German submarine U-123 (1940)
U-123 at Lorient in February 1942
|Career (Nazi Germany)|
|Ordered:||15 December 1937|
|Builder:||AG Weser, Bremen|
|Laid down:||15 April 1939|
|Launched:||2 March 1940|
|Commissioned:||30 May 1940|
|Decommissioned:||17 June 1944|
|Fate:||Scuttled at Lorient, France in August 1944|
|Decommissioned:||18 August 1959|
|Fate:||Decommissioned, 18 August 1959|
|Class & type:||Type IXB U-boat|
|Displacement:||1,051 tons surfaced
1,178 tons submerged
|Length:||76.5 m (251 ft) overall
58.7 m (193 ft) pressure hull
|Beam:||6.8 m (22 ft) overall
4.4 m (14 ft) pressure hull
|Draught:||4.7 m (15 ft)|
|Propulsion:||Diesel/Electric, 2 × MAN M9V40/46 supercharged 9 cylinder diesel engines, 4,400 hp (3,300 kW)
2 × SSW GU345/34 double-acting electric motors, 1,000 hp (750 kW)
|Speed:||18.2 knots (33.7 km/h; 20.9 mph) surfaced
7.3 knots (13.5 km/h; 8.4 mph) submerged
|Range:||22,200 km (13,800 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) surfaced
118 km (73 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph) submerged
|Test depth:||230 m (750 ft)|
|Complement:||48 to 56 officers and ratings|
6 × 53.3 cm (21.0 in) Torpedo tubes (four bow, two stern)
2nd U-boat Flotilla (Training)
2nd U-boat Flotilla (Front or operational boat)
2nd U-boat Flotilla (Operational training boat)
|Identification codes:||M 08 800|
|Commanders:||Kptlt. Karl-Heinz Moehle
Kplt. Reinhard Hardegen
Oblt.z.S. Horst von Schroeter
21 September–23 October 1940
14–28 November 1940
14 January–28 February 1941
10 April–11 May 1941
15 June–23 August 1941
14 October–22 November 1941
23 December 1941–9 February 1942
2 March–2 May 1942
5 December 1942–6 February 1943
13 March–8 June 1943
16 August 1943–7 November 1943
9 January–24 April 1944
|Victories:||42 ships sunk for a total of 219,924 gross register tons (GRT)
one auxiliary warship sunk of 3,209 GRT
one warship sunk of 683 tons
five ships damaged for a total of 39,584 GRT
one auxiliary warship damaged for 13,984 GRT
German submarine U-123 was a Type IXB U-boat of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine that operated during World War II. After that conflict, she became the French submarine Blaison (Q165)  until she was decommissioned on 18 August 1959.
U-123 was laid down on 15 April 1939 at the AG Weser yard in Bremen as yard number 955. She was launched on 2 March 1940 and commissioned on 30 May, with Kapitänleutnant Karl-Heinz Moehle in command. He was relieved on 19 May 1941 by Kptlt. Reinhard Hardegen, who was relieved in turn on 1 August 1942 by his watch officer, Oberleutnant zur See Horst von Schroeter. He remained in command until the boat was decommissioned in 1944.
U-123 conducted 12 war patrols, sinking 45 ships, totalling 227,174 tons and damaging six others, totaling 53,568 tons. Among them were four neutral Swedish merchantmen; SS Anten, MV Korsholm, SS Nanking and MV Venezuela.
U-123's first patrol began with her departure from Kiel on 21 September 1940. Her route took her across the North Sea, through the 'gap' between the Faroe and Shetland Islands and into the Atlantic Ocean west of Ireland. She sank six ships in October, including the Shekatika which was hit with no less than five torpedoes before she went to the bottom east southeast of an appropriately named islet called Rockall. Nevertheless, her partial load of pit-props floated free before she went down.
The boat docked at Lorient in occupied France on 23 October.
U-123 returned to the same general area for her second patrol as for her first. She was also almost as successful, sending another five merchantmen to watery graves. The voyage was marred on 17 November 1940 when Mechanikergefreiter Fritz Pfeifer was lost overboard. A week later (on the 23rd), after a successful attack, the boat was seriously damaged in collision with an unknown object ("probably a convoy vessel").
She returned to Lorient on 28 November.
Her score rose steadily, sinking another four ships. One, Grootekerk, was sunk after a nine hour chase about 330 nautical miles (610 km; 380 mi) west of Rockall. There were no survivors.
Venturing further west of Ireland on her fourth sortie, the boat sank one ship, Venezuela on 17 April 1941. This was another vessel which required five torpedoes to ensure her destruction. There were also no survivors.
Having set-out from Lorient on 10 April, she returned to the same port on 11 May.
Patrol number five was conducted in the Atlantic, but in the vicinity of the Azores and the Canary Islands. Her first victim this time out was the Ganda, a 4,300 ton neutral registered in Portugal. She went down on 20 June 1941. Following her sinking with torpedoes and gunfire, it was realised what her status was. On her return to Lorient, U-123's war diary (KTB) was altered on the order of U-boat headquarters (BdU):
The U-boat sank four other ships between 27 June and 4 July, but was depth charged for 11 hours on 27 June and only escaped by diving to 654 ft (199 m). She was also unsuccessfully attacked by convoy escorts west of Portugal on 12 August, although she sustained moderate damage.
Despite criss-crossing the Atlantic, U-123 found the pickings rather thin, she did manage to damage the armed merchant cruiser (AMC) HMS Aurania on 21 October 1941 and take one crewman prisoner. The ship had been travelling behind Convoy SL-89 with five other AMCs. The vessel was hit by two torpedoes but empty drums in the holds kept her afloat. A 25 degree list was reduced to 15 degrees; men had abandoned ship prematurely – hence the PoW. The ship continued her voyage, albeit at reduced speed.
U-123 took part in the opening of Unternehmen Paukenschlag ("Operation Drumbeat"), also called the "Second Happy Time" in January 1942. She began by sinking the cargo ship Cyclops about 125 nautical miles (232 km) southeast of Cape Sable, Nova Scotia on the 12th. Moving down the coast, she sank Norness, Coimbra, Norvana, City of Atlanta and the Latvian Ciltvaira . She was also credited with sinking San Jose on 17 January, although this ship was actually lost in a collision. The Malay was only damaged because Hardegen had under-estimated her size and chose to use the deck gun rather than a torpedo. In a reference to American unpreparedness, he commented after sinking the Norvana: These are some pretty buoys we are leaving for the Yankees in the harbor approaches as replacement for the lightships.
U-123 was attacked by an aircraft off New York, but withdrew without any damage being sustained. She also had a lucky escape on 19 January when the Kormoros II tried to ram the boat off Oregon Inlet. At one point the ship was only 75 m (82 yd) away from the German submarine which had an inoperable diesel engine. The U-boat escaped when the recalcitrant power plant was restarted at the last minute and flares were fired at the larger vessel's bridge.
The Culebra and the Pan Norway were also sunk off Bermuda. By now out of torpedoes and in the case of the Pan Norway, the boat used the last of her deck gun ammunition and 37mm AA weapon to destroy the Norwegian vessel. The U-boat then encountered a Greek ship under a Swiss charter, which was directed to the survivors.
The boat's second Paukenschlag mission was also successful - sinking the Muskogee and the Empire Steel on 22 and 23 March 1942 near Bermuda before moving closer to the US east coast.
She then attacked the USS Atik, a Q ship. This disguised merchantman was hit on the port side, the crew started to abandon ship on the starboard side. The U-boat moved closer, at which point Atik dropped her concealment and opened fire with all weapons. U-123 ran off, (one man died in the action), but she dived, returned and sank the American vessel with a torpedo. There were no survivors.
The boat proceeded to sink or damage another eight ships; many of them resting on the sea bed in the shallow water with parts of their hulls above the surface. One such was the Oklahoma which, although sent below in 40 ft (12 m) of water on 8 April, was re-floated, repaired and returned to service in December 1942. Another vessel, the Gulfamerica was fatally struck about five miles from Jacksonville, Florida on 11 April. The ship had been on her maiden voyage from Philadelphia to Port Arthur, Texas, with 90,000 barrels of fuel oil. Nineteen crewmen were killed in the attack. She did not sink until 16 April.
Another victim was the Alcoa Guide, engaged at the relatively close range of 400 m (440 yd) by the deck gun, (U-123 had run out of torpedoes), on 17 April.
For her ninth patrol, U-123 left Kiel on 5 December 1942 and returned to the Atlantic. She sank the Baron Cochrane on the 29th after the ship had already been damaged by U-406 and missed by U-591. U-123 also damaged the Empire Shackleton, a Catapult Armed Merchantman north of the Azores. (The wreck was sunk by U-435 on the same day).
The boat returned to Lorient on 6 February 1943.
U-123 sailed to the West African coast. She sank the Spanish-registered motor ship Castillo Montealegre on 8 April 1943 west of Conakry, French Guinea. As per maritime rules, the neutral ship had the Spanish flag painted in both sides. Commander Horst von Schroeter ordered the shooting of 3 torpedoes and she sunk in less than a minute. The submarine surfaced, the commander confirmed that it just sunk a neutral ship, said "What ship?" and left without giving any assistance to the 40 survivors (five went down with the ship).
A few days later the Hill-class naval trawler HMS Inkpen rescued 29 survivors from a boat. 11 on a separated raft died. The affair was hushed-up by the government of Franco; indeed, the survivors were ordered to shut-up. The career of Commander Horst von Schroeter was unaffected by this affair and after the war he even became a NATO commander .
U-123 was also successful against a British submarine, HMS P-615 100 nautical miles (190 km; 120 mi) southwest of Freetown in Sierra Leone on 18 April. She sank the Empire Bruce on the same day, also southwest of Sierra Leone. She sank three more ships off Monrovia on 29 April, 5 May and 9 May.
U-123 was depth charged off Cape Finisterre (northwest Spain), by Allied escort vessels on 25 August 1943 - the date is approximate. She was also attacked by a British De Havilland ('Tse Tse') Mosquito of No. 618 Squadron RAF on 7 November 1943. Its 57mm cannon killed one man and created a hole 18 × 6·5 cm, rendering the boat unable to dive.
U-123's last patrol was her longest - 107 days, but after the incidents of the previous eleven, it was a bit of an anti-climax. She returned to Lorient unable to repeat her success, on 24 April 1944.
The boat was taken out of service at Lorient on 17 June 1944, she was scuttled there on 19 August. She was raised by the French in 1945 after Germany's surrender, and became the French submarine Blaison (Q165). She was decommissioned on 18 August 1959.
Summary of raiding history
|6 October 1940||Benlawers||UK||5,943||Sunk|
|10 October 1940||Graigwen||UK||3,697||Sunk|
|19 October 1940||Boekelo||Netherlands||2,118||Sunk|
|19 October 1940||Clintonia||UK||3,106||Sunk|
|19 October 1940||Sedgepool||UK||5,556||Sunk|
|19 October 1940||Shekatika||UK||5,458||Sunk|
|22 November 1940||Cree||UK||4,791||Sunk|
|23 November 1940||Anten||Sweden||5,135||Sunk|
|23 November 1940||King Idwal||UK||5,115||Sunk|
|23 November 1940||Oakcrest||UK||5,407||Sunk|
|23 November 1940||Tymeric||UK||5,228||Sunk|
|24 January 1941||Vespasian||Norway||1,570||Sunk|
|4 February 1941||Empire Engineer||UK||5,358||Sunk|
|15 February 1941||Alnmoor||UK||6,573||Sunk|
|24 February 1941||Grootekerk||Netherlands||8,685||Sunk|
|17 April 1941||Venezuela||Sweden||6,991||Sunk|
|20 June 1941||Ganda||Portugal||4,333||Sunk|
|27 June 1941||Oberon||Netherlands||1,996||Sunk|
|27 June 1941||P.L.M. 22||UK||5,646||Sunk|
|29 June 1941||Rio Azul||UK||4,088||Sunk|
|4 July 1941||Auditor||UK||5,444||Sunk|
|21 October 1941||HMS Aurania||UK||13,984||Damaged|
|12 January 1942||Cyclops||UK||9,076||Sunk|
|14 January 1942||Norness||Panama||9,577||Sunk|
|15 January 1942||Coimbra||UK||6,768||Sunk|
|19 January 1942||Ciltyvaria||USSR||3,799||Sunk|
|19 January 1942||City of Atlanta||USA||5,269||Sunk|
|19 January 1942||Malay||USA||8,206||Damaged|
|19 January 1942||Norvana||USA||2,677||Sunk|
|25 January 1942||Culebra||UK||3,044||Sunk|
|27 January 1942||Pan Norway||Norway||9,321||Sunk|
|22 March 1942||Muskogee||USA||7,034||Sunk|
|24 March 1942||Empire Steel||UK||8,138||Sunk|
|27 March 1942||USS Atik||USA||3,209||Sunk|
|2 April 1942||Liebre||USA||7,057||Damaged|
|8 April 1942||Esso Baton Rouge||USA||7,989||Damaged|
|8 April 1942||Oklahoma||USA||9,264||Damaged|
|9 April 1942||Esparta||USA||3,365||Sunk|
|11 April 1942||Gulfamerica||USA||8,081||Sunk|
|13 April 1942||Korsholm||Sweden||2,647||Sunk|
|13 April 1942||Leslie||USA||2,609||Sunk|
|13 April 1942||Alcoa Guide||USA||4,834||Sunk|
|29 December 1942||Empire Shackleton||UK||7,068||Damaged|
|8 April 1943||Castillo Montealegre||Spain||3,972||Sunk|
|18 April 1943||Empire Bruce||UK||7,459||Sunk|
|18 April 1943||HMS P-615||UK||683||Sunk|
|29 April 1943||Nanking||Sweden||5,931||Sunk|
|5 May 1943||Holmbury||UK||4,566||Sunk|
|9 May 1943||Kanbe||UK||6,244||Sunk|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to U-123.|
- Campbell, John Naval Weapons of World War Two ISBN 0-87021-459-4 pp.248&249
- Kemp, Paul: U-Boats Destroyed, German submarine Losses in the World Wars, 1997. p. 197. Arms and Armour. ISBN 1-85409-515-3
- Ships not hit by U-boats. Uboat.net.
- Excerpts from PAPA'S WAR, War on the Homefront -- The Torpedoed Tanker
- U.S. Navy Armed Guard Index: Michael James Monohan
- Civilian death due to operations of war. Washington Daily News, Sept 29 1942.
- Florida East Coast Shipwrecks -- GulfAmerica Wreck
- El misterio del Castillo Montealegre
- Kemp p.197
- "WWII U-boat Successes Ships hit by U-123". Retrieved 30 December 2012.