa Plan contained numerous recommendations for 
the reconfiguration and extension of existing pipelines, the increased use 
of alternate means of fuel delivery, specific measures to be taken by com- 
panies to increase the efficiency of supply, the use of old pipe, pumps, and 
meters on new lines, the reversal of pumping direction on some lines, and 
the tearing up of old pipe to extend existing lines. Even if those measures 
were to be adopted, however, the Transportation Sub-Committee con- 
cluded that the east coast would still be left far short of its minimum daily 
oil requirements. “There does not seem to be any solution but to build two 
big pipelines from the Texas area thru to the Atlantic Coast if tankers 
are not going to be available.” The Tulsa Plan was warmly received by 
the industry and accepted by Ickes on May 11, 1942. The Oil Weekly was 
optimistic that the next time Ickes, armed with the plan, went to the 
WPPB for steel, his reception would be somewhat warmer: “It is expected 
the Office of Petroleum Coordinator will make another effort and there 
are indications that WPB may now adopt a more liberal attitude toward 
the project.”?” 

Ickes did go back to the War Production Board on May 25. ‘This time 
his argument was strongly supported by both the army and the navy. It 
was also dramatically illustrated by the brutal reality that some 100 tank- 
ers had been sunk off the east coast, and in the Caribbean, since the be- 
ginning of 1942. On June 10, the WPB approved a 24-inch crude oil 
pipeline — dubbed Big Inch — but only from Longview, Texas, to Nor- 
ris City, Illinois. There, the WPB proposed that the pipeline feed into a 
tank-car loading facility for rail transportation further east. Four months 
later, the Petroleum Administration for War urged the WPB to approve 
allocation of steel and other materials for the line’s extension to the east 
coast. Permission was granted on October 26 for a single 24-inch line 


11: White Christmas 205 


from Norris, Illinois, to Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, where two 20-inch 
lines would be built to New York City and Philadelphia. 

At the same time, PAW told the Board that a request for a second line 
would shortly be made. That line, the Little Big Inch, was to be a 20-inch 
pipeline for carrying refined petroleum products from Beaumont, Texas, 
to Linden, New Jersey. PAW made the application on January 18, 1943. 
It was initially granted permission for the line to be built to Norris, ILli- 
nois, but then, on April 2, received the WPB’s blessing for its extension to 
Linden, New Jersey.”* Thus, whereas in the fall of 1941 the United States 
had no pipelines to carry crude or crude products from Texas to the east 
coast, now there were to be two large lines with a potential capacity of 
half a million barrels of product delivered every day. Concurrently, other 
national emergency pipelines and extensions of previous pipelines were 
built — such as the Plantation Line from the Gulf Coast through the Old 
South to Richmond — which considerably alleviated the oil shortage in 
the southeast. 

But how to finance, build, and manage the Big Inch and Little Big 
Inch, and do so quickly enough to offset the growing tanker shortage?” 
‘That was the next and greatest challenge by far. 


oh OK ok 


The $35 million cost for the first stage of the Big Inch line was advanced 
by the government-owned Depression-Era Reconstruction Finance Cor- 
poration. For the duration of the war, the line was to be owned by the De- 
fense Plant Corporation and managed by War Emergency Pipelines, Inc., 
a consortium of 11 companies. WEP was also the prime contractor for 
the construction of the line, using dozens of private companies to do the 
surveying, trenching, pipe-laying, backfilling, and other essential work, 
including bridging and underground boring. W. Alton Jones, President 
of Cities Service Oil Company, was named president of WEP; Burton E. 
Hull as vice president and general manager. 

A bluff, weather-beaten Texan, Hull had graduated from Texas A & 
M University in 1904 with a degree in engineering. Short and stocky, he 
was plain-spoken, energetic, and a born leader. He was considered one of 
the best pipeline engineers in the business and was determined to bring 


206 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


the line into operation on time and on budget. On June 23, 1942, three 
days before the official contract was even signed, he put 15 surveying par- 
ties into the field to stake out a 531-mile right-of-way between Longview, 
Texas, and Norris City, Illinois. Williams Brothers, one of the country’s 
most experienced pipeline layers, was selected as prime contractor. ‘The 
National Tube Company, a subsidiary of US Steel, shipped the first train- 
load of 24-inch seamless pipe, 3/8-inch thick, on July 18; on August 3, 
construction got under way near Little Rock, Arkansas. 

Hull’s assistant, Major A. N. Horne, arrived in Little Rock on July 1 
with nothing but a briefcase; Hull joined him two days later. The two men 
worked out of a steamy hotel room, sending telegrams and letters, making 
phone calls and hiring a traffic manager to work with them as they assem- 
bled the management team they would need to get construction launched. 
A few days later, they went to an auction to buy some used office furniture. 
On July 11, Hull summoned to Little Rock representatives from every 
pipeline contractor in the nation with the men and ability to handle heavy 
pipe; together they formulated a plan to get the job done by the beginning 
of January 1943. 

‘The Big Inch line was to run 530.36 miles along a right-of-way 75 feet 
wide with pumping stations approximately every 50 miles. Eight principal 
pipe-laying crews, each between 300 and 400 men, worked on different 
sections of the pipe at the same time. Other crews — 18 of them — tackled 
the 33 river and stream crossings that were necessary, including one under 
the Mississippi River. It took 11 weeks to blast a trench in the river bot- 
tom and prepare it for the pipe. The standard method of construction on 
land was to dig a trench four feet deep and three feet wide, and lay the 
pipe into the trench with a side-boom tractor, usually from truck trailers. 
‘The inside of each section of pipe was swabbed by pulling a (necessarily 
small) man through the pipe on a cleaning pad with rags on his hands. 
‘The ends were then prepared for welding, after which the pipe was coated, 
wrapped and covered, laid back in the trench, and backfilled. Most of the 
necessary pipe bending was done on the spot. Rivers were crossed using 
4,800-pound river clamps to hold the pipe to the bottoms.* 

The pipe was laid through forests and swamps, over the Allegheny 
Mountains, across rivers, lakes, creeks, and tidal marshes, beneath streets 
and railroad rights-of-way, and through backyards. It traversed 95 counties 


11: White Christmas 207 


in ten states. At the same time, work began on large tank farms in Long- 
view, Texas, and Norris, Illinois, and at a large facility at the latter to load 
tank cars either directly from the pipe or from the storage tanks. It was an 
incredible feat of wartime construction — some five months after the work 
on the initial section of the pipeline had begun, the first flow of oil from 
Longview to Norris (about 60,000 barrels a day) started through the pipe. 
The line had been completed so fast that sufficient storage tanks were not 
yet ready at Longview or Norris. No matter, oil was immediately transferred 
to tank cars and sent east. At the same time, construction on the eastern 
connection to New York and Philadelphia, started in November 1942, pro- 
ceeded at a rapid pace. Most of this line was welded, not seamless, pipe 
supplied by Youngstown Sheet and Tube. 

On July 19, 1943, the final weld was made on this eastern extension of 
the Big Inch at Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. By that time, 100,000 barrels 
a day were already being pumped into the pipe from fields near Longview, 
Texas, and from other fields in the state connected to Longview by newly 
built pipes. It moved along at 40 miles a day; when the pipeline was filled 
from end to end, it held five million barrels of oil. The trick was to run 
the pumps and operate the valves in such a way as to reach its full capacity 
of 300,000 barrels a day, which was done by the fall. At the same time, 
Little Big Inch construction moved rapidly ahead. This pipe was to carry 
gasoline, heating oil, and other products using rubber balls slightly larger 
than the diameter of the pipe, and inserted into the pipe, to separate the 
products being sent through. It could also carry crude, if necessary. ‘The 
combined carrying capacity of the two lines was 500,000 barrels a day. 

In the words of one major survey of the American oil industry in 
World War II, “The completion of Big Inch [in July 1943] marked the 
beginning of the end of the supply problem on the East Coast.”*! The com- 
pletion of Little Big Inch to the east coast in March 1944 “virtually solved 
the transportation deficiency to the east coast,”” according to the official 
history of the PAW. Although these two pipelines (and many others) that 
had been rushed to completion or extended added capacity that had not 
existed before 1941, older means of shipping also improved greatly. By 
1944, pipelines delivered 662,559 barrels a day to the east coast (38.7 per 
cent of the total), rail cars 646,113 barrels or 37.7 per cent of the east 
coast supply, and barges and lake tankers (via Lakes Michigan, Erie, and 


208 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 





Pennsylvania section of the war emergency 24-inch pipeline to carry oil from Texas fields 
to eastern refineries, completed in July 1943. Willis Garner about to tack weld a section of 
pipe. Source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection 
[reproduction number LC-USW3-015067-D (b&w film neg.)]. 


Ontario) another 127,641 barrels or 7.5 per cent. Thus, the total amount 
of oil flowing to the east coast from overland routes was 1.4 million barrels 
a day by 1944, which was more than the total amount (tankers included) 
in 1942 or 1943. 

The railroads did an outstanding job in collecting, modifying, and 
pooling tank cars and increasing tank-car deliveries to the east coast from 
35,000 barrels a day in 1941 to 841,905 (or 61.3 per cent of the total) 
by 1943, but railway cars were in very high demand throughout North 
America to deliver all manner of war goods. ‘Thus, as soon as the pipelines 
began to take up the slack with the completion of Big Inch and Little 
Big Inch, thousands of tank cars were diverted elsewhere to deliver other 
liquid goods or to be converted to carry dry goods. 


11: White Christmas 209 


‘The other factor that helped to ease the oil supply situation in the East 
was a crash program to build tankers. Sea-borne oil delivered to the east 
coast reached its high point in 1941, accounting for 1.4 million barrels a 
day or 92.5 per cent of the total. But that was prior to the war. After Pearl 
Harbor, tankers were sunk in large numbers, but tankers (including much 
new construction) were also grabbed up by the Royal Navy and the US 
Navy as fleet tankers. The US Navy had developed the art of refueling at 
sea in the interwar period in order to be able to reach the vast expanses 
of the Pacific Ocean. The Royal Navy was much slower to take up that 
challenge but was well into the practice by 1943. Hence, both used tank- 
ers for two purposes — to move supplies from port to port, but also to sail 
with their task forces and fuel at sea. Navies claimed first priority on new 
tanker construction. 

The world has long been aware of the incredible feats of ship con- 
struction in the United States, Great Britain, and Canada that, by early 
1943, was launching many more new bottoms than U-boats could sink. 
US “Liberty” ships were mass-produced, sometimes in a matter of days. 
But so, too, were tankers. One of the best new modern designs was the 
T-2 tanker, adopted from two prototypes — Modbilfuel and Mobilube — 
whose construction had started before the war. They set the pattern for 
481 other T-2s built by 1945, many of which were taken over by the US 
Navy. All were over 500 feet long, displaced at least 10,000 tons, and were 
powered by steam-turbine engines with maximum speeds exceeding 16 
knots. Put simply, they were larger, faster, and more powerful than most 
tankers afloat in 1940. And that meant that one of the unforeseen side ef 
fects of Dénitz’s war against Allied tankers was the rebuilding of a major 
part of the prewar tanker fleet to deliver more product, more quickly. By 
1945, tanker deliveries to the east coast had increased from an average of 
159,563 barrels per day in 1943 to 450,665 barrels a day.* 

By Christmas 1944, the holiday lights were on again in most of the 
United States and the United Kingdom. Both had more than made up 
for the huge losses in tankers suffered in 1942 and 1943 on the eastern 
seaboard of the United States, on the trans-Atlantic routes, and on the 
runs from Venezuela to the Netherlands Antilles and on to Canada, the 
US east coast, and the United Kingdom. The U-boats would continue to 
haunt the Caribbean in late 1942 and 1943 — indeed, they would in small 


210 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


numbers revisit for most of the war — but the outcome of the struggle had 
already been determined by the rapid construction of just over 1,000 miles 
of pipeline. The virtual closing of the Caribbean oil supply in 1942 had 
been a brilliant feat of the German submarine service, but the industrial 
capacity of the Allies, especially the United States, was more than a match 
for the U-boats. When led, organized, and driven by men such as Harold 
Ickes and Burt Hull, the thousands of welders, pipe fitters, pipe layers, 
engineers, earth-moving equipment operators, truck drivers, surveyors, 
riveters, pile drivers, boring machine operators, drillers, and just plain 
laborers neutralized the largest submarine force the world has ever seen. 


11: White Christmas 211 


12 


THE ALLIES STRIKE BACK 


By the end of 1942, the Caribbean was interlaced with 27 different convoy 
routes. ‘The intricate convoy network required far more escort vessels than 
were available. The three main navies fighting the Battle of the Atlantic 
— the Royal Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy, and the United States Navy 
— were hard pressed in 1942 to provide escorts in the Caribbean because 
all three suffered an acute shortage of destroyers and other escort vessels. 
Almost all new US Navy destroyers were being pushed into the Pacific as 
fast as they were commissioned. The Royal Navy had been so hard pressed 
for escorts in the late summer of 1940 that it had been forced to con- 
clude the destroyers-for-bases deal in order to obtain 50 World War I-era 
American destroyers. ‘The British possessed some 200 escort vessels of all 
types in the spring of 1942 — including the Flower-class corvettes, lightly 
armed, slow, coastal defense vessels pressed into service for mid-ocean 
duty. But the ships were spread out over half the globe: ten (all corvettes) 
had been transferred directly to the US Navy; 61 were in the South At- 
lantic, Mediterranean, or the Pacific; 37 were in British home waters; 78 
were on the North Atlantic run; and six were on convoy duty to Russia. 
Only Escort Group B5 was available for full-time duty in the Caribbean, 
supplemented from time to time by a half dozen other vessels.' The Royal 
Canadian Navy was only able to detach four corvettes and the occasional 
destroyer to escort oil convoys to and from Canada’s east coast. Although 
the Caribbean was a vital war theater, the North Atlantic remained the 
most important area of operations, and it came first for all three navies. 


oh Ok Ok 


213 


The US Navy was singularly unready even to fight a war in the Atlantic, 
let alone the Caribbean. There were about 100 destroyers in the Atlan- 
tic Fleet at the outbreak of war, but only Task Force 4, operating out of 
Argentia, Newfoundland, made its destroyers available for convoy escort 
duty, and only a few of those were detached to subordinate commands 
such as the Caribbean Sea Frontier. As Vice Admiral Royal E. Ingersoll, 
Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, later recalled: 


‘The Sea Frontiers (i.e., Caribbean Sea Frontier) had their own 
coastal forces but they were small ships and were not really good 
anti-submarine vessels. ‘The subchasers, of which the navy had a 
lot, weren’t very good. They were one of Mr. Roosevelt’s fads... 
The submarine chaser was no craft to combat submarines on the 
high seas.” 


And yet, after Pearl Harbor, the Americans had little choice but to use 
their motley fleet in the Caribbean; they had little else. The Naval Oper- 
ating Base at Port of Spain, Trinidad, was almost denuded of defenses 
in December 1941, with two 500-ton converted yachts, two patrol craft, 
four Catalina flying boats of VP-31, and one utility transport, all guarded 
by a mixed force of 172 Marines and “bluejackets,” as the navy called 
its noncommissioned personnel.* Rear Admiral Hoover's odd collection 
of ships was directed mainly from three headquarters: San Juan, Puerto 
Rico; Guantanamo, Cuba; and Trinidad. The only rapid reinforcement 
sent after the attack on Aruba was one additional squadron of PBYs. 
Hoover’s Caribbean fleet included Roosevelt’s cherished sub-chas- 
ers. Most displaced 450 tons and had a top speed of 21 knots. ‘They were 
armed with two three-inch guns, five 20-mm rapid fire anti-aircraft/ 
anti-motor-torpedo-boat guns, two depth-charge throwers, and two 
depth-charge racks astern. As well, Hoover had at his disposal so-called 
“Q-ships.” They had first been used in ASW during World War I, and 
followed a long tradition of navies disguising warships at sea as merchant 
vessels in order to draw in and then destroy unsuspecting enemy warships. 
In January 1942 the US Navy ordered several “Q-ships” fitted with four- 
inch guns, .50-caliber machine guns and 20-mm anti-aircraft/anti-tor- 
pedo boat guns. ‘The first of these ships — USS Azik — was sunk by U-123 


214 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


on the night of March 26, 1942. No one was recovered. No wreckage was 
found. A German radio report announced that “a Q-boat ... was among 
13 vessels sunk off the American Atlantic coast ... by a submarine only 
after a ‘bitter battle’, fought partly on the surface with artillery and partly 
beneath the water with bombs and torpedoes.” 

Two of the American “Q-ships” were deployed to the Caribbean. USS 
Asterion operated out of the American naval base on Trinidad and made 
a few convoy runs westward of Aruba before returning to New York at 
the end of December. It encountered no German submarines. USS Big 
Horn worked out of Trinidad and Curacao. On October 16, 1942, it was 
steaming in the wake of convoy T-19, eastward from Trinidad, when two 
freighters were torpedoed. Its gunners trained on a periscope but could 
not open fire without damaging some of the ships in convoy. Not long 
after, another chance to shoot arose, but a sub-chaser crossed in between 
Big Horn’s guns and the target. On November 10, Big Horn was sailing in 
convoy TAG-20 when U-boats attacked the gunboat USS Erie, just 1,000 
yards off its starboard bow. But again, the “Q-ship” had no chance to 
avenge the attack. Big Horn’s failure to actually engage a submarine dur- 
ing two convoy attacks and the sinking of the Aziz on its maiden voyage 
are apt testimony to the uselessness of the “Q-ship” program.’ 

At President Roosevelt’s initiative, the United States mounted a major 
ship construction program in the late 1930s. Beginning in Fiscal Year 
1938, 73 destroyers of the Porter, Somers, Benson/Gleaves, and Bristol 
classes were authorized, bringing the total of modern destroyers up to 100 
by the time of Pearl Harbor. There were minor differences in these differ- 
ent classes of ships, but in the main they were fast and well-armed. Most 
were immediately sent to the Pacific after December 7, and many of the 
rest were dispatched to the United Kingdom.® One of these was the USS 
Lansdowne. Displacing 1,630 tons, it carried four modern five-inch dual 
purpose guns, a variety of heavy automatic weapons, depth charge racks 
and throwers, and a multiple torpedo launcher. On July 13, 1942, Lans- 
downe was designated flagship of Destroyer Division 24 and deployed off 
the east coast of Panama to help with the recent U-boat onslaught. 

Also operating in those waters was U-153, a Type [XC boat under 
the command of Wilfried Reichmann. The Korvettenkapitan was a 
member of the Class of 1924, and at age 36, senior in years. But he was 


12: The Allies Strike Back 215 


inexperienced — while bringing U-153 from the Baltic Sea to the Bay of 
Biscay in November 1941, he had collided with another brand new boat, 
U-583; the latter was lost with 45 men on board.’ Reichmann left Lorient 
on his first war patrol on June 6, 1942. On June 25, he sunk his first 
ship, the 5,268-ton British steamer Anglo-Canadian (ironically, this ship 
had survived a Japanese air attack on April 16, 1942, in the Bay of Ben- 
gal), southeast of Bermuda. His next victim, sunk two days later, was the 
6,058-ton American vessel Potlatch, with a cargo of trucks and tanks; 49 
crew members abandoned ship and spent 32 days in a lifeboat drifting 
from one uninhabited island to another before landing in the Bahamas. 
Potlatch was east-northeast of Guadeloupe Island when it sank — U-153 
was moving across the Caribbean toward the coast of Colombia. Sure 
enough, two days later, another American ship, the 4,833-ton Ruth fell 
to Reichmann’s torpedoes northwest of Great Inagua Island.* By then, 
U-153 was hunting close to the coast of Panama. Reichmann may have 
been unaware of the large number of US planes and aircraft operating 
out of Cristébal. On July 5 and 6, he was twice caught on the surface by 
B-18 bombers of 59 Squadron north of Bahia de Portete, Colombia. In 
the second of these attacks, the bomber carried out a beam attack and 
dropped four depth charges before U-153 slipped beneath the surface. 

USS Mimosa was a small, 560-ton net tender armed with a single 
three-inch gun, and with a top speed of 12.5 knots. It was about 60 miles 
off Almirante, Panama, in the evening of July 11, having laid antisub- 
marine nets off Puerto Castilla, Honduras. Mimosa should have made easy 
pickings for U-153, which fired no fewer than five torpedoes at this rela- 
tively insignificant target, but all missed. Reichmann’s very poor shooting 
may have resulted from a gross underestimation of Mimosa’s draft and size, 
or from desperation. No one will ever know. Mimosa immediately radioed 
word of the attack, bringing a PBY out at 4 a.m. It detected U-153 on the 
surface, dropped flares and then four depth charges. The sub went deep, 
but not deep enough. Over the next 24 hours Patrol Craft 458 — which 
had followed the PBY to the scene — and several other aircraft kept vigil 
over the general area where the U-boat was last seen. At 10:13 a.m. on July 
13, PC-458 spotted an oil slick and dropped its remaining complement of 
six depth charges. The aircraft followed suit but, other than the oil slick, 
there was no sign that the U-boat had been destroyed. 


216 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


That same day, USS Lansdowne arrived with a convoy at Cristébal. Its 
skipper, Lieutenant-Commander William R. Smedberg III, was ordered 
out of harbor at flank speed to join the hunt. Lansdowne reached the scene 
at 6:30 p.m. and slowed to begin a sonar search. Fifteen minutes later: 
contact! Smedberg maneuvered his ship into attack position and dropped 
11 depth charges. At first, there was only the usual roiling of the sea. Then 
came the unmistakable sound of an underwater explosion, followed by a 
great spreading slick of fuel oil. Lansdowne claimed a kill; postwar records 
confirmed the death of U-153.? After U-157 (killed by the Coast Guard 
cutter Thetis), U-153 was the second Caribbean submarine destroyed by 
the US Navy or Coast Guard. 

The US Navy might have done better sinking submarines in the 
Caribbean in 1942 — given that it was hardly present in the North At- 
lantic, and given that it had a surfeit of World War I era “flush-deck” 
destroyers. Although narrow-beamed and top-heavy, they were perfectly 
suited for Caribbean operations. Yet three were lost or heavily damaged in 
1942 — Blakeley, Sturtevant, and Barney.’° One US Navy officer concluded 
in a Naval War College paper written in 1996: 


The United States Navy had no effective system of promulgating 
“Lessons Learned” to units not previously involved in 
antisubmarine warfare. Therefore, the lack of organization 
and experience among newly assigned ships and squadrons 
hastily deployed to the Caribbean, significantly improved the 
survivability of the U-boats they engaged." 


38 ok ok 


The Royal Navy’s Escort Group B5 began operations in Caribbean waters 
in mid-May 1942. It initially consisted of the destroyer HMS Havelock 
as escort leader and four Flower-class corvettes. Havelock had been under 
construction for Brazil in a British shipyard when war broke out and 
was requisitioned for service with the Royal Navy. In early July, B5 cov- 
ered the WAT/TAW convoys from Key West (later convoys sailed from 
Guantanamo as GAT/TAG) to Aruba and to Trinidad and back. It was 
joined for about eight weeks by HMS Churchill, a four-stack Town-class 


12: The Allies Strike Back 217 


transferred to the Royal Navy in September 1940. B5 covered a lot of sea 
miles in the Caribbean but sank no U-boats. 

Churchill picked up 37 survivors from the American tanker Franklin 
K. Lane, torpedoed by U-502 on June 9, 1942, northeast of Cape Blanco, 
Venezuela, and then sank the wreck by gunfire. It rescued another 50 sur- 
vivors from the De/mundo, also an American ship, sunk by U-600 south 
of Cape Maisi, Cuba, on August 13, 1942. But several days later, B5 
lost two merchant ships — the tanker British Consul and the cargo vessel 
Empire Cloud — from a 14-ship TAW convoy outbound from Trinidad, to 
U-564." 

Canada, too, became enmeshed in the war in the Caribbean when 
Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Percy Nelles ordered two British de- 
stroyers under his command — HMS Burnham and Caldwell — to begin 
escorting Canadian tankers and ore carriers up from Caribbean ports in 
late April 1942. Canada had already experienced shortages in oil stocks 
due to diversions of tankers away from the Canadian trade and the loss 
of tankers at sea or into repair yards. By the end of April 1942, naval fuel 
stocks at Halifax and St. John’s, Newfoundland, had dwindled to 45,000 
tons. On May 22, Ottawa instituted a full-fledged tanker convoy route 
between Halifax and Port of Spain, Trinidad (HT and TH). The Can- 
adians were so short of escorts that they could only spare four corvettes 
for the task, two for outbound convoys and two for inbound, thus severely 
limiting the number of tankers on the runs via either the Mona or Wind- 
ward Passages." In early July, an additional corvette was assigned in each 
direction. No tankers were ever lost on these runs. 

Late in August 1942, the Commander of Allied Forces Aru- 
ba-Curagao, a US naval officer, ordered the Canadian corvettes HMCS 
Halifax, Oakville, and Snowberry, as well as the Dutch minelayer Jan Van 
Brakel, to link up with convoy TAW-15, outbound from Trinidad via Aru- 
ba to Key West. In the morning of August 27, the convoy — now 29 ships 
and escorted as well by the US destroyer Lea and three small patrol craft 
of the “Donald Duck Navy” — was spotted by U-94, commanded by Ober- 
leutnant Otto Ites. 

Ites was only 24 years old but already a decorated veteran with four 
successful war patrols and a total of 15 ships sunk of 76,882 tons. He first 
spotted the convoy, arrayed in six columns, just after 6 p.m. as the sunset’s 


218 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 














Otto Ites. Another Knight’s Cross winner, Kapitaenleutnant Ites commanded U-94 on 
four Atlantic and one one Caribbean patrol. He sunk 15 Allied ships of 76,882 tons, 
before being sunk by depth charges from an aircraft and severe ramming by the Canadian 
corvette HMCS Oakville on 28 August 1942. Ites was among the survivors, and after 
captivity in the US until May 1946, he became one of the very few U-boat commanders 
to accept service in the new West German Navy (Bundesmarine). Source: Deutsches 
U-Boot-Museum, Cuxhaven-Altenbruch, Germany. 


12: The Allies Strike Back 219 


radiant beams of orange and red spread over the dark waters. Ites tracked 
TAW-15 for six hours, while radioing its position; Friedrich Steinhoff’s 
U-511, also in the Caribbean, picked up Ites’ signals and began to head 
for the convoy. The sky was clear with the moon shining brightly above. 
Ites brought U-94 to the surface and crept into position about three miles 
astern of the convoy. He penetrated the escort screen through a gap be- 
tween Oakville and Snowberry. Suddenly, the dreaded cry from the bridge 
watch: “Alarm! Aircraft at 235°!” It was a US Navy PBY Catalina, about 
a quarter mile off the port beam. Its pilot was Lieutenant Gordon R. Fiss, 
and it carried four MK 29, 650-pound depth charges. Fiss later reported 
that “the submarine was visually sighted in the moon path ... fully sur- 
faced.”’ The Catalina was flying at 500 feet and Fiss knew immediately 
that he had a good chance of making his bomb run while U-94 was still 
on the surface. He flew low over the U-boat and released his depth char- 
ges. “A quick glance astern a few seconds later revealed the conning tow- 
er becoming obliterated by the bomb upheaval. Members of the crew in 
the waste hatch stated the stern of the submarine was raised clear of the 
water.” To mark the spot, Fiss dropped a flare into the dark waters. 

Ites was lucky. Fiss had set the depth charges at 50 feet; at 25, they 
would have finished U-94 off there and then. Still, the boat took a terrible 
pounding and the pressure wave from the explosions drove it up to the 
surface. Oakville was closest when the Catalina attacked.'® Sub-lieutenant 
Hal Lawrence later recalled the moment when he first spotted U-94: 


Four plumes of water from the aircraft’s depth-bombs were 
subsiding into a misty haze and showing small, ethereal rainbows 
in the moonlight.... The aircraft circled in a continuous, tight 
bank, making S’s in Morse code with its signal light.... A flare 
drifted down, its ghostly radiance matching the moon.” 


Oakville’s skipper, Lieutenant-Commander Clarence A. King, heeled the 
corvette over hard and headed for the swirl where the submarine had dis- 
appeared. “Fire a five-charge pattern,” he barked out. As the submarine 
broke the surface about 100 yards from Oakville, King gave new orders: 
“Stand by to ram!” But Ites managed to maneuver away, and the corvette 
only struck U-94 a glancing blow. Then Oakville’s four-inch gun, one of 


220 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 





HMCS Oakville, the only Royal Canadian Navy vessel to have a confirmed submarine 
kill within the Caribbean theatre of the Second World War. Image courtesy of the Royal 
Canadian Navy MC-2725. 


its 20-mm Oerlikons, and a .50-caliber machine gun opened up, striking 
U-94 on the conning tower and scoring hits on the hull. Again, King 
turned to ram. But again Oa&ville only scored a glancing blow. King or- 
dered more depth charges, right under the U-boat. Then he swung out for 
another try at ramming it. 

The second and third set of depth charges crippled the boat. Ma- 
chinery broke loose from its mountings, valves blew, oil hoses ruptured, 
gauges broke, and urine buckets rolled in the bilge. One of the four-inch 
shells had blown the boat’s 8.8-cm deck gun off its base; another had hit 
U-94 “squarely abaft the conning tower.” All the while, Oakville’s ma- 
chine guns raked the crippled U-boat with intensive fire; Ites took two 
bullets in the leg then yelled: “Abandon ship!” Oa&ville turned into the 
submarine again; this time it rode right over U-94. Some of Oakville’s 
sailors threw empty Coke bottles and yelled “partisan baseball invectives” 
at the Germans, barely 20 feet away. U-94 wallowed in the moderate sea, 
without artillery or power. 


12: The Allies Strike Back 221 


i, 





Lieutenant Hal Lawrence and Stoker Petty Officer A. J. Powell. The unorthodox 
boarding of U-94 by Lawrence and Powell became legendary within the history of the 
Royal Canadian Navy. Image courtesy of the Royal Canadian Navy, H-04137. 


King ordered “Away boarding party ... Come on Lawrence! Get 
cracking!” Lawrence, Petty Officer Art Powell, and about 12 other hands 
made ready to board the submarine as King maneuvered alongside. It was 
ten feet down from the corvette deck to U-94. As the two vessels grated 
alongside, Lawrence and the others jumped to the submarine’s deck. He 
later wrote: “I was always a romantic youth, and from age ten onward, 
stories of the Spanish Main were a large part of my literary diet.” As he 
hit the U-boat’s deck, he thought, “Mother of God! I really am boarding 
an enemy ship on the Spanish main.” Suddenly the belt of his tropical 
shorts broke; the shorts fell to his feet. He stumbled and kicked them off 
and with pistol in hand he lurched up the deck towards the conning tower. 
He and Powell were alone. Someone from Oakville opened fire with a ma- 
chine gun. Bullets snapped through the air and pinged on the submarine’s 


222 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


superstructure; Lawrence and Powell jumped into the water. Then when 
the shooting stopped they were swept back onto the submarine with the 
next wave. They moved cautiously toward the conning tower and shot two 
crew members advancing on them from the hatch. Then Powell shep- 
herded the escaping Germans aft while Lawrence went below to search; 
he found nothing of value. Sea water had reached the boat’s batteries, pro- 
ducing chlorine gas. Lawrence and Powell abandoned the vessel, which 
sank shortly after. U-94 was the only submarine destroyed by the Royal 
Canadian Navy in the Caribbean." 

Less than a week later, the Royal Navy scored its first and only kill in 
the Caribbean theater, just outside the Windward Islands. On December 
18, 1941, the British battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth was damaged by 
an Italian human torpedo attack in Alexandria harbor, Egypt. The Royal 
Navy ordered the battleship to Norfolk, Virginia, for repairs via the Cape 
of Good Hope and the Azores, escorted by the destroyers HMS Vimy, 
Pathfinder, and Quentin. On September 3, American destroyers took 
over escort duties, and the three British destroyers headed toward Port of 
Spain, Trinidad. 

The group was about two hundred miles from its destination at 6:05 
p-m. when Pathfinders radar obtained a contact about 1,200 yards off the 
port bow. The officer of the watch, Lieutenant C. R. Halins, made ready 
to attack, but Pathfinder’s skipper, Commander E. A. Gibbs, instead or- 
dered the ship to stop so that it could carry out a full sound sweep. The 
decision was almost fatal. As Gibbs later remembered: “Whilst investigat- 
ing, [high-speed screw sound] from a torpedo was heard ... and a torpedo 
broke surface ahead and, running on the surface, circled widely to port 
and narrowly missed Quentin.”” Pathfinder’s ASDIC immediately picked 
up a solid contact at 600 yards. 

The “contact” that had fired the torpedo was U-162, commanded by 
none other than Fregattenkapitan Jurgen Wattenberg, one of the Carib- 
bean “aces.” He was on his third war patrol and had just torpedoed 30,481 
tons of Allied shipping in 11 days, raising his overall total to a whopping 
85,662 tons. The watch had spotted one of the destroyers coming straight 
on from ten miles away, and Wattenberg had taken U-162 down to peri- 
scope depth and prepared a nasty surprise for what he thought was a lone 
destroyer. For some reason, he was unaware that he had picked a fight 


12: The Allies Strike Back 223 


with three well-armed British destroyers. The single bow torpedo that 
he had fired had broached and run in a circle, “going up and down like a 
dolphin,” passing beside Quentin, which was turning for its life. At that 
moment, the submarine’s hydrophone operator screamed out that there 
was not one, but rather three “tin cans” on a line bearing almost abeam, 
one mile apart.”° 

No doubt relieved that the torpedo had missed, Commander Gibbs 
ordered a Mark VII ten-charge pattern, some set at 150 and others at 300 
feet. The hammer blows of the 300-lb. warheads shook U-162 violently, 
disabling its hydrophones and damaging one of its dive tanks. After Path- 
Jinder’s attack, Quentin also ran in and dropped a six-charge pattern.”! The 
deadly bracket of explosions and the accompanying pressure wave again 
rocked U-162, this time damaging its diving planes and rudders as well 
as causing a leak in the engine room. Wattenberg had enough. He headed 
southward, running silently, and took the boat deep: “A+120,” an incred- 
ible 200 meters. The British destroyers lost contact. 

There is no real certainty of what happened aboard U-162 during 
these punishing attacks, but Wattenberg now knew he was facing three 
destroyers and that his boat had suffered major damage. For three hours, 
he eluded his attackers, heading off in the opposite direction whenever 
one approached, and slipping behind them when they seemed on the verge 
of attacking. Once he had put distance between himself and his attackers, 
around 11 p.m., Wattenberg surfaced. The night was pitch black. A few 
rain squalls were coming in from the direction of Barbados and Tobago. 
Good weather for an escape. U-162 began the run of its life. 

But Wattenberg’s adversary was equally wily: Commander Gibbs de- 
tailed Vimy, the only one of the three destroyers with the new Type 271 
centimetric radar, to stay put, while he took Pathfinder and Quentin to 
sweep eastward. It was a bold move, for by now U-162 was heading back 
to the Caribbean on a course of 315 degrees. But luck was with Gibbs: 
within ten minutes, Vimy obtained a contact at 2,800 yards. Its skipper, 
Lieutenant-Commander Henry G. de Chair, ordered “full ahead both” 
and opened fire with the forward four-inch gun. But de Chair could not 
see his target in the glare of the forward gun and ordered cease fire. Sud- 
denly, he saw the submarine stern-on and prepared to ram. 


224 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 




















The V-Class Destroyer HMS Vimy at anchor. Source: Ken Macpherson Photographic 
Archives, Library and Archives at The Military Museums, Libraries and Cultural 
Resources, University of Calgary. 


While Wattenberg and de Chair were locked in mortal combat, Gibbs 
at 11:27 p.m. saw two red signal rockets to the westward, followed by gun 
flashes and white star shell bursts. Wattenberg had tried one last desper- 
ate ruse — two red lights was the current recognition signal for British 
submarines. Gibbs was not deceived. He ordered Quentin and Pathfinder 
to make for Vimy at 30 knots. “It was plain to me that either ‘Vimy’ was 
sinking the submarine or the submarine was sinking ‘Vimy’ — I was not at 
all sure which.”” 

Jurgen Wattenberg knew that he was finished. For the second time 
in his life — after having been party to the decision to scuttle the “pocket” 
battleship Graf Spee in Montevideo Harbor in 1939 — he ordered a crew 
to abandon ship. Vimy bore in. When the two vessels collided, U-162’s 
hydroplane sliced into Vimy’s hull above the waterline and damaged its 
port propeller. “We were left wallowing alongside the U-boat,” de Chair 
later wrote, “whose crew were on deck wearing lifebelts.” No quarter was 
asked and none was given. De Chair ordered star shell from one of the 
stern guns and a charge fired at 50 feet over the submarine; all the while, 
he raked the U-boat with machine-gun fire. The depth-charge explosion 


12: The Allies Strike Back 225 


was the last blow: U-162 went down fast. Wattenberg and all his crew save 
one were rescued by the British destroyers. 


It was obvious from the beginning of the war in the Caribbean that air- 
craft would play a major role in the defense of shipping. At best, aircraft 
could destroy U-boats; at worst, they could force them to submerge, rob- 
bing them of their speed, range, and mobility. The first major problem 
with aircraft was that virtually all those deployed in the Caribbean by the 
British and the Americans were short-range. Very Long Range (VLR) 
aircraft, particularly the B-24 Liberator, were in great demand to cover 
North Atlantic convoys, but very few were available in 1942 even for that 
most important mission. By the fall of that year, the lack of long-range 
aircraft in the Caribbean was essentially resolved as the Allies put into use 
a ring of airfields and seaplane bases from Cozumel, Mexico, to Waller 
Field, Trinidad, and from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to France Field, Pan- 
ama. All manner of aircraft were deployed. The British used the venerable 
Swordfish, the Lockheed Hudson bomber, and the Avro Anson train- 
er. The US Army Air Forces deployed predominantly B-18 “Bolos” and 
A-20 “Havocs,” but also the occasional B-24 in 1943. Fighters such as the 
P-39 Aerocobra and P-40 Warhawk flew reconnaissance. The US Navy 
used both the PBY Catalina and the PBM Martin Mariner; the latter ac- 
counted for the greatest destruction of U-boats in and near the Caribbean 
over the course of the campaign. 

‘The second major problem was getting sufficient aircraft in place to 
make certain that no submarine could run on the surface, day or night, 
and that no periscope could pop up by day, without being spotted from the 
air. At first, Army Air Forces officers were reluctant to employ their long- 
er-range aircraft for antisubmarine patrol. To a certain extent, the navy 
was too. Both clung to the already obsolete concept that the greatest dan- 
ger in the Caribbean was either enemy carrier-borne aircraft or aircraft 
which would use secret fields in Central or South America. The army was 
also unwilling to place its aircraft under navy command. ‘Thus, in April 
1942, the total number of US aircraft available for several thousand miles 
on both sides of the Panama Canal were 28 heavy bombers (mostly B-17s 


226 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


based in Panama), of which 15 were equipped with Anti-Surface Vessel 
(ASV) radar, 30 medium bombers, 16 light bombers, and 34 Navy PBYs, 
in addition to fighter planes.”’ The lack of ASV radar was especially acute 
when the campaign began, but by the summer of 1942 virtually all army 
and navy aircraft were so equipped.” 

The network of small airfields and airstrips along the island chain and 
in Central and South America was anchored on the complex of air bases 
in the South Florida area, the Canal Zone, Puerto Rico, and Trinidad. 
Trinidad alone hosted four main bases — Chaguaramas, Piarco, Waller 
Field, and Edinburgh Field. Chaguaramas Naval Air Station was home 
to more than 14 squadrons of Catalinas and Mariners. There were usually 
up to 60 at a time using the base for routine patrolling of the sea lanes and 
convoy escort. Waller Field was the US Army Air Forces’ primary base in 
the eastern Caribbean. Intended to be the main center for combat flying, 
Waller was increasingly used as a major link in the trans-Atlantic air route 
between the United States and the Middle East via Africa. As a result, 
most combat aircraft in the eastern Caribbean were transferred to Edin- 
burgh Field in central Trinidad, which initially had been designed merely 
as a satellite runway complex for Waller Field. 

While the Royal Navy played a very small role in the air campaign 
against the U-boats in the Caribbean, the Americans learned how to sink 
U-boats by studying British methods. As the official history of the US 
Army Air Forces in World War II states, 


... both Army and Navy antisubmarine forces were able to draw 
largely on the experience of the British for their initial stock of 
technical data, and they made extensive use of their opportunity. 
Of particular aid to the AAF units was the help given by two 
liaison officers sent to the United States in February [1942].5 


With the help of the British, effective tactical doctrine was worked out 
over several months. The Americans learned that there was no point 
bombing submarines more than 15 seconds after a crash dive. The British 
strongly recommended guns mounted in forward turrets rather than fixed 
firing guns, giving gunners greater ability to sweep the target as they ap- 
proached. It was found that depth charges and depth bombs worked best 


12: The Allies Strike Back 227 


at minimum depth, so that when they bracketed a surfaced U-boat, they 
would explode shortly after they dropped into the water, severely dam- 
aging the submarine’s underside. It was also stressed that the entire load 
should be dropped at the same time.” 

As the number of aircraft increased, so too did attacks on surfaced 
U-boats. July 1942 was especially busy. On July 5, a plane flying off Aruba 
sighted a submarine three miles ahead, dove to 400 feet and dropped a 
full stick of depth bombs. The next day, an aircraft hit a surfaced sub- 
marine off the coast of Venezuela, but the bomb rolled into the sea with- 
out exploding. In the waters off Trinidad, on July 11, a night attack was 
carried out, but the bombs were dropped without visible effect. The next 
night, another attack was made off Cristobal, but again with no impact. 
On July 16, a ferry plane spotted a surfaced U-boat and dove on it; the 
depth bombs exploded all around the boat just as it disappeared below the 
surface. No damage was reported. On July 19, a submarine was sighted 
between Cuba and Jamaica and four depth bombs were dropped. Once 
again, all were duds. On July 20, three aircraft attacked a surfaced sub- 
marine off Georgetown harbor, Jamaica, but no damage was done. That 
same day, another attack was carried out on a U-boat between Aruba and 
Curacao, but with no effect. And a night attack on a submarine on July 29 
produced no damage.”’ 

In all these cases, pilot or bombardier technique (or error), faulty 
equipment, poor tactics, or sheer bad luck saved a U-boat to fight another 
day, but the frequency and the intensity of the attacks was a worrisome 
sign to Donitz’s captains that opportunities would grow far slimmer in 
the coming months. Radar-equipped aircraft made it increasingly unsafe 
to surface day or night, keeping the crews sealed in their hot and humid 
hulls and making the captains super-cautious whenever planning attacks. 
Doubtless, the American flyers would only get better. But the air attacks 
were not completely fruitless: on August 22, 1942, U-654 was destroyed 
north of Colén, Panama, by a B-18 from Bomb Squadron 45; and on Oc- 
tober 2, another B-18 sank U-512 off Cayenne, French Guiana. 

When “Teddy” Suhren, already holder of the Knight’s Cross with 
Oak Leaves, brought U-564 into West Indian waters in the summer of 
1942, he and his crew suffered quite a shock. ‘They were proceeding on the 
surface when the startled cry that the crew dreaded to hear burst from the 


228 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


bridge: “Flieger!” A large enemy aircraft was closing rapidly from out of 
the sun, flattening out only 20 meters above the waves and heading rapidly 
into a low-level attack. Suhren ordered “Emergency Dive!” 


With mere metres of water over her bridge, three well-placed 
bombs bracketed the U-boat, severely shaking the hull and 
causing fresh chaos aboard. A thin jet of flame shot from the 
closed hatch to number five torpedo tube.... However, there 
was no water leakage.” 


‘The boat sank to nearly 200 meters — dangerously close to crushing depth 
— before Suhren was able to regain control. U-564 eventually reached the 
surface, only to be destroyed the following year under a new skipper. 

With the increase in air coverage, the number of submarine attacks 
fell off rapidly. As the official history of the US Army in the western 
hemisphere in World War II put it: “Losses throughout the Caribbean 
area were the lowest in six months.... The cyclical pattern of the U-boat 
assault had already manifested itself. That the October lull would be fol- 
lowed by renewed activity was expected, but it was impossible to foretell 
precisely how high the new peak would reach.”” 


12: The Allies Strike Back 229 


13 


A HARD WAR: 
HARTENSTEIN AND U-156 


The loss of Otto Ites in U-94 and Jiirgen Wattenberg in U-162 made 
clear to Admiral Karl Donitz that Allied antisubmarine warfare in the 
Caribbean basin had improved dramatically. The enemy was now able 
routinely to detect the “gray sharks” and then to direct airplanes and flying 
boats with new “direction finders” (radar) to destroy them. The seven Type 
IXC boats that sailed to the Americas in July 1942 had torpedoed 23 ships 
of 130,000 tons — about three ships of 18,500 tons per boat. ‘The five Type 
IXC boats that sortied in the Caribbean in August 1942 did even better, 
sinking 30 ships of 143,000 tons — six ships of 28,600 tons each. But 
the overall balance sheet was negative: in 1942, American, British, and 
Canadian shipyards produced 7.1 million tons of new merchant shipping 
(including 92 large tankers), about one million tons more than the U-boats 
destroyed.! Obviously, the “gray sharks” were not making a major dent in 
the Allies’ merchant-ship pool of 30 million tons. The constantly updated 
charts at U-Boat Headquarters made clear to Dénitz that the Allies were 
beginning to win his “tonnage war.” 

‘There were other setbacks. On October 21, 15 of 90 B-17 and B-24 
bombers from General Ira Eaker’s American Eighth Air Force Bomb- 
er Command in Britain dropped 60,000 Ibs. of bombs on Lorient, kill- 
ing 160 Germans and 180 conscripted Belgian or Dutch laborers. They 
did little damage to the massive steel-reinforced concrete U-boat pens at 
Kéroman. In nine follow-up raids to January 3, 1943, 357 of 870 bombers 
reached Lorient and dropped their loads.” The raids drove home the point 
that the Allies had seized the initiative. After several follow-up bombing 
runs by the Royal Air Force in January and February 1943, most of the 


231 


civilians not employed in the German war effort fled Lorient. The port 
became part devastated ghost town and part German war base, a purely 
military target. 

Also critically, and of course unknown to Donitz, Bletchley Park’s 
code-breakers (ULTRA), using the Short Weather Keys recently taken 
off U-559 after it had been attacked by three Royal Navy destroyers in the 
Mediterranean, managed by December 13, 1942, to get enough “cribs” 
finally to break the German four-rotor “Triton” Enigma keys.’ By the end 
of the month, they were able to achieve solutions in about 12 hours. 

But there was much bleaker news from the larger war front. In Nov- 
ember, the Allies dramatically altered the strategic situation in North Af 
rica. By November 4, General Bernard Montgomery’s Eighth Army had 
stopped Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps dead in its tracks at El Alamein, 
ending forever German hopes of taking the Suez Canal and gaining access 
to the vast oil reserves of the Middle East. Four days later, Anglo-Amer- 
ican ground forces landed at Morocco and Algeria (Operation TORCH), 
meeting opposition only from some Vichy French forces stationed in Al- 
geria. The Afrika Korps was now sandwiched between two Allied armies. 
Benito Mussolini’s cherished “Italian lake,” the Mediterranean, was again 
firmly in Allied hands. 

‘The greater disaster, of course, came in the East. On January 31, 1943, 
the newly promoted Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus surrendered the Sixth 
Army at Stalingrad: a Soviet counteroffensive by Aleksandr Vasilevsky 
and Georgi Zhukov resulted in the death of 147,000 and the capture of 
91,000 German and Romanian soldiers. It was a strategic defeat of the 
first magnitude. Operation Blue’s initial successes of the summer in the 
South had turned to disaster. Visions of German control of the Eurasian 
heartland as far eastward as the Caspian Sea receded from view, as did 
those of control of the Transcaucasian oilfields. Germany had lost the 
initiative in the war in the East as well. 

For Donitz, these setbacks seemed to demand a drastic reassessment 
of the Battle of the Atlantic. Instead, his war diary (KTB) revealed a 
strange composite of operations manual and pep-rally script. On August 
11, 1942, he yet again insisted that the U-boat war was purely an oper- 
ational art form, and not a strategic design. It was all a simple matter 
of “sinkings, regardless where and whether [the ships were] loaded or in 


232 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


ballast.’ One of Grand Admiral Erich Raeder’s staff officers could not 
help but sarcastically note “truly remarkable” in the margin of the docu- 
ment where Donitz had juxtaposed “strategic pressure” and tactical “sink- 
ings’; he wondered whether “Commander U-Boats has been misled in 
these matters or simply does not want to understand them”! 

One month later Dénitz acknowledged that Operation Neuland had 
run its course.° “After the disappearance of single-ship traffic, the area 
[Caribbean] no longer bears fruit. Strong aerial surveillance makes an at- 
tack approach against a convoy difficult, if not impossible.” The few suc- 
cesses that his skippers recently had scored were due “mainly to chance.” 
Moreover, “these successes have been paid for by relatively high losses 
... presumably due to air attacks.” German radar detectors such as the 
FuMB-1 produced by the French firms Metox and Grandin had proven 
ineffective against Allied “direction finders,” and the tropical heat hardly 
made “lengthy sorties promising.” From now on, Commander U-Boats 
would dispatch boats to the Caribbean only in small groups of two or 
three. 

In November 1942, Donitz again consigned his purely operational 
thoughts about the Battle of the Atlantic to the war diary: “The tonnage 
war is the primary task of the U-boats, perhaps the decisive contribution 
by the U-boats to the outcome of the war,” he wrote. “It must be conducted 
where the greatest successes can be gained at the least cost.” All available 
boats needed “to be concentrated for this primary task,” even “at the cost 
of thereby creating gaps and weaknesses in other areas.”’ The frequency of 
such entries into his official war diary allows the comment that they seem 
almost to be mental reminders as well as operational justifications for the 
simple “tonnage war” that he was waging against the Allies. 

By spring 1943, the pep-rally rhetoric totally dominated Dénitz’s war 
diary. Early in May 1943, he “demanded” of his captains that they “con- 
tinue resolutely to take up the struggle with the enemy,” that they counter 
“his cunning and technical innovations” with their own “ingenuity, ability 
and iron will.”* Later that month, he called on them to sink and sink, fight 
and fight, and “force the enemy to undergo a permanent bloodletting, 
one by which even the strongest body must slowly and inevitably bleed 
to death.”? Dénitz had chosen his words carefully: the term “bleed white” 
had been used by General Erich von Falkenhayn, Chief of the General 


13: A Hard War 233 


Staff, in his Christmas Memorandum of 1915 to justify the war of attri- 
tion planned at Verdun the following spring. 

Donitz’s professional life soon was radically changed by events over 
which he had no control. Adolf Hitler had increasingly become disen- 
chanted with the role of the surface fleet in the war — beginning with the 
scuttling of the “pocket” battleship Graf Spee in Montevideo in December 
1939, through the sinking of the brand-new battleship Bismarck in the 
Atlantic in May 1941, to the interminable delays in working up its sister 
ship Tirpitz. The last straw in that seemingly endless list of failures and 
disappointments had come on December 31, 1942, when the heavy cruis- 
ers Hipper and Liitzow failed to dispatch Convoy JW.51B in the Arctic, 
with Hipper limping back to port heavily damaged. 

Over lunch on December 30, the Fithrer had bitingly informed Vice 
Admiral Theodor Krancke, Raeder’s representative at Military Headquar- 
ters, that the German Navy was but a carbon copy of the British Royal 
Navy, “only more miserable, the U-boats excepted.” The fleet “lacked the 
willingness to engage; [the] ships lay around in fjords like so much scrap 
metal; are totally useless.” By New Year’s Day, Hitler had worked himself 
up into a full lather. Furiously pacing up and down in his bunker at the 
Wolf’s Lair near Rastenburg, East Prussia, he spat out the full measure 
of his venom at Krancke. “Ships totally worthless; because of the lying 
about inactive and the lack of willingness to engage, are only a hearth of 
revolution; this means the death of the High Sea Fleet.” The reference to 
the mutiny in the fleet that had precipitated the revolution of 1918 was 
intended to cut to the quick. More, German surface ships fired only on 
unarmed freighters; unlike the Royal Navy, they did not “fight to the bit- 
ter end.” To rub salt into the wound, Hitler ordered his comments to be 
taken down in writing, with Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, head of the 
Supreme Command of the Wehrmacht (OKW), as witness. 

Still, Hitler was not done. On January 6, 1943, he subjected the Com- 
mander in Chief Kriegsmarine to a 90-minute tirade about the ineffect- 
iveness first of the Prussian and later of the German surface fleet. It had 
remained “without effect” during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71); it 
had remained “without effect” during World War I; and its role in the 
revolution of 1918 and the scuttling at Scapa Flow in 1919 constituted “no 
page of honor” in its history. Now, as then, the light forces, and especially 


234 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


the U-boats, were carrying the main burden of the war. The Fiihrer de- 
manded that the “big ships” be mothballed and their guns deployed as 
land-based artillery." 

Raeder was crushed. He immediately requested that he be allowed 
to retire, effective January 30, 1943 — the tenth anniversary of his service 
to the Fihrer. As a possible successor, he suggested two men, Rolf Carls 
and Karl Donitz. Given Hitler’s rant against the surface fleet (with which 
Carls had served both as its Chief and as Naval Commander North), the 
choice was simple: on January 31, Dénitz was promoted to the rank of 
grand admiral and appointed Commander in Chief Navy. As well, he 
continued in his role as Commander U-Boats, elevating Generaladmiral 
Hans-Georg von Friedeburg to chief of staff, with the formal title of 
Commanding Admiral, U-Boats. 

With regard to the Battle of the Atlantic, Donitz’s immediate mission 
was to destroy as much of the American supply line to the fighting fronts 
in North Africa as possible. In March 1943, the greatest convoy battles of 
World War II took place in the turbulent waters of the North Atlantic: 
while the U-boats were able to destroy 84 merchant ships of 505,000 tons, 
they lost 14 boats and 650 men of their own. For the first time in the war, 
aircraft sank more “gray sharks” than did surface craft in a given month. 

Do6nitz apprised Hitler of the seriousness of the situation.” “Losses 
are high. The U-boats’ struggle is hard.” Still, there was no alternative 
other than to continue the fight, to destroy 100,000 to 200,000 tons more 
shipping per month than the Allies could build. To “bleed the enemy 
white” — a term that he used again — the Reich would have to escalate 
U-boat production from 27 boats per month in the first half of 1944 to 30 
by the end of 1945. Losses among the roughly 425 to 438 boats on patrol 
continued at a relatively steady rate: 19 in February, 15 in March, and 
14 in April 1943. But in May, when Donitz learned that the Allies had 
destroyed 38 U-boats — which he termed “a frightful total” — he came to 
the “logical conclusion” of withdrawing the boats from the North Atlan- 
tic. From now on, they would be deployed in the “area south-west of the 
Azores.” This made sense because the Allies, highly concerned about the 
loss of tankers in the Caribbean basin, had directed them to take their oil 
to Cape Town, South Africa, where naval units operating in the Indian 
Ocean could draw fuel. 


13: A Hard War 235 


Donitz was fully aware that he was losing the “tonnage war.” On 
January 6, 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt personally had deliv- 
ered his annual Budget Message to the Congress. It was a blockbuster. He 
demanded that the Republic raise its production of aircraft from 45,000 
in 1942 to 75,000 in 1943, and of tanks from 45,000 to 75,000 during 
that same period. His figures for new merchant-ship construction were 
still more staggering: from 1.1 million tons in 1941 to six million in 1942 
and to ten million by 1943. The American press calculated that this would 
translate into “a plane every four minutes in 1943; a tank every seven min- 
utes; two seagoing ships a day.” 

While Hitler and his propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, decried 
Roosevelt’s demands as constituting “hysterically inflated figures,” “ab- 
solute nonsense,” and Jewish-inspired “truly criminal politics,” Dénitz 
appreciated that the United States was becoming the major player in the 
Battle of the Atlantic. In 1942, the Republic built more than 15,000 air- 
craft and, in 1943, almost 25,000, as well as 108 warships in 1942 and 
369 in 1943. With regard to merchant shipbuilding, US yards produced 
5.5 million tons in 1942 and a staggering 11.4 million in 1943.’ By war’s 
end, the United States had launched 5,800 vessels (including 600 tankers), 
while the U-boats had destroyed 733 American merchantmen. To stem 
this flood of American-produced shipping, Donitz rushed his boats out 
into the South Atlantic at a frenetic pace. 


Werner Hartenstein in U-156 and Albrecht Achilles in U-161 belonged 
to a group of eight boats that Donitz had dispatched to the South Atlantic 
in the fall of 1942. Donitz could rely on Hartenstein and Achilles, both 
veterans of the first wave of New Land boats, to find fresh opportunities 
south of the Azores. In August, U-156 joined three other Type IXC boats 
as Group Eisbar (Polar Bear), supported by the “milk cow” U-459 and 
tasked with carrying out a surprise attack on Cape Town. In September, 
U-161 became part of Group Streitaxt (Battle-Axe) and was redirected 
to Grid Quadrant ER 50, where it was to be resupplied from the tanker 
U-461 before heading for the waters off Brazil. 


236 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


U-156 sailed out of Lorient on August 20. Its passage of the Bay of 
Biscay was a litany of having to dive to evade enemy aircraft. Running sub- 
merged depleted the batteries, and Hartenstein was forced repeatedly to 
bring U-156 up on the surface to recharge them and to ventilate the boat.” 
After torpedoing the 5,941-ton British ore freighter Clan Macwhirter 
about 600 nautical miles west of Casablanca late on August 26, Harten- 
stein crossed the equator and on September 12 stood 550 nautical miles 
south of Cape Palmas, Liberia. At 7:07 p.m., he fired two bow torped- 
oes at what he took to be “an old passenger freighter.” He had torpedoed 
the 19,695-ton Cunard White Star Line troop transport Laconia. In what 
U-boat historian Michael Hadley has called “a scenario unique in nautical 
lore,”"* Hartenstein asked Donitz to arrange a “diplomatic neutralization 
of the scene of the sinking,” that is, a sort of unofficial cease-fire, and 
under a Red-Cross flag to rescue as many of the survivors as he could. All 
the while, an American B-24 Liberator piloted by Lieutenant James D. 
Harden for two days made numerous bombing runs at the U-boat, incred- 
ibly failing to destroy it. Dénitz was livid. On September 17, he issued his 
Triton-Null Order (soon to be known as the Laconia Order): 


All attempts to rescue the crews of sunken ships will cease 
forthwith. This prohibition applies equally to the picking up 
of men in the water and putting them aboard a lifeboat, to the 
righting of capsized lifeboats and to the supply of food and 
water. Such activities are a contradiction of the primary object 
of war, namely, the destruction of enemy ships and their crews.” 


Just for good measure, he added (but omitted from his Memoirs): “Be 
harsh, having in mind that the enemy takes no regard of women and chil- 
dren in his attacks on German cities.” And he awarded Hartenstein the 
Knight’s Cross. 

Out in the South Atlantic, U-156 continued its war patrol. On Sep- 
tember 19, Hartenstein torpedoed the 4,745-ton British steam freighter 
Quebec City, out of Cape Town and bound for Freetown with a cargo 
of 6,600 tons of cotton and wool. But the rest of the patrol proved to be 
uneventful. On November 16, Hartenstein returned to Lorient. U-156 in 
88 days at sea had covered 11,887 nautical miles, 373 of them submerged. 


13: A Hard War 237 


From the start of the U-boat war in the Caribbean, the Allies knew that 
airpower was going to be crucial to stop the slaughter of tankers and other 
merchant ships, and that the United States would be called on to supply 
most of the aircraft for the fight. At the beginning of the air campaign 
against the U-boats, both aircraft and effective antisubmarine weapons 
were scarce. American aircrews, both Army Air Forces (AAF) and Navy, 
were inexperienced. But even as these problems were slowly resolved in 
the summer and fall of 1942, one major headache remained — there was 
still no unity of command between the navy and the army. One side in 
this war — the Germans — fought under one commander pursuing a single 
overall objective and organized by a single headquarters, with one view of 
what was necessary to pursue victory in this campaign. The other side — 
primarily the United States — did not move to a single purpose, nor even to 
two single purposes, but to several different commands at different times. 

As early as May 1942, General H. A. “Hap” Arnold, Chief of Staff 
of the United States Army Air Forces, proposed to Admiral Ernest J. 
King that the two services establish an American version of the Royal 
Air Force’s Coastal Command. ‘The latter was one of several commands 
operating under Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal, Commander in 
Chief RAF (other commands being, for example, Bomber Command 
and Fighter Command). But Coastal Command worked very closely with 
the Royal Navy and was effectively under its operational control. Though 
sometimes difficult, the culture of inter-service cooperation had developed 
in the early years of the war to the point where air force and navy were able 
to operate effectively in the escort of convoys and attacks against U-boats 
in the Bay of Biscay and the North Atlantic.” 

Such was not the case in the United States, where airpower culture 
was still strongly influenced by the airpower theorists of the 1920s and 
1930s, who believed that the overall objective of an air force was offensive 
— primarily to bomb the enemy’s productive capabilities. Thus, as much 
as the AAF was, in effect, dragged into the Caribbean campaign (and 
that off the US east coast as well) in early 1942, it was still uncomfortable 
in the role and unhappy at operating under naval control. To complicate 


238 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


matters, elements of three air forces — First, Third, and Sixth — were called 
into the antisubmarine campaign on an emergency basis between Febru- 
ary and October 1942. It was a chaotic situation, made even more complex 
in July 1942 when the AAF set up the Antilles Air Task Force at Borin- 
quen Field, Puerto Rico, under command of Sixth Air Force. 

Arnold’s suggested US “Coastal Command” never materialized; in- 
stead, the AAF established the Antisubmarine Command in mid-Octo- 
ber 1942, using resources of I Bomber Command, First Air Force, oper- 
ating out of several air fields on the US east coast and Florida. It assigned 
I Bomber Command’s 26" Wing to Miami to cover the Gulf of Mexico 
and the Caribbean Sea, while 25 Wing was headquartered at New York 
to provide air cover for the east coast. As a history of the Antisubmarine 
Command put it: “The most serious [operational] problem [encountered 
by the 26" Wing] came ... not from the climate or the native population, 
but from the command situation into which the AAF Antisubmarine 
Command squadrons were plunged.””! Antisubmarine Command squad- 
rons operating in the Caribbean were under the control of the Caribbean 
Sea Frontier, a naval command, and the Caribbean Defense Command, 
but “many lesser headquarters existed between the highest echelon and 
the single AAF Antisubmarine Command squadron serving at Trini- 
dad.”” There was no end of command, control, and logistics problems 
afflicting these and the other AAF squadrons operating in the area. The 
most substantial benefit of these mostly ad hoc arrangements was that sev- 
eral dozen B-24s finally began to flow into the Caribbean air campaign. 

The B-24 Liberator was a four-engine, long-range, strategic bomber 
developed in the 1930s to strike targets deep in enemy territory. It was 
heavily armed with .50-caliber machine guns for self-defense and carried 
a bomb load of 5,000 pounds, with a range of 2,200 miles. Stripped of 
most of its machine guns and with additional gas tanks installed in the 
bomb bay, it became the best antisubmarine aircraft of World War II. 
The problem was that the AAF wanted every Liberator it could get its 
hands on for strategic bombing in Europe and the Pacific. Both Coastal 
Command and the US Navy had to beg for any scraps they could get. The 
flow of B-24s to the RAF and the USN eased greatly after the Casablanca 
Conference between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister 
Winston S. Churchill in December 1942 and January 1943. Most of the 


13: A Hard War 239 


B-24s obtained by the RAF were sent to Ireland and Iceland, while Army 
Air Forces’ B-24s began operating near Trinidad, in the south Atlantic, 
and off the coast of Brazil, flying out of Natal and Ascension Island. It 
was one of these aircraft that had given Hartenstein such a difficult time. 

‘The beginning of the final resolution of American command problems 
in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico was the establishment by 
Admiral King of the new US Tenth Fleet on May 1, 1943. King made the 
decision following the Casablanca Conference — where the president and 
the prime minister emphasized the importance of defeating the U-boat 
threat preliminary to D-Day — and the Atlantic Convoy Conference held 
in Washington in March 1943. The latter was a gathering of US, British, 
and Canadian naval chiefs aimed at deciding how to best carry out the 
aims of the Casablanca Conference. On April 6, King had named Rear 
Admiral Francis S. Low chief of staff for antisubmarine warfare, who 
subsequently recommended that the whole US Navy ASW campaign be 
placed under the command of Admiral Royal E. Ingersoll, Commander 
in Chief Atlantic Fleet (CINCLANT in naval parlance). 

While this did not solve the AAF/Navy impasse, or the AAF’s own 
internal command problems, it did consolidate and rationalize USN 
antisubmarine activities. In fact, King went a step further and placed 
Tenth Fleet as a “fleet without ships” under his own command to co- 
ordinate ASW operations, using resources from existing formations such 
as CINCLANT. Low actually ran Tenth Fleet and exercised control over 
all US Atlantic Sea Frontiers. Tenth Fleet used centralized intelligence 
gathered from signals intelligence and other Allied sources and coordin- 
ated ship movements with the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Navy, 
while directing the US Navy’s shore establishments, aircraft, and antisub- 
marine assets at sea — especially the new hunter-killer groups formed 
around escort carriers, or “baby flat tops,” carrying Wildcat fighters and 
Avenger torpedo bombers.” 

The creation of Tenth Fleet — and the obvious implication that the 
USN would continue to control its own antisubmarine aircraft, includ- 
ing its B-24s — made the AAF Antisubmarine Command redundant. At 
first, a temporary solution was to place an Army Air Forces general in 
command of Tenth Fleet, but the AAF continued to insist that its aircraft 
hunt submarines. The USN, on the other hand, demanded convoy escort 


240 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


— that is, aircraft over the convoy and not chasing submarines around the 
western Atlantic or Caribbean. In May 1943, King asked Arnold to send 
a squadron of B-24s to Newfoundland to close the North Atlantic air 
gap. The planes went north, but with instructions to hunt submarines, not 
escort convoys. 

It was frustrating for all. Finally, Arnold offered to get out of the 
antisubmarine campaign entirely. The AAF would turn its B-24s, already 
configured for ASW operations, over to the Navy in return for an equal 
number of as-yet unmodified B-24s out of the Navy’s allocation. The 
USN thus took over all airborne antisubmarine operations on September 
1, 1943, and for the first time in the war, airborne ASW operations from 
Panama to the Outer Antilles (not to mention the Atlantic Ocean) bent to 
the will of a single commander — Admiral Francis S$. Low of Tenth Fleet. 
This change of command, along with more and better long-range aircraft, 
improved ASW weapons, amended sub-hunting tactics, an increase in 
escort vessels, and the hunter-killer groups, would deal a further heavy 
blow to the “gray sharks” in the Caribbean. 


13: A Hard War 241 


14 


HIGH NOON IN THE CARIBBEAN 
AND THE SOUTH ATLANTIC 


U-156 remained in one of the “dry” pens of the Kéroman bunkers for 
almost two months. ‘The attack by the B-24 Liberator had caused a good 
deal of damage. A diesel compressor, cooling-water flange, wireless set, 
sounding gear, and hydrophones were replaced. ‘The sky periscope was 
repaired and its stuffing boxes renewed. Nineteen damaged batteries were 
replaced. The battery compartment was newly welded as several seams 
had cracked, allowing up to 150 liters of seawater per hour to flood the 
compartment. The entire pressure hull was inspected for cracks. 

As ever, Admiral Karl Donitz had some new technology to be in- 
stalled. U-156 was outfitted with the so-called Bridge Conversion I: twin 
two-cm FLAK‘ machine guns were mounted on a platform half the 
height of the bridge and abaft the conning tower. It was quickly dubbed 
the “winter garden” by the crews. The boat also received the new “Metox” 
VHF-heterodyne receiver, together with the “Biscay Cross,” a primitive 
wooden-frame aerial designed as a direction finder. 

U-156 underwent the usual rotation of officers and ratings. About one- 
third of the crew was retained, one-third was transferred to other boats, 
and one-third went on leave. Commander Werner Hartenstein, Second 
Watch Officer Max Fischer and Chief Engineer Ernst Schulze remained 
with the boat. Executive Officer Gert Mannesmann was sent to officer’s 
command school and replaced by Lieutenant Leopold Schuhmacher. And 
since Donitz had selected Hartenstein to command yet another grueling 
transatlantic war patrol, he assigned U-156 a Third Watch Officer, Lieu- 
tenant Silvester Peters. 


243 


Hartenstein took U-156 out of Lorient on January 16, 1943, on its 
fifth war patrol. Destination: the Caribbean. It was one of just four Type 
IXC boats dispatched to the Americas in January. Hartenstein was con- 
fident of success: he was still the top Caribbean “ace,” with 11 ships sunk 
and two damaged in a single patrol. His orders were to proceed to Trini- 
dad via the Cape Verde Islands, where, Donitz radioed him on January 
26, he might run across stragglers from a recently sighted Allied convoy. 
For days, the freshly baked Knight’s Cross holder raked the waters of the 
mid-Atlantic in Grid Quadrants DH, DT, and EJ. To no avail. Finally, 
on February 12, U-Boat Command gave Hartenstein orders to shape a 
course for Quadrants EO 50 and EO 20 and cleared him to scour the 
waters off Brazil, which had entered the war in August 1942. He was to lie 
close in to shore and to use the coming new moon period to advantage — as 
he had off Aruba in February 1942. Paris assured him that hostile surface 
escorts remained weak and “only slight[ly] trained,” while “convoys have 
strong air protection.” 

Finding no traffic in EO, Hartenstein sailed off northwest toward 
Trinidad. After a month of being cooped up inside the hull in sweltering 
heat and humidity, he allowed the crew to come up in small groups to re- 
charge their lungs with fresh air — or to foul them with smokes. Some took 
to fishing, others to porpoise watching. A few went into the water off the 
stern, despite the “Great Lion’s” admonition that such aquatic recreation 
be banned on U-boats. For, on September 11, 1942, one of his veteran 
skippers, Rolf Mutzelburg, had made a head-first dive from the conning 
tower of U-203 — just as a lazy swell rolled the boat over and the Kapitan- 
leutnant had struck the boat’s saddle tank with head and shoulders. He 
died the next day. 

On February 16, Donitz dashed off an Enigma message to both U-156 
and U-510. Johann Mohr in U-124 had just returned from Trinidad and 
Tobago after an 81-day war patrol, during which he claimed to have tor- 
pedoed eight ships of almost 46,000 tons. On the basis of Mohr’s af- 
ter-action report, Dénitz assured both boats that they could expect “little 
air reconnaissance” in their new operations area, that there had been “no 
aircraft radar” reports “so far,” and that enemy air did not fly at night. He 
admonished both to remain on the surface, “also during the day,” since 
Allied escorts were “completely untrained.” He closed this bizarre radio 


244 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


message with one of his customary exhortations: “In any case, go at them 
even in shallow water and utilize every chance to shoot.” The crew of 
U-156 took time out for a modest celebration on February 27. While the 
Smutje managed a cake on the small galley stove, the officers broke out 
the “medicinal brandy” and doled it out in small portions. It was the Old 
Man’s 35th birthday. He had celebrated the last one off Aruba, and so it 
was only fitting that this one, too, took place in the Caribbean. 

Whenever U-156 cruised on the surface, Hartenstein had the men 
erect the “Biscay Cross” on the bridge and check the “Metox” set for the 
tell-tale “pinging” of enemy “direction finders” (radar). They heard noth- 
ing — despite the fact that several times the watch alerted the skipper to 
the noise of heavy four-engine bombers. In fact, Trinidad had become an 
antisubmarine warfare stronghold. US Navy and Royal Navy surface craft 
routinely put out from Chaguaramas to escort convoys up to Guantanamo 
Bay, Cuba, and beyond, as did PBY Catalina flying boats. Fleets of Amer- 
ican B-18 and British Lockheed Hudson bombers at all hours of the day 
and night took off from Edinburgh Field on the lookout for “gray sharks.” 
‘The days of Albrecht Achilles’ early and easy successes in the Gulf of Paria 
were but a distant memory. 

Near dusk on March 2, an American B-18 “Bolo” bomber of 9" Re- 
connaissance Squadron, flying out of Trinidad, spotted U-156 racing on 
the surface after a small convoy, TB-4, just north of the Grand Boca.‘ 
Hartenstein saw the hostile at the last moment. “Emergency Dive!” But 
the B-18 swooped in low and fast, its twin 930-hp Wright engines dron- 
ing over the swirl of the slowly disappearing U-boat, and dropped four 
aerial depth charges. U-156 endured a savage bombardment, probably 
sustaining some damage. It had been a close call, one without warning 
from the “Metox” device. 

The B-18 pilot radioed in his position and later that night another B-18, 
this one from 80" Bomber Squadron at Edinburgh Field, re-established 
radar contact with U-156. Unable to spot the dark U-boat in the pitch 
black night, the pilot switched on his landing lights — and immediately 
drew fire from Hartenstein. Again, the B-18 radioed in the new location 
of U-156 but broke off the attack due to accurate and heavy fire from Lieu- 
tenant Fischer’s anti-aircraft gunners and lack of visibility. Hartenstein 
executed yet another crash dive. 


14: High Noon 245 


It was all too bewildering for the veteran commander. He had not ex- 
perienced such strong integrated ASW defenses during his previous two 
cruises in the Caribbean. As per instructions from Dénitz, he stayed on 
the surface because there existed “no aircraft radar” and enemy planes 
did not fly at night! Hartenstein brought U-156 back up to the surface, 
certain that the aircraft had returned to its base. Wrong. As soon as the 
submarine broke the surface, the B-18, which had patiently circled above, 
swooped down for another attack. Four more bombs crashed about the 
boat. Again, they did only secondary damage — likely smashing glass and 
gauges and bursting pressure hoses — mainly because the pilot had set 
them for 25 feet, and U-156 was still on the surface. Unknown to Harten- 
stein, one of the bombs had caused a tear in a fuel tank and the boat was 
now leaving a thin oil slick in its wake. 

Hartenstein took U-156 east to recharge its batteries in what re- 
mained of the night and to allow Schulze and the technical crew to carry 
out repairs. Above, a host of American aircraft trailed his every move. 
Throughout March 3, Airship K17 followed the oil slick until it got a 
read with its Magnetic Anomality Gear, a secret new detection device. 
The pilot dropped three depth charges, which did no damage to the sub- 
merged boat, but alerted its skipper to the fact that he was leaving some 
tell-tale sign behind. Later that day, PBY Catalinas and surface patrol 
boats cruised in the area, but made no contact. 

On March 4, Convoy TE-1, comprised of only four merchantmen 
but guarded by four destroyers, left the Bocas. It stumbled upon U-156, 
and the USS Nelson dropped nine depth charges in the general area of 
the U-boat’s oil slick, probably causing further damage to the boat. ‘The 
oil slick grew larger. Later that day, Hartenstein crash dived to evade yet 
another B-18 “Bolo.” He stayed submerged for the next 30 hours, by now 
suspecting that the enemy was tracking his every move due to the boat’s 
oil trail. 

Hartenstein put U-Boat Command in the picture concerning the 
radically changed nature of enemy ASW actions, sending off an Enigma 
radio message either late on the evening of March 5 or in the early hours 
of March 6: 


246 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


Strongest possible air cover. New radar. Metox useless. Very 
accurate attacks [at night] without searchlights. Impossible to 
operate against “Testigos’ convoy. Turned away. Still have [all] 
eels? 


It was to be Hartenstein’s last Enigma message. He had, of course, made 
his first encounter with the Allies’ new airborne centimetric radar as well 
as with “Huff-Duff’ (High-Frequency Direction-Finder). Edinburgh 
Field picked up his transmission, as did Seawell Airport in Barbados. 
Through triangulation of the Enigma source, they obtained a new fix on 
the whereabouts of U-156. 

For two days, Hartenstein took U-156 still further east, most of the 
time submerged. Above, relays of American PBY flying boats and B-18 
bombers searched for the intruder. By the morning of March 8, he had 
put some 300 miles between Trinidad and his new position. Sure that he 
had eluded his tormentors, Hartenstein surfaced to ventilate the boat and 
to recharge the batteries. 

Just after breakfast on March 8, John “Duke” Dryden, promoted lieu- 
tenant (jg) only a week earlier, flew his PBY Catalina P-1 of US Navy 
Squadron VP-53 out of Chaguaramas. He pointed east in search of the 
reported U-boat, quickly climbing to 4,500 feet. Nothing in sight. After 
five hours, Dryden decided to head home. He turned the controls over 
to one of the crew, Captain J. M. Cleary, and retreated to the navigation 
compartment to check his course plot. At 1 p.m., Cleary spotted the fully 
surfaced gray shadow of a U-boat bearing 265° relative to the PBY at a 
distance of eight miles.* Because of good visibility (15 to 18 miles) the 
flying boat had switched off its radar. 

Dryden was back in the pilot’s seat in less than a minute. Cleary re- 
turned to his nose turret. Taking advantage of the PBY’s white camou- 
flage paint, Dryden turned right and ducked behind one cumulus cloud 
and then another. At 1,500 feet, range one-quarter mile, he left the cloud 
cover. At 1,200 feet, he pushed the flying boat into a 45-degree dive at 
140 knots. The sun was “directly behind the plane and almost overhead.” 
By 1:15 p.m., the PBY was 75 to 100 feet above the water at a target angle 
of 150 degrees. Second Pilot S. C. Beal pulled the two manual release 
switches, dropping four 325-pound Mark 44 Torpex aerial bombs set to 


14: High Noon 247 


explode at 25 feet. Dryden then sharply banked the craft away from the 
U-boat to evade anti-aircraft fire. 

Hartenstein and his lookouts were caught completely off guard. They 
became aware of the PBY only from the roar of its twin 1,200-hp Pratt & 
Whitney engines. By then, it was too late. At 400 yards, the plane’s nose 
and port guns raked the U-boat’s deck and open conning tower hatch 
with 100 rounds of .30-caliber and 15 rounds of .50-caliber ammuni- 
tion, while its tunnel hatch fired 30 .30-caliber shells on the deck forward 
of the U-boat’s conning tower. Two sailors, evidently sunbathing on the 
deck, were killed instantly. Hartenstein had not even had time to take 
the tarpaulin off his forward deck gun. Then four bombs crashed into the 
sea. The port-side crew of the flying boat saw two splash into the water 
“10-15 feet to starboard and just abaft the conning tower”; the other two 
exploded further away. On the Catalina, port blister gunner J. F. Connelly 
saw the submarine lift, break in two in the middle, the center sections go- 
ing underwater first, the bow and stern rising into the air and then going 
under. 

Simultaneously, a high-order explosion occurred causing debris, 
smoke, and water to cascade 30 to 40 feet into the air in great profusion. 

Werner Hartenstein had paid a terrible price for his momentary lack 
of vigilance. One can only imagine the chaos that must have reigned in 
U-156. Many of the crew undoubtedly were killed instantly by the power- 
ful blasts and pressure wave from the Mark 44 bombs; others perhaps by 
the subsequent explosion, most likely of the boat’s torpedo warheads. Still 
others would have drowned as the seawater rushed into the hull, filling 
compartments and making escape impossible. And some might have cow- 
ered in a water-tight compartment, waiting for the “terror-filled drop into 
the depths of the Atlantic.”” 

Dryden brought the PBY back to the spot of the attack. A terrible 
sight greeted him. A “large patch of foam, 150-200 feet across” floated 
on the water — as did a “silver green oil slick,” which then turned a dark 
brown. Wreckage in the form of deck planks and large cylinders (most 
likely torpedo storage tubes) floated on the surface — as did 11 survivors. 
Dryden took half a dozen pictures to confirm the “kill.” He then dropped 
two rubber life rafts into the water — one failed to inflate because a line 
attached to the operating lever slipped off as the raft left the PBY — as well 


248 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


as an emergency ration kit attached to two “Mae West” life jackets.* He 
ignored frantic hand signals from the survivors to land and to pick them 
up, for the sea was extremely rough and he was running low on fuel. 

Of the 11 survivors, two clung desperately to one of the silver-colored 
cylinders and four to another black cylinder. The latter group disappeared 
beneath the waves “almost immediately” and the former within “10-15 
minutes.” That left five survivors. They managed to scramble into the in- 
flated raft. Four were clad only in shorts. The fifth, possibly an officer, had 
a shirt on as well. “He was heavier and apparently older than the others, 
who all appeared to be in their late teens.” Was it Hartenstein? Surviving 
pictures of the Old Man and his crew with Admiral Donitz clearly show 
that Hartenstein was at least 15 years older and much bulkier than his 
young crew. Only Chief Engineer Schulze at 31 was close to Hartenstein’s 
age, and he was much thinner. The likelihood of his having gotten out of 
the engine room in the stern of the boat after Dryden’s deadly attack is 
remote. One of the survivors “was seen to shake his fist” at the Catalina. 

‘The fate of U-156’s five survivors remains a mystery. Immediately after 
his “kill,” Dryden had radioed the whereabouts of the German sailors to 
all shore and sea units within range, including the merchantman A/decoa 
Espana and the tanker Godeo, both Spanish. As well, the destroyer USS 
Barney was dispatched to the site. None found any survivors. Most likely, 
the raft had drifted out to sea and its occupants died of exposure to the 
broiling sun, or of shark attacks. In all, three officers and 49 ratings were 
lost. 

U-156 was the first “kill” for the Chaguaramas flying boats. “Duke” 
Dryden was promoted to lieutenant and awarded the Distinguished Fly- 
ing Cross; the rest of the crew were awarded the Air Medal for their 
sterling actions. Formal after-action evaluations accorded all involved a 
grade of “A.” 

After repeated unanswered calls between March 8 and 24, 1943, Ad- 
miral Dénitz declared U-156 “potentially lost” on April 18 and “formal- 
ly lost” on November 16, 1943. U-156 disappeared at Latitude 12° 38° 
North, Longitude 54° 40° West, northeast of Trinidad and east of Bar- 
bados. It came to rest 3,500 meters beneath the sea. 

Donitz fully appreciated that he had lost another “ace,” a veteran 
Knight’s Cross commander with 100,000 tons sunk to his credit. In a way, 


14: High Noon 249 


Hartenstein had come full circle: from the brilliant attack on San Nicolas, 
Aruba, in February 1942, to the sinking off Trinidad and Barbados in 
March 1943. One of just two remaining memorabilia of the Donitz era at 
the Villa Kerillon at Kernével is a small tiled coffee table that the admiral 
obviously had ordered to be made. Its center tile is the “Plauen” conning 
tower crest of U-156.° 


oh OK ok 


Hartenstein’s demise was only one of a growing epidemic of destruction 
of U-boats by Allied aircraft. The problem was particularly acute in the 
Bay of Biscay, where both out- and in-bound submarines were especially 
vulnerable to attack, but also on all the other sea frontiers where the Bat- 
tle of the Atlantic was being fought. Dénitz’s answer was to beef up the 
submarines’ anti-aircraft defenses — as had been done with Hartenstein’s 
boat — and eventually, in the early spring, to order his commanders to stay 
on the surface and fight it out with attacking aircraft if they thought there 
was any chance at all of surviving. Dénitz may have decided this after he 
learned of the encounter of the outbound U-333, commanded by Ober- 
leutnant Werner Schwaff, with an RAF Wellington in the Bay of Biscay 
on March 4, 1943. Schwaff’s boat was on the surface at 9:31 p.m. local 
time when the Wellington switched on its Leigh Light and caught U-333 
fully in its glare. Schwaff’s crew opened fire just as the bomber dove to the 
attack and dropped two depth charges; the Wellington caught fire and 
crashed with the loss of all six of its crew." 

The new defensive tactics called for even more modifications on the 
submarine fleet. Special “U-Flak” boats were built, carrying heavy an- 
ti-aircraft armament on their conning towers: two quad (four-barrel) 20- 
mm guns and a 37-mm flak gun, for a total of five. They were specifically 
designed for service in the Bay of Biscay," but virtually all other U-boats 
(such as Hartenstein’s) had their anti-aircraft capability increased in one 
fashion or another. The more heavily armed boats made their way into 
the Caribbean or South Atlantic. Allied pilots suddenly began report- 
ing these encounters — High Noon-type shootouts — and noted that the 
U-boats usually opened fire with their new 20-mm guns at 600 yards, well 
outside the drop zone for aerial depth charges, and were deadly effective at 


250 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


300 yards. During these attacks, the U-boats continuously turned toward 
the incoming aircraft. 

Allied flyers also reported that the decision to stay on the surface 
seemed to rest with individual U-boat commanders since both tactics — 
diving and staying up — were being used. There seemed to be no standard- 
ization of the new anti-aircraft armament. 


Reports from all areas where the U-boats were increasingly 
active showed ... one 3.46” gun forward of the conning tower, 
0.79” gun and four MG’s on the bridge; twin Italian 12.7 mm 
(0.46”) mounted with the 0.79” gun on either side of the bridge, 
all in addition or, in some instances, in place of 20 mm cannon. 
Experimentation by Axis submarines in the use of dual purpose 
deck guns was reported.” 


But no matter what the actual armament, the common tactic was “to 
throw up as heavy a barrage as possible.” 

The antisubmarine planes were “somewhat defenseless” against these 
new arms and tactics. Even the mighty B-24 Liberator had been modi- 
fied to drop antisubmarine weapons, not to kill submarines with gunfire. 
Virtually all American planes in the region had to be beefed up as quick- 
ly as possible. As a first step, many of the .30-caliber machine guns on 
the B-18s and other medium, twin-engine aircraft were replaced by .50- 
caliber machine guns. These guns and their ammunition added extra 
weight to the aircraft but packed a much more powerful punch. Bell P-39 
Airacobra single-seat fighters based on Aruba and Curacao sported a large 
37-mm cannon firing through the propeller hub and were especially ef- 
fective. The B-24s were given .50-caliber guns in nose turrets of various 
kinds, but the up-arming on these aircraft was unsatisfactory, largely be- 
cause of poor visibility directly ahead. As a result, their noses were lowered 
slightly, giving the forward gunner a much better view. Armor plate and a 
bullet-proof glass shield were also added. 

One important result of these alterations was a modification in the 
plane’s center of gravity, giving it a nose-down alignment in flight — which 
resulted in better vision for the pilots. In addition, specially modified B-25s 
mounting 75-mm guns were deployed. New tactics were also introduced. 


14: High Noon 251 


‘The slower and more vulnerable B-18s began flying in pairs, one equipped 
with normal demolition bombs and flares, the other with aerial depth 
charges. New tactics for dropping flares or more long-burning floating 
lights were also developed." 

The Battle of the Atlantic climaxed in May 1943, when the Allies 
destroyed 41 submarines. German codes yielded a bounty of intelligence; 
high-frequency direction-finders, both long- and short-range, told Allied 
radio operators where submarines were transmitting from; the air gap 
had been closed with an abundance of USN, RAF, and RCAF Liberators 
and other long-range aircraft; and American hunter-killer groups as well 
as British support groups were now available to find submarines on the 
surface and destroy them. The Kriegsmarine could not afford such heavy 
losses, and Dénitz ordered most of the U-boats out of the central Atlantic. 
‘The submarines were to be updated with new radar detectors, new types 
of torpedoes, new armament, and eventually Schnorkels to allow them to 
run on their diesel engines just under the surface. In the meantime, the 
U-boats were ordered to the South Atlantic and a small number sent back 
to, or kept in, the Caribbean Sea. 

In May and June 1943, the submarines sank only three vessels in the 
Caribbean — a British cargo ship of 4,748 tons and two small tankers, one 
Cuban of 1,983 tons, and one American of 2,249 tons. Off the Brazilian 
coast, however, after a seven-day chase by air and sea units, U-128 had 
been spotted by two US Navy Mariners based at Aratu on May 17. The 
two aircraft dove to the attack. The submarine managed to slip beneath 
the sea — only to surface a short time after, no doubt with heavy damage. 
‘The two Mariners were then joined by the destroyers USS Jouett and Mof- 
fett, and U-128 was hit repeatedly by their gunfire. After four direct hits, 
the U-boat crew abandoned ship as the submarine rolled over and sank. 
About 50 survivors were picked up. 

Suddenly, in July, the U-boats returned to the Caribbean. On July 1, 
a small Brazilian cargo ship of 1,125 tons was torpedoed northeast of the 
Windward Islands, beginning a toll of destruction that lasted through 
the month. Fourteen ships went down in or near the Caribbean in the 
next four weeks, ranging in size from the schooner Harvard (114 tons) 
destroyed on July 14, to the BP Newton, a 10,324-ton Norwegian flagged 
tanker destroyed on July 8. BP Newton was one of only two tankers sunk 


252 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


in July — the other was the 3,177-ton Dutch Rosalia — in a month that cost 
the Allies a total of 66,383 tons in the Caribbean area. Over the last two 
weeks of July, 11 aircraft in the Antilles Department engaged in running 
gun battles with surfaced U-boats, but, in the end, it was the submarines 
that paid the heaviest toll by far. It took time for the Americans to adapt, 
but once they did, the destruction of U-boats in the Caribbean began to 
match that for May in the North Atlantic. July 1943 saw 21 attacks on 
U-boats by aircraft and 9 by surface craft with the following results:" 


July 9, 1943: U-590 was on its first war patrol near the Amazon estu- 
ary when it was caught on the surface by an American PBY. It was sunk 
with all hands." 

July 15, 1943: U-759 was attacked by a US Navy Mariner east of Ja- 
maica in the Caribbean Sea. It was sunk with all hands." 

July 19, 1943: U-513 was attacked off the coast of Brazil by a US Navy 
Mariner stationed at Rio de Janeiro. The U-boat at first put up a curtain of 
heavy anti-aircraft fire, but Lieutenant (jg) Roy S. Whitcomb swung the 
big aircraft over the submarine and dropped six Mark 44 depth charges, 
then banked quickly away to avoid the boat’s anti-aircraft fire. The tail 
gunner yelled “we got him, we got him” and when Whitcomb flew back 
in the direction of U-513, the crew spotted floating debris and about 15 
survivors in the water.” 

July 21, 1943: US Navy Catalina 94-P-7 took off at 2:10 a.m. local 
time from Belém to rendezvous with convoy TJ-1 about 300 miles off the 
Brazilian coast. After arriving in the vicinity of the convoy three and a 
half hours later, bow gunner F. J. DeNauw spotted the surfaced U-662 
three miles distant, just off the PBY’s starboard bow. Pilot Lieutenant (jg) 
R. H. Rowland was flying at 1,200 feet and nudged the aircraft to the left, 
heading for the submarine in a shallow dive. The plane’s bow gun would 
not fire and the U-boat put up a persistent and heavy barrage, making no 
effort to dive. The PBY was hit in several spots and the radioman wound- 
ed, but Rowland pressed home his attack. He swung the aircraft to the 
right a bit to give the right blister gunner a chance to fire. He next eased 
the aircraft to the left; then to the right again; and when he was about 
75 feet above the surface of the sea, flew over U-662. He attempted to 
drop four Mark 44 aerial depth charges set at 25 feet. One of the charges 


14: High Noon 253 


“hung up” under the plane’s wing, but the others did the job.” Three of the 
U-boat crew survived. 

July 26, 1943: A US Navy Mariner attacked and destroyed U-359 
in the Caribbean south of Santo Domingo by aerial depth charges. All 
hands were lost.”! 

July 28, 1943: U-159 suffered the same fate. A Navy Mariner piloted 
by Lieutenant (jg) D. C. Pinholster spotted the submarine south of Haiti. 
It was proceeding on the surface at about 15 knots and opened fire as 
Pinholster turned the aircraft on an intercepting course. The Mariner’s 
bow gun jammed, but Pinholster’s plane bore on, taking hits and suffering 
two crew wounded. ‘The right blister gun poured fire into U-159 while 
Pinholster dropped four Mark 44 aerial depth charges on it, then orbited 
one-and-a-half times so that the right blister gun and the tail gun could 
continue firing. The bombs exploded and U-159 seemed to lose head- 
way. Still, with one gun out of ammunition, one gun not firing, and two 
wounded crew members, Pinholster turned for base. Suddenly, one of the 
waist gunners saw a large explosion that engulfed the U-boat’s whole con- 
ning tower. The next morning, a large oil slick was spotted from the air at 
the position of the attack. That was the last visible sign of U-159.” 

August 3, 1943: U-572 was sunk by depth charges dropped by a US 
Navy Mariner northeast of Trinidad. All hands were lost.” 


‘Thus, in total, Donitz lost eight submarines in the Caribbean and the 
South Atlantic between the end of May and the beginning of August 
1943. The losses were bad enough; even worse was the sharply dimin- 
ished opportunity of his U-boats to sink anything of importance. There 
were just too many Allied aircraft, the radar was too good, and the co- 
ordination between shore establishments, surface ships, and aircraft too 
effective. When Donitz tried to shift his efforts from the Caribbean to 
the South Atlantic, the result was the same: American and even Brazilian 
aircraft continued to appear from nowhere to hammer his submarines to 
the bottom. Just as the Kriegsmarine had lost the Battle of the Atlantic 
in May 1943, it lost the battle of the Caribbean and the South Atlantic in 
the high summer of 1943. 


254 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


ifs, 


GUNDOWN: U-615 AND U-161 


Ralph Kapitzky was an unlikely hero. He commanded only one boat, did 
not execute a single bravado war patrol, and did not come close to winning 
a Knight’s Cross. Yet his war patrol to the Caribbean in the summer of 
1943 was the stuff of legends, of modern-day buccaneers on the Spanish 
Main.'! A member of the Crew of 1935, Kapitzky did brief tours of duty 
on the old battleship Sch/esien and the light cruiser Karlsruhe before being 
seconded to the Luftwaffe. He flew a Heinkel-111 during the invasion of 
Poland and survived being shot down; posted to Caen, France, he flew 
100 missions in Stuka and Ju 88 bombers during the Battle of Britain.’ 
The Kriegsmarine recalled Kapitzky in December 1940. After U-boat 
training, he was posted Executive Officer on U-93. On June 1, 1942, just 
before his 26th birthday, Kapitzky was promoted Kapitanleutnant and 
given a brand new Type VIIC boat, U-615. His first war patrol in Sep- 
tember off Newfoundland was a litany of ice as well as hostile destroyers 
and airplanes.’ Then, on October 11, he torpedoed the 4,221-ton Panama- 
nian freighter E/ Lago, in ballast from Reykjavik, Iceland, to New York. 
Twelve days later, en route to La Pallice, he dispatched the 12,656-ton 
British passenger/cargo ship MV Empire Star.‘ It was a good first patrol. 
U-Boat Command agreed. “The operations against convoys were severe- 
ly impaired by poor weather and visibility. The sinking of the two lone 
freighters, including the refrigerator-ship ‘Empire Star, is gratifying.” 
Kapitzky took U-615 out of La Pallice on November 25 and again 
shaped a course for the North Atlantic. It was a miserable war patrol.° 
Violent gales whipped the gray waters into mountains of foam and spray; 
heavy escorts protected the few convoys that Kapitzky sighted; and enemy 
aircraft repeatedly drove the boat under. Returning to base on January 9, 


255 





Ralph Kapitzky. Kapitaenleutnant Kapitzky undertook only four patrols in U-615, sinking 
but four ships of 27,231 tons. His fame rests on an epic battle that he fought for days 

in August 1943 in the Caribbean against a crushing Allied superiority of aircraft and 
warships. He was last seen clinging to the bridge with legs shot off, but still directing 

fire against the enemy. Source: Deutsches U-Boot-Museum, Cuxhaven-Altenbruch, 
Germany. 


256 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


1943, without a “kill,” Kapitzky knew that the formal evaluation would 
not be kind. He was right. “Hardly a satisfying operation.”’ Captain Eber- 
hard Godt, Donitz’s chief of operations, charged Kapitzky with “overesti- 
mating the escorts,” with “prematurely diving” after sighting the destroy- 
ers, and with “having remained submerged for far too long.” The lesson 
was clear: “The commander must not allow himself to be distracted too 
much from his primary goal — namely, to get close to the ships — by way of 
sustained dives and turning away [from hostile escorts].” 

Kapitzky returned to Newfoundland for his third war patrol in March 
1943. Again, it was sheer misery: Force 6 to 7 gales. One violent storm af- 
ter another. The ocean became a mad fury of towering waves and cascades 
of seawater. ‘Then heavy snow showers. Sheets of ice clung to men and boat 
alike. Periscopes froze. Guns became inoperable. For four days, Kapitzky 
was swept up in the biggest convoy action of the war. But U-615 had no 
success. Time and again, Kapitzky broke off his attack run at the approach 
of destroyers. Time and again, he permitted B-24s to drive him under the 
sea. Humiliated, he informed Donitz: “All eels [still on board].” Finally, 
on April 11, he torpedoed the 7,177-ton American Liberty ship Edward 
B. Dudley, bound from New York to Liverpool via Halifax with a cargo of 
4,000 tons of munitions, food, and cotton. Shrapnel from the explosion 
showered the bridge of U-615 and struck the skipper in the right arm, 
shoulder, and ear. 

Captain Godt raked Kapitzky over the coals in his evaluation of the 
war patrol. The commander still had not learned how to drive home an 
attack. He still was too ready to evade attacks by enemy air and surface es- 
corts. “Do not attempt to dive when aircraft is already too close. Repel 1st 
attack surfaced.” While in the biggest convoy battle of the war, Kapitzky 
again had been too content to take on a reconnaissance role. “The chances 
offered to attack were not exploited. Never postpone an attack without 
cogent cause.” Godt ended his evaluation on an ominous note: “The com- 
mander must take advantage of his experiences to date. A healthy portion 
of self-confidence and optimism is not only justified but also necessary.”* 
It was a clear warning. 


3 ok ok 


15: Gundown: U-615 and U-161 257 


U-615 spent nearly two months in the repair bunkers at La Pallice. As 
part of “Bridge Conversion II,” it received two twin-barreled 2-cm guns 
on the upper platform abaft the conning tower as well as a four-barreled 
2-cm Vierling anti-aircraft system on a new lower platform, the so-called 
“winter garden.” The 8.8-cm gun on the foredeck was removed and re- 
placed with a semiautomatic 3.7-cm cannon. 

Donitz sent 12 Type VIIC and one Type IXC boat to the Caribbean 
in June 1943. Two U-tankers, U-487 and U-488, were to refuel them 
west of the Azores. U-615 was to act as a scout south of the Windward 
Passage and to engage Allied vessels only if “circumstances were entirely 
favorable.” 

During the first week of June, the crew of U-615 reassembled at La 
Pallice for the boat’s fourth war patrol.!° After the mandatory examina- 
tion for venereal disease — captain exempted — there was a raucous sendoff 
party. Then the men packed their private belongings into trunks, placed 
their last will and testament on top of them, and offered both up to Flo- 
tilla Command for safe-keeping. On June 12, the new Second Watch 
Officer, Klaus von Egan-Krieger, joined the boat. As Executive Officer 
Herbert Schlipper backed U-615 out of the U-boat pen, a mysterious box 
was handed over."' The men would later learn that Donitz had chosen 
their boat to test out a new “ship finder” called Nachéfernrohr.* It was to be 
operated by one of the lookouts on the bridge, from where a cable would 
be run down the conning-tower hatch to the control room and the radio 
shack. Both “pings” via the headphones and “pips” on a screen would warn 
of approaching hostiles. Kapitzky alone had the keys to the box. 

As U-615 steamed out into the Rade de la Pallice, the captain broke 
out the boat’s store of shorts, light shirts, canvas slippers, and pith hel- 
mets. The men were delighted: this would not be another patrol in the 
cold, gray wastes of the North Atlantic. To test the effectiveness of the 
new quadruple anti-aircraft guns, U-Boat Command had bundled five 
boats together for mutual protection against Allied “bees.” It was a wise 
decision. For ten hours throughout June 14, the flotilla was savagely at- 
tacked and depth charged in the Bay of Biscay by Sunderland flying boats 
as well as Whitley and Wellington bombers. Gunner Helmut Langer 
managed to shoot down a “four-engine bomber,” which could only have 
been a B-24 Liberator. But in the process, that aircraft’s machine guns 


258 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


shot Gunner Heinz Wilke through the stomach; he bled to death on the 
upper deck and was buried at sea three days later. The boat sustained only 
minor damage. 

After taking on 20 cbm of fuel oil from U-535, U-Boat Command 
ordered Kapitzky to shape a course for Curacao. U-615 no longer was to 
act as scout for the other boats but to operate off the Dutch island during 
the “next favorable moon” as convoys were expected to assemble there. ‘The 
orders were open-ended: “Further cruising according to your own judg- 
ment.” It was a nice birthday (June 28) present for the 27-year-old Kaleu. 

On July 13, U-615 entered the Caribbean via the dangerous coral- 
reef Anegada Passage in the British Virgin Islands and then headed 
south. As he approached Curacao, Kapitzky must have remembered Wer- 
ner Hartenstein and U-156’s surprise attack on the lake tankers off San 
Nicolas in February 1942. Could Kapitzky repeat that “happy time”? 

He could not. Allied ASW had been beefed up and fully integrated 
since those days. For two weeks, U-615 was repeatedly forced to execute 
emergency dives due to constant surface and aerial observation. Kapitzky 
remained submerged by day, coming up at night to ventilate the boat and 
to recharge the batteries. He could detect only small coastal vessels. Radar 
tracked his every move. His hydrophones were useless close in to shore. 

On July 28, Kapitzky got lucky. The lookouts sighted the unescort- 
ed 3,177-ton Dutch lake tanker Rosalia ten miles south of Willemstad. 
Kapitzky fired two bow torpedoes into the hapless victim; it burst into 
flames and sank. Then his luck ran out: an Enigma message to U-Boat 
Headquarters — “Sank a 6,000 ton tanker” — was picked up by the Allies. 
There ensued, in the words of U-boat historian Clay Blair, “one of the 
most relentless U-boat hunts of the war.” 

It began one day after the destruction of the Rosalia when an Amer- 
ican B-18 out of Aruba found and attacked U-615. It continued on July 
31 when a Mariner flying boat out of Trinidad made contact and dropped 
depth charges as well as bombs in the direction of U-615. And it con- 
tinued on August 1 when a B-24 Liberator out of Curacao found and at- 
tacked the boat. None of the pilots spotted “visible evidence of damage.”" 

On August 2, Kapitzky came across Convoy GAT-77 east of the 
Dutch islands and set out to attack it. At a range of 1,100 yards, the Amer- 
ican patrol craft PC-1196 sighted the U-boat’s periscope. It launched five 


15: Gundown: U-615 and U-161 259 














U-615. One of 568 commissioned Type VIIC 870-ton boats, U-615 was commissioned in 
March 1942 and commanded by Kapitaenleutnant Ralph Kapitzky; on her fourth patrol 


U-615 fought the longest ongoing battle with aircraft southeast of Curacao, before being 
depth charged by US Mariner and Ventura aircraft. Source: Deutsches U-Boot-Museum, 
Cuxhaven-Altenbruch, Germany. 


depth charges and made four “mousetrap” runs over the swirl of U-615 as 
it executed an emergency dive. ‘The patrol craft detected diesel oil on the 
surface but could make no certain damage assessment. But “damage” had 
been done: U-615 was now in the crosshairs of every American warship 
and aircraft in the Caribbean. Perhaps acting on Donitz’s recall order, 
Kapitzky headed due east for Galleon’s Passage between Trinidad Tobago 
and the open ocean. 

For four days, U-615 eluded its pursuers, mainly by running sub- 
merged. ‘The inside of the boat became a veritable hell of heat and hu- 
midity, sweat and stench. Kapitzky took U-615 up for short spells under 
the cover of darkness, but he could not escape the prying eyes of enemy 
radar: on the afternoon of August 5, the destroyer USS Biddle obtained 
an ASDIC contact and depth-charged the raider. Kapitzky released a Bold 


260 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


sonar decoy to slip away. Yet again, the enemy had a specific “fix” on his 
position, northwest of Trinidad. 

Twin-engine Mariner flying boats scoured the area, ignoring the 
steady rain and approaching darkness. At midnight’ on August 5, Lieu- 
tenant J. M. Erskine in P-6 of Patrol Squadron VP-204 obtained a radar 
contact 40 miles northwest of Blanquilla Island, Venezuela. It was U-615, 
running on the surface on an easterly course at a leisurely six knots, likely 
to conserve fuel and to reduce its wake. Erskine fired off two flares to il- 
luminate the target and then swooped down for the “kill.” At an altitude 
of 1,600 feet, he dropped two bombs. They exploded with a bright red 
flash — but U-615 continued to run on the surface. Apparently, its captain 
figured that the attack was over. 

He was wrong. Erskine banked the Mariner and came back at the 
submarine. As he flew over its conning tower, he pulled the manual re- 
lease switches — only to discover to his horror that three of the four depth 
charges hung up in the bomb bays. The fourth fell harmlessly 150 feet off 
target. Kapitzky ordered “Emergency Dive!” By the time Erskine could 
bring the Mariner back for a third attack, the raider was gone. 

Another Mariner out of Chaguaramas, P-6, had also arrived on the 
scene. At 2 a.m. on August 6, it obtained a radar contact. Both Marin- 
ers depth-charged the area of the contact — and were aghast to discover 
that they had bombed not a submarine but a small inter-island schooner. 
Kapitzky had used it as a radar shadow, and he now resumed his easterly 
course on the surface. 

Kapitzky’s clever escape infuriated Allied shore commands. “Huff- 
Duff” stations on Trinidad, Antigua, and Dutch Guiana triangulated his 
position. A Harpoon ASW bomber from VB-130 and two B-18 bombers 
from Edinburgh Field joined the Mariners in the hunt. The Americans 
knew precisely where U-615 was and had established its general course 
— directly toward the largest US antisubmarine base in the world! They 
also knew through Enigma decrypts that most of the other Caribbean 
U-boats were racing for home. Only U-615 and U-634 remained in the 
once “Golden West.” It was just a matter of time. 

And time it would take. Instead of immediately concentrating on 
Kapitzky, the Americans pulled many of their best submarine hunters 
(including the five tracking Kapitzky) out of the search for U-615 and 


15: Gundown: U-615 and U-161 261 


assigned them to guard four large convoys then in Trinidadian waters. 
It was a major tactical blunder as it left only a single Mariner, Lieuten- 
ant A. R. Matuski’s P-4 of VP-205, to take care of U-615. For much of 
the morning of Friday, August 6, Matuski flew a barrier search over the 
U-boat’s last reported position. Kapitzky tracked the Mariner through 
his sky telescope and timed the American’s approaches. A former Luft- 
wafte flyer, he made a rough calculation that he would have ten minutes 
between Matuski’s “loops” to surface and charge his batteries for the run 
past Trinidad. He brought U-615 to the surface. “Both Engines! Full 
Ahead!” U-615 knifed through the water at 17 knots. The batteries were 
coming back to life and fresh ocean air was sucked into the boat. Around 
1:30 p.m., Kapitzky ordered a routine “Dive!” as his stopwatch told him 
that Matuski was due back soon. A last 360-degree sweep by the bridge 
watch showed nothing in the sky. 

Kapitzky never knew what hit him. Four depth charges exploded all 
around the boat at roughly 50 meters depth. U-615 began to violently 
whip up and down — now by the bow, then by the stern. All the while, it 
continued its rapid descent. ‘The terrified crew in the control room saw the 
depth indicator needle dip past 240 meters, twice the builder’s maximum 
limit. The pressure hull groaned and creaked. Chief Engineer Skora was 
finally able to trim the boat by blowing the ballast tanks. Machinist Mate 
Reinhold Abel later recalled: “Damages: water break-in in the engine 
room — lights out and loss of the depth regulator — pressure hull bulkheads 
bent in 1.5 mleters] near the air intake manifold.””” In layman’s language, 
U-615 with its cracked pressure hull and flooded engine room could now 
operate, if at all, only on the surface. Further investigation showed that 
both electric motors and the port diesel engine were out of commission, 
that numerous high-pressure air lines had blown, and that the lubricating 
oil tank had ruptured and its contents spilled into the bilge. Kapitzky 
decided to surface. 

Lieutenant Matuski could not believe his good fortune: almost direct- 
ly below him, a heavily damaged German U-boat had shot up out of the 
sea bow first in a gigantic swirl of foam and air. He immediately notified 
Chaguaramas and then, like any good pilot, powered up his two 1,700-hp 
Wright engines and swooped in for what could only be a certain quick 
“kill” 


262 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


Kapitzky ordered the gun crews up on deck to man all ten anti-air- 
craft guns as well as the 3.7-cm semiautomatic cannon. The boat spewed 
out a deadly fire of more than 5,000 rounds per minute at the incoming 
Mariner. ‘They struck home with lethal force. “P-4 damaged — damaged 
— Fire” was the last message Matuski sent off just before the Mariner and 
its crew of 11 crashed into the sea and exploded. A broken wingtip float, 
an uninflated dinghy, and a waterlogged cardboard box were all that was 
left of Matuski and P-4.'* 

Kapitzky took stock of his situation. The bilge pumps in the engine 
room could not keep water from rising in the stern. Both diesels and both 
electric motors were down. Hostile air forces undoubtedly were already on 
their way for a final attack. Nightfall was still six or seven hours off. The 
closest land was 250 kilometers away. He had to make the most critical 
decision of his life — and fast. Undoubtedly, Captain Godt’s scathing af- 
ter-action reports raced through his mind. After the second patrol, Godt 
had chastised Kapitzky for “prematurely diving” at the approach of hos- 
tile ASW forces; after the third, for diving “when an aircraft is already 
too close” and for not repelling “1st attack surfaced.” Finally, Godt had 
challenged the Kaleu to develop “a healthy portion of self-confidence and 
optimism.” 

Ralph Kapitzky decided to show U-Boat Command his mettle. While 
Skora and the technical crew labored to restart one of the diesels and to 
work the bilge pumps in the stern, Kapitzky, Schlipper, Egan-Krieger, 
and Chief Petty Officer Hans-Peter Dittmer supervised the transfer of 
the remaining stocks of 2-cm and 3.7-cm ammunition up on deck. Just in 
time: at 3:30 p.m., the watch reported an aircraft approaching at 11,000 
meters. 

“Battle Stations!” The attacker was another Mariner, P-11 of Patrol 
Squadron VP-205 out of Chaguaramas. At the controls sat Lieutenant 
(jg) L. D. Crockett, an experienced pilot and one thirsting for revenge 
ever since his copilot had been killed by gunners from U-406 just three 
weeks earlier.’ Crockett circled the crippled U-boat below him, radioed 
his position back to base, and then began his attack run. The P-11’s anx- 
ious gunners opened fire with the twin Browning .50-caliber machine 
guns in the nose turret a mile from target. Kapitzky held his fire until 
the Mariner was 300 meters away. Gunners Langner and Dittmer were 


15: Gundown: U-615 and U-161 263 


sharp as ever: their first bursts holed the aircraft and one 2-cm shell ripped 
through the starboard wing root, starting a gasoline-fed fire. Crockett re- 
leased two MK-17 aerial bombs. They landed harmlessly off the U-boat’s 
port quarter. 

With the Mariner pouring out a steady plume of smoke and fire and 
in danger of exploding at any moment, Crockett pressed home a second 
attack. Navy Machinist A. S$. Creider climbed into the Mariner’s wing 
root and with a spare shirt tried to smother the flames. For a second time, 
the two antagonists blazed away at each other. As he passed over the sub- 
marine’s conning tower, Crockett released four MK-44 depth charges. He 
then banked away from the deadly wall of anti-aircraft fire and saw four 
gigantic columns of water arise all around the U-boat. He had landed a 
deadly punch. Numerous new cracks opened in the boat’s hull and the sea 
began to rush in. The men inside the boat were working in water up to 
their knees. U-615’s stern settled ever deeper into the sea, while its bow 
rose concomitantly. The boat was in danger of sliding into the depths by 
the stern. Kapitzky and Skora urged on the men at the pumps and ordered 
others to join them. The boat was turning in circles as the last attack had 
jammed one of the rudders hard-a-starboard. U-615 was a sitting duck. 

Less than an hour after Crockett’s second attack, a Ventura PV-2 
Harpoon bomber, B-5 of VB-130, arrived on the scene and joined the 
Mariner in a combined attack. They approached the stricken submarine 
flying just 50 feet over the water. Kapitzky instructed his gunners to ig- 
nore the shattered Mariner and to concentrate on the Harpoon and its 
five machine guns. Roaring in at 280 knots, Lieutenant T. M. Holmes’ 
B-5 flew through not only Kapitzky’s tracer bullets, but also Crockett’s 
.50-caliber shells. It then bracketed U-615 with four 325-lb. bombs. It 
should have been the end — but instead of ripping the U-boat apart, the 
simultaneous explosions of the depth charges drove U-615 under the sea, 
taking its tethered bridge personnel and those inside the craft with it and 
washing its gunners into the sea. After what must have been a terrifying 
15 seconds, U-615 came back up. Some of the gunners swam back to the 
boat and manned their weapons. As Crockett came in for a third attack, 
which he took to be a certain “kill,” he was met instead by yet another 
withering hail of machine-gun fire and had to veer off sharply. 


264 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


How long could this go on? Despite the best efforts of the men at the 
pumps, U-615 was sinking by the stern. A single electric motor had been 
made operable. Most gauges and instruments had long been smashed. 
Damage control as such was non-existent. Incapable of diving or of steam- 
ing, U-615 had been reduced to a beleaguered (and sinking) gun platform. 

At 6 p.m., Mariner P-8 of VP-204, Lieutenant (jg) John W. Dresbach 
at the controls, arrived at the scene and joined P-11 and B-5 in a concert- 
ed effort finally to sink U-615. Dresbach came in low from the stern at 
190 knots. A burst of fire from Kapitzky’s quadruple anti-aircraft guns 
smashed through the Mariner’s nose, killing its pilot instantly and knock- 
ing out the plane’s radar and automatic pilot. The four depth charges that 
Dresbach had released just before dying exploded harmlessly in the water. 
Inside the cockpit of P-8, copilot Oran Christian grabbed the control yoke 
with one hand and Dresbach with the other, until the crew could claw 
the dead pilot out of his seat. In anger, Christian wiped the blood off the 
cockpit windshield and barreled in for a second attack. He released two 
depth charges at 1,500 feet; they exploded some 300 feet off the sub- 
marine’s port side. The wind fairly whistled through the gaping holes that 
Kapitzky’s gunners had made in P-8. The two attacks lifted U-615’s stern 
out of the water, smashed its recently jerry-rigged rudder, and shredded its 
aft diving planes. More holes in the pressure hull. More water in the boat. 
U-615’s stern sank below the sea again. Shore installations by now had all 
tuned in to the reports coming from Crockett for none could believe that 
the German submarine was still afloat. US Navy Command ordered three 
warships out of Grenada and the brand-new destroyer USS Walker out of 
the Gulf of Paria to rid the Caribbean of Kapitzky and U-615. 

The last attack had again been costly for U-615.?° Chief Petty Offi- 
cer Dittmer, a veteran of 13 previous war patrols, had been shot through 
the head by one of the Harpoon’s shells and blown clean overboard. 
Gunner Langner, who had brought down the four-engine bomber in 
the Bay of Biscay and had just helped destroy Matuski’s Mariner, had 
taken a heavy-caliber bullet to the knee; he would later bleed to death. 
Some of the Mariner’s other shells had torn into Kapitzky’s thigh. He 
lay slumped in a corner of the bridge, bleeding heavily, the shattered leg 
crazily drooped across his chest. He was given morphine and propped up 


15: Gundown: U-615 and U-161 265 


against the periscope standard. His last orders were to transfer command 
to Schlipper and to be remembered to his parents. 

At about 6:30 p.m., yet another Mariner hoved into sight: P-2 from 
VP-205, piloted by Lieutenant-Commander R. S. Hull. Yet again, Crock- 
ett directed an attack on the U-boat by all four aircraft. It was another 
bitter disappointment: the Mariner’s bomb doors opened prematurely 
(“failure of the release mechanism”) and its stick of depth charges explod- 
ed harmlessly 600 feet astern U-615. Furious, Hull took his machine up 
to 1,500 feet and then roared in for a visual bombing run — both bombs 
splashed harmlessly into the water some 500 feet from the sub. U-615’s 
gunners were as deadly as ever, and Hull was forced to take his battered 
Mariner back to base. At 6:40 p.m., the Harpoon also informed Crockett 
that it had to return to base because it was running low on fuel. Darkness 
finally fell on hell. 

But all was not calm. At the last twilight, yet another tormentor ar- 
rived: Lieutenant Milton Wiederhold’s B-18 bomber out of Edinburgh 
Field. The indefatigable Crockett set up yet another attack run on U-615 
— but, to his dismay, it was gone. Darkness and a tropical rain storm had 
swallowed up the boat. Navy Airship K68 had also arrived on the scene. 
At 9:15 p.m., its pilot, Lieutenant (jg) Wallace Wydean, spotted U-615 on 
the surface between two rain squalls and guided Wiederhold’s B-18 in on 
its attack run. For the last time, U-615’s gunners put up a blistering hail of 
anti-aircraft fire. The depth charges from the B-18 rocked the U-boat, but 
they were not close enough to sink it. By the time the American bomb- 
er returned on a second run, rain squalls again had enveloped U-615. 
Wydean had been so engrossed in the action that he forgot to check his 
fuel situation; when ordered home, he was too far away and had to crash- 
land K68 on Blanquilla Island. Heavy winds tore the beached blimp to 
shreds the next day. It was U-615’s last victim. 

U-615 had been depth-charged 14 times by seven different aircraft. It 
barely remained afloat. Its ammunition had been shot off. Its engines were 
down. Its rudders and aft dive planes were shattered. Some of its bulk- 
heads had been caved in and its pressure hull compromised. Up above, a 
dozen Mariners were still searching for it. Schlipper assembled the crew 
on the foredeck in order to press down the bow and thereby raise the stern. 
He asked Machinist Mate Abel to go below to take charge of damage 


266 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


control. Miraculously, Abel kept the bilge pumps going through the night 
and even occasionally blew high-pressure air into the diving tanks to pre- 
vent the boat from sinking. 


3 ok ok 


The story of the last night on U-615 became (and remains) the subject 
of wild speculation and myth-making, increasing in drama with every 
telling. In his original (1988) account, historian Gaylord T. M. Kelshall 
had Kapitzky quietly bleeding to death propped up against the periscope 
standard.” Ten years later, after an interview with Executive Officer 
Schlipper — who allegedly gave Kelshall a “Kapitzky Diary” (improbably 
saved off the sinking U-615!) — the story of Kapitzky’s last hours took a 
much more dramatic turn.” The skipper, mortally wounded and profusely 
bleeding, managed to greet and to shake hands with every member of the 
crew as they came up on deck. He even joked with some of them. As the 
seas grew rougher during the night, Schlipper had Kapitzky and Langner 
placed in a rubber dinghy. An exceptionally high wave swept the small 
craft off the deck. Seaman First Class Richard Sura dived into the dark 
waters to retrieve it, but as he brought the dinghy alongside the U-boat, 
his body slipped beneath the sea. Others took up the cause and eventually 
brought the dinghy, as well as Kapitzky and Langner, back safely. The Old 
Man was still in a joking mood, telling his Executive Officer that he now 
qualified for the “Silver Wounded Badge.” 

Sometime around 1 a.m., Kelshall relates, the commander who “had 
fought the greatest battle of the war against aircraft” died. There then 
ensued a Wagnerian funeral befitting the opera stage at Bayreuth. Amid 
the “background sound of snarling hunter’s [sic] engines overhead, com- 
plimented [sic] by lightning and rolls of thunder, with the lashing rain 
soaking everyone,” the sailors sewed Kapitzky’s corpse into a hammock 
and weighted down his feet. Then they lustily sang “the traditional naval 
hymn, the words of which were heard in the fierce wind and rain.” As 
“the body of their much beloved commander slid over the side,” the boat’s 
“gunners stood to their weapons.” Chief Engineer Skora recalls a more 
simple order of events. “The commander was committed overboard to the 
Caribbean Sea during the night 6/7,” August 1943.” 


15: Gundown: U-615 and U-161 267 


‘There is no doubt that the final night on board the barely floating hulk 
that once was U-615 must have been frightening. The men had suffered 
two days of aerial depth charges and strafing runs. Their captain and their 
best gunner lay dead on the deck. Their much-loved petty officer, Ditt- 
mer, had been shot to death and hurled overboard by the machine-gun 
blast. Nineteen sailors were wounded, some bleeding profusely. ‘The cas- 
ings were awash with seawater. It was pitch black, with rain, thunder, and 
lightning flashing all about. They were in shark-infested waters about 250 
kilometers from the nearest land. Their prospects were not good. 

‘The first rays of light brought a “smoke smudge” on the horizon. Res- 
cue? Or death? ‘The sailors grabbed life vests and floats, took to the water, 
and grouped around the rubber dinghy. Schlipper and Skora joined Abel 
inside the boat and blew the last remaining high-pressure air out of Div- 
ing Tank No. 3, allowing seawater to rush in. By the time they returned 
on deck, they were standing in deep water. U-615 slipped beneath the 
sea around 5 a.m. on August 7, 1943. No one bothered to take along the 
“top-secret” Nachifernrohr, for it had detected not a single attacker. ‘The 
last thing the survivors of U-615 saw was its conning tower emblem: a tor- 
pedo across which a winged aerial bomb had been superimposed. Fitting! 

The “smoke smudge” on the horizon was the USS Walker under Com- 
mander O. F. Gregor. At 5:25 a.m., Walker sighted red flares off the port 
bow, and 22 minutes later the conning tower of a “submarine apparent- 
ly submerging” at 16,000 yards. Leery of possible U-boats in the area, 
Walker approached the source “zig zagging radically at high speeds.” At 
6:07 a.m., Gregor spied survivors in a raft. He began rescue operations at 
once, and after a brief interruption at 6:55 a.m. caused by a false “contact” 
report, hauled “3 officers, 40 enlisted men and 1 dead enlisted man” out 
of the water. He ordered medical attention to three survivors for gunshot 
wounds, one for shrapnel wounds, and 15 for “superficial lacerations, con- 
tusions and abrasions.” 

Pilots Crockett, Christian, and Dresbach (posthumously) were award- 
ed the Distinguished Flying Cross for their valor in destroying U-615. 
Both The New York Times and the Reader's Digest eulogized their actions 
in feature articles in November 1943. 

For Karl Donitz, the destruction of U-615 was but the most dramatic 
episode in the “killing” of eight of the 13 boats that he had dispatched 


268 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


to the Caribbean in June 1943, in return for a mere three ships of 17,000 
tons sunk. After several futile attempts to reach Kapitzky on August 11, 
14, and 18, Captain Godt declared U-615 “potentially lost” on August 30, 
1943, and “formally lost” on May 18, 1944.75 On August 18, 1943, U-Boat 
Command had fired off an ominous last Enigma message: “No refueling 
possible for Kapitzky (615).””6 It was a fitting epitaph. 


took ok 


In January 1943, Admiral Karl Dénitz had awarded Albrecht Achilles the 
Knight’s Cross for his spectacular attacks on Port of Spain and Castries. 
It brought the young “ace” no luck. A harrowing fourth war patrol to 
Newfoundland and Rhode Island in Force 6 to 7 seas battered the slender 
craft, and its only “kill” was the 250-ton brig Angelus of Montreal, loaded 
with molasses. A despondent Achilles did not even submit an after-action 
report for the wretched patrol. U-Boat Command laconically commented, 
“Patrol by a single craft which, despite long duration, brought no special 
success. Only minimal traffic encountered, but strong sea and air patrols. 
‘The sinking of a brig by artillery is the only consolation. Nothing else to 
be noted.” 

As always, Donitz had technological innovations on hand. ‘The entire 
conning tower was reinforced with protective shielding. As well, U-161 
became the first boat to receive the new “W. Anz g 1” direction-finder 
receiver of the Hagenuk Company. Formally introduced into the U-Boat 
Service as FuMB-9, it became Wanze, or “bedbug,” in crew parlance. 
Donitz was certain that he had found the “cure” for Allied “direction-find- 
ing.” Due to the frequency of enemy air attacks, he added a medical doctor 
to the crew of each boat. In the case of U-161, this was Oberleutnant 
Dr. Thilo Weiss. U-Boat Command obviously had taken the Kaleus’ af 
ter-action reports concerning Allied air attacks seriously. 

Achilles took U-161 out of Lorient on August 8. His orders were 
to rendezvous with Shinji Uchino’s submarine -8 west of the Azores. 
Thereafter, U-161 was to proceed to the coast of Brazil. After crossing 
the Bay of Biscay, U-161 steamed down the coast of Iberia and headed 
for the prearranged rendezvous with I-8.%7 Codenamed Flieder (Lilac), 
the Japanese blockade runner carried an extra crew of 48 sailors; Uchino 


15: Gundown: U-615 and U-161 269 














The Crew of U-161 musters topside for the loading/unloading of torpedoes. Source: Ken 


Macpherson Photographic Archives, Library and Archives at The Military Museums, 
Libraries and Cultural Resources, University of Calgary. 


was to take possession of the new U-1224, a gift from Hitler to Emperor 
Hirohito. After firing the recognition signal, Achilles sent one officer and 
four radio operators as well as a brand-new Wanze over to I-8 by rubber 
dinghy. Uchino then made for Brittany to load aircraft engines, torpedoes, 
and anti-aircraft guns as well as German advisors for the return leg of the 
journey. But Hirohito would be denied the Fihrer’s present, grandiosely 
misnamed “Marco Polo II”: bound for Japan, the renamed RO-501 was 
sunk by depth charges from the destroyer USS Francis M. Robinson north- 
west of the Cape Verde Islands on May 13, 1944. 

Achilles headed for Brazil. He met the homeward-bound U-198 in 
the South Atlantic on September 5, handed over a Wanze receiver, and 
took on fuel oil. The next day U-Boat Command ordered U-161 to pro- 
ceed to Bahia to begin the war patrol. Around 5 p.m.,”” on September 19, 
off Martin Vaz Rocks, Achilles found the unescorted 5,472-ton British 


270 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


steam freighter St. Usk. It was armed and loaded with 6,500 tons of Bra- 
zilian rice, tinned meat, and cotton seed, bound from Rio de Janeiro to 
Freetown. Achilles fired a single torpedo, hitting the target aft but not 
sinking it. Master G. H. Moss immediately ordered a zigzag course. 
Darkness set in. Achilles pursued and just before midnight fired two tor- 
pedoes. Despite hearing “powerful muffled thuds,” Moss’s ship refused 
to go under. Again, Achilles pursued. At 6:50 a.m. the next morning, he 
loosed a single torpedo at the plucky vessel; it struck aft of the port side in 
the No. 5 Hold. The ship’s main top-mast came down, the derricks were 
shattered, and the propeller was blown off. Moss ordered “Abandon Ship!” 
and the Sz. Usk sank by the stern an hour later. 

Achilles made for the lifeboats. After apologizing for sinking the 
ship, he handed the survivors coffee and water, ordered Dr. Weiss to at- 
tend to the wounded, and then presented a small-scale chart on which 
he drew a course for Bahia, 500 miles away. Acting on Donitz’s standing 
order, he took its master prisoner but released the rest of the crew of 47 
in the lifeboats. Chief Officer E. C. Martyn remembered the submarine’s 
commander, dressed in khaki shorts, tropical jacket with battered epaul- 
ettes and “forage” cap, as “a young man, in his early thirties,” with “hair 
of medium colouring, and face sunburned,” with small but “well kept 
hands,” and fluent in English, “with no trace of an accent.” The crew he 
judged to be all very young, with the exception of the doctor, who was 
“grey-haired.”*° 

On September 26, off Maceid, Achilles came across another unescort- 
ed loner, the 4,998-ton Brazilian packet ship Itapagé, bound from Rio de 
Janeiro to Belém with 600 tons of general cargo. At 3:50 p.m., he fired 
two torpedoes into its starboard side. ‘The vessel sank within four minutes. 
Eighteen of its crew and four passengers were killed; 85 survivors made 
it in lifeboats to Sio Miguel dos Campos. ‘That same day, U-161 possibly 
also found the 300-ton sailing ship Cisne Branco, carrying a load of salt, 
and sank it with a single torpedo. Six of its complement of ten were even- 
tually rescued. Later that evening, Achilles took his boat to the mouth of 
the Sao Francisco River, north of Aracaju, in hopes of encountering other 
unescorted merchantmen. 

By now, US Navy ASW forces stationed in Brazil were scouring the 
coast off Bahia in search of the raider. They had read “all pertinent [radio] 


15: Gundown: U-615 and U-161 271 


traffic” emanating from U-161 through ULTRA intercepts and began to 
close the noose. During the night of September 26, “Huff-Duft” oper- 
ators got a rough fix on the U-boat, and next morning several aircraft flew 
barrier sweeps over the suspected location. One of those was a Martin 
PBM-3C Mariner flying boat, P-2 of Patrol Squadron VP-74, piloted by 
Lieutenant (jg) Harry B. Patterson.** The blue-gray Mariner had lifted off 
the waters at Aratti at 9:29 a.m. It was a clear, cloudless day with unlimited 
visibility. Patterson climbed to 4,500 feet. At 10:50 a.m., Radioman D. A. 
Bealer made a contact at 38 miles. It was a submarine bearing eight de- 
grees to port and making flank speed, 18 knots. Why, Patterson must 
have wondered, this extravagant use of fuel? Was it pursuing fresh prey? 
The P-2 quickly closed range. Within five minutes Lieutenant (jg) 
Charles Fergerson, second pilot, made visual contact at 18 miles, attracted 
by the fully surfaced submarine’s wide white wake. Patterson sounded 
battle stations, brought the Mariner up to 180 knots, and executed a shal- 
low turn to the left “to take advantage of the sun.” The flying boat’s oys- 
ter-white bottom was perfectly suited to the conditions. Patterson decided 
to attack the raider’s stern. At a range of seven to eight miles, the U-boat’s 
gunners suddenly sent up steady bursts of anti-aircraft fire, all of it short, 
leaving only “white puffs” in a line across P-2’s approach. Achilles had 
well remembered Dénitz’s admonition: “In case of doubt, stay up top and 
shoot!” 
to port to keep the flying boat off its stern. Patterson was confused: in the 


But he had overestimated the range of his new guns. U-161 turned 


past, the boats had always presented a beam target. 

Second Watch Officer Detlef Knackfuss’s gunners were superb, and 
a stream of fire from the twin and quadruple mounts of 2-cm guns whis- 
tled past the Mariner, buffeting it with air turbulence. At 3,000 yards, 
Bow Gunner L. V. Schocklin opened fire with the .50-caliber Browning 
machine guns. He squeezed off 1,000 rounds and was certain that he had 
wounded or killed several gunners on the U-boat’s deck. But the “twin fif- 
ties” were still out of range. By now, only 75 to 100 feet above the sea, Pat- 
terson approached U-161 over the port stern. Copilot Fergerson dropped 
a string of six Mark 44 Torpex-filled bombs. Patterson then banked the 
Mariner into a sharp left turn to escape Knackfuss’s lethal fire. 

Hell broke loose all around U-161. The Mariner’s tail and waist gun- 
ners saw one depth charge explode off the starboard side “abeam quarter,” 


272 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


another off the starboard stern. The U-boat was engulfed in sea spray. 
The Americans assumed some damage to the submarine. VP-74 Squad- 
ron Commander G. C. Merrick later estimated that the six depth bombs 
“were slightly over to starboard, believed within damage range of sub- 
marine’s stern.” 

Achilles opted to stay on the surface and fight it out. He used his 10.5- 
cm deck gun whenever P-2 was off in the distance and his 2-cm cannons 
whenever it closed range. After reaching 800 feet, Patterson renewed the 
attack. The fire from the U-boat was “heavier and more accurate,” the 
shells exploding just off P-2’s port side. Then one struck the flying boat 
forward of the galley door, the “shrapnel and aluminum” severely injuring 
Radioman Bealer and Ensign Oliver J. Brett, the bombardier. Patterson 
continued his run. Fergerson dropped the remaining two Mark 44 bombs 
as the Mariner passed over the target from stern to bow at 150 feet. Both 
bombs exploded near the submarine. U-161 slewed almost to a halt and 
“maneuvered erratically and violently.” Patterson observed: “after deck 
awash,” “light grey smoke ... in addition to diesel fumes,” and “small fire 
believed begun near [conning tower] base on after deck.” ‘The submarine’s 
stern “vibrated.” Still, the gun crews were putting out a “continuous fire.” 
Commander Merrick later recorded that the last two charges “were on the 
starboard quarter,” and again “within damage range of the submarine’s 
stern.” 

Patterson brought the flying boat up to 2,500 feet. He then went back 
for a final look. At 11:22 p.m., he saw U-161 “submerge.” He dropped a 
marker over the swirl and headed back to base to get medical treatment 
for his crew. A US Navy Lockheed Ventura bomber from VB-129 arrived 
a short time later but saw neither the U-boat nor its survivors. 

U-161 disappeared beneath the waves 250 miles south of Recife, Bra- 
zil, in two miles of water. No sign of either the boat or its 52-man crew 
(and Master Moss of the Sz. Usk) was ever seen. Thus, one can only specu- 
late on “Ajax” Achilles’ final moments. From all reports by the crew of 
the P-2 Mariner, the six Mark 44 aerial bombs had started a “small fire” 
near the conning tower, brought the craft to a virtual halt, forced the stern 
to “vibrate,” caused the craft to emit “light grey smoke,” and so damaged 
the aft that U-161 “maneuvered erratically and violently.” Under these 
conditions, and knowing that the Mariner undoubtedly had reported his 


15: Gundown: U-615 and U-161 273 


position and called in reinforcements, “the ferret of Port of Spain” appar- 
ently had decided to seek safety by going deep. Historian Gaylord Kelshall 
speculates: “If this is the case then the occupants of U161 must have died 
under nightmare circumstances, diving deeper and deeper, with the boat 
out of control, until the sea finally claimed them.” 

When Achilles failed to reply to urgent Enigma messages on October 
8, 9, 10, 12, 14, and 19 — including a dire warning that he was thereby 
violating Paragraph 354 of the Captain’s Handbook — U-Boat Command 
deemed U-161 to have been “sunk by Brazilian air force.” But how? Had 
the Hagenuk Wanze failed to detect enemy aircraft? Had the anti-aircraft 
guns malfunctioned? Or were even the quadruple cannons inadequate to 
bring Allied planes out of the skies? On April 5, 1945, Donitz posthu- 
mously promoted Achilles to the rank of Korvettenkapitan.*° 

Within one calendar year the “Great Lion” had lost his four Carib- 
bean “aces”: Otto Ites of U-94 in August and Jiirgen Wattenberg of U-162 
in September 1942; Werner Hartenstein of U-156 in March and Albrecht 
Achilles of U-161 in September 1943. There no longer were sufficient boats 
and veteran skippers to mount attack waves against the font of Allied oil 
refining. Two-thirds of the U-boat tanker fleet (U-487, U-459, U-461, 
U-462, and U-489) needed to support operations in distant waters had 
been destroyed in less than four weeks, from July 13 to August 4, 1943. 
Allied air and surface ASW with its unfathomable new technologies — 
“Huff-Duff,” Leigh Lights, ASV radar — had gained the upper hand in 
the Battle of the Atlantic. 

For the time being, there was nothing that Dénitz could offer his 
commanders, save more exhortations. “Take Advantage of any chance to 
attack.” “Bring honor to your name.” “Go after em at top speed.” “Some- 
thing must be sunk out of this convoy tonight. At ’em.” “You have only 
tonight left, so put all you have into it.”*” For the late fall of 1943, he placed 
his hopes in German engineers to come up with antidotes to the deadly 
Allied ASW technologies. But the days of the “Golden West,” when half 
a dozen U-boats could wreak havoc with Caribbean oil, were a thing of 
the past. Operation New Land had run its course. 


274 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


CONCLUSION' 


After Adolf Hitler’s declaration of war against the United States on 
December 11, 1941, the U-boat war was extended to the eastern sea- 
board of the United States. Under the auspices of Operation Drumbeat 
(Paukenschlag), the “gray sharks” found harbors and ships well lit; and 
in what Samuel E. Morison, the official historian of the United States 
Navy in World War II, termed a “merry massacre,” a mere five Type IX 
U-boats in January-February 1942 sank 25 ships of 156,939 tons. Vice 
Admiral Karl Dénitz, Commander U-Boats, sent out several more waves 
of U-boats over the next six months, eventually bagging 397 Allied ships 
of more than 2 million tons off the US coast, losing only seven boats in 
the process. Drumbeat was a spectacular surprise attack. It showed what 
massive destruction a mere five, slender 1,000-ton U-boats could wreak in 
the hands of experienced commanders. 

On January 15, 1942 Dénitz, obviously emboldened by the first news 
of Drumbeat successes, decided to extend American operations to the vital 
nerve center of the Allied bauxite and oil supply: the Caribbean basin. He 
invited five U-boat captains and two Hamburg-Amerika Line captains 
to his command post in the Villa Kerillon at Kernével. The U-boat skip- 
pers were regular navy men, and had served with the surface fleet before 
joining the “Volunteer Corps Dénitz.” Their assignment under Operation 
Neuland (New Land), was as straightforward as it was demanding: “Sur- 
prise, concentric attack on the traffic in the waters adjacent to the West 
Indies Islands. The core of the attack thus consists in the surprising and 
synchronized appearance at the main stations of Aruba a[nd] Curagao.”” 
‘The group was to commence operations during the new moon period be- 
ginning on February 16: Gtinther Muller-Stéckheim’s U-67 off Curacao; 


275 


Werner Hartenstein’s U-156 and Jiirgen von Rosenstiel’s U-502 off Aru- 
ba; Albrecht Achilles’ U-161 off Trinidad; and Asmus “Nicolai” Clausen’s 
U-129 off the coast of British and Dutch Guiana. 

Formalized on January 17, 1942, “Operations Order No 51 “West In- 
dien’” identified primary targets to be the lake tankers and bauxite freight- 
ers as well as the oil refineries on the islands—most notably the Standard 
Oil of New Jersey Esso Lago complex at San Nicolas, Aruba, the largest 
in the world; the Trinidad Leaseholds’ refinery at Pointe-a-Pierre, the lar- 
gest in the British Empire; and the Royal Dutch Shell Shottegat plant 
at Curacao. The Hamburg-Amerika Line captains had briefed the vice 
admiral on the nature of the oil traffic. “The oil is brought to Aruba as 
well as Curacao from the Gulf of Maracaibo in shallow-draft tankers of 
about 1,200 to 1,500 tons with a draft of 2 to 3 mleters], is refined there 
and loaded onto large ocean-going tankers.” Trinidad offered an espe- 
cially target-rich environment: apart from housing the oil refinery and 
tank farms, it was the transshipment site for the bauxite needed for Allied 
air industries as well as the departure point for seaborne traffic bound 
for Cape Town. The U-boats undertook the great circle trips across the 
Atlantic—Aruba 8,000 nautical miles and Trinidad 7,200 nautical miles 
return—using only one diesel engine to save fuel. This left the captains 
two to three weeks at most on station in the Caribbean; the so-called 
“milk-cows” (Milchkithe), U-boat tankers, were not yet operational. ‘The 
attacks were driven home precisely “five hours before day break” on Feb- 
ruary 16 to assure surprise. 

Moreover, Operation New Land was a departure from Donitz’s cus- 
tomary operational tactics. This time the “gray sharks” were assigned 
specific targets to attack in a specific region. Their captains were free to 
interpret their zones of attack liberally and independently. They were not 
to hit and run, but to remain in theater to drive home their attacks. “Thus, 
do not break off [operations] too soon!” They were to deploy their torped- 
oes first, and thereafter their deck guns (if land targets were in the offing). 
In eager anticipation, the five skippers spoke of a dawning “Golden West.” 
Still, New Land was a bold, even audacious gamble. It would require the 
utmost of U-boat crews both physically and mentally. And it would re- 
quire a great deal of luck. 


276 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


What did Dénitz and his U-boats do successfully? The element of 
surprise certainly was with the German raiders. ‘The simultaneous explo- 
sions of tankers off Aruba, Curacao, and Trinidad shattered the tranquil- 
ity of Paradise. Radio transmitters from Galveston to Caracas blared out 
warnings of the new danger to shipping. There was a widespread exodus 
from coastal cities into the cacti-studded countryside on Aruba. Chinese 
tanker crews at Curacao went on strike; 15 were shot by the local Dutch 
militia, 37 others simply “disappeared.”’ Islanders who were young chil- 
dren retained vivid memories of the panic and uncertainty of February 
1942 all their lives. 

For a short period, the Allied oil supply was put in jeopardy. The 
roughly 95 per cent of product for the east coast of the United States—59 
million gallons per day—that came from the Caribbean and the Gulf of 
Mexico by tanker at the end of 1941 shrank by 25 per cent as a result of 
the U-boat onslaught. There was oil aplenty available at the Gulf Coast 
ports, but fewer and fewer tankers to ship it in. The slaughter of tankers 
at sea that began at the very start of the war, but which was dramatically 
increased with Operation Drumbeat in January 1942 and New Land in 
February 1942, caught the United States by surprise. At that point, no 
pipelines connected the oil-producing regions of Texas, Louisiana, and 
Oklahoma with the US east coast as far west as the Appalachian Moun- 
tains. Thus, all of New York, New Jersey, New England, and most of 
Pennsylvania and Virginia were supplied by sea by tanker. ‘The railways 
had limited facilities for carrying oil to this vital region, while road trans- 
port was completely inadequate. The government made deep cuts in the 
supply of gasoline and fuel oil in the eastern part of the United States, 
while it and the oil companies sought a solution to the growing shortage. 
Eventually, a massive effort was made to push two pipelines—the “Big 
Inch” and the “Little Big Inch”—from the East Texas oil fields to Norris 
City, Illinois, and Seymour, Indiana, and then on to Philadelphia and 
New York.’ The pipelines, together with a major organization of the rail- 
way tanker car system, ended the short-run shortage. When large-scale 
tanker construction eventually added to this inflow of east coast oil by 
1944, the shortages of 1942 disappeared forever. 

With regard to Britain, Caribbean oil shipments declined from 67 per 
cent of total imports in 1941 to just 23 per cent by 1943.° At the end of that 


Conclusion 277 


year, oil stocks had shrunk to six months’ supply and shipments of refined 
gasoline by 20 per cent. Royal Navy stocks fell to the “danger level” and 
Royal Air Force squadrons faced a severe shortfall of vital high-octane 
aviation fuel. Anecdotally, King George VI strove to overcome the oil 
shortage by extinguishing central heat at Buckingham Palace and Wind- 
sor Castle, by allowing only single light bulbs to burn in bathrooms and 
bedrooms, and by having red or black lines painted on the inside of bath- 
tubs to restrict hot-water use to five inches of tub.° 

In launching the assault on Caribbean oil, Donitz had found one of 
the few true strategic chokepoints in the Allied war effort. But he did not 
fully realize it at the time. The admiral knew that oil was a vital com- 
modity in the war, and after he had gathered information from the Ham- 
burg-Amerika Line captains, he knew that Caribbean oil was especially 
vulnerable. However, he did not know that a great part of US industrial 
production depended on tankers to carry oil from the Gulf of Mexico to 
the US east coast. He was ignorant of this because, unlike Britain and 
the United States, Germany had not prepared adequately for prolonged 
economic war against its enemies and had not planned a campaign to at- 
tack American or British strategic chokepoints. It is true that much of the 
Allies’ planning for economic war was based on false assumptions or poor 
information, but at least they understood what sort of a war they were in 
and prepared to fight it. 

With regard to bauxite, Britain in 1939 imported all of its raw supply 
— some 302,000 tons. By 1942, as the U-boats ravaged the waters of Brit- 
ish and Dutch Guiana, that figure fell to a dangerous level of just 48,000 
tons.’ Aircraft production was maintained only by drastically increasing 
the import of finished aluminum — almost exclusively from the United 
States — from 58,000 to 132,000 tons between 1939 and 1942. Similarly, 
the U-boats in the Caribbean made a severe dent in the annual shipments 
of one million tons of bauxite to ALCOA and ALCAN in the United 
States and Canada in 1942-43. 

US Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall in May 1942 sent Ad- 
miral Ernest J. King his assessment of the situation: the New Land boats 
had destroyed 22 per cent of the Allied bauxite fleet, one out of every four 
Army ships sent to reinforce the Caribbean theater, and 3.5 per cent of 
Allied tanker tonnage per month.’ “Our entire war effort,” he warned the 


278 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


Commander in Chief US Fleet, was now “threatened.” Over the first six 
months, the German raiders dispatched 965,000 tons of Allied shipping 
in the Caribbean, of which an alarming 57 per cent were tankers. King at 
times suspended sailings into the area. The US Navy calculated that the 
sinking of three average ships was equivalent to the damage inflicted by 
3,000 successful Luftwaffe bombing sorties. 

To give some reference points to these statistics, it took 10,000 gallons 
of 100-octane aviation fuel per minute to mount a large bombing raid 
over Germany, 60,000 gallons a day of regular gasoline to keep a single 
armored division fighting, and the fuel to fill the tanks of one battleship 
could heat an average family home for 500 years.’ Prime Minister Win- 
ston S. Churchill certainly was aware of the criticality of oil. “The terrible 
war machine,” he had informed the nation in a BBC radio broadcast on 
June 22, 1941, the day Germany invaded the Soviet Union, “must be fed 
not only with flesh but with oil.” 

With regard to the modern-day pirates of the Caribbean, the Ger- 
man skippers who undertook the first assault all enjoyed immense success 
and were well rewarded. Four received the coveted Knight’s Cross: Clau- 
sen in March 1942, Hartenstein in September 1942, Miuller-Stéckheim 
in November 1942, and Achilles in January 1943. The fifth, Rosenstiel, 
was killed by aircraft action in the Bay of Biscay in July 1942 after hav- 
ing sunk or damaged 104,000 tons and thus certainly would have won 
his Ritterkreuz as well." All five became Caribbean “aces”: Achilles with 
27,997 tons destroyed, Clausen with 25,610, Hartenstein with 44,806, 
Miuiller-Stockheim with 27,795, and Rosenstiel with 46,044.” 

At first, the descent into the Caribbean basin was a wild success. 
Within 18 months of its launching, however, it was a significant failure. 
Why? The Germans’ initial successes were scored largely against an ene- 
my that was caught flat-footed, divided politically and militarily, which 
lacked imagination as to the real threat in the Caribbean, and which had 
neither the equipment nor the training and capability to weather the on- 
slaught. The United States acted early in recognizing that the security 
of the Panama Canal was a strategic necessity to it and ultimately to the 
Allies. Thus, the Americans began in the fall of 1940 to build a ring of 
concentric defenses on both the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the canal. 
‘The “destroyers-for-bases” deal of September 1940 was followed in quick 


Conclusion 279 


succession by the selection of bases on Britain’s Caribbean possessions, 
and by the initial construction of bases for both the US Army Air Forces 
and the US Navy. What did not happen until many months after the 
start of Operation New Land was the forging of a united antisubmarine 
command, first among the Allies themselves — US, British, and Dutch — 
then among the Caribbean and Latin American nations that formed the 
political outer ring of defenses (Cuba, Columbia, Venezuela, and, outside 
the Caribbean Basin, Brazil), and finally among the US armed forces. 

While the Allies stumbled toward unity of command under US 
leadership, men, artillery, naval vessels, and aircraft finally began to flow 
south. In time, a ring of airfields and seaplane bases encircled the Carib- 
bean basin — from Cozumel, Mexico, to Waller Field, Trinidad, and 
from San Nicolas, Aruba to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Initially, the men 
were untrained, the vessels unsuitable and the aircraft slow, short-ranged, 
and poorly equipped. But that, too, changed. More and better aircraft — 
B-18 “Bolos,” A-20 “Havocs,” P-40 Warhawks, PBY Catalinas, and PBM 
Martin Mariners — equipped with radar, long-range capability, and ef- 
fective submarine-killing weapons — flooded rapidly growing Caribbean 
air bases. When these aircraft were hooked up to inter-island human in- 
telligence, long-range and land-based radar, and a command and control 
system sited on Panama, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Trinidad, the Carib- 
bean rapidly became an American lake. By July 1943 - 17 months after 
Neuland started — no U-boat running on the surface in the Caribbean or 
in the South Atlantic was safe from attack. 

Ultimately, the tactical defeat of the U-boats, in the Caribbean as 
well as in the Atlantic, came through no single device or effort, but rath- 
er through a combination of Allied antisubmarine warfare technology. 
This began with ULTRA decryption of German Enigma radio signals to 
U-boats by British scientists at Bletchley Park. Through High-Frequency 
Direction-Finding, or “Huff-Duff,” the Allies were able to triangulate 
the U-boats’ replies to U-Boat Command to within a mile of their source. 
Thereupon, destroyer escorts were able to pinpoint the U-boats’ locations 
by way of new centimetric radars (Types 271, 286), and Allied aircraft by 
way of new air-to-surface (ASV) radars. Once located, the U-boats were 
illuminated by powerful new Leigh Lights attached to the underbellies 
or wings of a host of Allied aircraft, most notably the American-built 


280 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber, the Martin Mariner, the 
B-18 “Bolos,” and the Catalina PBY flying boat. 

Germany, by contrast, never developed the necessary research and 
development loop to counter Allied ASW technology. Neither a host of 
primitive radar detectors such as the Funkmessbeobachtungsgerat (FuMB) 
nor decoys such as the Aphrodite balloons and Bold refractors proved ef- 
fective. Radar remained a mystery. By May 1943, all Donitz could do was 
to demand that his skippers overcome what he called Allied “cunning and 
technical innovations” with their “ingenuity, ability and iron will.” Using 
language that was reminiscent of that used by General Erich von Falken- 
hayn to justify the battle of Verdun in 1916, the “Great Lion” demanded 
that his skippers “force the enemy to undergo a permanent bloodletting, 
one by which even the strongest body must slowly and inevitably bleed to 
death.” 

In the Caribbean, the Allied force multiplier was airpower. With the 
first wave of New Land boats, the United States pressed its rights under 
the “destroyers-for-bases” deal to militarize the Bahamas, Jamaica, St. 
Lucia, Antigua, British Guiana, and Trinidad. Eventually, two-thirds of 
all United States ASW aircraft were based on these British holdings. Jun- 
gles were bulldozed and airfields constructed almost overnight. Harbors 
and inlets were dredged and flying-boat bases established. Of the roughly 
90 U-boats that sortied in the Caribbean, US Navy patrol craft destroyed 
30, US Army Air Forces bombers four, and the Royal Air Force three." 
As well, these Allied ASW measures combined in July 1942 to decimate 
Do6nitz’s “milk cow” fleet (U-487, U-459, U-461, U-462, and U-489) off 
the Azores and Spain, leaving but two U-boat tankers to service the fleet." 
Even a cursory reading of the war diaries of the Caribbean boats reveals a 
litany of repeated and prolonged crash dives owing to being spotted from 
the air. 

The Germans also suffered from a host of command and operations 
problems. From the start and throughout Operation Neuland, there had 
raged a bitter dispute behind the scenes concerning targeting. While 
Do6nitz was, as ever, fixated on simple “tonnage warfare” against tankers 
and bauxite carriers, Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, Commander in Chief 
Kriegsmarine, had demanded that shore installations such as refineries and 
tank farms be given priority. He had a point. The giant Aruba refineries 


Conclusion 281 


alone produced 500,000 barrels of gasoline and diesel fuel per day, includ- 
ing 5,000 barrels of critical 100-octane aviation fuel. But Donitz hoped 
that Germany could sink ships faster than Britain and the United States 
could build them. In the end, this simple and naive “strategy” failed. 

Raeder, as early as February 11, 1942, had admonished Commander 
U-Boats that his vessels must “deploy their artillery with incendiary shells 
against oil tank farms’; five days later, he repeated his demand that Dénitz 
“inaugurate actions of boats Aruba—Curacao by shelling tank farms.”!” To 
no avail. Each time the boats sortied, Donitz promised compliance with 
Raeder’s injunctions. And each time he ignored them. On one of Dénitz’s 
many rebuttals, in which he again juxtaposed “strategic pressure” and 
tactical “sinkings,” Raeder’s staff queried whether “Commander U-Boats 
has been misled in these matters or simply does not want to understand 
them!”"* 

Second, there was confusion between the German admirals as to 
how to proceed operationally. Commander U-Boats’ position was that the 
available craft were to be sent out in rotating waves in order to maintain 
the element of surprise and to exert maximum pressure on Allied cargo 
carriers and their escorts. Raeder, on the other hand, demanded that no 
more waves be dispatched; instead, he wanted what he termed “continu- 
ous occupation” of the Caribbean basin by the U-boats.’? When Raeder 
on April 2 fired off an acid one-sentence telegram to Kernével, demanding 
that Commander U-Boats comply with his orders, Dénitz resorted to his 
customary practice: he did not reply. Instead, he documented his position 
on the primary mission in the war diary.”° 

Third, there was no clear tactical objective behind Operation 
Neuland. What to target: the small tankers exiting the Bay of Maracaibo, 
the ocean-going tankers departing Aruba, Curacao, and Trinidad, or the 
refineries on shore? And should whatever course chosen be undertaken by 
single boats in specific areas or by concentrated “packs” in one area at a 
time? In the end, it remained a pure “tonnage war.” 

Fourth, if the Raeder-Dénitz antagonism was not enough, there was 
the constant meddling of the Commander in Chief, German Armed 
Forces. Time and again, Adolf Hitler, on the basis of his famous “in- 
tuition,” ordered U-boats diverted from the Caribbean and reassigned to 
“threatened” areas. Norway, he constantly lectured Donitz, remained the 


282 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


“zone of destiny” in the Battle of the Atlantic. In February 1942, at the 
very launch of Operation New Land, he ordered 20 U-boats to patrol 
Norwegian waters against an expected Allied invasion. Similarly, in June 
1942, as yet another wave of boats headed for the Caribbean, the Fiihrer 
ordered Dénitz to recall them and to redeploy them around the Azores as 
well as the Cape Verde and Madeira islands to rebuff what he was sure was 
an imminent Allied assault on North Africa.” And when that operation 
came in November 1942, Hitler predictably ordered all available U-boats 
(eight) to execute a “completely victorious operation” against the Allied 
invasion flotillas.”° 

Fifth, as Karl Hasslinger concluded in a US Naval War College study 
in 1996, Donitz failed to apply “overwhelming force” at the “decisive 
point.”* He shifted his forces in order to react to enemy moves, rather 
than to concentrate them on a single target or product. Concentration 
off Aruba, Curacao, and Trinidad yielded to concentration off Brazil, 
which, in turn, yielded to concentration off Africa — and finally to a re- 
turn to “wolf pack” tactics against almost invulnerable Allied convoys in 
the North Atlantic. Dénitz’s firm conviction that the average sinking per 
U-boat per day (all documented on neat statistical tables nailed to the 
walls of his headquarters) gave a true sense of success was flawed, for it 
ignored the overall number of enemy ships (constantly on the rise) as well 
as the Reich’s limited labor and material with which to replace destroyed 
U-boats. That Hitler’s war in the East consumed ever greater amounts of 
labor, material, and fuel certainly was beyond Doénitz’s power to remedy. 

Sixth, the vessels available in 1942 simply were not up to the task de- 
manded of them. ‘The workhorse of the German submarine fleet, the Type 
VIIC, was a small 800-ton craft with an optimum range of but 8,500 
nautical miles at ten knots. The larger 1,541-ton Type IXC boats had 
an optimum range of 14,035 nautical miles at ten knots. Neither could 
compare with the 2,400-ton US Navy Gato- or Balao-class submarines, 
which were air-conditioned. In fact, conditions on board the U-boats 
in tropical waters were abysmal. Already on his first patrol, Achilles in 
U-161 reported temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius and humidity near 100 
per cent in the boat. After nine successive crash dives, the men “reached 
the limits of their physical and psychological capacities.” The following 
month, Hartenstein in U-156 reported similar conditions after 13 hours 


Conclusion 283 


underwater. “Humidity is much more troublesome than heat ... severe 
diminution of the crews’ efficiency” was the result.** His chief engin- 
eer, Wilhelm Polchau, in July 1942, took pains to inform Donitz that 
water at 30 degrees Celsius failed to cool the engines, that inside temper- 
atures averaged 34 degrees, and that at 47 degrees it had been impossible 
to charge the batteries.?” A month later, Achilles informed Commander 
U-Boats for a second time that heat (39 degrees) and humidity (near 100 
per cent) in the tropics had taken their toll on the crew: skin sores, boils, 
digestive disorders, and exhaustion.” 

Operation New Land showed Donitz at his operational best but 
strategic worst. He skillfully employed “operational maneuver as a force 
multiplier.” He thereby forced the Allies to patrol mammoth areas of 
water while he struck what he considered to be the weak points in their 
defense. In the process, he sought to ensure “the greatest successes ... at 
the least cost.” While the Caribbean campaign dealt the Allies a stunning 
initial blow both materially and psychologically, Commander U-Boats 
never managed to sustain that effort. Lacking a base in the Caribbean, he 
hoped that the “milk cows” would be the answer to the problem of resup- 
ply. They were not. At no time did he station small surface tankers there 
in remote bays as “one-off” supply ships. Nor could he convince Hitler or 
Raeder to commit overwhelming force to that critical area. 

In the end, Karl Dénitz remained wedded to his life-long belief that 
“tonnage” alone mattered. He adamantly refused — with the brief excep- 
tion of the Caribbean campaign — to differentiate targets according to 
their cargo. He never conceded that sinking a ship carrying cotton to 
Britain was less effective than destroying a tanker bringing 100-octane 
aviation fuel to the Royal Air Force. Nor did it matter where enemy ships 
were torpedoed. He put it perhaps best in his war diary on April 14, 1942: 
“The enemies’ shipping forms a single totality. Therefore, in this regard, it 
is immaterial where a ship is sunk; in the last analysis, it has to be replaced 
by a new construction.”*° More, it was “incomparably more important” 
simply to sink ships, whether loaded or in ballast, than “to reduce sinkings 
by making them in [only] a prescribed area.” By then, “new constructions” 
referred primarily to United States, rather than British, shipyards. “Thus I 
attack the evil at its root when I assault [US] imports, especially the oil.” 


284 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


Could Operation New Land have succeeded? It was at best a one-time 
undertaking, one that could neither be repeated nor sustained over time. 
The February 1942 attack was predicated upon total perfection: intelli- 
gence, surprise, coordination, boats, engines, torpedoes, and fuel supply. 
There was no room for Carl von Clausewitz’s notions concerning the “fog 
of uncertainty,” or those of friction and chance. The botched attempt to 
shell the Esso Lago Refinery by Werner Hartenstein’s U-156 on February 
16, 1942, due to the gunnery officer’s failure to remove the tampion from 
the boat’s deck gun revealed the “chancy” nature of the operation. Clause- 
witz’s advice that friction could be overcome mainly by “mass” worked 
to the advantage of the Allies, not Germany. Dénitz’s Caribbean “aces” 
eventually succumbed to Allied “mass” in the air as well as on the sea. 

In the end, it was a fool’s game. In the critical period between Septem- 
ber 1942 and May 1945, as historian Clay Blair has shown, the U-boats 
sank only 272 of 43,526 Allied merchant ships on the Atlantic run; put 
differently, 99.4 per cent of Allied ships made it to port safely. Of the 859 
“gray sharks” that sortied on war patrols, historian Alex Niestlé has cal- 
culated that 648 (75 per cent) were lost — and of these, a shocking 215 (33 
per cent) on their first patrol. Allied air accounted for 234 U-boats (36 per 
cent of all boats lost).*t The human toll, whatever the final tally, remains 
even more shocking: a walk through the U-Boat Memorial at Moltenort 
confronts one with the names of 30,000 submariners killed during World 
War II etched on bronze tablets. Of two eminent students of the U-Boat 
war, the American Clay Blair speaks of the U-Boat war by 1943 as being a 
“suicidal enterprise”; the German Michael Salewski as being “dragged on 
like a ghostly, senseless, and murderous charade.’ Operation Neuland at 
least was conceived within the realm of operational logic and probability. 
It failed for the same reasons as all of Hitler's campaigns. Step by step, 
from the invasion of Poland to the attack on the Soviet Union and the 
declaration of war against the United States, Germany dragged the world 
into the most far-reaching conflict in history without serious thought as to 
the long-term requirements, let alone the real possibilities, of waging such 
a war successfully. Dénitz caught the Allies napping in the Caribbean. 
But he was incapable of understanding just how vulnerable the route from 
Lake Maracaibo to the Dutch Antilles was, how totally dependent the 
United States was on tanker traffic from the Gulf of Mexico to the US east 


Conclusion 285 


coast, or how completely reliant the Royal Air Force was on Caribbean 
aviation gas. He himself declared that his submarines were not strategic 
instruments; it was fortunate for the Allied cause and for the campaign in 
the Caribbean that he believed that. 


286 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


GLOSSARY 


100 Octane A high-performance fuel commonly used in aviation. 

A-20 The Douglas A-20 Havoc light bomber aircraft. 

AAF The United States Army Air Forces. 

Abaft Relative term meaning in the direction of the stern, or back, of a vessel. 
Abeam Bearing at a right angle to a vessel’s hull. 

Ace U-boat commander who has sunk over 100,000 tons in Allied shipping. 


Admiralty The Office of the Lord High Admiral, responsible for all military and 
administrative functions of the British Royal Navy. 


Aft Relative term meaning towards the stern, or back, of a vessel. 
Amidships The horizontal or vertical middle of a vessel. 


Anglo-American Caribbean Commission A six-member committee created in 
March 1942 to deal primarily with social issues within the Caribbean. 


Aphrodite A radar decoy used to misrepresent the location of a U-boat; a balloon 
tied to a raft with aluminum foil strips along the rope connecting the two. 


Army Air Corps The predecessor of the United States Air Force; active from 1926 
to 1942. 


ASDIC A method for locating submerged objects through the use of echolocation; 


an acronym for the Anti-Submarine Detection Investigation Committee. 
ASV Anti-Surface Vessel. 
ASW Antisubmarine Warfare. 
Ato See G7a torpedo. 


Atlantic Charter An August 1941 statement outlining Allied goals following the 
conclusion of the Second World War, including no territorial changes 


287 


without population consent, freedom of the seas, and the disarmament of 
the Axis powers. 


B-18 The Douglas B-18 Bolo medium bomber; originally based on the design of 
the Douglas DC-2. 


B-24 The Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber. 


Ballast Extra weight added to a vessel to improve stabilization, commonly in the 
form of soft iron; submersible vessels use water as ballast by flooding stor- 
age “ballast” tanks. 


Barrel (unit) Measurement of volume used for petroleum products; equal to 42 US 
gallons or 159 litres. 


Bauxite A type of ore that contains aluminum. 


BdU (Befehlshaber der Unterseeboote) Commander-in-Chief of German U-boats Karl 
Do6nitz; also used to informally refer to the headquarters of the U-boat 
service. 

Big Inch A petroleum pipeline from Texas to New Jersey created in 1942-43 as 
an emergency war measure. Along with “Little Big Inch,” the pipeline 
was viewed as a secure means to transport vital petroleum to the Eastern 
Seaboard of the United States when German U-boats threatened the trad- 
itional maritime means of transportation. 


Bilge The floor, or bottom, of a vessel’s inside hull where waste liquids collect. 


Biscay Cross A type of external antenna consisting of two pieces of wood shaped 
in across that were connected to a VHF receiver. The antenna had to be 
mounted to the top of the conning tower each time the U-boat surfaced. 


Blitzmadchen The German female naval service of the Second World War. 


Bluejackets A term used to describe sailors of the United States Navy, based upon 
the colour of the uniform they wore. 


Boatswain ‘The senior non-commissioned officer in charge of all deck work on 
board a vessel. 


Bold Short for Kobold (Goblin); a calcium hydride—based, canister-type sonar decoy 
used by U-boats during the Second World War to produce a false sonar 
target. 


Bow ‘The front portion of a vessel’s hull. 


Bridge The upper deck location of a vessel where all navigation, deck, and com- 
mand responsibilities are made by the Captain or Officer of the Watch. 


BUNGALOW Plan The US War Department’s plan for war with Vichy France. 


288 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


Canal Zone A strip of territory along the entire length of the Panama Canal under 
the jurisdiction of the United States. 


Caribbean Defense Command United States military command responsible for 
the defence of the Caribbean basin and for South America. 


Caribbean Sea Frontier United States Navy coastal defence area responsible for the 
protection of Allied shipping in the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic coast 
of South America. 


Cash and Carry ‘The neutrality policy of the United States to supply resources and 
material to belligerent states under the stipulation that they provide their 
own means of transportation, assume all the risks of transport, and im- 


mediately pay for all goods in cash. 
Catalina See PBY Catalina Flying Boat. 


Centimetre (cm) Measurement of length; equal to 0.3937 inch or one-hundredth 
of a metre. 


CINCLANT Commander-in-Chief United States Atlantic Command. 


Conning Tower The structure of a U-boat between the pressurized hull and exter- 
ior bridge. 


Creole A rather broadly defined ethnic group typically characterized as people born 
in Spanish colonies with European, especially French, ancestry. 


Cubic Metre (cbm) Measurement of volume; equal to 264 US gallons or 1,000 


litres. 


Davit Cast iron crane with hoisting gear for raising and lowering objects over the 
side of a vessel. 


Davy Jones’ Locker Sailor’s idiom for the bottom of the sea and the final resting 
place of sailors, ships, equipment, or any other article that is lost at sea. 


Defense Plant Corporation Company chartered by the United States Congress 
in August 1940 that had the responsibility of expanding new and existing 
equipment and facilities for wartime production. 


Depth Charge Anti-submarine weapon; uses a hydrostatic fuse to detonate an ex- 
plosive charge at a preset depth. 


DGZ German General Time. UTC/GMT +1. 
Die Wochenschau Weekly German newsreel; active from 1940 to 1945. 


Dragon’s Mouth A series of straits that separates the Paria Peninsula of Venezuela 


from Trinidad and Tobago. 
Eel Idiom for torpedo. 


Glossary 289 


Enigma (Schliisse] M) Electro-mechanical rotor machine used by the Wehrmacht 
to cipher and decipher secret messages. The Enigma had an appearance 
similar to a typewriter. One rotor on the Enigma carried 26 contacts, the 
number of letters in the German alphabet; several rotors were used in series 
to further complicate the encryption of a message. 


Erster Wach-Offizier (or Executive Officer) Second-in-Command of a vessel, who 
only reports to the commanding officer. 


Eto See G7e torpedo. 


First Lord of the Admiralty President of the Board of Admiralty within the 
British Royal Navy; typically held by a civilian and member of the British 
Cabinet. 


Flak Anti-aircraft fire. 
Fliegerbombe (Fliegers or Fliebo) Aerially dropped depth charge. 


Fo’c’sle The upper deck section of a vessel that is forward of the main 
superstructure. 


Fore Relative term meaning towards the bow, or front, of a vessel. 


Fregattenkapitin Commissioned rank of the Kriegsmarine equal to that of a Cap- 
tain junior grade. 


Frettchen German for ferret. 
Fithrer Leader; the title or epithet belonging to Adolf Hitler. 


FuMB-9 (Wanze) Variation of the FuMB Metox radar detector used by the Ger- 
man Kriegsmarine to detect Allied aircraft. 


Funkmessbeobachtungsgerat (FuMB) Type of radar detector used by the 


Kriegsmarine. 
G7a torpedo An air-driven torpedo of the Kriegsmarine. 
G7e torpedo An electric powered torpedo of the Kriegsmarine. 
Gallon (gal) Measurement of volume; equal to 3.79 litres. 


Garbage Tour A U-boat tour that must navigate vast distances, such as across the 
Atlantic Ocean, before arriving at its area of operations. 


GAT/TAG An Allied convoy code given to a convoys travelling Guantanamo 
to Aruba and Trinidad (GAT), or conversely, Trinidad to Aruba and 
Guantanamo (TAG). 


Golden West A term U-boat crews used for the Caribbean. 


290 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


Good Neighbor Policy United States policy on non-interference within the domes- 
tic affairs of Latin America. 


Gray Sharks Idiom for German U-boats. 
Great Lion Admiral Karl Dénitz; as referred to by his U-boat crews. 
Hawser Thick cable or rope used for mooring a vessel. 


High-Frequency Direction Finding (HF/DF or “Huff Duff”) Type of radio dir- 
ection equipment used by the Allies in the Second World War to provide a 
bearing on German U-boats; multiple sets could be used to triangulate the 
position of a U-boat. 


Hot Runner Dangerous situation caused when the motor of a torpedo is running, 
but the torpedo has failed to exit the tube. 


Hydrophone Type of microphone used for hearing underwater sounds. 
I.G. Farben German chemical company. 


Jetsam Part of a vessel, its equipment, or cargo that has been purposely jettisoned, 
typically during an emergency. 


Kapiténleutnant (Kaleu) German Kriegsmarine rank equal to Lieutenant Com- 
mander; often the rank held by the Commanding Officer of a U-boat. 


Kilogram (kg) Measurement of mass; equal to 2.2 pounds. 
Kilometer (km) Measurement of length; equal to 0.62 miles. 


Knight’s Cross German wartime decoration awarded for leadership and bravery in 
combat that came in several different grades. 


Knot Measurement of speed; equal to 1.151 miles per hour or 1.852 kilometres per 
hour. 


Kobold See Bold. 
Korvettenkapitan Kriegsmarine rank equal to Commander. 
Kriegsmarine Maritime service of German Wehrmacht, active from 1935 to 1945. 


Kriegstagebuch (KTB) German war diary to provide testament of the decisions, 
actions, and other activities relating to command. 


Leigh Light Extremely powerful 22-million-candlepower searchlight used by 
Allied aircraft as an anti-submarine device to locate U-boats on the surface 
at night. 


Lend-Lease Act Program through which the United States provided the Allied 
nations with resources and materials between 1941 and 1945. 


Glossary 291 


Lieutenant (jg) Inferior subdivision within the United States Navy commissioned 
rank of Lieutenant; equal to a Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Navy. 

List Leaning, or inclining, of a ship to one side; caused by the displacement of 
cargo or flooding of the hull. 

Little Big Inch Petroleum pipeline from Texas to New Jersey created over the 
1942-43 period as an emergency war measure. Along with “Big Inch,” the 
pipeline was viewed as a secure means to transport vital petroleum prod- 
ucts to the Eastern Seaboard of the United States when German U-boats 
threatened the traditional maritime means of transportation. 


Local Combined Defense Committee Committee of community and military 


authorities for the coordination of civil defense. 


London Blitz Period between September 1940 and May 1941 when the city of 
London, and the United Kingdom in general, experienced sustained stra- 


tegic bombing by the German Luftwaffe during the Second World War. 


Long Tom 155mm field gun used by the United States during the Second World 
War 


Luftwaffe The aerial service of the Wehrmacht during the Second World War. ‘The 
service was active from 1935 to 1945. 


Mae West Nickname for the first inflatable life preserver used by Allied service- 
men; derived from the physical attributes of actress Mae West. 


Magnetic Anomaly Gear Anti-submarine device used to detect variations in the 
Earth’s magnetic field; it was either towed behind a ship or attached to an 
aircraft. 


MAN Diesel German company that produced large diesel engines for marine 
propulsion. 


Meter (m) Measurement of length; equal to 3.28 feet. 


Metox High-frequency radar warning receiver for detecting transmissions from 
patrolling aircraft; used by U-boats to detect Allied aircraft. 


Midshipman Most junior commissioned rank in a navy comparable to an officer 
cadet. 


Milchkuh (Milch, or Milk, Cow) Type XIV U-boat; a support U-boat that resup- 
plied, rearmed, and refuelled other U-boats in order to prolong their at-sea 
operations. 


Mortar Type of weapon that fires projectiles at short range with a low velocity and 
high ballistic trajectory. 


Nachtfernrobr Type of night vision telescope used in the Kriegsmarine. 


292 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


Nautical Mile Maritime measurement of length; equal to 6,076 feet or 1,853 
metres. 


Oberleutnant Kriegsmarine rank equal to a Lieutenant senior grade. 


Oil Control Board British government agency consisting of both government 
and industry representatives; responsible for the wartime rationing and 
management of petroleum products within the United Kingdom. 


“Old Man” Term of endearment used by a ship’s company towards the Command- 
ing Officer. 


Operation Blue Wehrmacht offensive in southern Russia between June and Novem- 
ber 1942. 


Operation Neuland (or New Land) Codename for the February-March 1942 
U-boat offensive in the Caribbean. 


Operation Paukenschlag (Drum Beat) January—August 1942 U-boat offensive 
against merchant shipping along the East Coast of the United States; 
known as “the Second Happy Time.” 


Operation Pot of Gold United States war plan to send over 100,000 soldiers to 
Brazil by air and sea in response to growing Axis influence within the 
country; the plan was never carried out. 


Operation Torch Allied invasion plan of French North Africa during the Second 
World War; commenced 8 November 1942. 


Panama Declaration Declaration made by American states at the conclusion of 
the September 1939 Panama Conference; participants reafirmed their own 
neutrality in the war; prohibited belligerent submarines from using domes- 
tic ports; demanded the cessation of subversive activities by foreign agents; 
and proclaimed a maritime security zone of 300 miles (480 km) around 
both coasts of the American continents. 


PBM Martin PBM Mariner; a patrol bomber flying boat. 
PBY Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boat; a versatile seaplane used in the 


Second World War for anti-submarine warfare, search and rescue, patrol 
bombing, and convoy escort. 


Periscope Long vertical tube that contains a set of internal lenses and prisms for 
reflecting and magnifying light to an observer below. Used by U-boats to 
view the surface while remaining submerged. 


Petroleum Administrator for War (PAW) Wartime agency of the United States 
for the organization and allocation of petroleum products. 


Glossary 293 


Petroleum Coordinator for War Position held by Harold L. Ickes, the United 
States Secretary of the Interior, which entitled him to enact emergency war 
measures in the United States petroleum industry. 


Petroleum Industry War Council Leaders of the United States petroleum industry 
who advised on the management, production, and distribution of petrol- 
eum resources for the wartime requirements of the United States military 
and civilian population. 


Plantation Line Pipeline in the southeast of the United States spanning 1,261 
miles or 2,029 km from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Greensboro, North 
Carolina. 


Port Left-hand side of a vessel when facing towards the bow. 


Q-Ship Merchant vessel with concealed heavy weaponry; for attacking U-boats 
unexpectedly while they operated on the surface. 


Quadratkarte Type of quadrant chart used by the Kriegsmarine for navigation; 
world’s oceans were divided into large squares, which were then further 
divided into smaller squares. To transmit a location, U-boats would first 
name the large square (such as “EC”) and then the corresponding numbers 
to the smaller squares inside. 


Radiogram Telegraph style of radio message. 
RAINBOW 5 Pre-war plan of the United States based upon an alliance with Brit- 


ain and France. 
Screw(s) Propeller(s) of a vessel. 


Serpent’s Mouth Informal name of Columbus Strait; separates the southwest cor- 
ner of Trinidad and Tobago from the coast of Venezuela. 


Smutje Ship’s cook. 


Standard Oil United States petroleum company that ultimately grew into the 
largest oil refiner in the world; dissolved into smaller corporations in 1911 
under the Sherman Antitrust Act. 


Starboard Right-hand side of a vessel when facing the bow. 
Stern The back end of a vessel. 


Stevedore Dockworker, or waterfront worker, who assists in the loading and un- 
loading of vessels in port. 


Stoker Person who maintains the fire in a vessel’s steam engine. 
g 


294 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


SOS Morse Code international distress signal consisting of three dots, three dash- 
es, and another three dots; often thought to stand for “save our ship” or 
“save our souls”, however, the letters have no formal significance. 


SSS A Morse Code international distress signal consisting of three dots repeated 
three times; exclusively used to broadcast that a hostile submarine caused 
the distress. 


Supply Priorities and Allocations Board (SPAB) United States precursory agency 
to the War Production Board. 


T2 Tanker Class of oil tankers constructed and produced within the United States 
during the Second World War. 


Tampion Plug used to temporarily close the muzzle of a large gun. 
Tarpaulin A tarp; long sheet of material used for its water resistance. 


Tin can Idiom used by U-boat crews for a destroyer or other anti-submarine 
warship. 


Ton Measurement of mass; equal to 2,000 pounds or 907 kilograms. 


Tonnagekrieg (tonnage war) A German military strategy aimed at destroying as 
much merchant shipping as possible; based upon a core assumption that 
merchant ships can be sunk faster than they can be replaced. 


Torpedo Directorate German naval office responsible for the design, testing, and 
virtually anything else relating to the use of torpedoes. 


Torpedo Junction Name given by the Allies to the merchant shipping—rich waters 
between Guiana and Trinidad. 


Torrid Zone Waters located between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of 
Capricorn. 


Transocean Press Service Wireless news service; located in Berlin, Germany. 


Trinidad Mobile Force United States military force made up of troops from 
Guantdnamo and Trinidad that prepared for the invasion of Vichy France— 
controlled Martinique; the invasion did not take place. 


Triton The four-rotor version of the Enigma machine. 


Triton-Null Order (the Laconia Order) Order by Admiral Karl Dénitz command- 
ing U-boats to cease the maritime custom of assisting survivors of a sunken 
vessel. 


Tulsa Plan United States wartime petroleum strategy made by experts of the Pe- 
troleum Industry War Council. The plan made several recommendations 
on maximizing the existing petroleum pipeline infrastructure, but further 


Glossary 295 


called for the construction of new pipelines between Texas and the east 
coast to meet escalating demand. 


Type VII Most common type of German U-boat in the Second World War; 
with 703 produced, the Type VII is also the most produced submarine in 
history. 


Type VIIC “C” variant of the Type VII U-boat; 568 were commissioned during 
the Second World War. 


Type IX Class of German U-boat built for prolonged operations away from home- 
port facilities; carried up to 22 torpedoes. 


Type IXC “C” variant of the Type IX U-boat; 54 were constructed. 
Twin Fifties Pair of .50-calibre machine guns. 
U-boat Submarine operated by Germany in either the First or Second World War. 


ULTRA Codename of the British military intelligence organization that deci- 
phered high-level encrypted German signals intelligence during the Sec- 
ond World War. 


U.S. Caribbean Defense Command United States military organization that de- 
fended Panama and the surrounding Caribbean area. 


VLR Abbreviation for Very Long Range. 


VP Designation of United States maritime patrol squadrons used for reconnais- 
sance, anti-surface warfare, and anti-submarine warfare. 


Volunteer Corps Dénitz Elitist term for U-boat crews that reflected their volun- 
tary nature and the privileges associated with the U-boat service. 


W. Anz g 1 See FuMB-9. 
Wanze See FuMB-9. 


War Production Board Agency of the United States government that oversaw 
wartime production, including the allocation and rationing of resources. 


Wasserbomben (Wabo) See Depth Charge. 


WAT/TAW Allied convoy code for convoys travelling Key West to Aruba and 
Trinidad (WAT), or conversely, Trinidad to Aruba and Key West (TAW). 


Zeiss binoculars Type of prism binoculars, known for folding the optical path and 
consequently reducing the size of the binoculars. 


Zentrale The control room of a U-boat. 


296 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


PROLOGUE 


1 


Lieutenant in the US Navy; 
“Kaleu” in German naval parlance. 
Lieutenant (jg) in the US Navy. 
German General Time, or DGZ; 
deduct one hour for Greenwich 
Mean Time (GMT). 

War Diary (Kriegstagebuch, or 
KTB), U-161, 1. Unternechmung, 
PG 30,148/1, Bundesarchiv- 
Militararchiv (hereafter, BA-MA), 
Freiburg, Germany. 

See Jak P. Mallmann Showell, 
Hitler's U-Boat Bases (Annapolis: 
Naval Institute Press, 2002), 
94-106. 

From Christophe Cérino and 
Yann Lukas, Keroman. Base de 
sous-marins, 1940-2003 (Plomelin: 
Palantines, 2003), 24-27; and 
Gordon Williamson and Ian 
Palmer, U-Boat Bases and Bunkers 
1941-45 (Botley, Oxford: Osprey, 
2003), 42-43. 

See Lawrence Paterson, Second 
U-Boat Flotilla (Barnsley, 
Yorkshire: L. Cooper, 2003), 74. 
Tam indebted to Rear Admiral 
Pierre Martinez, Commandant la 
Marine 4 Lorient, for taking me on 
a guided tour of the Villa Kerillon 
on Saturday morning, July 22, 
2006 —- HH. 


10 


11 


12 


13 


The Third Reich’s premier civil 
and military engineering group, 
roughly akin to the US Army 
Corps of Engineers. 

Karl Doénitz, Memoirs: Ten Years 
and Twenty Days (London: 
Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1959), 
129. 

See Gaylord T. M. Kelshall, 

The U-Boat War in the Caribbean 
(Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 
1994), 26-27. 

Entry for May 21, 1940. I 

SKL, Teil CVI, Uberlegungen 
des Chefs der SKL und 
Niederschriften tiber Vortrige 
und Besprechungen beim Fihrer, 
September 1939—Dezember 1940, 
PG 32184 Case 230, BA-MA, 
146-47. 

“Operationsbefehl ‘Westindien’ No 
51,” January 17, 1942. “Secret. For 
Commanders Only!” Chefsache, 
vol. 3, U-Boote, Allgemein, 

RM 7/2336 BA-MA. Following 
citations are from this 12-page 
document, signed “Donitz.” The 
general contours of Caribbean 
operations were summarized 

by Donitz’s son-in-law, 


Fregattenkapitin Giinter Hessler, 


297 


14 


15 


16 


17 


after the war: Ministry of Defence 6 
(Navy), German Naval History, 7 
“The U-Boat War in the Atlantic 

1939-1945” (2 vols., London, 

1989). 

See Holger H. Herwig, Germany's 

Vision of Empire in Venezuela 

1871-1914 (Princeton: Princeton 8 
University Press, 1986), 227-31. 

Thus Ronald H. Spector, At War 

at Sea: Sailors and Naval Combat 

in the Twentieth Century (New 

York: Viking, 2001), 224. See also 

Marc Milner, Battle of the Atlantic 10 
(Stroud, UK: Vanwell, 2003). 11 
See Michael Gannon, Operation 

Drumbeat: The Dramatic True Story 12 
of Germany's First U-Boat Attacks 

along the American Coast in World 

War II (Annapolis: Naval Institute 

Press, 2009). 

Accessed October 4, 2013. 


INTRODUCTION 


298 


a 


British Library of Information, 3 
http://www. ibiblio.org. 

Ed Shaffer, Canada’s Oil and the 

American Empire (Edmonton: 

Hurtig, 1983), 41. 14 
Richard Overy, Why the Allies Won 

(New York and London: Norton, 

1995), 228-33; Michael Antonucci, 

“Blood for Oil; The Quest for Fuel 

in World War II,” in Command, 
January-February 1993; also 

http://www. mikeantonucci. 
combloodforoil.htm. 

D. J. Payton-Smith, Oil: A Study of 15 
War-time Policy and Administration 

(London: H.M. Stationery Office, 

1971), 111-12; See also http:// 
www.warsailors.com/freefleet/ 

shipstats.html. 16 
Payton-Smith, Oi/, 114. 


Ibid., 13. 

Henrietta M. Larson, Evelyn H. 
Knowlton, and Charles Popple, 
New Horizons: 1927-1950 (History 
of Standard Oil Company (New 
Jersey) (New York: Harper, 1971), 
388-91. 

Payton-Smith, Oi/, 155. 

Martin Gilbert , ed., The Churchill 
War Papers, vol. 3, The Ever 
Widening War, 1941 (New York and 
London: W. W. Norton, 2000), 
847. 

Payton-Smith, Oi/, 201. 

Ibid., 201-2; Larson et al., History 
of Standard Oil, 397. 

John Knape, “British Foreign 
Policy in the Caribbean Basin 
1938-1945: Oil, Nationalism and 
Relations with the United States,” 
Journal of Latin American Studies 
19 (November 1987): 279-80; 
Leonard M. Fanning, American 
Oil Operations Abroad (New York: 
McGraw-Hill, 1947), 73-83, 
256-89. 

Frederick Haussmann, “Latin 
American Oil in War and Peace,” 
Foreign Affairs 21 (January 1943): 
357. 

Charles Sterling Popple, Standard 
Oil Company (New Jersey) in World 
War IT (New York: Standard Oil 
Co., 1952), 25; John W. Frey and 
H. Chandler Ide, eds., 4 History 
of the Petroleum Administration 

for War 1941-1945 (Washington: 
US Government Printing Office, 
1946), 193. 

Alfred E. Eckes, Jr., The United 
States and the Global Struggle for 
Minerals (Austin and London: 
University of Texas Press, 1979), 
90-119. 

Fitzroy Baptiste, “The Exploitation 
of Caribbean Bauxite and 


LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


17 


18 


19 


20 


21 


22 


23 


24 


Petroleum, 1914-1945,” Social 
and Economic Studies 37 (1988): 
110-13; Stetson Conn, Rose C. 
Engelman, and Byron Fairchild, 
United States Army in World War LI: 
The Western Hemisphere, Guarding 
the United States and its Outposts 
(Washington: US Government 
Printing Office, 1964), 337. 
United States Energy Information 
Administration. 

Gerald D. Nash, United States Oil 
Policy: 1890-1964 (Westport, CT: 
Greenwood Press, 1968), 159. 
Harold F. Williamson et al., The 
American Petroleum Industry: 

The Age of Energy, 1899-1959 
(Evanston, Il: Northwestern 
University Press, 1963), 743-44. 
Nash, United States Oil Policy, 
162-63. 

Conn et al., The Western 
Hemisphere: Guarding the United 
States and its Outposts, 329. 

The story of the negotiations is told 
in detail in Philip Goodhart, Fifty 
Ships that Saved the World (Garden 
City, NY: Doubleday, 1965), 
159-76. 

Conn et al., The Western 
Hemisphere: Guarding the United 
States and its Outposts, 355-57. 
Kelshall, U-Boat War in the 
Caribbean, 8. 


1: “RUM AND COCA-COLA”: THE 
YANKEES ARE COMING! 


1 


Tito P. Achong, The Mayor's 
Annual Report: A Review of the 
Activities of the Port-of-Spain City 
Council, with Discourses on Social 
Problems Affecting the Trinidad 
Community, for the Municipal Year 
1942-43 (Boston: US Government 
Printing Office, 1943), 258-59. 


Notes 


10 


11 


12 


13 


Albert Gomes, Through a Maze 
of Colour (Port of Spain: Key 
Caribbean Publications, 1974), 15. 
Figures from R. R. Kuczynski, 
Demographic Survey of the British 
Colonial Empire, vol. I11, West 
Indian and American Territories 
(London, New York, Toronto: 
A.M. Kelley, 1948-53), 336-39. 
Following from M. G. Smith, The 
Plural Society in the British West 
Indies (Berkeley and Los Angeles: 
University of California Press, 
1965), 5, 10-113, 309. 

Arthur Calder-Marshall, Glory 
Dead (London: M. Joseph Ltd., 
1939), 14-15. 

Gomes, Through a Maze of Colour, 
xi. 

Robert A. Johnston and James 

C. Shoultz, Jr., “History of 

the Trinidad Sector and Base 
Command,” Port of Spain, 
Caribbean Defense Command, 29. 
Gomes, Through a Maze of Colour, 
161-62. 

Ibid., 28. 

Following from Fitz A. Baptiste, 
The United States and West Indian 
Unrest, 1918-1939 (Mona, 
Jamaica: University of the West 
Indies Press, 1978), 26ff.; P.E.T. 
O’Connor, Some Trinidad Yesterdays 
(Port of Spain: Imprint Caribbean, 
1978), 89-90. 

O’Connor, Some Trinidad 
Yesterdays, 90-91. 

16 to 22 cents per hour for skilled 
agricultural workers, 7 to 23 cents 
for skilled industrial laborers, 22 
cents for stevedores, and 16 to 25 
cents for trained transportation 
workers. 

Caribbean Commission, U.S. 
Sector, The Caribbean Islands and 
the War. A Record of Progress in 


299 


300 


14 
15 
16 
17 


18 


19 


20 


21 
22 


23 


24 
25 


26 


27 


28 
29 


Facing Stern Realities (Washington: 
US Government Printing Office, 
1943), 70-71. In 1940 it took 
Trinidadian $4.80 to buy £1 
sterling. 

Calder-Marshall, Glory Dead, 271. 
Ibid., 271-73. 

Ibid., 57, 246-47. 

Conn et al., The Western 
Hemisphere: Guarding the United 
States and its Outposts, 376. 
Following from Government of 
Trinidad and Tobago, Office of 
the Prime Minister, Historical 
Documents of Trinidad and Tobago, 
Series No. 1, The Annexation of 
Chaguaramas (Port of Spain: 
Government Printing Office, 
1963), 1-24. 

Conn et al., The Western 
Hemisphere: Guarding the United 
States and its Outposts, 369. 
Johnston and Shoultz, “History 
of the Trinidad Sector and Base 
Command,” 27-28. 

Ibid., 30. 

Conn et al., The Western 
Hemisphere: Guarding the United 
States and its Outposts, 373. 
United States Army in World War 
II. The Technical Services, The 
Transportation Corps: Operations 
Overseas (Washington: US 
Government Printing Office, 
1957), 24. 

Calder-Marshall, Glory Dead, 29. 
Gomes, Through a Maze of Colour, 
95-96. 

Eric Williams, History of the People 
of Trinidad and Tobago (London: 
Praeger, 1962), 271-72. 

The Caribbean Islands and the War, 
79. 

The Annexation of Chaguaramas, 9. 
Ibid., 12, 14. 


30 


31 


32 


33 


34 


35 


36 


37 
38 


39 


40 


Conn et al., The Western 
Hemisphere: Guarding the United 
States and its Outposts, 374-75. 
Ibid., 403. 

Kelshall, U-Boat War in the 
Caribbean, 6-7. 

US Army, Caribbean Defense 
Command, “Ten Studies on 
Aspects and Problems of the 
Caribbean Defense Command 
During the early and mid-1940s,” 
Office of the Chief of Military 
History (microfilm), Study 1, 
“Anti-Submarine Activities in the 
Caribbean Defense Command, 
1941-1946,” 9. Hereafter cited as 
“Anti-Submarine Activities in the 
Caribbean Defense Command.” 
Ibid., Chapter 3, “The Attack on 
Aruba,” 30. 

“VI Bomber Command in 
Defense of the Panama Canal, 
1941-45,” History of the 25th 
Bombardment Group, 59th 
Bombardment Squadron, http:// 
home.satx.rr.com/bombardment/ 
htmdocs/59thbshistorytem.htm 
Johnston and Shoultz, “History 
of the Trinidad Sector and Base 
Command,” 165. 

Ibid., 172. 

Entry for August 15, 1939. ISKL 
Iu. U-Boote, Allgemein, RM 
7/2319 I, PG 33325a, BA-MA. 
These figures, compiled at the start 
of the war, obviously differed from 
boat to boat and from sortie to 
sortie. 

Erster Wach-Offizier, Executive 
officer, or First Watch officer. 

For a typical Lorient departure, 
see Wolfgang Hirschfeld, The 
Secret Diary of a U-Boat (London: 
Phoenix, 2000), 58. 


LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


2: ATTACK ON ARUBA 


1 


10 


Data from Bodo Herzog, Die 
deutschen Uboote 1906 bis 1945 
(Munich, 1959), 123-28; Eberhard 
Rossler, Geschichte des deutschen 
Ubootbaus (Munich: J.F. Lehmann, 
1975), 192-95. 

While the army gave calibers 

in millimeters, the navy used 
centimeters. 

From David J. Bercuson and 
Holger H. Herwig, Deadly Seas: 
The Duel between the St Croix and 
the U305 in the Battle of the Atlantic 
(Toronto: Random House Canada, 
1997), 96-98. 

Ibid., 57-58, 107. 

Lawrence Paterson, Second U-Boat 
Flotilla (Barnsley: L. Cooper, 
2003), 123. 

War Diary (KTB), U-161, 2. 
Unternehmung, PG 30,148/2, 
BA-MA. 

“Erinnerungen des Dr. Gétz 

Roth an die Fahrten mit U 161 
(Kapitanleutnant Achilles),” 
[hereafter “Roth Erinnerungen”], 
File U-161, Deutsches U-Boot- 
Museum, Cuxhaven-Altenbruch, 
Germany. Hereafter DU-B-M. 
Roth was Second Watch Officer on 
U-161. 

War Diary (KTB), U-156, 2. 
Unternehmung, PG 30,143/2, 
BA-MA. 

See Manfred Dorr, Die 
Ritterkreuztriger der U-Boot- 

Waffe (Osnabriick: Biblio, 1988), 
1:111-12. 

Bernd Gericke, Die Inhaber des 
Deutschen Kreuzes in Gold, des 
Deutschen Kreuzes in Silber der 
Kriegsmarine und die Inhaber der 
Ehbrentafelspange der Kriegsmarine 
(Osnabriick: Biblio, 1993), 97. 


Notes 


11 


12 


13 


14 


15 


16 


17 


Erich Topp, Fackeln iiber dem 
Atlantik. Lebensbericht eines 
U-Boot-Kommandanten (Herford 
and Bonn: Mittler, 1990), 91. 
Gordon Williamson and Darko 
Pavlovic, U-Boat Crews 1914-45 
(London: Osprey, 1996), 27-28, 
58-59. 

Léonce Peillard, U-Boats to the 
Rescue: The Laconia Incident 
(London: Coronet, 1961), 24. 

All actions from War Diary 
(KTB), U-156, 2. Unternehmung, 
PG 30,143/2, BA-MA. 

Inspection of the lagoon from 
Rodgers Beach during a research 
trip to Aruba in February 

2006 confirmed the wisdom of 
Hartenstein’s decision. 

Pan Aruban, January 10 and 

17, 1942. Archivo Nacionale, 
Oranjestad, Aruba. In current US 
dollars, the Fords and Chevrolets 
would have fetched about $1,300 
and the Buicks $2,100. 

There is wild confusion in the 
literature concerning the timing of 
the Neuland attacks. U-boat clocks 
remained on German General 
Time (DGZ) and all actions were 
so logged in the war diaries (KTB). 
It makes no sense to give the DGZ 
diary entries, as this would have 
placed the attack after daybreak. 
Sunrise came to Aruba at 7 a.m., 
and hence D6nitz’s orders to 
commence Operation Neuland 
precisely “five hours before sunrise” 
places the attack at 2 a.m. (0800 in 
Hartenstein’s KTB). Throughout 
these chapters, Caribbean 

time is taken to be six hours 
behind DGZ. David Rooney, 
Curator of Timekeeping at the 
Royal Observatory, Greenwich, 
confirmed in a letter of May 4, 


301 


302 


18 


19 


20 


21 
22 


23 


24 
25 
26 


2006, that “the histories of these 
time zone changes were never well 
documented.” 

The best account of the San Nicolas 
action is by William C. Hochstuhl, 
German U- Boat 156 Brought 

War to Aruba February 16, 1942 
(Oranjestad: Aruba Scholarship 
Foundation, 2001); and by the 
boat’s Second Watch Officer, Paul 
Just, Vom Seeflieger zum Uboot- 
Fahrer: Feindfliige und Feindfahrten 
1939-1945 (Stuttgart: Motorbush- 
Verlag, 1979). A highly dramatized 
version is R. Busch and H. J. Roll, 
“Shatten voraus!” Feindfahrten von 
U-156 unter Werner Hartenstein as 
a special edition of Der Landser 
Grossband (Rastatt: Pabel- 
Moewig, 1996). Contemporary 
estimates of the general contours 
of the campaign are in United 
States, National Security Group, 
“Intelligence Reports on the War 
in the Atlantic,” 1979. 

All ship specifications from Lloyd’s 
Register of British and Foreign 
Shipping: Universal Register 
(London, 1941). 

Time Archive 1923 to the Present, 
Las Vegas, 23 February 1942. 
Miami Herald, February 17, 1942. 
The Nassau Daily Tribune, February 
17, 1942. 

“The Attack on Aruba.” The 37- 
mm battery at Camp Savaneta 
could not possibly have sighted the 
submarine, which was close inshore 
and probably out of view. 

Ibid., 38. 

Tbid. 

Ibid., February 16, 1942, 24. 


3: LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


1 


War Diary (KTB), U-502, 2. 
Feindfahrt, PG 30, 539/2, BA- 
MA. Raeder chastised Donitz 
for not having allowed U-502 to 
deliver a “surprise attack” already 
on February 14, when Rosenstiel 
spied several tankers off Aruba — 
only to be lectured by BdU that 
Neuland was to be a concerted 
surprise attack by all boats 
precisely five hours before sunrise 
on February 16, 1942. 

There is approximately a one-to 
two-hour difference between the 
local times for the sinkings as 
recorded in the U-boat logs and 
those of the US Army. 

“The Attack on Aruba,” 38-40. 
War Diary (KTB), U-502, 2. 
Feindfahrt, PG 30, 539/2, BA- 
MA, “The Attack on Aruba,” 40. 
“The War Years at Lago: 1939-A 
Summing Up-1945,” Aruba Esso 
News special edition. Archivo 
Nacionale, Oranjestad, Aruba. See 
also Hochstuhl, German U-Boat 
756, 31, 

Peillard, U-Boats to the Rescue, 26. 
Sources differ as to whether the 
Arkansas was at San Nicolas or 
Oranjestad. Several websites list 
it as being at the “Eagle Dock” 
in San Nicolas. The Eagle Dock 
belonged to the Royal Dutch 
Shell refinery at Eagle Beach, 
Oranjestad. Hartenstein never 
refers to a third tanker struck at 
San Nicolas in the KTB, but does 
mention the attack in Oranjestad 
against the Eagle dock. 

War Diary (KTB), U-67, 4. 
Unternehmung, PG 30,064/4, 
BA-MA. 

Ibid. 


LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


10 


11 


12 


13 


14 
15 


16 


17 


18 


19 


20 


21 
22 


23 


Hochstuhl, German U-Boat 156, 
16; also, “The War Years at Lago,” 
7: 

Hochstuhl, German U-Boat 156, 
29. 

“U-156 Roundtable Newsletter # 2,” 
30 September 2003. This website 
is maintained by Don G. Gray 

of California in memory of that 
fateful February 16, 1942: http:// 
www.lago-colony.com. 

The following is from “The War 
Years at Lago,” 4-7, 11. 

“The Attack on Aruba,” 40. 

Pan Aruban, vol. 14, Nr. 7. Archivo 
Nacionale, Oranjestad, Aruba. 
War Diary (KTB), U-156, 2. 
Unternehmung, PG 30,143/2, 
BA-MA. 

Ibid. 

“The War Years at Lago,” special 
insert, November 29, 1946. 

War Diary (KTB), U-502, 

2. Feindfahrt, PG 30,539/2, 
BA-MA. 

“U-156/U-502 Roundtable 
Newsletter #6,” http://www.lago- 
colony.com. 

“The Attack on Aruba,” 42. 

Ibid., Appendix B, “List of Ships 
Sunk by Enemy Submarines in the 
Caribbean Area.” 

Miami Herald, February 17 and 18, 
1942. 


4: MARTINIQUE 


1 


Local Caribbean time; 0155 in 
the KTB (German General Time 
[DGZ)). 

War Diary (KTB), U-156, 2. 
Unternehmung, PG 30,143/2, 
BA-MA. 

French doctors amputated more 
of Borne’s leg. In May 1944, he 
was taken to New York, put on 


Notes 


10 


the Swedish liner Gripsholm, 

and landed at Barcelona. He was 
eventually exchanged for Allied 
prisoners of war and returned to 
Germany. After the war, Borne 
joined the navy of the Federal 
Republic. 

Lee A. Dew, “The Day Hitler Lost 
the War,” http://www.lago-colony. 
com. 

C. Alphonso Smith, “Martinique 
in World War II,” United States 
Naval Institute Proceedings 81 
(February 1955): 169ff. 

Johnston and Shoultz, “History 
of the Trinidad Sector and Base 
Command,” 195. 

Michael C. Desch, When the Third 
World Matters: Latin America 

and United States Grand Strategy 
(Baltimore and London: Johns 
Hopkins University Press, 1993), 
65. 

Reference to Charles de Gaulle, 
the leader of the Free French 
government-in-exile in London. 
See US Chargé in France 
(Murphy) to Secretary of State 
Cordell Hull, December 14, 

1940. Foreign Relations of the 
United States: Diplomatic Papers 
1940, vol. 2, General and Europe 
(Washington: US Government 
Printing Office, 1957), 490-93. 
Data taken from Jane’s Fighting 
Ships of World War II (New York: 
McGraw-Hill, 1989), 123-27, 134; 
Jane’s Fighting Ships 1942 (New 
York: McGraw-Hill, 1944), 171, 
178-79, 182; and Fitzroy André 
Baptiste, War, Cooperation, and 
Conflict: The European Possessions 
in the Caribbean, 1939-1945 (New 
York, Westport, CT, and London: 
Greenwood Press, 1988), 63-64. 


303 


304 


11 


12 
13 
14 


15 


16 


17 


18 
19 


20 


Entry of June 19, 1940. “Diaries 
of Prime Minister William Lyon 
Mackenzie King,” MG26-J13, 
Library and Archives Canada, 
Ottawa. 

Entry of June 21, 1940; ibid. 

Ibid. 

At one point in these three days, 
Mackenzie King declared that if 
force was to be used, the British 
could pursue with their cruiser 
once the French ship left. They did 
not. No doubt Churchill was still 
mulling over what action he might 
take regarding the now Vichy- 
controlled French fleet. 

Admiral Georges Robert, La 
France aux Antilles de 1939 a 1943 
(Paris: Plon, 1950), 48. 

See The Memoirs of Cordell Hull 

(2 vols., New York: MacMillan, 
1948), 1:818; and William L. 
Langer, Our Vichy Gamble (New 
York: A.A. Knopf, 1947), 103. The 
figure of 12 billion francs is from 
General Charles-Léon Huntziger’s 
official report to the Germans on 
August 20, 1940. Documents on 
German Foreign Policy 1918-1945, 
Series D (1937-1945), vol. 10, The 
War Years June 23—August 31, 1940 
(London: H.M. Stationery Office, 
1957), 516-20. Conversion to 2007 
US dollars is from http://eh.net/ 
hmit/compare/result. 

Johnston and Shoultz, “History of 
the Trinidad Sector,” 192. 

Ibid., 198. 

Vice Admiral Kurt von dem Borne 
was a former chief of staff and 
now head of the Kriegsmarine’s 
economics section. 

Foreign Relations of the United 
States: Diplomatic Papers 1942, 

vol. 2, Europe (Washington: US 


21 


22 


23 


24 


25 


26 
27 


28 


29 


30 


Government Printing Office, 
1962), 611-12, 616, 619. 

David J. Bercuson and Holger 

H. Herwig, One Christmas in 
Washington: ‘The Secret Meeting 
between Roosevelt and Churchill 
that Changed the World (New York: 
Overlook Press, 2005), 145ff. 
Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox 
to Cordell Hull, December 26, 
1941. Cordell Hull Papers, Library 
of Congress, Washington, D.C., 
Reel 21 Correspondence. 
Johnston and Shoultz, “History of 
the Trinidad Sector,” 207. 

Smith, “Martinique in World 
War II,” 170-71, 174. The US 
diplomatic maneuvers are in 
Foreign Relations of the United 
States: Diplomatic Papers, vol. 2, 
General and Europe, 453ff. 
Johnston and Shoultz, “History of 
the Trinidad Sector,” 213. 

Ibid., 220-26. 

Ibid., “History of the Trinidad 
Sector,” 190. 

In July 1943, the Free French took 
control of the French Antilles — 
and the gold at Fort Desaix. The 
United States “evacuated” Robert 
to Puerto Rico, from where he 
made his way back to Vichy. He 
was dismissed from the French 
navy in disgrace after the war but 
escaped incarceration because his 
son had been a member of the 
French resistance. 

War Diary (KTB), U-156, 2. 
Unternehmung, PG 30,143/2, 
BA-MA. Hartenstein obviously 
encoded the Grid Chart locations 
in case of interception by the 
Allies: all action had, in fact, taken 
place in Quadrant ED. 

Ibid. 


LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


31 


32 


33 


34 


35 


36 


37 


38 


The German term Faule Grete 

is untranslatable. The following 
from Erich Glodschey, U-Boote. 
Deutschlands Scharfe Waffe 
(Stuttgar: Union-Duetsche 
Verlagsgesellschaft t, 1943), 174— 
75; and Das Archiv 14 (April 2000), 
40. 

War Diary (KTB), U-156, 2. 
Unternehmung, PG 30,143/2, BA- 
MA; and Just, Vom Seeflieger zum 
Uboot-Fahrer, 79-85. 

War Diary (KTB), U-156, 2. 
Unternehmung, PG 30,143/2, 
BA-MA. 

Ibid. 

War Diary (KTB), U-156, 2. 
Unternehmung, PG 30,143/2, BA- 
MA. See also Glodschey, U-Boore, 
174-75; and Das Archiv 14, 40. 
War Diary (KTB), U-156, 2. 
Unternehmung, PG 30,143/2, 
BA-MA. 

This was the standard German 
measurement for fuel. One cubic 
meter (cbm) is equal to 1,000 liters 
or 220 imperial gallons. 

War Diary (KTB), U-156, 2. 
Unternehmung, PG 30,143/2, BA- 
MA. 


5: “THE FERRET OF PORT OF SPAIN” 


1 


See Hans Goebeler, Stee/ Boat, Iron 
Hearts: A U-Boat Crewman’s Life 
aboard U-505 (New York: Savas 
Beatie, 2005), 37-38. 

“Staindige Befehle fiir U-Boots- 
Besatzungen,” Heft 1, RM 91/18, 
BA-MA. 

See Hirschfeld, The Secret Diary of 
a U-Boat, 130, 137, 152. 

This painful procedure, named 
after Arthur Kollmann, a 19th- 
century German urologist, 


consisted of dilating the urethra, 


Notes 


10 


11 


12 


13 


14 


15 


16 


17 


18 


19 


20 


21 
22 


“a canal about 20 cm in length 
that opens at the extremity of the 
glans penis.” The first successful 
treatment of a patient using 
penicillin took place in Britain in 
March 1942. 

War Diary (KTB), U-156, 2. 
Unternehmung, PG 30,143/2, 
BA-MA. 

D6nitz’s evaluation, RM 98/360 
KTB “U156,” BA-MA. 

Peillard, U-Boats to the Rescue, 14, 
101. 

Local time, six hours behind 
German General Time (DGZ). 
War Diary (KTB), U-161, 2. 
Unternehmung, PG 30,148/2, 
BA-MA. 

Haussmann, “Latin American Oil 
in War and Peace,” 355ff. 
Dictionary of American Naval 
Fighting Ships (Washington: Navy 
Department, 1959), 1:130. 
Kelshall, U-Boat War in the 
Caribbean, 22. 

War Diary (KTB), U-161, 2. 
Unternehmung, PG 30,148/2, 
BA-MA. 

Ibid. 

Ibid. Also, “Roth Erinnerungen,” 
3-4. 

Kelshall, U-Boat War in the 
Caribbean, 39. 

Ibid., 40-41. 

Clay Blair, Hitler's U-Boat War, vol. 
Il, The Hunted, 1942-1945 (New 
York: Random House, 1998), 506. 
War Diary (KTB), U-161, 2. 
Unternehmung, PG 30,148/2, 
BA-MA. 

Aerial depth charge; Fliegerbombe 
or Fliebo for short. 

A shallow-depth gauge. 

War Diary (KTB), U-161, 2. 
Unternehmung, PG 30,148/2, 
BA-MA. 


305 


6: WAR COMES TO ST. LUCIA 


1 


11 


12 


13 


14 


15 


306 


Kelshall, U-Boat War in the 
Caribbean, 60-61. 

Local time; 0700 DGZ in the war 
diary (KTB). 

War Diary (KTB), U-161, 2. 
Unternehmung, PG 30,148/2, 
BA-MA. 

“Roth Erinnerungen,” 4. 

St. Lucia National Archives, The 
West Indian Crusader, week of 
March 2 to 9, 1942. 

St. Lucia National Archives, The 
Voice of St. Lucia, week of March 2 
to 9, 1942. 

War Diary (KTB), U-161, 2. 
Unternehmung, PG 30,148/2, 
BA-MA. 

The following account is from 

St. Lucia National Archives, 

The Administrator of St. Lucia 
(Alban Wright) to the Governor 
of the Windward Islands, 
GRENADA, May 28, 1942, 
including depositions by the Vigie 
Lighthouse crew. 

St. Lucia National Archives, The 
Voice of St. Lucia, March 10, 1942, 
1. 

Ibid., Issue of March 17, 1942, 3. 
Ibid., Issue of March 19, 1942, 1, 
3. 

St. Lucia National Archives, The 
Administrator of St. Lucia to 
the Governor of the Windward 
Islands, GRENADA, May 28, 
1942. 

Ibid. 

“Roth Erinnerungen,” 5; 

War Diary (KTB), U-161, 2. 
Unternehmung, PG 30,148/2, 
BA-MA. 

War Diary (KTB), U-129, 4. 
Unternehmung, PG 30/119/5, 
BA-MA. 


16 
17 
18 
19 
20 


21 
22 


23 
24 


25 


26 


27 


Ibid. 

Ibid. 

Ibid. 

Ibid. 

Clay Blair, Hitler's U-Boat War, vol. 
I, The Hunters 1939-1942 (New 
York: Random House, 1996), 507; 
Paterson, Second U-Boat Flotilla, 
136; and http://www.ubootwafte. 
net. 

Glodschey, U-Boote, 163. 

Dénitz evaluation, RM 98/365 
KTB “U-161,” BA-MA. 

Miami Herald, February 24, 1942. 
Winston S. Churchill, The Second 
World War, vol. IV, The Hinge of 
Fate (Boston: Houghton-Miffiin, 
1950), 119. 

The “tragedy of 20 April 1942” 
has been largely ignored in British 
and American works on the 

war in the Caribbean. ‘The story 
was unearthed in the Centraal 
Historisch Archief in Curagao 

by Junnes Sint Jago, De Tragedie 
van 20 April 1942. Arbeidsconflict 
Chinese zeelieden en CSM mondt 
uit in bloedbad (Curacao: Imprenta 
Atiempo, 2000). Marjan 
Eggermont at the University of 
Calgary kindly helped with the 
Dutch translation. 

Currency conversion is at best 

an approximation. In the period 
under discussion, it took 1.55 florin 
or guilder to buy one US dollar. 
Thus, the Chinese were paid $32 
per month in 1942, which http:// 
www.ch.net translates into 428 
US 2010 dollars. I am indebted 

to my colleague Herb Emery of 
the Department of Economics, 
University of Calgary, for his 
assistance in this. 

Max Domarus, ed., Hitler. Reden 
und Proklamationen, vol. I1/2, 


LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


28 


29 


Untergang (Munich: Siiddeutscher 
Verlag, 1965), 1862; Henry Picker, 
ed., Hitlers Tischgespréche im 
Fihrerhauptquartier 1941-1942 
(Stuttgart: Seewald, 1963), 
281-83. 

The aircraft is frequently referred 
to as the Me-110, but it had 

been designed and built by the 
Bayerische Flugzeugwerke 

(hence the designation Bf) before 
Messerschmitt acquired the firm in 
1938. 

The strategic failure to target the 
lake tankers is discussed in Karl 
M. Hasslinger, “The U-Boat War 
in the Caribbean: Opportunities 
Lost,” a paper submitted to the 
Department of Operations, US 
Naval War College, Newport, 
March 1996. 


7: TORPEDO JUNCTION 


1 


Kelshall, U-Boat War in the 
Caribbean, 72; Blair, Hitler’s 
U-Boat War, 1:537-38. 
Memorandum of March 15, 

1942. 1 SKL, Teil CIV, KTB 
U-Bootskriegsfithrung 1942, RM 
7/846, BA-MA. 

Raeder to Dénitz, March 26, 1942; 
ibid. 

D6nitz to Raeder, March 28, 1942; 
ibid. 

Staff telegram of April 2, 1942; 
ibid. 

D6nitz’s war diary, April 14, 1942. 
Kriegstagebuch, KTB 2.1—30.4 
1942, RM 87/5 BdU, BA-MA. 
Do6nitz’s war diary, April 30, 1942; 
ibid. 

Data from Réssler, Geschichte des 
deutschen Ubootbaus, 195, 229; see 
also John F. White, U Boat Tankers 


Notes 


10 


12 


13 


14 


15 


16 


17 


18 


19 


20 


1941-1945 (Annapolis: Naval 
Institute Press, 1998). 

Blair, Hitler’; U-Boat War, 1: 576. 
Kelshall, U-Boat War in the 
Caribbean, 71. 

War Diary (KTB), U-156, 3. 
Unternehmung, PG 30,143/3, BA- 
MA. Entry for April 23, 1942. 
Kelshall, U-Boat War in the 
Caribbean, 75. 

Also known as “Cuprex,” it was 

a blue-green copper-sulfate 
ointment produced by Merck 
Pharmaceutical. 

Local time. 2005 hours in the 
KTB (German General Time). 
War Diary (KTB), U-156, 3. 
Unternehmung, PG 30,143/3, BA- 
MA. Entry for April 23, 1942. See 
also Just, Vom Seeflieger zum Uboot- 
Fahrer, 86ff; and Busch and Roll, 
“Schatten voraus!,” 27. 

Theodore Taylor, Fire on the Beaches 
(New York: Norton, 1958), 158. 
Cited in Max Paul Friedman, 
Nazis and Good Neighbors: The 
United States Campaign against the 
Germans of Latin America in World 
War II (Cambridge: Cambridge 
University Press, 2003), 62 

Just, Vom Seeflieger zum Uboot- 
Fahrer, 99. 

“War Damage Report, USS 
Blakeley,” June 4, 1942. RG 38 
Serial 028, Loc. 370 45/1/3 Box 
853, National Archives, College 
Park, Maryland. Blakeley was 
towed to Philadelphia, where it 
received a new bow. It returned 

to convoy escort duty in the 
Caribbean until February 1945. 
Dictionary of American Fighting 
Ships, I: 130. 

Just, Vom Seeftlieger zum Uboot- 
Fahbrer, 103. 


307 


21 Wilhelm Polchau, Engineer 
Report, 3rd War Patrol, 22.4—7.7. 
1942. “U156” KTB Ing., RM 
98/525, BA-MA. 

22  D6nitz’s evaluation, U-156. 

War Diary (KTB) U-156, 3. 
Unternehmung, PG 30, 143/3, 
BA-MA. 

23 Topp, Fackeln iiber dem Atlantik, 
92; in English, The Odyssey of a 
U-Boat Commander: Recollections of 
Erich Topp (Westport and London: 
Praeger, 1992), 85. 

24 Freiherr Karl Friedrich 
Hieronymus von Minchhausen 
(1720-1797) was noted for his 
outrageous tall tales about service 
with the Russian army in Turkey in 


the 1740s. 


8: HUNTING OFF THE ORINOCO 


1 There is no equivalent rank in the 
British or United States navies as it 
falls between those of commander 
and captain. 

2 See “Jiirgen Wattenberg, U-162,” 
in Melanie Wiggins, U-Boat 
Adventures: Firsthand Accounts from 
World War II (Annapolis: Naval 
Institute Press, 1999), 1-12. 

3. Déonitz’s evaluation, U-162. 

War Diary (KTB) U-162, 2. 
Unternehmung, RM 98/366, 
BA-MA. 

4 Ibid. 

5 Ibid. See also Hans Kreis, 
“Schweinejagd auf dem Atlantik,” 
Kriegsmarine press release, 
Summer 1942, File U-162, DU- 
B-M; and Machinist Walter 
Hartmann memoir, ibid., 46. 

6 Stephen W. Roskill, The War 
at Sea, 1939-1945, vol. II, The 
Period of Balance (London: H.M. 
Stationery Office, 1956), 103. 


10 


11 


12 


13 


14 


15 


16 
17 


18 


Ibid., 104; Blair, Hitler’s U-Boat 
War, 1:532-33. 

Kelshall, U-Boat War in the 
Caribbean, 85-86. 

War Diary (KTB), U-162, 2. 
Unternehmung, PG 30, 149/2, 
BA-MA. 

Whitsuntide (or Pentecost) is 
observed on the seventh Sunday 
after Easter. 

Do6nitz’s war diary, May 14, 1942. 
BdU, Kriegstagebuch, RM 87/22, 
BA-MA. 

Entry for June 17, 1942. Gerhard 
Wagner, ed., Lagevortrige des 
Oberbefehlshabers der Kriegsmarine 
vor Hitler 1939-1945 (Munich: 
Lehmann, 1972), 396. 

Donitz’s war diary, June 1, 1942. 
BdU, Kriegstagebuch, RM 87/6, 
BA-MA. 

War Diary (KTB), U-161, 3. 
Unternehmung, PG 30,148/3, 
BA-MA. 

Ibid. Also, “Roth Erinnerungen,” 
6-7. 

Ibid., 7. 

Two books claim that Achilles 
had dived deep after launching his 
torpedoes and was then rammed 
when he had resurfaced to press the 
attack: Kelshall, U-Boat War in the 
Caribbean, 102-3; Paterson, Second 
U-Boat Flotilla, 161-62. Neither 
Achilles’ KTB nor Roth’s memoirs 
support such a scenario. 

The usually reliable U-Boat 
Museum credits Achilles with 
sinking the Scottsburg; other 
sources merely credit him with an 
unidentified 4,000-ton freighter. 
Both steam freighters were sunk in 
Grid Quadrant ED 94; Achilles at 
the time listed his position as Grid 
Quadrant ED 73. 


308 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


9: WAR BENEATH THE SOUTHERN 


CROSS 


1 


13 
14 


Information concerning U-157’s 
departure, route, and attack on 

SS Hagan is from Blair, Hitler’s 
U-Boat War, 1: 611; and Homer H. 
Hickam, Torpedo Junction: U- Boat 
War Off America’s East Coast, 1942 
(Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 
1989), 288. 

Blair, Hitler’s U-Boat War, I 611; 
Hickam, Torpedo Junction, 289; 
Wiggins, Torpedoes in the Gulf, 106; 
and “U-157,” at http://www.uscg. 
mil. history/uscghist/U157.asp. 
Wiggins, Torpedoes in the Gulf, 
91-95. 

Kelshall, U-Boat War in the 
Caribbean, 92-110. 

Ibid., 110-11. 

The official US Atlantic Fleet 
report of the sinking accompanied 
by a series of sketches and 
photographs; http://www. 
uboatarchive.net/U-158Analysis. 
htm. 

US Office of Chief of Naval 
Operations, Intelligence Report, 
Curacao, 21 June 1942; File U-161, 
DU-B-M. 

Kelshall, U-Boat War in the 
Caribbean, 85. 

“Roth Erinnerungen,” 8. 

War Diary (KTB), U-161, 3. 
Unternehmung, PG 30,148/3, 
BA-MA. 

“Roth Erinnerungen,” 8-9. 

War Diary (KTB), U-161, 3. 
Unternehmung, PG 30,148/3, 
BA-MA. 

Ibid. 

War Diary (KTB), U-162, 2. 
Unternehmung, BA-MA. Brazil 


postponed its formal declaration of 


15 


16 


17 
18 


19 


20 


21 


22 


23 


24 


war against Germany until August 
22, 1942. 

Frank D. McCann, Jr., “Brazil 

and World War II: The Forgotten 
Ally. What Did You Do in the 
War Zé Carioca?,” Estudios 
Interdisciplinarios de América Latina 
y el Caribe 6 (July 1995): 9-10. 
Werner Rahn and Gerhard 
Schreiber, eds., Kriegstagebuch 

der Seekriegsleitung 1939-1945 
(Herford and Bonn: Mittler, 1992), 
34:295. 

Ibid., 497. 

Paterson, Second U-Boat Flotilla, 
155-56. 

Rahn and Schreiber, eds., 
Kriegstagebuch, 36:411, 451, 463. 
Roskill, The War at Sea, 1939-1945, 
II:203. 

McCann, “Brazil and World War 
II,” 11-13. 

Cited in Wagner, ed., Lagevortrage, 
420-24. 

See especially F. H. Hinsley, 
British Intelligence in the Second 
World War (5 vols., London: H.M. 
Stationery Office, 1979-90); and 
David Kahn, Seizing the Enigma: 
The Race to Break the German 
U-Boat Codes, 1939-1943 (Boston: 
Houghton-Mifflin, 1991). 

U-Boat Command diary entry for 
September 28, 1942. ISKL, Teil 
CIV, KTB U-Bootskriegsfiihrung 
1942, RM 7/846, BA-MA. 


10: THE ALLIES REGROUP 


ik 


w 


Notes 


Conn et al., The Western 
Hemisphere: Guarding the United 
States and its Outposts, 409-11. 
Ibid., 412-13. 

Ibid., 417-19. 

Monica Rankin, “Industrialization 


through Unity,” in Thomas M. 


309 


15 


16 


17 


18 


310 


Leonard and John F. Bratzel, eds., 
Latin America During World War II 
(Plymouth: Rowan and Littlefield, 
2007), 20-22. 

“Anti-Submarine Activities in the 
Caribbean Defense Command,” 
45-46. 

For information on Cuban 

armed forces in World War II, 

see “Cuban Aviation,” http:// 
www.geocities.com/urrib2000/ 
Miul1-4-e.html?200918; and 
“Submarine Warfare around Cuba 
during WW II,” http://archiver. 
rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/ 
Mariners/2008-01/1199209641. 
George M. Lauderbaugh, 
“Bolivarian Nations: Securing the 
Northern Frontier,” in Leonard 
and Bratzel, eds., Latin America, 
115-19. 

“Anti-Submarine Activities in the 
Caribbean Defense Command,” 
49-50. 

Lauderbaugh, “Bolivarian 
Nations,” 120. 

Johnston and Shoultz, “History 
of the Trinidad Sector and Base 
Command,” 33-34. 

Ibid., 40-44. 

Ibid., 229-40. 

Kelshall, U-Boat War in the 
Caribbean, 73. 

“Anti-Submarine Activities in the 
Caribbean Defense Command,” 
14-15. 

Charles H. Bogart, “From the 
Coast to the Field,” Field Artillery 
Journal 15 (Sept.—Oct. 1986): 
28-30. 

“Anti-Submarine Activities in the 
Caribbean Defense Command,” 
73-74. 

Kelshall, U-Boat War in the 
Caribbean, 166, 218-19. 

Tbid., 320-21. 


19 


20 
21 


22 
23 


24 


25 


26 


27 


28 


29 


30 


3t 


32 


Caribbean Commission, U.S. 
Sector, The Caribbean Islands and 
the War. A Record of Progress in 
Facing Stern Realities (Washington: 
US Government Printing Office, 
1943), 43. 

Ibid., 70-71. 

See Ralph de Boissiére, Rum and 
Coca-Cola (London: Allison and 
Busby, 1984), 89. 

Ibid., 105, 121. 

Samuel Selvon, Ways of Sunlight 
(London: St. Martin’s Press, 1957), 
90-91. 

Annette Palmer, World War IT in 
the Caribbean: A Study of Anglo- 
American Partnership and Rivalry 
(Randallstown, MD: Block 
Academy Press, 1998), 67-68. 
“The American Soldier’s Guide 
Book to Trinidad,” n.p., n.d.; US 
Army Military History Institute, 
U113.3.T7 A44 1940. 

Palmer, World War II in the 
Caribbean, 88. 

Stephen J. Randall and Graeme S. 
Mount, The Caribbean Basin: An 
International History (London and 
New York: Routledge, 1998), 81. 
Gomes, Through a Maze of Colour, 
5, 8, 13, 87-88, 135. 

Robert Antoni, My Grandmother's 
Erotic Folktales (New York: Grove 
Press, 2000), 7-8. 

See Conn et al., The Western 
Hemisphere: Guarding the United 
States and its Outposts, 404-5. 
Antoni, My Grandmother's Erotic 
Folktales, 159. 

In the late 1940s, the entertainer 
Morey Amsterdam claimed 
authorship of the song and 
recorded his version with the 
Andrews Sisters; it became the 
best-selling record of the 1940s, 
with 4 million singles. In the 1950s 


LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


33 
34 
35 
36 


37 


“Lord Invader” (Rupert Grant) 
filed a lawsuit in US court against 
Amsterdam and was awarded 
$150,000 in back royalties. http:// 
www.lightyearsip.net/ip_trinidad_ 
song.shtmal. “Koomahnah” was 

a bastardized form of Cumana, 
which lies between Port of Spain 
and Chaguaramas. 

Cited in Palmer, World War IT in 
the Caribbean, 83. 

Cited in ibid., 70. 

Ibid., 71. 

De Boissiére, Rum and Coca-Cola, 
70. 

Cited in Palmer, World War II in 
the Caribbean, 125. 


11: WHITE CHRISTMAS 


1 


http://www.lanepl.org/ 

Blount] BCOLSS/documents; 
Searchable Columns by Jim 
Blount of the Hamilton Journal- 
News, #226, December 21, 
1992—“Christmas first real 
holiday in wartime 1942.” 

James F. de Rose, Unrestricted 
Warfare (Edison, NJ: Wiley, 2006), 
38. 

Michael Gannon, Operation 
Drumbeat (New York: Harper & 
Row, 1991), various pages. 
“March a Month of Drastic 
Shrinkages,” The Oil Weekly 105 (30 
March 1942), 9. 

Robert C. Fisher, “We'll Get 
Our Own’: Canada and the 

Oil Shipping Crisis of 1942,” 

in Naval History.CA, http:// 
www.familyheritage.ca?Articles/ 
oilarticle.html. 

Haussmann, “Latin American Oil 


in War and Peace,” 355-56. 


Notes 


10 


11 


12 


13 
14 
15 


16 


17 


18 


19 


20 


21 


22 


“East Coast Trouble Upsetting 
Industry,” The Oil Weekly 105 
(March 9, 1942), 10. 

Ibid. 

Ibid. 

United Kingdom, Department for 
Business Enterprise & Regulatory 
Reform, “Crude Oil and Petroleum 
products; Imports by product; 
1920-2006.” 

“Tanker losses ahead of new 
launchings,” The Oil Weekly 105 
(March 9, 1942), 10. 

Robert Goralski and Russel W. 
Freeburg, Oi/ and War: How the 
Deadly Struggle for Fuel in WWII 
Meant Victory or Defeat (New York: 
Morrow, 1987), 111. 

Ibid., 103. 

Ibid., 117. 

Ibid.; “East Coast Shortage 
Brings Long Expected Rationing 
Announcement,” The Oil Weekly 
105 (April 27, 1942). 

Arthur M. Johnson, Petroleum 
Pipelines and Public Policy, 1906— 
1959 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard 
University Press, 1967), 313. 
Nash, United States Oil Policy, 
162-63. 

“Tank Trucks Relieve Tank Cars” 
and “East Coast Shipments at 
Record Levels,” in The Oil Weekly 
105 (March 16, 1942). 

“Offer Partial Solution to East 
Coast Oil Shortage,” in ibid., 
March 23, 1942. 

Igor I. Kavass and Adolf Sprudzs, 
eds., A History of the Petroleum 
Administration for War, 1941-1945 
(Buffalo, NY: W.S. Hein, 1974), 
83. 

Johnson, Petroleum Pipelines, 
307-8. 

The Big Inch and Little Big Inch 
Pipelines: The Most Amazing 


311 


23 
24 


25 


26 


27 


28 


29 


30 


31 


32 


33 


Government—Industry Cooperation 
Ever Achieved, The Louis Berger 
Group Inc. (East Orange, NJ, 
n.d.), 4. 

Ibid., 13-14. 

Kavass and Sprudzs, eds., History 
of the Petroleum Administration, 
102. 

“Rejects East Coast Pile Line 
Again,” The Oil Weekly 105 (March 
9, 1942), 11. 

Johnson, Petroleum Pipelines, 
314-16. 

“Washington Sees Big Pipe Line 
Only Solution,” The Oil Weekly 105 
(April 27, 1942), 12. 

Kavass and Sprudzs, eds., History 
of the Petroleum Administration, 
105-6. 

Johnson, Petroleum Pipelines, 324. 
A good précis of the entire 
project, based on a wide variety of 
secondary sources, is The Big Inch 
and Little Big Inch Pipelines. 
Harold F. Williamson et al., The 
American Petroleum Industry: 

The Age of Energy, 1899-1959 
(Westport, CT: Northwestern 
University Press, 1981), 764. 
Kavass and Sprudzs, eds., History 
of the Petroleum Administration, 
110. 

All statistics from Williamson et 
al., American Petroleum Industry, 


766-67. 


12: THE ALLIES STRIKE BACK 


1 


312 


Peter Kemp, Decision at Sea: 

The Convoy Escorts (New York: 
Elsevier-Dutton, 1978), 53. 
W.A.B. Douglas et al., No Higher 
Purpose: The Official Operational 
History of the Royal Canadian Navy 
in the Second World War, 1939-1943, 


10 


11 


12 


13 


14 


15 


vol. II, part 1 (St. Catharines, ON: 
Vanwell, 2002), 396-97. 

Samuel Eliot Morison, History of 
United States Naval Operations in 
World War IT, vol. 1, The Battle of the 
Atlantic: September 1939—May 1943 
(Boston: Little, Brown, 1962), 
146-47. 

“Q-Ships,” http://www. 
destroyerhistory.org/desron12/ 
index.htm 

Ibid. 

“Destroyer Squadron 12,” http:// 
www.destroyerhistory.org/ 
desron12/index.htm 

Paterson, Second U-Boat Flotilla, 
157. 

Kenneth Wynn, U-Boat Operations 
of the Second World War, vol. 

I, Career Histories, U1-U510 
(Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 
1998), 117. 

Thomas F. Wright, ed., “Short 
History of the ‘Lucky L: USS 
Lansdowne DD 486, 1942-1945,” 
USS Lansdowne, DD 486 
Association, 1973, 6. 

John D. Alden, Flush Decks and 
Four Pipes (Annapolis: Naval 
Institute Press, 1965), 33. 
Hasslinger, “The U-Boat War in 
the Caribbean: Opportunities 
Lost.” 

For HMS Churchill and HMS 
Havelock, see http://www.naval- 
history.net and http://www.uboat. 
net/allies/warships. 

Kelshall, U-Boat War in the 
Caribbean, 147-49. 

Douglas et al., No Higher Purpose, 
vol. II, part 1, 407-10. 

“Analysis of Aircraft Action 
Report,” September 22, 1941. RG 
38 Serial 00768, Loc. 370 45/7/2- 
3 Box 1141, National Archives, 


LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


16 


17 
18 


19 


20 


College Park, Maryland, U.S.A. 
(hereafter cited as NA). 

Canadian action from The 
Commanding Officer, H.M.C.S. 
OAKVILLE to Captain 

(D) Halifax, August 9, 1941, 
“REPORT OF ATTACK ON 
U-94.” 

Ibid. 

Hal Lawrence, A Bloody War: 

One Man’s Memories of the Royal 
Canadian Navy, 1939-1945 
(Toronto: Macmillan of 

Canada, 1979), 95-104. See also 
“Confidential,” Navy Department, 
Office of the Chief of Naval 
Operations, Serial No. 5, “Report 
on the Interrogation of Survivors 
from U-94 sunk on August 27, 
1942,” which seems to be the basis 
for most subsequent treatments 
of this encounter; RG 38, 10th 
Fleet ASW Files, File No. 

1529, No. 1574 Box 78 and 79, 
370/47/1/7, NA. Finally, http:// 
www.uboatarchive.net/U-94V P- 
92ActionReport.htm. 

From H.G.D. de Chair, “Sinking 
of U-162 — H.MLS. ‘Vimy’ - 
Narrative,” September 15, 1942, 
RG 38, 10th Fleet ASW Files, 
File No. 1529, No. 1574, Box 

78 and 79, 370/47/1/7, NA; and 
Commander E. A. Gibbs, Secret 
Report, H.M.S. “Pathfinder,” 5th 
September 1931, to Senior British 
Naval Officer, Trinidad. 

U.S. Navy Department, Office of 
the Chief of Naval Operations, 
Washington, Serial No. 6, “Report 
on the Interrogation of Survivors 
From U-162 Sunk on September 
2, 1941,” ibid.; and “Monthly 
Submarine Report, November 
1942,” CB 4050/42, December 
15, 1942, 26-27, courtesy of The 


Notes 


21 


22 
23 


24 


25 
26 


27 
28 


29 


ib 


Royal Navy Submarine Museum, 
Gosport, UK. 

Paterson, Second U-Boat Flotilla, 
172-73; Henry Graham de Chair, 
Let Go Aft: ‘The Indiscretions of a 
Salt Horse Commander (Tunbridge 
Wells: Parapress, 1993), 143-46; 
http://www.uboatarchive.net/U- 
162PathfinderReport.htm. 

de Chair, “Sinking of U-162.” 
Conn et al., The Western 
Hemisphere: Guarding the United 
States and its Outposts, 429. 
Wesley Frank Craven and James 
Lea Cate, eds., The Army Air Forces 
in World War II, vol. 1, Plans and 
Early Operations, January 1939 to 
August 1942 (Chicago: University 
of Chicago Press, 1948), 302. 
Ibid., 531. 

“Anti-Submarine Activities in the 
Caribbean Defense Command,” 
63. 

Ibid., 63-65. 

Lawrence Paterson, U-Boat War 
Patrol: The Hidden Photographic 
Diary of U 564 (London: Greenhill 
Books, 2004), 135-36. The photos 
were taken by a war correspondent 
from the Navy’s Propaganda 
Service. 

Conn et al., The Western 
Hemisphere: Guarding the United 
States and its Outposts, 433. 


13: AHARD WAR: HARTENSTEIN 
AND U-156 


Blair, Hitler's U-Boat War, 
1:685-97. 

Josef W. Konvitz, “Bombs, Cities, 
and Submarines: Allied Bombing 
of the French Ports, 1942-1943,” 
International History Review 14 
(February 1992): 28-29; and 
Randolph Bradham, Hi¢ler’s 


313 


10 


11 


12 
13 


14 


15 


16 


314 


U-Boat Fortresses (Westport and 
London: Praeger, 2003), 8ff. 
ULTRA was the name British 
code-breakers used to decrypt 
Enigma machine messages. 
German operators deployed “form 
letters” for daily weather reports, 
using the same settings on the 
Enigma machine almost every day. 
Diary entry for September 9, 1942. 
RM 7/846 ISKL. Teil CIV, KTB 
U-Bootskriegsftthrung 1942, 
BA-MA. 

Note of August 10, 1942. RM 
87/7 KTB Grand Admiral Dénitz, 
BA-MA. 

Diary entry for September 30, 
1942; RM 87/23, BA-MA. 

Diary entry for December 19, 
1942; RM 87/7, BA-MA. 

Diary entry, May 1943; RM 87/27, 
BA-MA. This undated message 
was attached to the entry for May 
15, 1943. 

Diary entry for May 24, 1943; ibid. 
Entries for December 30, 1942 and 
January 1, 1943. RM 7/259 ISKL. 
Teil CA, Grundlegende Fragen der 
Kriegftthrung 1942-43, BA-MA. 
Notes of the meeting in Wagner, 
ed., Lagevortrage, 452-54. 

Ibid., 475-78. 

Diary entries for spring 1943. 
Kriegstagebuch des B.d.U., RM 
87/8 1.1.—30.6.1943, BA-MA. 
See also Dénitz, Memoirs, 340-41. 
From Bercuson and Herwig, One 
Christmas in Washington, 227, 229. 
Diary entry for January 8, 1943. 
Elke Fréhlich, ed., Die Tagebiicher 
von Joseph Goebbels, part 2, Diktate 
1941-1945 (Munich: K.G. Saur, 
1994), III:69-70. 

John Ellis, World War II: A 
Statistical Survey (New York: Facts 
on File, 1993), 280. 


17 


18 


19 
20 


21 


22 
23 


War Diary, U-156, 4. 
Unternehmung, PG 30,143/4, 
BA-MA. 

Michael L. Hadley, “Grand 
Admiral Karl Dénitz (1891-1980): 
A Dramatic Key to the Man 
behind the Mask,” The Northern 
Mariner 10 (2000), 12. 

Dénitz, Memoirs, 259-63. 

Dan van der Vat, The Atlantic 
Campaign: World War II’s Great 
Struggle at Sea (New York: Harper 
and Row, 1988), 353-54. 
Assistant Chief of Staff, 
Intelligence, Historical Division, 
“The AAF Command” April 1945, 
139; obtained from http://www. 
uboatarchive.net/AAF History. 
htm. 

Ibid., 139-40. 

Van der Vat, The Atlantic 
Campaign, 336; “US Navy — Tenth 
Fleet Fights the U-boats,” on 
http://www.uboat.net/allies/ships/. 
us_10thfleet.htm. 


14: HIGH NOON 


1 


Flieger-Abwehr-Kanone, or anti- 
aircraft gun. 

Radio messages intercepted by 
Bletchley Park. RG 38, Intercepted 
Radio Traffic. U-156. Box 

106, 370/1/4/6. OP20-6 Ultra 
intercepts/decrypts, NA. At the 
time, it was still taking four weeks 
to get ULTRA decrypts to the 
front in the Caribbean. 

Ibid. 

The B-18 encounters from Kelshall, 
U-Boat War in the Caribbean, 
269-71. 

War Diary (KTB), U-156, PG 
30,143/5, BA-MA. This is the 


brief, reconstituted war diary of 


LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


10 


11 


12 


13 
14 
15 


the fifth war patrol on the basis of 
signals received from Hartenstein. 
Following from Dryden’s “Report 
of Antisubmarine Action by 
Aircraft” of March 8, 1943, as 

well as official evaluation reports 

of the action. RG 38, ASW 
Assessment Files, No. 2646, Box 
94, 370/47/2/3, “Tenth Fleet ASW 
Files, VP 53 and the destruction of 
U-156,” NA. 

For a graphic account, see Lee A. 
Dew, “The Sinking of U-156,” Red 
River Valley Historical Journal of 
World History 4 (Autumn 1979): 
64-76. 

Nickname for a Type B-4 inflatable 
lifejacket based on the buxom 
figure of Hollywood actress Mae 
West (1893-1980). 

Author’s tour of the Villa Kerillon 
on July 22, 2006, courtesy 

of Admiral Pierre Martinez, 
Commandant la Marine a Lorient. 
Van der Vat, The Atlantic Campaign, 
333, suggests this. He also claims 
that Peter-Erich Cremer was in 
command at the time, but Cremer 
did not again take command of 
U-333 until May 18, 1943. See also 
http://www.uboat.net/boats/u333. 
htm. 

Chris Bishop, The Essential 
Submarine Identification Guide: 
Kriegsmarine U-Boats, 1939-45 
(London: Amber Books, 2006), 86. 
“Anti-Submarine Activities in the 
Caribbean Defense Command,” 
103-5. 

Ibid. 

Ibid., 105-8. 

“Analysis of Anti-Submarine 
Action by Aircraft,” May 17, 1943, 
in http://www.uboatarchive.net/U- 
128-11-Anl.htm 


16 


17 


18 


19 


20 


21 


22 


23 


“Anti-Submarine Activities in the 
Caribbean Defense Command,” 
113-14; also, “Appendix B, List 
of Ships Sunk in the Caribbean 
Area,” 20-21. 
http://www.uboat.net/boats/u590. 
htm. 
http://www.uboat.net/boats/u759. 
htm. 

Anita Lesko, “Mariner’s Victory at 
Sea,” Naval Aviation News (Jan.— 
Feb. 2000): 22-23. 

“Report of Antisubmarine Action 
by Aircraft, July 21, 1943,” in 
http://www.uboatarchive.net/U- 
662VP94ASW6_5_43.htm. 
http://www.uboat.net/boats/u359. 
htm. 

“Report of Antisubmarine Action 
by Aircraft, July 29, 1943,” in 
http://www.uboatarchive.net/U- 
159ASW-6.htm. 
http://www.uboat.net/boats/u572. 
htm. 


15: GUNDOWN: U-615 AND U-161 


1 


Notes 


See Kelshall, U-Boat War in the 
Caribbean, Chapter 19, “The 
greatest battle.” 

Gaylord T. M. Kelshall, “Ralph 
Kapitzky: Battle in the Caribbean 
and the Death of U-615,” in 
Theodore P. Savas, ed., Silent 
Hunters: German U-Boat 
Commanders of World War II 
(Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 
2003), 43-44. This account in 
many details differs from the one 
in U-Boat War in the Caribbean. 
War Diary (KTB), U-615, 1. 
Unternehmung, PG 30,646/1, 
BA-MA. 

Taffrail [Taprell Dorling], Béue 
Star Line at War 1939-1945 


315 


10 


11 


12 


13 


14 
15 


16 
17 
18 


19 


20 


316 


(London: Foulsham, 1973), 
109-12. 

War Diary (KTB), U-615, 1. 
Unternehmung, PG 30,646/1, 
BA-MA. 

Following from War Diary (KTB), 
U-615, 2. Unternehmung, PG 
30,646/2, BA-MA. 

Ibid. 

Ibid. 

Cited in Blair, Hitler’s U-Boat War, 
11:363. 

From Wolfgang Ott, Sharks and 
Little Fish: A Novel of German 
Submarine Warfare (Guilford, CT: 
Pantheon, 2003), 299-301. 
Recollections of Machinist Mate 
Reinhold Abel, June 14, 1985. File 
U 615, DU-B-M. Hereafter cited 
as “Abel Recollections.” 

A “top secret” electric night 
telescope, nicknamed Seehund 
Drei (seal three), that allowed a 
broader field of vision and greater 
brightness. 

RG 38, Translations of German 
Intercepts U-615, Box 141, 
370/1/5/7, NA. 

Blair, Hitler’s U-Boat War, 11:363. 
The ensuing hunt for U-615 taken 
from “Enemy Action Summary,” 
U.S. Naval Base Trinidad, Reports 
from July 31 to August 11, 1943. 
RG 38, 10th Fleet, Trinidad Daily 
Summaries, August 1-11, 1943, 
Box 55, 370/47/1/4, NA. 

Local time; GMT -5. 

“Abel Recollections.” 

Kelshall, U-Boat War in the 
Caribbean, 387. 

Three separate searches by three 
separate researchers at the National 
Archives (NA) failed to unearth 
Crockett’s (mandatory) after-action 
report. 


“Abel Recollections.” 


21 


22 


23 


24 


25 


26 


27 


28 


29 
30 


31 


32 


Kelshall, U-Boat War in the 
Caribbean, 399. 

Kelshall, “Ralph Kapitzky,” 

69. The “Kapitzky Diary” has 
never been found. Schlipper 

made no deposition with the 
Deutsches U-Boot Museum in 
Cuxhaven-Altenbruch. 

Herbert Skora, “Letzte Feindfahrt 
von U 615,” September 17, 1992. 
File U 615, DU-B-M. 

War Diary, USS Walker, RG 38, 
Records of the Office of the Chief 
of Naval Operations USS Walker, 
August 7, 1943; NA. 

War Diary (KTB), U-615, 4. 
Unternehmung, PG 30,646/4, BA- 
MA. Reconstituted on the basis of 
Enigma signals traffic. 

RG 38, Translations of German 
Intercepts U-615, Box 141, 
370/1/5/7, NA. 

War Diary (KTB), U-161, 4. 
Unternehmung, PG 30,148/5, 
BA-MA. 

Paterson, Second U-Boat Flotilla, 
215. 

Local time; GMT -2. 
Confidential “Report of an 
Interview with the Chief Officer— 
Mr. E.C. Martyn,” presented 

by the Royal Navy Submarine 
Museum, Gosport, to the then 
U-Boot-Archiv, Cuxhaven- 
Altenbruch, May 13, 1988. File U 
161, DU-B-M. 

File U 161, DU-B-M; and http:// 
www.ubootwafte.net. 

See ibid. for a suggestion that the 
ship actually collided with the 
motor-ship Aracati, and that its 
owners sued for damages in the 
Tribunal Maritimo Rio de Janeiro. 
Virtually every other sources credit 


Achilles with the “kill.” 


LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


33 


34 


35 


36 
37 


Following action from Patterson’s 
“Report of Antisubmarine Action 
by Aircraft,” September 27, 1943. 
RG 38, ASW Assessment Files, 
No. 4619, Box 120, 370/47/2/6, 
Tenth Fleet ASW Files, VP 74 and 
destruction of U-161, NA. 
Kelshall, U-Boat War in the 
Caribbean, 420. 

Reconstituted War Diary (KTB), 
U-161, 5. Unternehmung, PG 
30,148/6, BA-MA. 
Lieutenant-Commander. 

Cited in Bercuson and Herwig, 


Deadly Seas, 295. 


CONCLUSION 


1 


Since writing this chapter, Holger 
Herwig has summarized some 

of the conclusions in “Slaughter 

in Paradise,” Naval History 24 
(February 2010): 56-63. 
Committed to paper two days later 
as “Operationsbefehl “West Indien’ 
No 51, Secret. For Commanders 
Only!” RM 7/2336 Chefsache, vol. 
3, U-Boote. Allgemein, BA-MA. 
Signed “Dénitz.” 

See Sint Jago, De Tragedie van 20 
April 1942. 

See Frey and Ide, eds., 4 History 
of the Petroleum Administration for 
War 1941-1945. 

War Cabinet and Cabinet Office: 
Historical Section: War Histories, 
“Statistics of petroleum supplies, 
disposal and stocks in the UK 1938 
and 1940-50,” Civil CAB 102/588, 
NA, Kew. 

Wiggins, Torpedoes in the Gulf, 
148-49. 

The Times, British War Production, 
1939-1945, 135-36; and Baptiste, 
“The Exploitation of Caribbean 
Bauxite and Petroleum,” 110-13. 


Notes 


12 


13 


14 
15 


16 


17 


18 


19 


20 


21 


22 


23 


24 


25 


Statistics from Desch, When the 
Third World Matters, 68-72. 

Look Magazine, Oil for Victory, 
14-15. 

British Library of Information, 
http://www. ibiblio.org. 

Compiled from the website http:// 
www.uboat.net. 

From Kelshall, U-Boat War in the 
Caribbean, 467-68. 

Diary entry, May 1943. RM 87/27, 
Kriegstagebuch (KTB) des BdU, 
BA-MA. The undated message was 
attached to the diary entry for May 
15, 1943. 

Diary entry for May 24, 1943. Ibid. 
Compiled from Kelshall, U-Boat 
War in the Caribbean, 461-71. 

See White, U Boat Tankers 
1941-1945. 

Raeder to Donitz, February 11 and 
16, 1942. RM 7/2336 Chefsache 
Bd. 3: U-Boote. Allgemein, 
BA-MA. 

Note of August 10, 1942. RM 87/7 
KTB des BdU, BA-MA. 

Raeder to Donitz, March 26, 
1942. RM 7/846 I SKL, Teil C IV, 
KTB U-Bootskriegsfiihrung 1942, 
BA-MA. 

Diary entry of April 14,1941. RM 
87/5, KTB des BdU, BA-MA. 

See Holger H. Herwig, Politics of 
Frustration: The United States in 
German Naval Planning, 1889- 
1941 (Boston and Toronto: Little, 
Brown, 1976), 243ff. 

Entry for June 17, 1942. Wagner, 
ed., Lagevortrage, 396. 

Cited in Paterson, Second U-Boat 
Flotilla, 180. 

Hasslinger, “The U-Boat War,” 
9-10. 

War Diary (KTB), U-161, 2. 
Unternehmung, PG 30,148/2. 
BA-MA. 


317 


318 


26 


27 


28 


29 
30 


31 


War Diary (KTB), U-156, 2. 
Unternehmung, PG 30, 143/2, 
BA-MA. 

Wilhelm Polchau, Engineer 
Report, 3rd War Patrol, 22.4— 
7.71942. RM 98/525 “U156” KTB 
Ing., BA-MA. 

War Diary (KTB), U-161, 3. 
Unternehmung, PG 30, 148/3, 
BA-MA. 

Hasslinger, “The U-Boat War,” 14. 
Entry for April 14, 1942. RM 87/5, 
KTB des BdU, BA-MA. 

Blair, Hitler’s U-Boat War, 11:705, 
707; Alex Niestlé, German U-Boat 
Losses During World War II 
(Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 
1998), passim. 


32 


33 


For a recent tally, see Timothy 
Mulligan, Neither Sharks nor 
Wolves: The Men of Nazi Germany’s 
U-Boat Arm (Annapolis: Naval 
Institute Press, 1999). 

Blair, Hitler’; U-Boat War, vol. 

II, 705; Michael Salewski, “The 
Submarine War: A Historical 
Essay,” in Lothar-Ginther 
Buchheim, U-Boat War (New 
York: Bonanza Books, 1978), n.p.; 
Holger H. Herwig, “Germany and 
the Battle of the Atlantic,” in 4 
World at Total War: Global Conflict 
and the Politics of Destruction, 
1937-1945, eds. Roger Chickering, 
Stig Forster, and Bernd Greiner 
(Cambridge: Cambridge University 
Press, 2005), 71-88. 


LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


BIBLIOGRAPHY 


The documentary record for Operation Neuland is at the German Federal Mil- 
itary Archive (Bundesarchiv-Militararchiv, or BA-MA) at Freiburg. At the 
operational level, Admiral Karl Donitz’s war diary is of critical importance: RM 
87 Kriegstagebuch des Befehlshabers der U-Boote, vols. 19-31; RM 87/58 BdU, 
Operationsbefehle; and N 236/13 Nachlaf Dénitz, Mat. Sammlung Grofadmi- 
ral Donitz. Also relevant are several position papers by the First Supreme Com- 
mand of the Navy (ISKL) that deal with both the overall maritime situation and 
specific U-boat operations: RM 7/258 Grundlegende Fragen der Kriegfthrung 
August-Dezember 1941, Betrachtung der allgemeinen strategischen Lage nach 
Kriegseintritt Japan/USA; RM 7/259 ISKL, Teil CA, Grundlegende Fragen der 
Kriegfihrung 1942-43; RM 7/815 ISKL, Weisungen zur Fihrung des Han- 
delskrieges; RM 7/841 ISKL, Teil BIV, Erganzung zur Lage U-Boote 1. Januar 
1942 — 31. Mai 1942; RM 7/846 ISKL, Teil CIV, KTB U-Bootskriegsfithrung 
1942; RM 7/2319 ISKL, Iu, U-Boote, Allgemein; and RM 7/2336, ISKL, Iu, 
Chefsache Allgemein, U-Boote. The medical side of service on the U-boats is 
detailed in RM 87/88 “German Undersea Medical Research” (Dr. K. W. Essen, 
Kriegsmarine). 

The Deutsches U-Boot Museum (formerly Traditionsarchiv Untersee- 
boote, U-Boot-Archiv), Cuxhaven-Altenbruch, Germany, constitutes a treas- 
ure trove of U-boat materials. Records researched include the technical data of 
the Neuland boats used in this study (U-94, U-156, U-161, U-162, U-615), the 
personal files for the skippers who commanded those boats (Albrecht Achilles, 
Werner Hartenstein, Otto Ites, Ralph Kapitzky, Jiirgen Wattenberg), and the 
photographic collections pertaining to these boats and men. Of course, the most 
important records are the war diaries (Kriegstagebuch, or KTB) of the boats: “U 
94” August 16, 1941 — August 27, 1942; “U 156” September 4, 1941 — February 


319 


28, 1943; “U 161” July 8, 1941 — September 29, 1943; “U 162” September 9, 1941 
—June 8, 1942; and “U 615” March 26, 1941 —July 28, 1943. 

‘The intercepted signals from, and the ends of, the U-boat raiders in the 
Caribbean (and elsewhere) were reconstructed from Allied records, mainly at 
the National Archives at College Park, Maryland. For U-94, RG 38 Transla- 
tions of German intercepts U-94, Box 101, 370/1/4/4; and RG 38 10" Fleet 
ASW files, File No. 1529, No. 1574, Box 78 and 79, 370/47/1/7. For U-156, 
RG 38 Intercepted Radio Traffic U-156, Box 106, 370/1/4/6, and OP20-6 U/- 
tra intercepts/decrypts; and RG 38 Tenth ASW Assessment Files No. 2646, 
Box 94, 370/47/2/3. For U-161, RG 38 Intercepted Radio Traffic U-161, Box 
106, 370/1/4/6, and OP20-6 Ultra intercepts/decrypts; and RG 38 Tenth Fleet 
ASW Files, No. 4619, Box 120, 370/47/2/6. For U-162, RG 38 Tenth Fleet 
ASW Files, No. 1529 and 1574, Box 78 and 79, 370/47/1/7. And for U-615, RG 
38 Translations of German Intercepts U-615, Box 141, 370/1/5/7; and RG 38 
10" Fleet, Trinidad Daily Summaries, August 1-11, 1943, Box 55, 370/47/1/4. 
U-615 survivors’ interrogation records are in RG 38 Op-16-Z, “U-615” Box 28, 
370/15/9/6; and RG 165 MIS-Y, “U-615” Box 734, 390/35/14/7. The end of 
U-162 has also benefited from: Royal Navy, Submarine Museum, Gosport, CB 
4050/42 (11), Monthly Anti-Submarine Report (November 1942), “Narratives.” 

‘The service records of U-boat commanders are in Manfred Dorr, Die Rit 
terkreuztrager der U-Boot-Waffe (2 vols., Osnabriick, 1988); and Rainer Busch 
and Hans-Joachim Roll, eds., German U-Boat Commanders of World War II: A 
Biographical Dictionary (London, 1999). Memoirs and biographies are few and 
far between: three of the five commanders did not survive the war; the two who 
did left no memoirs. Otto Ites receives but scant attention from Theodore Taylor, 
Fire on the Beaches (New York, 1958); and Albrecht Achilles from Erich Glod- 
schey, U-Boote. Deutschlands scharfe Waffe (Stuttgart, 1943). Very little biogra- 
phical information exists on Ralph Kapitzky. Gaylord T. M. Kelshall, “Ralph 
Kapitzky: Battle in the Caribbean and the Death of U-615,” in Theodore P. 
Savas, ed., Silent Hunters: German U-Boat Commanders of World War IT (Annap- 
olis, 2003), has provided a Wagnerian interpretation of Kapitzky’s final hours. 
Jurgen Wattenberg drew the attention of Melanie Wiggins, U-Boat Adventurers: 
Firsthand Accounts from World War II (Annapolis, 1999). Werner Hartenstein’s 
torpedoing of the troop transport Laconia in September 1942 naturally assured 
him due attention: Léonce Peillard, U-Boats to the Rescue: The Laconia Incident 
(London, 1961); and Frederick Grossmith, The Sinking of the Laconia: A Tragedy 


320 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


in the Battle of the Atlantic (Stamford, Lincolnshire, 1994). Hartenstein’s actions 
off Aruba were heroically portrayed in Glodschey, U-Boote; and more calmly 
by Executive Officer Paul Just, Vom Seeflieger zum Uboot-Fahrer. Feindfhige und 
Feindfahrten 1939-1945 (Stuttgart, 1979). His relations with Donitz are allud- 
ed to by fellow U-boat commander Erich Topp, Fackeln tiber dem Atlantik. Le- 
bensbericht eines U-Boot-Kommandanten (Herford and Bonn, 1990); in English, 
The Odyssey of a U-Boat-Commander: Recollections of Erich Topp (Westport, CT, 
and London, 1992). ‘The end of U-156 has been described by Lee A. Dew, “The 
Sinking of U-156,” Red River Valley Historical Journal of World History 4 (Autumn 
1979): 64-76. 

After the war Grand Admiral Donitz left his recollections of the U-boat 
war: Zehn Jahre und zwanzig Tage (Bonn, 1958); in English, Memoirs: Ten Years 
and Twenty Days (Annapolis, 1990). An assessment of his famous “wolf-pack” 
tactics is by Bernard Edwards, Dénitz and the Wolf Packs (London, 1996). Grand 
Admiral Erich Raeder barely touches the U-boat war in his memoirs: Mein Le- 
ben (2 vols., Tiibingen, 1956-57); and My Life (Annapolis, 1960), an abridged 
English-language edition. 

‘There are now countless recollections of life on the U-boats by former offi- 
cers and crew members. Some of the most useful include Hans Goebeler, Stee/ 
Boat, Iron Hearts: A U-Boat Crewman’s Life aboard U-505 (New York, 2005); 
Wolfgang Hirschfeld, Hirschfeld: The Secret Diary of a U-Boat (London, 2000); 
and Werner Hirschmann, Another Place, Another Time: A U-Boat Officer's Wartime 
Album (Toronto and London, 2004). Lothar-Giinther Buchheim, The Boat (New 
York, 1975), remains a best-selling (and controversial) classic; while Wolfgang 
Otto’s novel, Sharks and Little Fish: A Novel of German Submarine Warfare (Guil- 
ford, CT, 2003), is superb. David J. Bercuson and Holger H. Herwig, Deadly 
Seas: The Duel between the St. Croix and the U-305 in the Battle of the Atlantic 
(Toronto, 1997), offers a work of historical recreation of the U-boat war in the 
Atlantic. Michael L. Hadley, Count not the Dead: The Popular Image of the German 
Submarine (Montreal, 1995), is without rival. 

Germany’s Atlantic U-boat bases have been treated by Jak P. Mallmann 
Showell, Hitler's U-Boat Bases (Annapolis, 2002); Randolph Bradham, Hit 
ler’s U-Boat Fortresses (Westport, CT, and London, 2003); Lawrence Paterson, 
First U-Boat Flotilla (Barnsley, 2002), as well as Second U-Boat Flotilla (Barns- 
ley, 2003); Christophe Cérino and Yann Lukas, Keroman. Base de sous-marins, 
1940-2003 (Plomelin, 2003); Gordon Williamson and Ian Palmer, U-Boat Bases 


Bibliography 321 


and Bunkers 1941-45 (Botley, Oxford, 2003); and Luc Braeur, U-Boote! Saint- 
Nazaire (Le Pouliguen, 2006). 

Technical data on the U-boats is readily available in Bodo Herzog, Die deut- 
schen Uboote 1906 bis 1945 (Munich, 1959); and Eberhard Roéssler, Geschichte des 
deutschen Ubootbaus (Munich, 1975). U-boat development during World War II 
has been analyzed by Werner Rahn, “Die Entstehung neuer deutscher U-Boot- 
Typen im Zweiten Weltkrieg. Bau, Erprobung und erste operative Erfahrun- 
gen,” Militargeschichte 2 (1993): 13-20. Overviews for the entire war period are 
provided by J. Rohwer and G. Hiimmelchen, Chronik des Seekrieges 1939-1945 
(Herrsching, n.d.); Kenneth G. Wynn, U-Boat Operations of the Second World 
War (2 vols., Annapolis, 1997-98); Rainer Busch and Hans-Joachim Roll, eds., 
Der U-Boot-Krieg, 1939-1945 (5 vols., Hamburg: 1996-2003); and Clay Blair, 
Hitler's U-Boat War (2 vols., New York, 2000). The so-called “milk cow” sup- 
ply ships are in John F. White, U Boat Tankers 1941-45: Submarine Suppliers to 
Atlantic Wolf Packs (Annapolis, 1998). Two websites were also useful: in Eng- 
lish, http://uboat.net; and in German, http://www.ubootwafte.net. The German 
Navy’s grid charts (Quadratkarten) of the Caribbean Sea are at BA-MA, Files 
1909G and 1912G. 

Research sites in the Caribbean included the newspaper, manuscript, and 
photography archives of the Biblioteca Nacional as well as the Lago Colony and 
Refinery on Aruba; and the Bibliotheek van de Universiteit van de Nederland- 
se Antillen, the Maritime Museum, and the Centraal Historisch Archief on 
Curacao. The St. Lucia National Archives provided a good deal of “local color” 
for the attack by U-161. Unfortunately, a fire in 1948 destroyed much of the 
capital, Castries, as well as many irreplaceable official documents. But two local 
newspapers survived for 1942: The Voice of Saint Lucia and The West Indian Cru- 
sader. The Archive’s director, Margo Thomas, unearthed reports of eyewitness 
testimonies to the attack in March 1942 as well as the official after-action report 
by the Administrator of St. Lucia, May 1942. Finally, the National Archives of 
the Bahamas at Nassau provided two excellent newspapers for 1942 and 1943, 
The Nassau Daily Tribune and The Nassau Guardian, as well as a collection of 
documents: Archives of the Government, The Bahamas in the World Wars, 
1914, 1918, 1939-45. 

The war in the Caribbean basin has been portrayed by Gaylord T. M. 
Kelshall, The U-Boat War in the Caribbean (Annapolis, 1994); and Fitzroy André 
Baptiste, War, Cooperation, and Conflict: The European Possessions in the Caribbean, 


322 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


1939-1945 (New York, Westport, London, 1988). A brief first overview was pro- 
vided by C. Alphonso Smith, “Battle of the Caribbean,” United States Naval In- 
stitute Proceedings 80 (September 1954): 976-82. The British Ministry of Defence 
used Kriegsmarine records to reconstruct the various battles in the Caribbean as 
part of: German Naval History: The U-Boat War in the Atlantic 1939-1945 (Lon- 
don, 1989). The United States defense of the Caribbean is in United States Army 
in World War II: ‘The Western Hemisphere. Guarding the United States and its Out- 
posts (Washington, D.C., 1964); The Army Air Forces in World War II, vol. 1, Plans 
and Early Operations January 1939 to August 1942 (Chicago, 1948); and Michael 
C. Desch, When the Third World Matters: Latin America and United States Grand 
Strategy (Baltimore and London, 1993). The role of Allied intelligence in the war 
at sea was first detailed in: United States, Naval Security Group 1979, “Intelli- 
gence Reports on the War in the Atlantic 1942-1945”; and later by David Syrett, 
The Battle of the Atlantic and Signals Intelligence: U-Boat Situations and Trends, 
1941-1945 (Aldershot, 1998). Central to the debate remains F. H. Hinsley, Brit- 
ish Intelligence in the Second World War: Its Influence on Strategy and Operations (4 
vols., London, 1979-90). 

‘The prewar history of British colonial Trinidad has been examined by Ar- 
thur Calder-Marshall, Glory Dead (London, 1939). How the arrival of Amer- 
ican forces affected the socio-ethnic-economical structure of Trinidad has been 
gleaned from a number of works: R. R. Kuczynski, Demographic Survey of the 
British Colonial Empire (3 vols., London, 1948-53); M. G. Smith, The Plural 
Society in the British West Indies (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1965); and Kelvin 
Singh, Race and Class Struggles in a Colonial State: Trinidad 1917-1945 (Calgary: 
University of Calgary Press, 1994). United States assessments of the Caribbean 
were taken from Caribbean Commission, U.S. Section, The Caribbean Islands and 
the War (Washington, DC, 1943); and US policy with regard to sending black 
troops into the Caribbean from United States Army in World War II, Special Stud- 
ies, The Employment of Negro Troops (Washington, DC, 1966). Anglo-American 
relations in the Caribbean have been sketched by Annette Palmer, World War IT 
in the Caribbean: A Study of Anglo-American Partnership and Rivalry (Randall- 
stown, MD, 1998). 

Popular novels dealing with the war and the arrival of the Americans in- 
clude Robert Antoni, My Grandmother's Erotic Folktales (New York, 2000); 
Ralph de Boissiére, Rum and Coca-Cola (London, 1984); and Samuel Selvon, 


Bibliography 323 


Ways of Sunlight (London, 1957). A popular journalist’s account is Albert Gomes, 
Through a Maze of Colour (Port of Spain, 1974). 

‘The specific issue of Caribbean oil and the outcome of World War II have 
been addressed in: Frederick Haussmann, “Latin American Oil in War and 
Peace,” Foreign Affairs 21 (January 1943): 354-61; Look Magazine, Oil for Victory: 
The Story of Petroleum in War and Peace (New York, 1946); John W. Frey and H. 
Chandler Ide, eds., 4 History of the Petroleum Administration for War 1941-1945 
(Washington, D.C., 1946); Henry Longhurst, Adventure in Oil: The Story of 
British Petroleum (London, 1959); A. J. Payton-Smith, Oi/: A Study of War-Time 
Policy and Administration (London, 1971); and Robert Goralski, Oi/ and War: 
How the Deadly Struggle for Fuel in WWII Meant Victory or Defeat (New York, 
1987). Both bauxite and oil are surveyed by Fitzroy Baptiste, “The Exploitation 
of Caribbean Bauxite and Petroleum, 1914-1945,” Social and Economic Studies 
37 (1988): 107-42. The “what-might-have-been” for the Germans is in Karl M. 
Hasslinger, “The U-Boat War in the Caribbean: Opportunities Lost,” US Naval 
War College, Newport, RI, Department of Operations paper, March 1996. 

The Esso Lago refinery at San Nicolas on Aruba has a dedicated website 
maintained by Don D. Gray: http://www.lago-colony.com. The Biblioteca 
Nacionale Aruba has a full run of the newspapers Aruba Esso News and Pan Aru- 
dan. A special supplement of the Aruba Esso News has encapsulated the events of 
February 1942 as “The War Years at Lago: 1939-A Summing up-1945.” With 
regard to secondary works, the German attack on San Nicolas on February 16, 
1942, has been sketched in pamphlet form by William C. Hochstuhl, German 
U-Boat 156 Brought War to Aruba February 16, 1942 (Oranjestad, 2001). Tales of 
the reactions to the attack by U-156 have been collected in James L. Lopez, The 
Lago Colony Legend: Our Stories (Conroe, TX, 2003). The revolt of the Chinese 
stokers at Willemstad, Curacao, in April 1942, has been researched by Junnes 
Sint Jago, De Tragedie van 20 April 1942: Arbeidsconflict Chinese zeelieden en CSM 
mondt uit in bloedbad (Curacao, 2000). 

‘The testy issue of French aircraft, gold, and ships controlled by the Vichy 
regime at Martinique was gleaned from several sources. C. Alphonso Smith 
provided an early overview: “Martinique in World War II,” United States Naval 
Institute Proceedings 81 (February 1955): 169-74. A more detailed account is in 
Baptiste, War, Cooperation, and Conflict; and William L. Langer, Our Vichy Gam- 
ble (New York, 1947). Admiral Georges Robert penned his recollections after 
the war: La France aux Antilles de 1939 4 1943 (Paris, 1950). The position of the 


324 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


United States Department of State is in Foreign Relations of the United States: 
Diplomatic Papers 1940, vol. 2, General and Europe (Washington, D.C., 1957), 
and ibid., Diplomatic Papers 1942, vol. 2, Europe (Washington, D.C., 1962); The 
Memoirs of Cordell Hull (2 vols., New York, 1948); and Cordell Hull: A Registry of 
His Papers in the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, 2000. Official Ger- 
man views on French gold are in Documents on German Foreign Policy 1918-1945, 
Series D (1937-1945), vol. 10, The War Years June 23—August 31, 1940 (London, 
1957); while the Canadian transshipment of gold from Halifax to Martinique 
is in C. P. Stacey, Canada and the Age of Conflict: A History of Canadian External 
Policies, vol. 2, 1921-1948, The Mackenzie King Era (Toronto, Buffalo, London, 
1981). 

Allied warships in the Caribbean involved in the antisubmarine war 1942- 
43 were researched in several primary and secondary sources. For US Navy ships, 
at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland: USS Blakeley, RG 38 Serial 
028, Loc. 370 45/1/3 Box 853; USS Lea, RG 38 Serial 00768, Loc. 370 45/7/2-3 
Box 1141; USS Walker, 10 Fleet, War Diary 799-800, and RG 38 Records of 
the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. And for VP-92, PBY-5 Flying Boat, 
RG 38, Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations VP-92, August 
13, 1942. 

‘The antisubmarine activities of the Canadian frigate HMCS Oakville are at 
Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa: RG 24, National Defence, Series D-1, 
D-4, D-10, and D-13; and General Information HMCS OAKVILLE, Move- 
ments HMCS OAKVILLE, Sub attacks HMCS OAKVILLE, and Captain 
(D) Halifax HMCS OAKVILLE. There are also two stirring books by a par- 
ticipant of the encounter between U-94 and HMCS Oakville: Hal Lawrence, 
A Bloody War: One Man’s Memories of the Canadian Navy 1939-1945 (Toronto, 
1979); and Tales of the North Atlantic (Toronto, 1985). 

Technical data on Allied warships, merchantmen, and tankers were re- 
searched in Jane’s Fighting Ships 1942 (London, 1943); Jane's Fighting Ships of 
World War II (New York, 1989); M. J. Whitley, Destroyers of World War II: An 
International Encyclopedia (London, 1988); Dictionary of American Naval Fighting 
Ships (8 vols., Washington, D.C., 1959); and Ken Macpherson and Marc Milner, 
Corvettes of the Royal Canadian Navy 1939-1945 (St. Catharines, ON, 1993). 
Aircraft data came from Jane’s Fighting Aircraft of World War II (New York, 1989); 
the website http://www.warbirdalley.com; and the various websites of aircraft 
producers such as Boeing, Consolidated, Martin Mariner, Lockheed, Short, and 


Bibliography 325 


Douglas. Last but not least, information on Allied shipping sunk by the U-boats 
was taken from the same sources that the commanders used in 1942-43: Lloyds 
Register of British and Foreign Shipping (London, 1886-); Erich Groner, Taschen- 
buch der Handelsflotten (Munich, 1940); and Weyers Flottentaschenbuch (Munich, 
n.d.). All claims by the Kaleus for tonnage sunk were checked in Lioyd’s Register 
of Shipping 1940-1941 (London, 1940). 


BOOKS AND ARTICLES 


Achong, Tito P., The Mayor's Annual Report: A Review of the Activities of the 
Port-of- Spain City Council, with Discourses on Social Problems Affecting 
the Trinidad Community, for the Municipal Year 1942-43 (Boston: US 
Government Printing Office, 1943) 


Alden, John D., Flush Decks and Four Pipes (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 
1965) 


Antoni, Robert, My Grandmother's Erotic Folktales (New York: Grove Press, 
2000) 


Baptiste, Fitz A., The United States and West Indian Unrest, 1918- 1939 (Mona, 
Jamaica: University of the West Indies Press, 1978) 


Baptiste, Fitzroy André, War, Cooperation, and Conflict: The European Possessions 
in the Caribbean, 1939-1945 (New York, Westport, CT, and London: 
Greenwood Press, 1988) 


Bercuson, David J., and Holger H. Herwig, One Christmas in Washington: The 
Secret Meeting between Roosevelt and Churchill that Changed the World 
(New York: Overlook Press, 2005) 


Bercuson, David J., and Holger H. Herwig, Deadly Seas: The Duel between the 
St Croix and the U305 in the Battle of the Atlantic (Toronto: Random 
House Canada, 1997) 


Bishop, Chris, The Essential Submarine Identification Guide: Kriegsmarine 
U-Boats, 1939-45 (London: Amber Books, 2006) 


Blair, Clay, Hitler’; U-Boat War, vol. 1, The Hunters 1939-1942 (New York: 
Random House, 1996) 


326 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


Blair, Clay, Hitler’s U-Boat War, vol. Il, The Hunted, 1942-1945 (New York: 
Random House, 1998) 


Boissiére, Ralph de, Rum and Coca-Cola (London: Allison and Busby, 1984) 


Bradham, Randolph, Hitler’s U-Boat Fortresses (Westport and London: Praeger, 
2003) 


Buchheim, Lothar-Giinther, U-Boat War (New York: Bonanza Books, 1978) 


Busch, R., and H. J. Roll, “Shatten voraus!” Feindfahrten von U-156 unter 
Werner Hartenstein as a special edition of Der Landser Grossband 
(Rastatt: Pabel-Moewig, 1996) 


Calder-Marshall, Arthur, Glory Dead (London: M. Joseph Ltd., 1939) 


Caribbean Commission, U.S. Sector, The Caribbean Islands and the War: 
A Record of Progress in Facing Stern Realities (Washington: US 
Government Printing Office, 1943) 


Cérino, Christophe, and Yann Lukas, Keroman. Base de sous-marins, 1940- 
2003 (Plomelin: Palantines, 2003) 


Chair, Henry Graham de, Let Go Aft: The Indiscretions of a Salt Horse 
Commander (‘Tunbridge Wells: Parapress, 1993) 


Chickering, Roger, Stig Forster, and Bernd Greine, eds., 4 World at Total War: 
Global Conflict and the Politics of Destruction, 1937-1945 (Cambridge: 
Cambridge University Press, 2005) 


Churchill, Winston S., The Second World War; vol. IV, The Hinge of Fate (Boston: 
Houghton-Mifflin, 1950) 


Conn, Stetson, Rose C. Engelman, and Byron Fairchild, eds., United States 
Army in World War II: The Western Hemisphere, Guarding the United 
States and its Outposts (Washington: US Government Printing Office, 
1964) 


Craven, Wesley Frank, and James Lea Cate, eds., The Army Air Forces in World 
War II, vol. 1, Plans and Early Operations, January 1939 to August 1942 
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948) 


Desch, Michael C., When the Third World Matters: Latin America and United 
States Grand Strategy (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins 
University Press, 1993) 


Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, vol. I (Washington: Navy 
Department, 1959) 


Bibliography 327 


Documents on German Foreign Policy 1918-1945, Series D (1937-1945), vol. 10, 
The War Years June 23—August 31, 1940 (London: H.M. Stationery 
Office, 1957) 


Domarus, Max, ed., Hitler. Reden und Proklamationen, vol. 11/2, Untergang 
(Munich: Siiddeutscher Verlag, 1965) 


Dénitz, Karl, Memoirs: Ten Years and Twenty Days (London: Weidenfeld and 
Nicolson, 1959) 


Dérr, Manfred, Die Ritterkreuztrager der U-Boot-Waffe (2 vols., Osnabriick: 
Biblio, 1988) 

Douglas, W.A.B., et al., No Higher Purpose: The Official Operational History of the 
Royal Canadian Navy in the Second World War, 1939-1943, vol. II, part 
1 (St. Catharines, ON: Vanwell, 2002) 


Eckes, Jr., Alfred E., The United States and the Global Struggle for Minerals 
(Austin and London: University of Texas Press, 1979) 


Ellis, John, World War IT: A Statistical Survey (New York: Facts on File, 1993) 

Fanning, Leonard M., American Oil Operations Abroad (New York: McGraw- 
Hill, 1947) 

Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers 1940, vol. 2, General and 
Europe (Washington: US Government Printing Office, 1957) 


Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers 1942, vol. 2, Europe 
(Washington: US Government Printing Office, 1962) 


Frey, John W., and H. Chandler Ide, eds., 4 History of the Petroleum 
Administration for War 1941-1945 (Washington: US Government 
Printing Office, 1946) 


Friedman, Max Paul, Nazis and Good Neighbors: The United States Campaign 
against the Germans of Latin America in World War II (Cambridge: 
Cambridge University Press, 2003) 

Fréhlich, Elke, ed., Die Tagebiicher von Joseph Goebbels, part 2, Diktate 1941- 
1945 (Munich: K.G. Saur, 1994) 


Gannon, Michael, Operation Drumbeat (New York: Harper & Row, 1991) 


Gannon, Michael, Operation Drumbeat: The Dramatic True Story of Germany's 
First U-boat Attacks Along the American Coast in World War IT 
(Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2009) 


Gericke, Bernd, Die Inhaber des Deutschen Kreuzes in Gold, des Deutschen Kreuzes 
in Silber der Kriegsmarine und die Inhaber der Ehrentafelspange der 
Kriegsmarine (Osnabriick: Bilbio, 1993) 


328 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


Gilbert, Martin, ed., The Churchill War Papers, vol. 3, The Ever Widening War, 
1941 (New York and London: W.W. Norton, 2000) 


Glodschey, Erich, U-Boote. Deutschlands Scharfe Waffe (Stuttgart: Union- 
Deutsche Verlagsgesellschaft, 1943) 


Goebeler, Hans, Stee/ Boat, Iron Hearts: A U-Boat Crewman’s Life aboard U-505 
(New York: Savas Beatie, 2005) 


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330 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


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332 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


Achilles, Kapitanleutnant Albrecht (“Ajax,” 
“Ferret”) (U-161), xi-xviii, 
36-37, 43, 93-144 passim, 155-58, 
165-70, 187, 236, 245, 269-79, 
283-84 
Allied shipping production, 231 
Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA) 
Aluminum Company of Canada, 11 
British embargo, 78 
Andrews, General Frank M., 26, 184 
Caribbean Defense Command, 26 
German attack on Pedernales, 54-55 
US troops, 50 
Anglo-American Caribbean Commission, 
194 
Anglo-Persian Oil Company, 2 
anti-submarine warfare (ASW), 162, 246, 
266, 281. See also Hitler; tankers 
aircraft, 34: A-20 “Havoc,” 31, 33, 55, 
58, 71, 226, 280; B-17, 34, 226, 
231; B-18 “Bolo,” 14, 31-34, 
68, 87, 94-95, 100, 103, 161- 
62, 188, 216, 226-28, 245-47, 
251-52, 259, 261, 266, 281-82; 
B-24 “Liberator,” 34, 188, 226, 
231, 237, 239-41, 243, 251, 
257-59, 271; Fairey Albacore, 
99; PBY Catalina Flying Boat, 
33-34, 70, 79, 94, 108, 184, 
187, 214, 216, 220, 226-27, 
245-48, 253, 280-81; PBM 


Martin Mariner, 163-64, 187, 
226, 272, 280 

Allied, xiv, 155 

Allied aircraft patrols, 58-59, 75, 83, 
100, 103, 129, 136, 140, 163, 
174, 180, 185, 187, 227, 237, 
245-47, 251-54, 259-62, 266, 
279-80 

Allied warships, 95, 120, 126, 137, 170, 
174, 214-15, 223 

Brazil, role in, 271 

Canada, role in, 240 

D6nitz’s assessment, 127, 155 

German inability to counter, 281 

technologies: Huff-Duff, 175, 261, 274; 
Leigh lights, 175, 274; mines, 
186; UK, role for, 26, 281 

threat of, 166 

US airfields, 72: enhanced ASW, 176; 
improvements, 227-28, US 
Navy, role of, 240, 241 

value of, xvii 

Venezuela airfields, use of, 72 

Apex Oilfields Ltd., 23 
Aruba, xv, xvii, 39-55 passim. See also 
Operation Neuland; oil; United 
Kingdom 

100-octane aircraft fuel, 9-10 

Atlantic Charter, 25, 194 

defense of, and ASW, 15, 180, 186, 
214-15, 217-18, 251, 259, 280 


333 


German attacks on, 57-71 passim, 112, 
181, 282-83 

oil production, xv, xvi 

oil refineries, xv, 7, 9, 281; 

Operation Neuland, 45—49 passim, 
57-71, 82-95, 104-5, 112, 
123-25, 135, 150, 152, 181, 
184-87, 214-18, 228, 244-45, 
250-51, 259, 275-83 

Operations Order No. 51 “West Indies,” 
Xvi 

U-boats, xvii, 46, 48, 51, 53-54, 70, 82, 
87, 92, 95, 104-5, 135, 184, 
228, 244-45, 250, 275-57, 
282-83 

UK, defense of, 15, 

UK, supply to, 7-9, 

US aircraft, 35, 

US troops on, 9, 31, 35, 187 


B 


Battle of the Atlantic xiv, xix. See also 
Dénitz; Hitler (zone of destiny); 
tonnage war 

ASW, use of, 274 

escorts, shortage of, 213 

Operation Neuland and, xviii 

peak of, 252 

US forces, buildup in Caribbean, 35 

US, role in, 236 

U-boats, role of, 176, 232 

bauxite 

airplane production, role in, 11 

Allied supply, 275, 276 

British Guiana, production of, 11, 281 

importance of, 11 

Operation Neuland, 278 

shipments, US and Canada annual, 278 

sources of, 118, 

tankers/freighters, 145, 148; German 
sinking of, 147, 149, 151, 153, 
177, 195, 276 

transport, stop of, 151 

UK and, 278 


Bay of Biscay 
attacks against, 238, 250, 258, 279 
U-boats, xi, 6, 123, 126, 129, 130, 237, 
265, 269; congestion, 126; 
sinking of, 171, 216 
Bender, Werner, xi, xx, xviii, 36, 93, 95-96, 
98, 104-5, 108, 110-15 
Bermuda. See a/so Lend-Lease 
convoys, 151 
US troops, 31, 35 
U-boats, 127, 163, 216 
USS Blakeley, 46, 94, 137-38 
Brazil 
air force, 174, 254, 274 
allies, as potential partners, 147; shift 
to allies, 148; declaration of 
war against Axis, 172 pro- 
American basing policy and 
Hitler, 173 
German attacks on ships, 148, 252, 271; 
on ports, 173 
navy, 174 
neutrality of, 34, 141, 147 
Pot of Gold, operation, 172 
Rio Conference, 173 
US, cooperation with military, 
173; economic and trade 
concessions, 172 
Brest, U-boat base at, 128 
British Colonial Administration 
taxation, 24 
Trinidad, 24 
unrest, 24 
British Empire Workers 
Citizens Home Rule Party, 23 
British Guiana 
Trinidad Department, Caribbean 
Defense Command, 16 
US airbases, 31; forces, 31 
British Petroleum, 2 
Bungalow Plan, 75 


334 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


C 


Calder-Marshall, Arthur, 24, 28 
Canada. See also King, William Lyon 
Mackenzie; Royal Canadian Navy; 
tankers 
Aluminum Company of Canada, 11 
ASW, role in, 213, 240 
Atlantic Convoy Conference, 240 
Canadian Trade, 8 
convoys, 7, 151 
Emile Bertin (Fr), and Vichy France, 76 
escorts, groups, 151, 187, 218-19, 221 
Newfoundland, relations with, 15 
oil, resources, 11; domestic production, 
200-201, exports to US, 201, 
shortage, 198, 200-201, 218 
shipping, construction of, 231 
tankers, 8, 104; losses, 111, 114, 117, 149, 
163, 216; routes to, 15, 210 
troops based in Central and South 
America, 94 
Caribbean Defense Command, 16, 26, 32, 
34, 54, 55, 68, 184, 194, 239 
Caribbean Sea Frontier, 16, 17, 79, 214, 239 
Castries (St. Lucia), 105, 107-13, 119, 139, 
167, 269 
Charguaramas (Trinidad) 
US base on, 27-29, 94-95, 98, 105, 187, 
189, 227, 245, 247, 249, 261-63 
Chinese tanker crews, rebellion of, 120-22, 
277 
choke points, 152, 186, 278 
Churchill, Winston, 1, 2, 6, 7, 16, 22, 27, 35, 
75, 120, 128, 191, 194, 199, 217, 
239, 279 
Soviet Union, German invasion of, 1 
coal, 1, 2, 86, 197, 200, 257 
Cole Pipeline Bill, 204 
Colombia, 280 
convoys, Xi, Xiv, xviii, xix, 7, 137, 146, 154, 
176, 198, 214, 217 
Atlantic Convoy Conference, 240 
Canadian ports and, 7; RCN, 213; 
escorts, 218 


Caribbean and North Atlantic, 
differences between, 152, 235, 
283 
cycles of, 151 
escort aircraft, 129, 226, 233, 244, 253 
escorts, 173 (see ASW) 
fast or slow, 7 
German attacks on, 6, 146, 152, 156, 
157, 158, 168, 169, 170, 215, 
217, 218, 220, 234, 244, 
245, 246, 247, 255, 257, 259, 
261-62, 274 
labor unrest, 122 
routes of, 213, 218, 245 
temporary stoppage of, 128 
U-boats, effects, 152 
US protection of, 120-21, 227, 238 (see 
ASW) 
US, 215, 238, 240 
Cuba 
Caribbean Sea Frontier, 16-17 
Guantanamo, US base at, 14, 19, 35, 
214, 245, 
Gulf of Mexico, defense of, 183, 280 
U-boats, attacks near, 129, 134, 161, 
162, 218, 228, 252 
US intervention in, 181 
Cumuto Reserve, 26, 27 
Curacao, 48, 92, 104, 105, 120, 123, 152, 
155, 215, 228, 275 
Britain’s domestic oil supply, 7 
convoy routes, 152 
defense of, 15, 31, 35, 95, 184, 186-87, 
218, 251 
German attacks on, 48, 55, 65, 92, 125, 
259, 275, 277, 282, 283 
harbors, 43, 63, 186 
Operation Neuland, 45 
refineries, 9 
Royal Dutch Shell Refinery, labor 
unrest, 121-22, 277; 
Willemstad, xvi, 108; Santa 
Anna, 108; Shottegat plant, 
276 
U-boat stationing near, xv 
Curagaose Shipping, 120 


Index 335 


D 


Davies, Ralph K., 13 
destroyers for bases deal, 15, 25, 94, 107, 
137, 213, 279, 281 
diesel fuel 
Aruba production, 282 
engines, 37, 39, 42, 47, 70, 71, 83, 132 
French purchases on Aruba, 71 
production per day, Aruba, xv 
stocks, xix 
Dénitz, Karl (“the Great Lion”), xi-xix 
passim, 80, 89, 129, 137, 140, 179, 
194, 228, 244. See also Enigma 
Allied air cover over Aruba, 125 
Allied ASW, thoughts on, 127, 231, 
127, 155 
Battle of Atlantic, and Caribbean 
offensive effect on, 151; and 
reassessment of, 232-33, 236 
civilian tanker crews, treatment of, 
175-76, 271 
German command, relationship with, 
282-84 
Operation Neuland Caribbean offensive: 
first wave, 43, 51, 62-65, 92, 
114-19 passim, 123, 232-37, 
243-50, 275-76, 281, 282, 285; 
second wave, 125-26, 140, 141, 
142, 143, 145, 146, 147, 154; 
third wave, 154-56 
post war oil supply, 210 
technical developments, and reaction to, 
176-77, 258, 269 
tonnage war, strategy of, 233, 236, 281, 
284 
Triton-Null Order (Laconia Order), 237 
U-boat, effects on Allied war effort, 123, 
124, 278 
U-boat losses, reaction to, 161-63, 
172-77, 228, 235-37, 249-54, 
260, 268, 272-74 
U-boat tankers, strategy of, 127, 281 
war of memoranda with Raeder, 126 


Dragon’s Mouth, 27, 93, 95, 98, 152, 157, 
186 

Drum Beat, Operation (Paukenschlag), xvi, 
xviii, 120, 275, 277 

Dutch West Indies, 8-9 


E 


Eagle Oil and Shipping Company, 135 
economic war 
German preparations for, 278 
Edinburgh, air base at, 188, 227, 245, 247, 
261, 266 
Embargo 
French West Indies, British, 78, 80 
Brazilian threat, 173 
Enigma, 41, 42, 45, 51, 64, 83, 85, 130, 134, 
135, 176, 232, 244, 246, 247, 259, 
261, 269, 274, 280 


F 


“Ferret.” See Achilles 
Fisher, Sir John, First Sea Lord, 1, 183 
Florida Strait, xvi 
fog of uncertainty and, 285 
U-boats in, 119, 152, 161, 162, 163 
Four Freedoms (of speech and worship, from 
want and fear), 25 
Trinidad, 194 
Fort-de-France (Martinique) 75, 77 
U-boats, 69, 73, 74, 74, 78, 79, 136, 137, 
138, 139, 141; US, 78, 79, 134 
France, 10, 14, 64, 76, 128 
entry into WWII, 4 
Gaulism, 75 
Gold reserves, 75 
oil imports from US, 3 
surrender of, 4, and German advantages 
6, 35 
Vichy, 74, 75, 119, 134, and U-boat 
ports, 123 


336 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


G 


garbage tour, 39, 88, 129, 154 
gasoline, 279, 282 
100-octane gas, 9, 13, 200 
civilian use, 197, 198, 200 
hybrid, 9-10 
pipelines, 208 
shortages, 203, 277 
supplies, xv, xvi, xvii, xix 
tankers, 87, 104 
UK, and imports, 199; and shortages 
of, 278 
US, 13 
Germany 
aircraft carriers, lack of, 16 
ASW, countermeasures for, 281 
Brazil, attacks on, 172-73 
Britain, battle of, 176 
British attacks on, 127 
Central and South America, relations 
with, 172 
economic warfare, preparation for, 278 
France’s surrender, advantages of to 
Germany, 6 
Hess, Rudolf (Deputy Fiihrer), 123 
lack of oil reserves, 2, 279 
military machine, myth of, 1 
naval buildup, 14 
Operation Blue, 232 
Operation Neuland, strategy of, 282, 
285 
spheres of influence, 172 
spy ring in Panama Canal Zone, 195 
suppliers, 2-3 
USSR, 2-3 
Goebbels, Joseph, 45, 112, 118, 236 
Golden West, 37, 40, 155, 261, 274, 276 
Gomes, Albert, activist, 20, 22, 23, 192, 195 
Greenslade, Rear Admiral J. W., 26, 27, 
29, 78 


H 


Hartenstein, Werner (U-156), xiv—xvii, 
43-103 passim, 118, 124, 129-53 
passim, 186, 231, 236-50 passim, 
259, 274, 279, 283, 285 

Hitler, Adolf, xv, 25, 121, 123, 128, 155, 
234, 282-85 

Brazil, relations with, 156, 172-73; 
spheres of influence, 175 

new technology, push for, 176-77 

North Africa, Allied invasion of, 175, 
281, effect on Operation 
Neuland, 175 

oil, 2, Allied production of, 175, 236; 
attacks on Caribbean refineries, 
xv; German imports, cost of, 2 

Operation Neuland, interference in, 
282, 285 

Raeder, relations with, 122-23, 155, 
282, 284 

Russia, attack on, 3; effect on Operation 
Neuland, 283 

surface fleet, disenchantment with, 
234-35 

U-boat losses, 235-36 

war in the east, 232, 283 

Hull, Cordell (US Secretary of State), 10 
and destroyers for bases deal, 16 
and Vichy, 77 


I 


Ickes, Harold (Secretary of the Interior), 12, 
201, 203-4, 211. See also Petroleum 
Administrator for War; Petroleum 
Coordinator for War; War 
Production Board 

domestic oil companies, 13, 203 
pipelines, 202—4 
railway, use of for oil transfer, 201 
sea going tankers, obstacles to use of, 
201 
tanker losses, impact of, 203 
LG. Farben, 2 


Index 337 


K 


Kelshall, Gaylord, 267, 274 

Kéroman bunkers (U-boat pens), xii, xiii, 36, 
119, 170, 231, 243 

King, Admiral Ernest J., 78, 151, 180, 199, 
238, 278 

King, Captain Clarence A. (HMCS 
Oakville), 220 

King, William Lyon Mackenzie, 76 

Kriegstagebuch (war diaries), 1, German use 
of, 41, 291 


L 


Lago Oil and Transport Co., San Nicolas, 9 
Lawrence, Lieutenant Hal, 220, 222-23 
Lend-Lease bill, 16, 27, 184. See also 
Roosevelt; United States 
importance of, 185 
ports and airfields, 25-31 
Roosevelt offer to UK, 16 
London Blitz 
German targeting, 5 
Lorient 
Allied bombing of, 128, 231-32 
U-boat base at, xi, xii, xiv, xv, 36-37, 
42-43, 45, 47, 73, 82, 84, 
86-90, 105, 114, 118, 124-25, 
129-30, 137, 140-42, 146, 
154-55, 161, 163, 168, 170, 
216, 237, 244, 269 
Los Monrjes Islands, and U-boats, 51, 71 
Lothian, Lord, 15, 26 


M 


Maracaibo, Gulf of 
Allies, defense of, 184 
tankers, 8, 9, 121, 123, 285 
U-boat attacks on, 95 
mare nostrum and Mediterranean, 5 
Maritime Security Zone, 11 
Marshall, General George C., US Army 
Chief of General Staff, 179, 194, 
199, 278 


Martinique, 14, 77 
French fleet, 75-76, 79, 166 
U-boats, 62-63, 69-70, 73-75, 77-80, 
100, 107, 127, 134 
Vichy gold, 135-37, 140, 142 
Mediterranean Ocean, 5, 6, 10, 175, 213, 
232 
Mexico, 181, 182, 183, 280 
Mutual defense agreement with US, 
182, 226 
tanker shortage, production cuts due 
to, 199 
Mexico, Gulf of 
Cuba, and cooperation with, 183 
Operation Neuland, 129 
Panama Canal, 186 
refineries, 9 
tankers, 199, 201, 202, 277, 277-78, 285 
U-boats, patrols of, xix, 155, 162, 163, 
198 
US, patrols, 16, 120, 239, 240 
Morrison, S. E. (historian), xviii 
Miiller-Stéckheim, Gunder, xiv, xv, 63-65, 
93, 124, 275, 279 





N 


Nazis 
anti-Nazi effort, Trinidad, 19 
Colombia, 183 
LG. Farben, control of, 2 
invasion of Soviet Union, 1 
sympathizers and unrest, connection 
made by US, 30 
Vichy France, relations with, 75, 119 
Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact, 3 
Netherlands (the), tankers, 5; US, 35, 122 
Neuland, Operation (Operation New Land), 
52, 65, 91, 105, 275. See also 
Dé6nitz; Germany; Hitler; United 
States 
end of, 233 
reassessment of, 155 
tactics of, 282, 285 
targeting, strategy of, 281 
tonnage war, 231 


338 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


U-boat commanders, 145 
waves of attack, 116, 119, 126, 175, 
274-75, 282 
“Neuland 186,” xvii, 45 
Norway, attack on, 4 
German “zone of destiny,” 282 
neutrality of, 2 
tankers, 2, 4 


O 


HMCS Oakville (Cdn), 218-22 
Oil Control Board (UK), 5 
Oil, and allies, 134. See a/so individual states 
Caribbean, xiv, 121 
crude oil, 3, 11, 153 
Germany and reserves, 2, 232; and 
pipelines, US, 202 
reserves, UK, 2, 5, 6, 7 
synthetic oil, German production of, 2 
Operations Order 15, xvi, 43, 276 
Organisation Todt, xiv, 123 
Oranjestad 
refineries, xvi, 9 
U-boats, 49, 51, 61-62, 65, 66-70 


P 


Panama, 178, 181, 185, 195, 255; and 
Caribbean Sea Frontier, 17 
Panama Canal, ASW, patrols of, 241 
Colombian national interest in, 183 
defense of, 30, 31-32, 180, 186 
German threats, 77, 113, 229; and spy 
ring, 195; and U-boats, 134, 
167, 216 
Good Neighbor Policy, and US, 181 
US fears of enemy aircraft carrier 
attacks, 35 
US patrols in canal zone, 31-33, 34, 94, 
107, 168, 179, 188, 215 
US strategic interests in, 14-16, 279 
Panama Conference, 16 
Panama Declaration, 11 
Paria, Gulf of, 27 


civil unrest, 192 


German U-boat attacks on tankers, 
96-98, 119, 152, 245 
US defense of, 186-87, 265 
HMS Pathfinder (UK), 223-25 
pipelines. See also United States 
Big Inch and Little Inch, 208, 209, 277 
Curacao, 63 
National Defense Pipe Line Company, 
204 
National Tube Company (US Steel), 207 
Plantation Line, 206 
Tulsa Plan, 205 
UK, 2 
US, 199, 202, 203, 205, 206, 208, 277 
US capacity, 12 
War Emergency Pipelines, 206 
Point Fortin, 23-24 
Port of Spain (Trinidad), 95, 152, 156, 166, 
191, 223 
attacks on, xv, 94, 95, 269 
racial unrest, 192 
tanker routes, 93, 218 
U-boats, attacks on tankers, 97, 98, 99, 
100, 105, 121, 167, 187 
UK, naval base in, 94 
US, presence in, 25, 194; and US base, 
26-28, 30, 94, 190, 191; and 
defenses, 214 
Pot of Gold, Operation, 172 
Powell, Stoker Petty Officer A. J., 222-23 
Puerto Rico 
ASW, 19, 34-35, 186 
Caribbean Defense Command, 16 
Caribbean Sea Frontier, 17 
U-boats, attacks by, 62, 68, 85-87, 125, 
129, 134 
US troops, 14, 16, 32, 94, 180, 187, 214, 
226-27, 239, 280 
US patrols, 107 


QL 


Quadratkarte (German grid chart), 41, 171 
Quarantine islands, 27 


Index 339 


radar, 14, 31, 61, 73, 123, 259, 260, 280 


air to surface, 103, 161-64, 175-76, 
227-28, 231, 245-46, 261, 265, 
274, 280 

centimetric, 175, 224, 247, 280 

decoys, 177 

detectors, 42, 176-77, 233, 244, 245, 
247, 252, 281 


Raeder, Grand Admiral Erich (Commander 


in Chief, Kriegsmarine), xvii, 122, 
234 
Dénitz, relationship with, 128, 282 
Operation Neuland, decisions in, 126, 
129, 155, 175 
retirement of, 235 
tactics, 282, 284 
tonnage warfare, 281 


U-boats, 233 


bombing attacks on German forces, 231 
Brest, raids on, 128 

coastal command, 235 

fuel supply, 24, 278, 284, 286 


German attacks on, 5 


Royal Canadian Navy, 240. See also Canada 


convoy system, 7 
escort vessels, 187, 213, 221 
U-boats and, 223, 281 


Royal Commission on Conditions in the 


Caribbean, 24 


Royal Commission on Oil Supplies, 1 
Royal Dutch Shell refinery Arend (Eagle), 


Santa Anna, xvii, 9, 61, 121, 135 


Royal Dutch Shell, Oranjestad, Willemstad, 


xvi, 9, 63 


Royal Navy, 1, 3, 23, 174. See also Oil 


Control Board; United Kingdom; 
ASW 
ASW patrols, 31 


Rainbow 5, 180 
Robert, Admiral Georges, 134 
Roosevelt, Franklin D. 


coastal Command, 238 
commercial traffic, control of, 7 
convoys, development of, 7 


and Anglo-American Caribbean 
Commission, 194 

Caribbean bases, 26-27 

Casablanca Conference and, 239 

Congress, and, 16, 27 

defense of Caribbean, 94, 172, 179-81 


escorts, 151, 184, 187, 213, 217-18, 240, 
245 

fleet tankers, 210 

oil, dependence on, 1 

oil reserves, 1, 5, 278 

port of calls, 5 


Four Freedoms, 194 
labor unrest in Caribbean, 188 
Lend-Lease, 16 
military production plans, 11-13, 151, 
175, 214-15, 236 
oil shortages, 203 
Operation Pot of Gold, 172 
Petroleum Coordinator for National S 
Defense, 12 
pipelines, 202 
tankers, attacks on, 72, 120, 199 
UK, 168 
Vichy France, 77 
Rosenstiel, Jiirgen von (U-502), xiv, xv, 55, 
57-60, 63, 68, 70-71, 93, 124, 158, 
165, 171, 276, 279 
Royal Air Force. See a/so United Kingdom 


protective measures, 6 

Royal Canadian Navy, relationship with, 
7, 187 

Trinidad, bases in, 31 

US Navy, relationship with, 31 

U-boats, attacks on, 98, 99, 223 


Sherwood Foresters, 23 
shipping, attacks on coastal, 5 
St. Nazaire, U-boat base at, 128 
Standard Oil of New Jersey—Lago, San 
Nicolas, xvi, 8 
Lago Oil and Transport Co., 9 
production, 8 
refineries, 49, 276 


340 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


submarines (“gray sharks”). See also Dénitz; 200-201; overland routes in 
Hitler US, 208-9, 277; US, 200-201; 
Operation Neuland, U-boats use in: UK, 200 

U-124, 244; U-129, 244; halt in traffic, 128 
U-156, xiv, xv, 36, 42-103 losses to U-boats, 3, 4, 6, 12, 88, 198, 
passim, 112, 121, 129-56 203, 205; and effects on US, 
passim, 186, 231, 236-85 12,120 
passim; U-157, 163-63, 171, routes, xvii, 6-7, 15, 28, 48, 218, 276 
217; U-158, 163-65, 171; surplus, at beginning of war, 4 


U-159, 167, 254; U-161, xi, tankers and freighters sunk by U-boats: 


xii, xiii, xv, 36-37, 42-43, 46, 
93-121 passim, 155-70 passim, 
187, 236, 255-276 passim, 

283; U-203, 244; U-333, 

250; U-359, 254; U-406, 263; 
U-459, 127-28, 143, 236, 274, 
281; U-502, xiv, xv, 36, 48, 
55-60, 63, 70-71, 93, 121, 156, 
158, 171, 218, 276; U-510, 244; 
U-572, 254; U-615, 255-76 
passim; U-66, 43, 125, 130, 
253; U-662, 253; U-67, xiv, 

xv, 36, 48, 63-65, 90, 93, 120, 
275; U-68, xv; U-759, 253; 
U-94, 218-23, 231, 274 


U-boat tanker fleet milk cows 


(Milchkiibe, type XIV), 127, 
154, 155, 174, 276, 281; U-487, 
258, 274, 281; U-459, 127-28, 
143, 236, 274, 281; U-461, 179, 
236, 274, 281; U-462, 274, 
281; U-489, 274, 281 


Anglo-Canadian (Cdn), 

216; Arkansas (Aryan), 62; 
Athelempress, 146; Barrdale 
(US), 133; Bayou, 11, 72 ; Beth, 
153; British Colony (UK), 150; 
British Consul (UK), 96, 121, 
218; British Governor (UK), 
101-2; Cabadello, 72; Circle 
Shell (UK), 72, 99-100; Cold 
Harbor (US), 159; Darina 
(Cdn), 163; De/mundo (US), 
218; Delplata, 72, 83; Eastern 
Sword (US), 148; Empire Cloud, 
218; Empress Gold, 118, Esso 
Copenhagen, 72; Esso Houston, 
150; Everasma, 72; Edward 
B. Dudley (US), 257; Fairport 
(US), 170; Faja de Oro, 182; 
Frank B. Bair (Cdn), 163; 
Franklin K. Lane (US), 218; 
George L. Torain (Cdn), 72, 
149; Gobeo, 249; Hagan (US), 


targeting, German strategy of, 281-82 
Suriname (Dutch Guiana), 11, 31, 35, 116 


161; Hooiberg (UK), 49, 51, 
55, 61, 70, 80; J.N. Pew, 72; 
Kennebec (UK), 3; Kennox, 72; 
T Kongsgaard, 72; La Carriere, 
72, 84-85; Lady Nelson (Cdn), 
111; Lihue, 72, 100-102; 
Macgregor, 72, 86; Mary 

(US), 118; Mokihana, 121; 
Monagas, 55-57, 121, Mont 
Louis (Cdn), 149; Nordvangen, 
72, 116; Oranjestad, 72, 121; 
Oregon, 72, 87; Pedernales 
(UK), 52-66 passim, 72, 121; 
Potlatch (US), 216; Potrero 


tankers, Allied reliance on, 3, 5, 6, 12, 123, 
125, 278, 285. See also convoys; 
Ickes; tonnage war 
Axis capacity, 2 
capacity: Italy, 2; Germany, 2; 
Norwegian, 8; UK, 2-7; US, 8 
construction of, 210, 236, 277 
fuel shortages, 198-200, 277; and 
solutions to, 200; Canada, 


Index 341 


del Llano, 182; Quaker City 
(US), 133; President Trujillo, 
136; Rafaela (Netherlands), 
62-64, 120; Ruth (US), 216; 


San Eliseo, 133-35; San Nicolas, 
57-58, 72, 121; San Pablo (US), 


168; Sarnaidoc (Cdn), 114; 
Scottsburg (US), 159; Scottish 
Star, 72; Steel Age (US), 118; 
Sylvan Arrow, 152; Thalia, 72; 
Tia Juana, 57-58, 72, 121; 
Uniwaleco (Cdn), 104-5; West 
Ira, 72; West Zeda (US), 72 


types of: shallow draft, xvi; ocean-going, xvi 


U-boats, targets for, 48-53 
UK, 2, 4, 6, 7, 72, 218 
US, 3, 7, 12, 121, 285 
Venezuela, 123 
war of, xv 
Third Conference of the Foreign Ministers 
of the American Republics, 184 
tonnage war (Tonnagekrieg), xvii, 3, 4, 123, 
126, 151, 154, 231, 233, 236, 281, 
282. See also Dénitz 
Topp, Erich, 45 
Torch, Operation, 232 
torpedo junction, 125-44 passim 
Treaty of Paris, 19 
Trinidad Leaseholds Plant, 23 
Trinidad. See also Caribbean Defence 
Command; Caribbean Sea 
Command; gasoline; Lend-Lease; 
oil; Special Commission; United 
Kingdom; United States 
ASW, xvii 
Butler, Uriah T., 23-24 
culture, 21-22 
Fort Reid, US base, 31 
labor unrest, 20, 23, 25, 30 
oil production, 8, 9 
poverty, 20, 22, 25 
refineries, 8, 9, 23 
U-boat targeting of, xvi 
UK colony, past as, 19-20, 36, 76 
Triton (cipher circuit) 


Tulsa Plan, 205 


ULTRA (Bletchley Park), 176, 232, 272, 


280 


United Kingdom (Britain). See a/so Royal Air 


Force; Royal Navy 
ASW, role in, 26 
bauxite, 11, 13, 278 
Caribbean 100 octane gas, 10, 49 
Caribbean oil, dependence on, 7, 9, 11, 
277 
Caribbean possessions and bases, 280 
Churchill and oil supply, 2 
convoy system, 7, 151 
destroyers for bases plan, 15 
financiers, 2 
French surrender, German advantages, 6 
oil rationing, 200 
Operation Neuland, xviii 
port congestion, 6 
ship construction, 210, 282 
strategic oil reserves, 5—7, 13 
tanker routes, 15, 154 
Trinidad, and anti-UK sentiment in, 19 
U-boat threat, 36, 59; in Caribbean, 179 
US, cooperation with, 120 
US oil, dependence on, 3 
Venezuela oil, dependence on, 2 
warplane manufacturing, 11 
worldwide system of oil supply, 3 


United States. See also Lend-Lease 


100-octane gas, 10, 49 

aircraft production, 11, 278 

American pilots, and U-boat sinking, 77, 
103, 251, 259, 268 

Antigua, relationship with, 187 

Armed forces, and inexperience of, 238; 
command problems, 240 

bauxite, 13 

Brazil, relationship with, 172-73; and 
demand for US escorts, 173 

Caribbean defense, 32-33, 145, 179, 
185; and weapons, 50, 53, 54, 
93, 180 

Caribbean, influence in, 25-26, 180-81 

cash and carry policy, 3 


342 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


Colombia, relationship with, 183-84 

Congress, xix, 12, 16, 27, 236 

Cuba, relationship with, 183-84 

Defense Plant Corporation, 206 

destroyers for bases, 11, 15, 26, 28, 
31, 94, 107, 213; and base 
construction, 29-30, 78, 
188-89, 190 

Dénitz, impressions of US, 126, 198, 
236 

German spheres of influence, 172 

Good Neighbor Policy, 180 

Guatemala, relationship with, 186-187 

Haiti, relationship with, 187 

Honduras, relationship with, 182 

internal distribution problems, 200, 206 

Jamaica, relationship with, 187 

Mexico, relationship with, 182 

Nicaragua, relationship with, 182 

oil production, 1, 10, 198-200, 277; and 
dependence on Caribbean oil, 
125; and domestic industry, 
203, 208; and reserves, 12; 
supply, US, 2, 4, 13, 197-203, 
210-11, solutions to shortages, 
200 

Panama Canal, as strategic interest, 14, 
16, 35, 181-82, 279 

Panama Declaration, 11 

Petroleum Economics Committee, 203 

Petroleum Industry War Council, 203, 
204, 205 

Petroleum Transportation Committee, 
203 

pipeline production, 202, 205 

Reconstruction Finance Corporation, 
206 

shipping production, 236; and ship 
construction program, 215 

St. Croix, relationship with, 187 

St. Lucia, relationship with, 187 

St. Thomas, relationship with, 187 

Supply and Priorities and Allocations 
Board (SPAB), 203-4 


tankers, dependence on, 12, 201, 285; 
and effect of losses on New 
York Stock Exchange, 72 

Trinidad, 94; and base agreement, 
27-28; and cost of bases, 30; 
Fort Reid, 94; and issue of 
mixed race troops, 190-94 

U-boat, activities on east coast, 128, 176, 
215, 275-77 

Venezuela, 184-85; and airfields, 72 

Vichy, 77-80, 119 

war preparations and U-boats, 36 


US Army Air Corps, 10-11, 16, 128 


Venezuela. See also Maracaibo, Gulf of; 


Paria, Gulf of 

Allied sailors, rescue of, 166 

Angarita, Isaias Medina (President of), 
184 

armed forces, 185; gunboats, 57, 59, 185, 
187 

Caribbean defense, role in, 184, 280 

Gomes, Juan Vincent, xvi 

Gulf of, 55 

neutrality of, 97, 104, 141, 184 

oil, production and export of, 2, 8, 49, 
65, 120, 123 

Rainbow 5, 180 

strategic importance of, 184 

tanker routes, 48, 201 

U-boat activity, 55, 57-59, 71-72, 121, 
145, 146, 152-53, 167, 218, 261 

US, cooperation with, 185-87 


Villa Kerillon, xiii, xiv, 37, 92, 250, 275 
HIMS Vimy (UK), 223-25 


Waller Air Field, 27, 187-190, 192 


civil unrest in Trinidad and, 192 
long range ASW patrols and, 94-95, 
100, 103, 226-27, 280 


343 


War Production Board, 201, 204-5. See also wolf packs, xviii, 283 


Supply Priorities and Allocations tactics of, xviii, 283 
Board 
Wattenberg, Jurgen (U-162), 145-50, Y 
153-54, 223-26, 231, 274 
wildcat strike, Trinidad, 23 Young, Sir Hubert (UK Governor of 
Winant, John G. (US Ambassador to the Trinidad), 21-22, 25-29, 43, 94, 
UK), 16 181, 190, 193 


344 LONG NIGHT OF THE TANKERS 


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Long Night of the Tankers presents a fresh account of a critical 
but often overlooked component of the Atlantic naval theatre 
in World War II. Using war diaries, after-action reports, and 
first-hand accounts, authors Bercuson and Herwig examine 
the story behind Operation Neuland, the German plan to 
prevent vital oil supplies reaching the United States and 
the United Kingdom from key refineries in the Caribbean. 
Starting in February 1942 with the initial German success 
in choking the oil supply to the Allied war machine, Long 
Night of the Tankers details the planning and execution of 
German operations and the subsequent diplomatic, political, 
and military responses of the Allies that ultimately overcame 
the German effort and transformed the Caribbean shipping 
lanes into a death trap for German U-boats. 


DAVID J. BERCUSON is Director of the Centre for Military and 
Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary. He has published on 
a wide range of topics, specializing in modern Canadian politics, 
Canadian defence and foreign policy, and Canadian military history. 
In 2003, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada. 


HOLGER H. HERWIG is the Canada Research Chair in the Centre 
for Military and Strategic Studies and a professor in the Department 
of History at the University of Calgary. He has published numerous 
books and articles on World War I and other topics in military history. 


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