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U-BOATS IN BAHAMAS AND BERMUDA TRIANGLE By Eric Troels Wiberg
Tel 242 439 6501 / firstname.lastname@example.org December 4, 2009
EXTRACT: This research has been inspired by the meticulous research of seminal work, Gaylord Kelshall in THE U-BOAT WAR IN THE CARIBBEAN. While not exhaustive, this paper covers some 70 allied merchant ships and warships and adds more than 40 vessels to the 30 ships introduced in Kelshall’s work for the Bahamas region (Kelshall’s work includes over 750 merchant or navy ships and some 200 U-Boats, establishing himself as he indispensible reference since 1987). There is no other known comprehensive analysis of the U-boat campaign covering the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos specifically and exclusively. TORPEDO JUNCTION covers the United States’ eastern seaboard and specifically the Paukenshlag or ‘drumroll’ campaign off Cape Hatteras starting in January, 1942. Several aspects of the U-boat war in the Bahamas stand out: off the Cay Sal Bank the only blimp ever sunk in a hostile action with a U-boat went down, bringing with it the only US Navy aviator to be killed by Nazi forces in the course of the war. The victims of the U-boats include coastal schooners (one named the CHEERIO), the blimp, a US Destroyer, a Liberty ship, tankers, bulk ore carriers, a Submarine Chaser, a District Patrol boat, one of the “President Line” ships, a vessel carrying 83 US Army officers with women and children (220 total on board), and even a British Hudson aircraft shot down by a Submarine Chaser. Note is made in passing to the restrictions on inter-island trade imposed by the conflict and the presence of U-boats, but defensive vessels, aircraft, bases, and navies are not the focus of this research - rather, the U-boats themselves and their victims are. There are over 120 vessels covered in this analysis, from a Nazi raider to 5 Italian submarines, 47 German U-boats that transited the Bahamas or sank Bahamian vessels or ships whose crew washed up on the islands. This includes over 6,000 professional marines, gun crews, passengers, and U-boat crew. The time-frame covered was most intense between March, 1942 and December 43 – during that 21 month period, 28 ships were sunk, attacked or damaged in the Bahamas proper – over one (1.2) per month, or one every 3 weeks. From the arrival of the first survivors in Oct. 1941 to the end of the Uboat war in May, 1945, the time frame is 28 month, or 3.2 years. The busiest months were March, 1942 (17 ships sunk in the vicinity with 111 seamen (at least) lost, and May, 1943, when 12 ships with 80 seamen and officers were killed. Of the 47 or so U-boats and 5 Italian submarines, 34 of them sank at least one vessel, and 18 failed to sink any at all (mostly at the end of the war). One U-boat (U-126) sank 8 ships, an Italian sub (ENRICO
TAZOLLI and U-564) sank each, two others (U-333, Cremer and U-166) are credited with 4 each, and U-598 (Suhren) , U-504 (Poske) and U-128 bagged 3 each. 7 others subs sank 2 each. Several ‘Aces’ including Suhren, Werner, Hardegen, Achilles and others served even passingly in the region. Physical evidence left by the U-boat campaign ranges from the grandiose and continuously useful, such as air bases built on Nassau, New Providence, Governor’s Harbour Eleuthera, Great Inagua, Mayaguana, San Salvador and the Turks & Caicos (all still in use), to four grave sites which have either been washed away from a berm or made in a lumber mill hamlet which has long since ceased to be populated, if it is identifiable at all. One sailor left his eye in a Nassau hospital and doubtlessly other survivors left limbs if not whole bodies there. Three U-boats were sunk on the watery borders of the Bahamas chain – one in the Old Bahama Channel off Cay Sal Bank, more than one in the Windward Passage, and one off Cuba. Others were sunk east of the Bahamas in the Atlantic Ocean. There is a plaque to merchantmen survivors in Hope Town Abaco, a book listing RAF, USAF, Royal Canadian Air Force personnel killed in the Bahamas at Christ Church Cathedral in Nassau, and an RAF cemetery in that capital city as well. See appendices for U-boat and merchant activity per island, however most incidents occurred in the region of Inagua, Ragged Island, and Turks & Caicos, or off San Salvador, East of Abaco and Eleuthera, or west of Bimini and Grand Bahama or south of Andros. Nassau was transited by several U-boats and took in survivors at the military hospital there, however unlike Castries, St. Lucia, Port of Spain Trinidad, Aruba, Curacao, New Orleans, Charleston, Norfolk and Chesapeake Bay, New York and others, Nassau was never mined, penetrated or bombarded by U-boats. Interactions between the U-boat skippers and their victims range from black humor (the Royal Navy destroyer which flashed ‘go away’ to attacking Uboats, only to receive the reply “I can’t – I have a job to do”, to U-boat skippers who are recorded offering first aid, brandy, cigarettes, a compass and directions to survivors and others who are accused of shooting crew in the water. One skipper was so traumatized by the threat of retaliation that he flung himself on the electric wire of a POW camp in New Mexico. The Italian submarine commanders were known to host officers of ships sunk to meals, including a Christmas feast. A U-boat who took along a neutral Spanish officer did him no favors – the U-boat and its guest were all drowned the next day while the sailors from the sunken ship survived. Not only the merchant seamen lived in fear and suffered high mortality rates – the U-boat crews had to sacrifice both space and water to even make it to the American theater – turning over drinking water tanks for diesel and living space to food and other provisions for boats not designed with such long cruises in mind. Some cruises lasted up to 3 months or more without a single kill. One skipper took tires and inner tubes from a victim and entered Lorient in France weeks later with these hanging proudly from the rigging. Though the U-boat campaign was ultimately aimed at sinking ships and cutting off or strangling supply lines and diverting assets away from European and African and Russian land campaigns, each vessel was of course
this averages out to roughly one allied and one U-boat death per day over the course of 2. Of the over 70 ships. The Crooked Island Passage and the Caicos Channel are a conduit for tankers and merchant traffic.664 seamen attacked or sunk by U-boats. If the Bahamas were deep (the very name derives from ‘baja mas’. and the juncture of these two channels which surround the Cay Sal Bank between Cuba and the Florida Keys. since the same boats returned to the region severally – in the case of U-126 half a dozen times.000 per day.300 servicemen transitted and worked in the Bahamas (probably far more crew. Essentially the Bahamas serve as right-angle triangle between these major thoroughfares. thus making the job of the U-Boats immensely more difficult. one can exptrapolate that the chances of surviving a vessel attacked by U-boat are roughly one in four. A core of merchant ships sunk account to a conservative total of 2. necessitating the use of the Old Bahamas and Nicholas channels). the Old Bahama Channel south of Ragged Islands and Andros. or ‘too shallow’) then U-Boats would have to chase ships across an area thousands of square miles – because of the islands. One statistic for World War II puts death rates at 18.000 cays and 700 islands were not there. and the route North of Grand Bahama feeds into the Straits of Florida. If the shallow plateau of some 2. indicating that some 500 Uboat sailors were killed or captured. if a vessel was sunk because the islands made an escape northward impossible (the Great Bahama Bank.of some 47 boats with an average complement of 50. The rule of thumb for what constitutes a truly ‘Bahamian’ U-boat incident is somewhat subjective. with similar odds of death as merchantmen: one in five. If a casualty happened within sight of the Bahamas (ie a tanker burning 20 miles off Florida. the archipelago was in the center of a number of major choke points for merchant shipping traffic. drowned or missing. of whom 660 were killed. the Old Bahama Channel is a mere 20-30 miles across in places. for example. only roughly 20 can be considered geographically within the territorial waters of what was then a British colony (including Turks & Caicos. where on most of them there were over 50 aboard. the Straits of Florida west of Bimini and Grand Bahama.3 years. To the east of the Bahamas lay some 800 miles to Bermuda and 3 . including UBoat traffic into the Caribbean Sea proper via the Windward Passage between Hispaniola and Cuba. Based on this survey.. The grim odds for U-boat crew were roughly as punishing . Since this is based on a cautious number of 30 people per ship. which flash points. GEOGRAPHY: While the Bahamas were not the center of any singular campaign during the time-period covered. The Bahamas place merchant ships between a rock and a hard place on two of it’s three sides. roughly 2. which places it a mere 30 miles or less from the Bahamas to the East). the Nicholas Channel southwest of Andros.operated by people. then mention is made of wrecks there. geographically if not politically). Specifically namely the Windward Passage south of Inagua. In the cold calculus of casualties. often with different crews). Ten U-boats active in the Bahamas are documented to have been sunk either in the Bahamas area or enroute to or from the theater. Both the northwest and northeast Providence Channels dissect the Bahamas. then traffic would not be forced into very narrow choke points. and the Straits of Florida only about 50 miles in width.
this author takes liberties with the area to the northeast of the Bahamas. Since the Bahamas. or if survivors were landed there. Over 7. is towards his own islands which anchor the southeast corner of the Caribbean proper. The islands served as a sieve between different war zones and as such a repository of a fair portion of activity in these various sectors – Europe. SUMMARY: In the space of just over two years.500 men saw action in the theater. Two U-Boats left their bones in Bahamian waters and three US Naval vessels. shipping and cargo. if any. The number of seamen whose ships were not attacked and airmen. then it is included. including a destroyer. the US Gulf. as well as an RAF Hudson aircraft shot down by a submarine chaser. or the ship sunk recently transited the Bahamas. or directly from Europe. Where Kelshall took liberties to include incidents in the open ocean to his southeast. Nearly half a million tons (435. five of which operated east of the islands. some 65 submarines prowled the waters of the Bahamas. 4 . anchoring as they do the northwest corner of the same region.000 tons of invaluable war materiel. including the only US Navy airship and crewman lost to hostile action in the war. Turks & Caicos. His bias. and the criteria for inclusion are if an incident happened midway between the two or closer to the Bahamas. either from the Paukenshlag campaign along the US eastern seaboard. the Caribbean. from March 1942 to September 1944. the hope is that this study will fill out and to some extent complete Kelshall’s immensely impressive and carefully researched work. and considerably more depending on how measured) were sunk. specifically the bauxite route southeast of Trinidad down as far as Brazil. were lost due to the sub threat. roughly half of them merchant seamen whose ships were attacked by U-Boats or their Italian equivalent. The fact remains that nearly 50 of the U-boats he covers utilized the Bahamas in one way or another to access the Caribbean theater. army personnel and laborers who built and manned the bases and anti-sub patrols is covered only in passing. and the North Atlantic. Gaylord Kelshall in THE U-BOAT WAR IN THE CARIBBEAN includes dozens of incidents southeast of his native Trinidad & Tobago. In his seminal work. and the surrounding seas and passages. sinking over 100 vessels.thousands more to Europe.
and the Caribbean have all been treated individually. Florida’s Gulf Stream coast. Because of a news blackout. because they are a geographically a conduit to other attack zones. although Cape Hatteras. allied propaganda. which. and speak of a radio officer sunk six times but eager as ever to get back to sea.100 mariners died in the attacks analyzed herein. For the first time the movements of 65 submarines on over 70 missions are analyzed through the prism of their activities to the Bahama Islands. including those sharing borders with neighboring countries such as Cuba and the US. The reality for injured officers and men was often a deal more grim – and deadly. the general public in the region and the world at large knows little of anything of the magnitude and specifics of these hundred or more attacks – until this research. have been passed over by innumerable pens. and frankly embarrassment over what was their abject failure to protect vital shipping and supply lines for nearly a year. Allied propaganda early in the war tell of survivors not wanting to be rescued from their lifeboats (the idea being the liked them so much). Over 1. Turks & Caicos and adjacent waters.This proposed book will covers the 100+ allied merchant ships and warships active and attacked in the Bahamas region. as has Canada’s eastern seaboard and even Japanese sub attacks in the US mainland on the West Coast from Alaska to Oregon. There is no other known comprehensive analysis of the U-boat campaign covering the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos specifically and exclusively. the US Gulf. Kelshall’s seminal 1987 work THE U-BOAT WAR IN THE CARIBBEAN covers the Caribbean very 5 . 1942. Hickam’s TORPEDO JUNCTION covers the United States’ eastern seaboard and specifically the Paukenshlag or ‘drumroll’ campaign off Cape Hatteras starting in January. Old timers and academics are ‘shocked’ at the extent of U-Boat activity in this area.
is the likely attacker. near the Cay Sal Bank. attacked off Key West. a schooner sunk between Cuba and Bahamas but never claimed or attributed to a specific U-Boat (the author is verifying whether U-600.extensively. If the LIBERTAD was in convoy KN (Key West-Norfolk/New 6 . one of 8 possible boats. San Juan Puerto Rico. this research fills in a ‘black hole’ in existing research.uboat. forming as they do their own unique archipelago. is the new web-based research on www. SOLVING HALF A DOZEN MYSTERY SINKINGS: It is a sub-goal of this research to solve which U-Boats (if any) sank the following vessels: • • STANGARTH. • • • • DOMINO. LIBERTAD. which stretches between Bermuda. attacked between the Bahamas and Florida. The author has sailed over more than 40 of these wrecks in the fabled triangle. of the Bahamas. and a point in southeastern Florida (either Key West or Miami). claimed by both the Italian sub MOROSINI and U-504/Poske SANDE.net. A major source of this research. aside from Rohwer’s tallies of Axis submarine attacks. Much of the area covered in this analysis would be considered in the Bermuda Triangle. but will have to verify with official operational reports in the U-Boat Archive and the ship’s logs. off the Bahamas MANGORE. like the ‘air gap’ between Iceland and Newfoundland during the early convoys of the war. U-Boat not identified CHILORE. sunk by a U-Boat either off Cape Hatteras or a Bahama Island (just off San Salvador). Cuba. By adding more than 50 vessels to the 50 or so ships introduced in Kelshall’s work for the Bahamas. however the Bahamas are distinct from – and north of – the Caribbean proper. attacked while waiting to load at Nuevitas.
Honduras.500 U-Boat personnel of whom over 100 were drowned in the Bahamas area 4. Uruguay. killed. 1942 by U-584 435. SOME STATISTICS: (taken from the author’s Appendices/original research): • 65 submarines patrolled or sank ships whose survivors landed in Bahamas o 60 Germans (at least) o 5 Italian (4 actively) o 1 German Raider • • • • • 70+ missions or patrols were carried out in the region (probably a dozen more) 100 allied vessels were attacked or their survivors landed in the Bahamas area Nazi saboteurs were landed near Jacksonville. Florida on June 16. Greece. but including Canada. Nicaragua. Norway. Netherlands. Panama) • • • • • • Attacks on Mexico and Uruguay ships provoked neutrals (Mexico) to declare war 7. passengers. or lost in U-Boat attacks in the region 3.000 merchant seamen of dozens of nationalities were attacked 1. Cuba.500 men served on U-Boats or their allied victims attacked by U-Boats 3. and gun crews were rescued in or nearby 7 .000 tons of shipping and cargo were attacked or destroyed in the area 15 countries lost ships in the area (US and UK lost most. Latvia.York) then the Bahamas would be eliminated unless they routed through the northern Bahamas).000 merchant seamen.045 (at least) allies were drowned. Sweden. One troubling aspect is the experts Rohwer and Kelshall position the kill in the Bahamas. Dominican Republic.
a trawler. patrol craft. Army. 8 east or northeast of Abaco. US Navy Destroyer. Italian subs. The Turks and Caicos Islands add 2. Navy personnel served in the theater • 13 types of vessel were involved. 12 East of the Turks & Caicos. a sub-chaser. 26 tankers. Pole) Air Force. including landing survivors February 1942 to April 1943 were only 14 months of sinkings in the Bahamas GEOGRAPHY: The Bahamas extends 760 miles from the coast of Florida on the north-west almost to Haiti on the south-east.• Tens of thousands of US & UK.352 miles. 8 north of 30 degrees. a blimp. If you extend the territorial waters of the Bahamas 8 .387 rocks. Puerto Rico. a German Raider.970 square miles. Mayaguana. The Bahamas cover 5. 13 in the Old Bahama Channel. 57 freighters. 2 off Inagua. • • 12 Bahama islands were directly affected by sinkings. Located in the Atlantic Ocean southeast of the United States. and the RAF Hudson aircraft (sunk by friendly fire) • 21 ships were sunk in the Gulf Stream between Florida and the Bahamas. There are 2. 10 near the Cay Sal Bank (Bahamas). including U-Boats. for a total land and sea area of 8. 7 in the Windward Passage. of carracing fame). Canadian. and 6 off the Ragged Islands.382 square miles of land and sea. the islands border Florida to the West. West Indian and even exiled Europeans (Czech. and one off Acklins and San Salvador. 8 east of Eleuthera. Cuba to the South. and Haiti to the Southeast. 661 cays and 29 islands. 3 off the Dominican Republic. 6 schooners. an auxiliary yacht (owned by famous cross-dressing heiress Betty “Joe” Carstairs.
Cuba. or Florida. having a direct physical link with Bahamians? Was there some other direct nexus with the islands. vessels are included (or excluded) on the following criteria: • • • Was the ship closer to a Bahama island than to any other nation/island? Did survivors land in the Bahamas. The Easternmost Turks & Caicos Island is at 70 degrees west. cargo. the islands are bounded by 20 degrees North (southernmost Inagua) to 28 degrees North (northernmost Grand Bahama Cays). as will attacks made en route to or from the Bahamas. this area is increased by at least a third. the incident will be included. as the US have done.eastwards to 200 nautical miles. to show a chain of events/modus operandi. or rescue effort launched from the Bahamas/Turks & Caicos? If an attack or U-Boat patrol meets one or more of these criteria. Vessels are ranked according to their proximity to land and can be broken down into four classes: 9 . crew. where relevant. such as a Bahamianregistered vessel. The rule of thumb about whether a wreck occurred in the Bahamas region is anything in the 20’s latitude and anything in the 70’s longitude probably has some nexus with the islands.e. In terms of latitude and longitude. and only 80 degrees West (the easternmost coast of Florida). to 81 degrees West (the western extreme of Cay Sal Bank). Since strict geography (i. The question of exactly which attacks qualify as occurring in the Bahamas or “Bahamian” is a thorny one because of complex geography and the subjective nature of selection.: distance from the Bahamas) is inconsistent.
The Bahama islands form an oceanic plateau dissected in several places east to west: twice in the northernmost third. which became flash points. and the Halifax convoys to Europe from Venezuela’s oil-producing Maracaibo basin via the Windward Passage south of Inagua.o 29 ships less than 50 nautical miles from the Bahamas o 25 ships between 50 and 100 nm from a Bahama island o 37 ships attacked or sunk between 100 and 500 nm from the islands o 11 ships sunk more than 500 nm from the island (i. Cuba to Bahamas 10 . the archipelago was in the center of and straddled a number of major choke points for merchant shipping traffic. between Bahamas and Cay Sal Bank Old Bahama Channel. and the juncture of these two channels which surround the Cay Sal Bank between Cuba and the Florida Keys. and the Cay Sal Bank Santaren Channel. Florida Cays. of Nassau. A list of these channels. The Bahamas form a kind of sieve through which merchant shipping as well as U-Boats needed to pass in order to reach the US Gulf. the Caribbean. through which U-Boats and their victims passed. thrice in the southwest between Cuba and Florida (the little-known Cay Sal Bank) and severally at the ‘tail’ on the southeast extreme. and beyond Turks & Caicos. CHOKEPOINTS RUNNING THROUGH/AROUND BAHAMAS: While the Bahamas were not the operational center of any singular campaign during the time-period covered.e. between Cuba. the Straits of Florida west of Bimini and Grand Bahama. the Old Bahama Channel south of Ragged Islands and Andros. but sunk off Canada) CHANNELS. the Nicholas Channel southwest of Andros. WAWALOAM. straits and passages would include: • • • • Straits of Florida (Gulf Stream between Florida and the Bahamas) Nicholas Channel.
including U-Boat traffic into the Caribbean Sea proper via the Windward Passage between Hispaniola and Cuba. only some 50 feet lower. and the route North of Grand Bahama feeds into the Straits of Florida. for fear of grounding or being sighted by aircraft. and the Straits of Florida only about 50 miles in width. the Old Bahama Channel is a mere 20-30 miles across in places. or ‘too shallow’) then U-Boats would have to chase ships across an area thousands of square miles – because of the islands. Essentially the Bahamas serve as right-angle triangle between these major thoroughfares. then traffic would not be forced into very narrow choke points. in that most of the banks are covered by a shallow skein of water across which no right-thinking U-Boat commander would consider passing. The Bahamas place merchant ships between a rock and a hard place on two of its three sides. connecting the Atlantic to the Florida Straits Crooked Island Passage Caicos Channel Mayaguana Passage Turks Channel Mouchior Bank Channel Silver Bank Channel and (further afield) Mona Passage (between Cuba and Puerto Rico) Windward Passage (between Haiti and eastern Cuba) and Anegada Passage (a conduit into the Caribbean from the eastwards). It might help to think of the islands as the rough equivalent of Florida. Both the northwest and northeast Providence Channels dissect the Bahamas. If the Bahamas were deep (the very name derives from ‘baja mas’. thus making the job of the U-Boats immensely more difficult.000 cays and 700 islands were not there. The Crooked Island Passage and the Caicos Channels are a conduit for tankers and merchant traffic. TREATMENT OFF ATTACKS OFFSHORE TO THE EAST (NO BORDER): 11 .• • • • • • • • • • • Northwest Providence Channel connecting the Straits of Florida to Atlantic Northeast Providence Channel. If the shallow plateau of some 2.
which places it a mere 30 miles or less from the Bahamas to the East). is towards his own islands which anchor the southeast corner of the Caribbean proper. Since the Bahamas. The fact remains that nearly 50 of the U-boats he covers utilized the Bahamas in one way or another to access the Caribbean theater. geographically if not politically). specifically the bauxite route southeast of Trinidad down as far as Brazil. In his seminal work. the hope is that this study will fill out and to some extent complete Kelshall’s immensely impressive and carefully researched work. and the criteria for inclusion are if an incident happened midway between the two or closer to the Bahamas.The rule of thumb for what constitutes a truly ‘Bahamian’ U-boat incident is somewhat subjective. for example. His bias. anchoring as they do the northwest corner of the same region. only roughly 20 can be considered geographically within the territorial waters of what was then a British colony (including Turks & Caicos. The islands served as a sieve between different war zones and as such a 12 . then it is included. Gaylord Kelshall includes dozens of incidents southeast of his native Trinidad & Tobago. Where Kelshall took liberties to include incidents in the open ocean to his southeast. this author takes liberties with the area to the northeast of the Bahamas. Of the over 70 ships. if a vessel was sunk because the islands made an escape northward impossible (the Great Bahama Bank. either from the Paukenshlag campaign along the US eastern seaboard. To the east of the Bahamas lay some 800 miles to Bermuda and thousands more to Europe. or the ship sunk recently transited the Bahamas.e. necessitating the use of the Old Bahamas and Nicholas channels). or if survivors were landed there. If a casualty happened within sight of the Bahamas (i. or directly from Europe. then mention is made of wrecks there. a tanker burning 20 miles off Florida. if any.
Eleuthera (first WWII victims in area) 19 Feb. US Navy’s SC (Submarine Chaser) 1059 sinks “near Bahamas” ======= 14 months of sinkings in area (10 months in 1942.5+ years In September 1939. to 10 in 44).repository of a fair portion of activity in these various sectors – Europe. Donitz would later have the pick of naval officers. 3. 1943) just over 1 year 32 months of U-Boats in Bahamas (10 months in 1942. CHRONOLOGY: For the purpose of this research the key dates are: 30 Oct. U-Boat commander Admiral Karl Donitz was promoted to KonterAdmiral and ultimately supplanted GrossAdmiral Raeder. At the outset of war. survivors of ANGLO SAXON land. and the North Atlantic. 12 in 43. Late in 1939 U-Boat ace Gunther Prein sank the British battle ship ROYAL OAK in Scapa Flow. the Caribbean. Offerman transited Bahamas to Cuba (last U-Boat in area) 11 December 1944. the ear of the Fuhrer. 1941. the UK declared war on Germany. 1943 U-185 (Holtorf) sinks the Liberty Ship JOHN SEVIER off Inagua (last) 15 September 1944 USS WARRINGTON sank NE of Bahamas escorting a USN ship 18 December 1943 U-129 under Von Harpe attacked a convoy off Bahamas (last attack) 21 September 1944 U518. only some 50 U-Boats are operational. and in December 1941 Germany declared war on the US. to 4 months. and ultimate control of both the entire German Navy and eventually the whole Reich (in May. The Germans raced to keep 13 . the US Gulf. 1942 PAN MASSACHUSETTS sunk off Florida by U-Boat leaving Hatteras 26 Feb. 1945). 1942 MAMURA sunk by U-504 165 nautical miles NE of Great Abaco 7 March 1942 survivors of the OA KNUDSEN landed Abaco (1st U-boat victims ashore) 13 April.
acclaimed author Herbert Werner (IRON COFFINS) passed through as an officer (not as a commander). when 12 ships with 80 seamen and officers were killed. UNIQUE U-BOAT EVENTS IN THE BAHAMAS: 14 . U-504. fuels.ahead of UK. attacked or damaged in the Bahamas proper – over one per month. the time frame is 19 months or just under two years. Kuhlmann. Achilles and others served even in passing through the region . Hardegen. US and Russian war production. 1942 and August 1943 – during that 17 month period. Holtorf . MOST SUCCESSFUL U-BOAT COMMANDERS IN REGION: Of the 60 or so U-boats and 5 Italian submarines 46 subs sank or attacked at least one vessel. Zurmuhlen) are credited with 4 each. an Italian sub (ENRICO TAZOLLI. Heyse and U-128 bagged 3 each. starting by effectively starving the UK of food stuffs. The busiest months were March. Cremer and U-600. two others (U-333. di Cossato and U-564. and May. 28 ships were sunk. 1943. Poske. heating oils. Suhren) sank 6 each. 1944. Churchill admits later that they almost succeeded. 19 failed to sink any at all (mostly at the end of the war). Several ‘Aces’ including Suhren. Seven others subs sank 2 each. From the arrival of the first survivors in October 1941 to the last U-Boat patrol in September. Ernst Bauer) sank 8 ships. One U-boat (U-126. or just under one every two weeks. U-Boat skipper Herbert Werner bemoans the willingness of imperial subjects and allies of the British to suffer and die on British and allied ships to keep the island nation supplied and afloat. U-598. MOST INTENSE TIME OF ATTACKS: The time-frame covered was most intense between March. 1942 (17 ships sunk in the vicinity with 111 seamen (at least) lost. and materiel. U-166.
camouflage paint. 26 vital tankers. The victims of the U-boats include 6 schooners (one named the CHEERIO). blackstrap molasses. chrome ore. cargoes often being higher). wool and licorice from India. KNUDSEN) was 11. toted a mere 20 tons of onions on a ship no more than three tons burthen (illustrating the challenge of listing tonnage or cargo tons as totals lost. Lucia. hides. the UMTATA. mineral ore. rubber tires. coffee. The largest ship (O. In this they very nearly succeeded. Several ships were sunk or attacked after their Bahamas sojourn. the blimp. The cargoes ranged from tanks and trucks on deck (which went flying when torpedoes struck). a Liberty ship. and even a British Hudson aircraft shot down by a Submarine Chaser. rugs. bringing with it the only US Navy airship crewman to be killed by Nazi forces in the course of the war. and the smallest.007 tons and carried petrol. coal. lumber. One ship. fats. 15 . Of course the vessels and crews themselves were of inestimable value to the allies. fishing vessel. had previously been sunk in the harbor of Castries St. a Submarine Chaser. 57 general or bulk cargo freighters.Several aspects of the U-boat war in the Bahamas stand out: off the Cay Sal Bank the only blimp ever sunk in a hostile action with a U-boat went down. ammonia. a District Patrol boat. coconuts. the GERTRUDED. and both Merchant and U-Boat captains went on to make names for themselves or die noteworthy deaths. including rescued survivors of other U-Boat attacks. a US Destroyer. tobacco. one of the “President Line” ships. and of course ballast water. sugar. ships carrying a mix of passengers and cargo.A. canned herrings. dynamite. to earth movers for making air strips to ward off U-Boats. potash. and the U-Boat war was one of attrition – to sink ships faster than the allies could rebuild and man them. mahogany. bananas. aircraft.
and ‘survivor camps’ were set up throughout the Caribbean islands along with air strips.rather. the events covered occurred more than 60 years ago. as these veterans will experience accelerated attrition in the years ahead. reports and data. More than 7. Of particular interest is to document whether any U-Boat commanders let their men enjoy ‘Rest and Relaxation’ on any cays or islands in the Bahamas when the U-Boats thoroughly dominated the area. such as Hardegen and Werner (both U-Boat commanders) and numerous allied merchant mariners. but would probably not be included in official logs. aircraft.The U-Boat menace strained local trade and communication amongst the islands and delayed the transport of Bahamian laborers to American fields where a labor shortage threatened the harvest (Lawlor).500 individuals who were actually attackers or attacked in the theater – innumerable others managed to pass through unmolested and sailed into other war zones. THE HUMAN ELEMENT: Several participants and first-hand witnesses are still alive. an idea which has anecdotal support. since it was increasingly impossible for a few U-Boats to be everywhere at once. It would require reading crew diaries and conducting interviews to verify these reports. Defensive vessels. officers. and navies are not the focus of this research . the U-boats themselves and their victims are. 16 . Hospitals in Nassau took the strain of stranded survivors. and air force and navy personnel. However the research and first-hand witness interviews should take place in as timely a fashion as possible. Landings by dismayed and disfigured survivors placed strains on local communities who were literally kept in the dark about the U-Boat presence until debris and people littered their beaches. bases. Though U-Boat officers were relatively young.
ships would be routed to deeper water. and biographies of the RAIDER ATLANTIS. and doubtlessly other survivors left limbs if not whole bodies there. in the vein of ALL BRAVE SAILORS.There was a constant cat-and-mouse game on both sides: when U-Boats harried coastwise traffic. Mayaguana. to four grave sites which have either been washed away from a berm or made in a lumber mill hamlet which has long since ceased to be populated. Revell Carr (2003). Three U-boats were sunk on the watery borders of the Bahamas chain – one in the Old Bahama Channel off Cay Sal Bank. Any one story or set of stories about the interaction between U-Boats and their victims can be pieced together to form a compelling and fascinating human-interest substory. including DAS BOOT. such as air bases built on Nassau. where U-Boats would be routed to attack them and drive the prey back to chokepoints ashore. The Italians were particularly apt at carrying out flanking missions well to the north and east of the Bahamas. Governor’s Harbour Eleuthera. the SEAEAGLE. if it is identifiable at all. One sailor left his eye in a Nassau hospital. San Salvador and the Turks & Caicos (all still in use). and one off Cuba. and EMDEN (THE LAST GENTLEMAN OF WAR). Each wreck 17 . a captain lost his arm off the Cay Sal Bank (and his life in the life boat). Great Inagua. This plot has been parlayed into several films. New Providence. U-571. and MURPHY’S WAR. PHYSICAL EVIDENCE: Physical evidence left by the U-boat campaign ranges from the grandiose and continuously useful. catching stragglers and strays on the high seas. with Peter O’Toole. more than one in the Windward Passage. Others were sunk east of the Bahamas in the Atlantic Ocean. by J.
U-BOAT CREW. and even the depth of sinking and specifics of cargo. the wreck has been triangulated first-hand by the author. New Orleans. Royal Canadian Air force personnel killed in the Bahamas at Christ Church Cathedral in Nassau. or west of Bimini and Grand Bahama or south of Andros. Nassau was transited by several U-boats and took in survivors at the military hospital there. however most incidents occurred in the region of Inagua. See appendices for U-boat and merchant activity per island. Aruba. Port of Spain Trinidad. or off San Salvador. penetrated or bombarded by U-boats.has been carefully tabulated in the appendices. survivors and how they were rescued are provided. with it’s specific location charted. ship. Lucia. cigarettes. and Turks & Caicos. There is a plaque to merchantmen survivors in Hope Town Abaco. a book listing RAF. Nassau was never mined. however unlike Castries. INTERACTIONS WITH VICTIMS: Interactions between the U-boat skippers and their victims range from black humor (the Royal Navy destroyer which flashed “go away” to attacking U-boats. a compass and directions to survivors and others who are accused of shooting crew in the water. The Italian submarine commanders were known to host officers of ships sunk to meals.” (Kelshall) to U-boat skippers who are recorded offering first aid. New York and others. One skipper was so traumatized by the threat of retaliation that he flung himself on the electric wire of a POW camp in New Mexico. only to receive the reply “I can’t – I have a job to do. making it easy for readers to target any one region. USAF. Ragged Island. Charleston. Curacao. island. crew. Norfolk and Chesapeake Bay. St. East of Abaco and Eleuthera. and an RAF cemetery in that capital city as well. brandy. Early in the war U-Boats would call in the number 18 . or U-Boat. including a Christmas feast.
of whom 660 were killed. after US aircraft attacked subs who came out of hiding to rescue over 1. A core of merchant ships sunk account to a conservative total of 2.664 seamen attacked or sunk by U-boats. The grim odds for U-boat crew were roughly as punishing . drowned or missing. since the same 19 . One skipper took tires and inner tubes from a victim and entered Lorient in France weeks later with these hanging proudly from the rigging. each vessel was of course operated by people. Though the U-boat campaign was ultimately aimed at sinking ships and cutting off or strangling supply lines and diverting assets away from European and African and Russian land campaigns. Not only the merchant seamen lived in fear and suffered high mortality rates – the U-boat crews had to sacrifice both space and water to even make it to the American theater – turning over drinking water tanks for diesel and living space to food and other provisions for boats not designed with such long cruises in mind. where on most of them there were over 50 aboard. Some cruises lasted up to 3 months or more without a single kill. The LACONIA order precluded them from carrying survivors.of some 65 boats with an average complement of 50.000 British and Italian POWs. roughly 3. Since this is based on a cautious number of 30 people per ship. Based on this survey.and location of survivors to the Allies so they would be picked up.500 servicemen transited and worked in the Bahamas (probably far more crew. one can extrapolate that the chances of surviving a vessel attacked by U-boat are roughly one in four. A U-boat who took along a neutral Spanish officer did him no favors – the U-boat and its guest were all drowned the next day while the sailors from the sunken ship survived.
POSITIONING REPORT: A book of this nature should have “sex appeal” to a wide audience – war buffs. and infinitely more in Florida). almost double that if you narrow the window to the hear and a half when the U-Boat menace was most active in the region. Students of history in several regions would be interested: Bermuda. One statistic for World War II puts death rates at 18. half a dozen times. often with different crews). as the flow of tourists through these regions number in the tens of millions annually (nearly 4. This work would be of interest to a wide range of professional and amateur readers: • War buffs 20 . and this work combines both. with similar odds of death as merchantmen: one in five. Books about U-Boats and the Caribbean have their own markets. Ten U-boats active in the Bahamas are documented to have been sunk either in the Bahamas area or enroute to or from the theater. There were over 70 missions to or through the Bahamas. travelers to the Caribbean. and historians. In the cold calculus of casualties.000 per day. Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Navy veterans.5 million in the Bahamas alone. Florida. A third ‘hook’ is the fact that most of the incidents described occurred in the Bermuda Triangle.boats returned to the region severally – in the case of U-126. the Turks & Caicos. Cuba. It would be expected that a book like this would produce steady sales over a number of years. divers. this averages out to roughly one allied and one U-boat death per day over the course of 2.3 years. academics. and Puerto Rico and the Caribbean in general. indicating that some 500 U-boat sailors were killed or captured. salvors.
000 visitors). operating from Florida. who will publish his research in the “Bahamas Historical Journal” in July 2009. • Air Force aficionados. though admittedly they are in deep water • Salvors – the cargos of several of the vessels are of historical and monetary interest. i.270. UK. Cuba. The author could encourage additional sales with a lecture tour of the US and Caribbean (he has already spoken to the Bahamas Historical Society. particularly naval veterans in the US. and this research pin-points some 100 vessels. Germany and the Caribbean • • Historians.• Veterans. both amateur and professional Tourists visiting the Bahamas seeking an interesting souvenir and reading material for their long cruises and flights to/from the Bahamas (in 2006 there were 4. the Bahamas. commodities whose value has gone up during recent years which may make salvage profitable. if Crown would license it to Amazon/Kindle) and could be prominently featured online.e. Promotional talks and book sales would be ideal for the heavy cruise ship traffic to and 21 . as the most effective defense against U-Boats were aircraft from the US and Royal Air Force. later in the war. PROMOTIONAL PROSPECTS: Aside from usual book tours and signings. Puerto Rico. • Divers – professional and recreational divers are avid readers and divers of shipwrecks. Bermuda. bases in the Caribbean and even. from Hunter-Killer Groups from air craft carriers. the book could be carried on Kindle (a growing audience.
1999 ALL BRAVE SAILORS. Turks & Caicos. about a British sailor determined to sink the U-Boat which shot his mates in life-boats off the coast of a South American river. Naval Institute Press. and in particular the stores on the cruise ships themselves and serving passengers at various ports would be well served to push up circulation and sales to an audience which by its very nature is continuously renewed. and EMDEN (see THE LAST GENTLEMAN OF WAR). and Caribbean. by Herbert A. with Peter O’Toole. Maryland. COMPARABLE OR SIMILAR BOOKS OR MOVIES: THE U-BOAT WAR IN THE CARIBBEAN. which can cater to the higher-end traveler. Revell Carr (2003?) Biographies of the RAIDER ATLANTIS. 1987 TORPEDO JUNCTION. Jr. a U-Boat “ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT” U-571. Hickam. Werner (still alive in Florida) 22 . Annapolis. The U-Boat War off America’s East Coast.. starring Matthew McConaughey (2000) MURPHY’S WAR. By Gaylord Kelshall. 1942 Homer H.from the Bahamas. DAS BOOT (1981). Naval Institute Press. READING LIST: A preliminary list (only) would include IRON COFFINS. Obviously book stores and tourist shops throughout the Bahamas and Turks & Caicos. Naval Institute Press. Jurgen Rohwer. the SEAEAGLE. 1996 AXIS SUBMARINE SUCCESSES OF WORLD WAR TWO. by J.
Total: 1. detailing one duo’s efforts to solve a U-Boat riddle There will be other Naval records.100 ships or U-Boats. cargo. diagrams and fetching photographs to grace an insert of the book and enable readers to visualize the human experience as well as the equipment utilized and maps of the operational theaters. Rostin. notes on survivors – ranked by tonnage sunk). individual U-Boats. et al. WWII” – the ‘Master List’ of all ships. Kohler. PHOTOGRAPHS. and of course their commanders. U-Boats. autobiographies. and museums in San Salvador. al. survivors. DIAGRAMS: The author already has unusual photographs of Italian submarine commanders being awarded German medals. Naval craft (Axis and Allied) c. whose hapless survivors landed on several Bahama islands seeking water. charts.U-BOAT ACE. flag. a biography of Wolfgang Luth ACE OF ACES. Trinidad & Tobago. 10 cells each (tonnage. analyses of the U-Boat war. There are numerous photographs of the vessels sunk. and local museum exhibits (like the U-505 exhibit in Bermuda. ship type. etc) which will provide first-hand resources.000 cells of information in 9 pages. APPENDICES: • “Vessels Sunk in the Bahamas Region. MAPS. and books on historical diving SHADOW DIVERS. Studies of shipwrecks. memoirs. killed in action. There will be ample opportunity for extensive maps. Abaco. the autobiography of Teddy (Reinhard) Suhren THE BRITISH EMPIRE AND WORLD WAR II Naval histories by Samuel Elliott Morison. crew. survivor accounts. 23 . diaries. U-185 showing off its tires captured from the POTLATCH. CHARTS.
Florida. and Patrol” – 70 missions by 63+ Axis submarines ranked by number of ships sunk per U-boat. WWII by Captain. and details of wreck. exact position. Includes U-Boat name/number/prefix. A total of 70 missions with 500 cells of information in 5 pages. date of relevant patrols. Total of 400 cells of data in 5 pages. • “Vessels Sunk in Bahamas. and then measured out to determine the distance from land and from other wrecks or attacks. names of ships sunk. distance from land. Victim.e. commander’s names. or Cuba. say.• “U-Boats Operating in the Bahamas Region. Puerto Rico. Vessels are ranked according to their proximity to land and can be broken down into four classes: o 29 ships less than 50 nautical miles from the Bahamas o 25 ships between 50 and 100 nm from a Bahama island o 37 ships attacked or sunk between 100 and 500 nm from the islands o 11 ships sunk more than 500 nm from the island (i. • “Vessels Sunk in Bahamas Region. WWII by Proximity to a Bahama Island” – A detailed analysis of the distance of each wreck or attack from a fixed point of land in the Bahamas or Turks & Caicos. WWII by Island Group” – breaks down each wreck to its specific proximity to individual islands and island chains (i. often triangulated with a different distance from.e. WAWALOAM. quantity sunk. 24 . and notes on the U-Boat and its victims and other subs in area. Cay Sal Bank. of Nassau) • Cells include ship name. Each of the 103 incidents has been meticulously plotted using original research on a large-scale chart.
and historians who want to know activity by island. he discovered that he has sailed over or at least within 20-50 miles of 43 the site of many of the attacks. been compiled or published before. and veterans of World War II indicates that they “had no idea” that UBoat activity and merchant ship attacks and sinkings were so pervasive in the Bahamas in that time-frame. Everyone consulted has said that they would pay $20 for a book on the subject. to the best of the owner’s knowledge. and his experience as a licensed US Merchant Marine Officer since age 25 colors the narrative and his understanding of events on the allied side.000 nautical miles of seagoing experience under his keel. Total of incidents (some of them overlapping and featured near or between two islands). 25 . These four detailed appendices constitute 23 pages and provide 2. For over 30 years he has been reading naval history. having represented Sweden in the islands since the mid 1960’s. Listed alphabetically by island group. This is of particular interest and use to divers. authors. A maritime lawyer and licensed captain who has sailed inn over 50 countries during four trips around the world. specific location. By overlaying plots for the vessels in this study. bearings from fixed points such as light houses. 300 cells of data in 4 pages. etc. Eric has over 80. This research is original and has not. Anecdotal responses from historians.Ragged Island chain). providing depth of sinking.200 cells of data for cross-referencing and research. particularly about shipwrecks. He has ridden aboard nearly a dozen tankers and bulkers in his 20-year maritime career. AUTHOR’S QUALIFICATIONS FOR PROJECT: Eric Troels Wiberg grew up in the Bahamas. including U-158. salvors. where his father is the longestserving member of the Consular Corps.
A member of the Boston Athenaeum. including a 200pages master’s thesis on 85 modern ship casualties and the law of Places of Refuge. He lives in Norwalk. and the Concord Review of History. including Boston College. authors. having a yacht burn and sink off Trinidad.at the time Wennergren’s private island (relatives helped design a canal there which was used in the 007/Bond film THUNDERBALL as a U-Boat pen). and losing 2 ships and 4 men while operating tankers from Singapore. including a front-page story in the Nassau Tribune. An active member of the Bahamas Historical Society. It also stems from unfounded yet published rumors that his Swedish descendents. He has been involved in a dozen ship or yacht casualty situations. the Boston College Stylus. Eric is well known to and has access to the archives. CT with his wife and family and returns to the Bahamas on a regular basis. and maritime articles in Cruising World. He has owned land in Eleuthera for 26 . and historians of the Bahamas at the highest levels. A US and EU citizen. the New York Yacht Club Library Committee and the Massachusetts Bar. this project was germinated by the Society’s request for papers for their prestigious Journal of Bahamian History. Eric has been published in roughly 25 periodicals.Many of his voyages (32 to or from Bermuda alone) took place in the Bermuda Triangle. he studied German briefly. University of Oxford (UK). working for industrialist Axel Wennergren (founder of Electrolux) supplied U-Boats from Paradise Island . His studies have taken him to five universities in three countries. including falling overboard naked in a snow storm. and Catholic University of Portugal’s Lisbon Law program. Eric has written eight books or collections of writing since 1987. the Eleuthera Island Property Owner’s Association’s Newsletter. he has been actively researching U-Boats and German Raiders of both World Wars for several years.
nearly a decade and named his firstborn after Dunmore Town. 27 . Harbour Island. east of which half a dozen merchant seamen met their fiery end during a few months in 1942.
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