German submarine U-405

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Career
Name: U-405
Ordered: 16 October 1939
Builder: Danziger Werft, Danzig
Yard number: 106
Laid down: 8 July 1940
Launched: 4 June 1941
Commissioned: 17 September 1941
Fate: Rammed and sunk, 1 November 1943[1]
General characteristics
Type: Type VIIC submarine
Displacement: 769 tonnes (757 long tons) surfaced
871 t (857 long tons) submerged
Length: 67.1 m (220 ft 2 in) o/a
50.5 m (165 ft 8 in) pressure hull
Beam: 6.2 m (20 ft 4 in) o/a
4.7 m (15 ft 5 in) pressure hull
Draft: 4.74 m (15 ft 7 in)
Propulsion: 2 × supercharged Germaniawerft 6-cylinder 4-stroke F46 diesel engines, totalling 2,800–3,200 bhp (2,100–2,400 kW). Max rpm: 470-490
2 × electric motors, totalling 750 shp (560 kW) and max rpm: 296
Speed: 17.7 knots (32.8 km/h; 20.4 mph) surfaced
7.6 knots (14.1 km/h; 8.7 mph) submerged
Range: 15,170 km (8,190 nmi) at 10 kn (19 km/h) surfaced
150 km (81 nmi) at 4 kn (7.4 km/h) submerged
Test depth: 230 m (750 ft)
Crush depth: 250–295 m (820–968 ft)
Complement: 44–52 officers and ratings
Armament: 5 × 53.3 cm (21 in) torpedo tubes (four bow, one stern)
14 × G7e torpedoes or 26 TMA mines
1 × 8.8 cm (3.46 in) deck gun (220 rounds)
Various AA guns
Service record
Part of: 8th U-boat Flotilla
(17 September 1941–28 February 1942)
1st U-boat Flotilla
(1 March–30 June 1942)
11th U-boat Flotilla
(1 July 1942–28 February 1943)
6th U-boat Flotilla
(1 March–1 November 1943)
Commanders: Korvkpt. Rolf-Heinrich Hopman
(17 September 1941–1 November 1943)
Operations: 1st patrol: 7–22 March 1942
2nd patrol: 26 April–10 May 1942
3rd patrol: 16 July–16 August 1942
4th patrol: 26 August–20 September 1942
5th patrol: 11 November–15 December 1942
6th patrol: 7 February–23 March 1943
7th patrol: 2–21 May 1943
8th patrol: 10 October 1943–1 November 1943
Victories: Two commercial vessels sunk (11,841 GRT)
three warships sunk (361 GRT) (lost aboard transport ships)

German submarine U-405 was a Type VIIC U-boat of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine during World War II.

The U-boat was laid down on 8 July 1940 at the Danziger Werft shipyard at Danzig, launched on 4 June 1941 and commissioned on 17 September 1941. She was commanded by Korvettenkapitän Rolf-Heinrich Hopman.[2]

After her commissioning, U-405 joined the 8th U-boat Flotilla for training, before serving with the 1st, 11th and 6th U-boat flotillas under operational conditions.[3]

Patrol history[edit]

Of her eight war patrols, only on the sixth did U-405 sink any ships.[4] On 28 February 1943, south-west of Iceland, she sank the 7,176-ton American liberty ship SS Wade Hampton. A straggler from Convoy HX 227, Wade Hampton was en route to Murmansk from New York, carrying 8,000 tons of general cargo, including ammunition, weapons, foodstuffs and a deck cargo of transport equipment and two PT boats (RPT-1 and RPT-3).[5]

Nine days later, on 9 March 1943, U-405 sank the 4,665-ton Norwegian ship Bonneville which was en route from New York to Liverpool as part of Convoy SC 121, and carrying 7,196 tons of general cargo, explosives and the tank landing craft HMS LCT-2341 as deck cargo.[6]

After this success, U-405's seventh war patrol began badly, when at 19.24 hours on 4 May 1943, only two days out of Saint-Nazaire, the boat was attacked in the Bay of Biscay by a British Halifax GR.II Series IA bomber of 502 Squadron, RAF Coastal Command. The aircraft dropped three bombs, causing an oil leak that that could not be repaired, prompting the captain to abort the patrol on 12 May. While returning home, on 18 May, northwest of Cape Finisterre, U-405 was bombed again, this time by an Australian Sunderland patrol bomber of 10 Squadron, although she escaped without any damage.[2]

Sinking[edit]

On the 23rd day of her eighth and final patrol, 1 November 1943, U-405 was engaged by the destroyer USS Borie (DD-215) at 49°00′N 31°14′W / 49.000°N 31.233°W / 49.000; -31.233. The destroyer initially fired depth charges, after which U-405 came (and was probably forced) to the surface. Borie then rammed U-405. After the ramming, Borie was high-centered on top of U-405, and until they separated, exchanges of small arms fire took place. This was a unique battle: unlike other modern naval actions, it was decided by ramming and small arms fire at extremely close range.

Normally, in a surface engagement the superior armament and greater reserve buoyancy of the destroyer would have been decisive. But in this unusual case, the destroyer was unable to depress her 4 inch (102 mm) and 3 inch (76 mm) guns enough to engage, while all of the submarine's armament could be brought to bear. Borie's crew had a limited number of small arms, the German deck mounts were completely open and had no protection. In the extended and bitter fighting that ensued, dozens of German sailors were killed in desperate attempts to man the 88 mm (3.5 inch) deck gun. Their casualties included those struck by a sheath-knife and a 4 inch cartridge case.[7]

At this point, about 35 of the German crew of 49 had been killed or lost overboard. Borie had been badly damaged and was moving at a reduced speed, while the submarine was still capable of maneuvering at a similar speed. U-405's tighter turning radius effectively prevented the Borie from bringing her superior firepower to bear; Hopman did a masterful job of maneuvering his badly damaged boat with his remaining crew.[4] Borie shut-off her searchlight, her crew hoping that U-405 would attempt to escape and provide a better target for her guns. The submarine did indeed attempt to speed away, and Borie switched her searchlight back on and turned to bring her guns and a depth charge thrower to bear. The submarine was bracketed by shallow-set depth charges and struck by a 4 inch shell, and came to a stop. Borie's crew observed about 14 sailors signalling their surrender and abandoning ship in yellow rubber rafts. Hutchins gave the order to cease fire; several of them were apparently wounded, being loaded into the rafts on stretchers by their shipmates.

The last to leave the stricken ship was wearing an officer's cap. U-405 sank slowly by the stern at 0257. She was seen to explode underwater, probably from scuttling charges set by the last officer to leave.[5]

Hutchins reported later:
"When the submarine sank, there was a yell that went up from all hands — it probably could be heard in Berlin. The men were clasping each other and patting each other on the back, and all during the action, there were times when it was actually comical to observe the situation, particularly with the submarine pinned underneath ... heretofore their one dream had been to catch a submarine, depth charge him, bring him to the surface and then to sink him with gunfire, this particular action more than justified their hopes."[5]

The survivors were observed firing Very star-shells: Borie's crew believed this to be a distress signal, and maneuvered in an attempt to recover them from their rubber rafts, as they approached to 50-60 yards off the port bow. But as it turned out, the Germans were signalling another surfaced U-boat, which answered with a star-shell of her own.

A Borie lookout reported a torpedo passing close by from that U-boat, Borie had no choice but to protect herself by sailing away. She was forced to sail through U-405's rafts as she turned away from the other U-boat, but the men on the rafts were observed firing another Very flare as the Borie steamed away in a radical zigzag pattern. No German survivors were ever recovered by either side; all 49 crewmen were lost.

Borie lost three officers and 27 crew members, and was too badly damaged by the collision to be towed to port. The next day, her crew was ordered to abandon ship and she was sunk by USS Barry (DD-248).[8]

Raiding history[edit]

Date Name Nationality Tonnage
(GRT)
Fate[3]
28 February 1943 RPT-1*  Soviet Navy 35 Sunk
28 February 1943 RPT-3*  Soviet Navy 35 Sunk
28 February 1943 Wade Hampton  United States 7,176 Sunk
9 March 1943 Bonneville  Norway 4,665 Sunk
9 March 1943 HMS LCT 2341**  Royal Navy 291 Sunk

* Being carried aboard the Wade Hampton
** Being carried aboard the Bonneville

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Kemp, Paul: U-Boats Destroyed - German Submarine Losses in the World Wars, 1997, Arms & Armour, ISBN 1-85409-515-3, p. 155.
  2. ^ a b "The Type VIIC boat U-405 - German U-boats of WWII - uboat.net". www.uboat.net. Retrieved 2009-08-25. 
  3. ^ a b http://uboat.net/boats/u405.html
  4. ^ "War Patrols by German U-boat U-405 - Boats - uboat.net". www.uboat.net. Retrieved 2009-08-25. 
  5. ^ "Wade Hampton (Steam merchant) - Allied Ships hit by U-boats - uboat.net". www.uboat.net. Retrieved 2009-08-25. 
  6. ^ "Bonneville (Motor merchant) - Allied Ships hit by U-boats - uboat.net". www.uboat.net. Retrieved 2009-08-25. 
  7. ^ Kemp, p. 155.
  8. ^ "USS Borie". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. www.history.navy.mil. Retrieved 2009-08-25. 
Bibliography