German submarine U-96 (1940)

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Uboat Flo09 logo.svg
The laughing sawfish emblem on the conning tower
Career (Nazi Germany)
Name: U-96
Ordered: 30 May 1938
Builder: Germaniawerft, Kiel
Yard number: 601
Laid down: 16 September 1939
Launched: 1 August 1940
Commissioned: 14 September 1940
Fate: Sunk on 30 March 1945 by US bombs in Wilhelmshaven[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 × AEG 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: 8,500 nautical miles (15,700 km; 9,800 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) surfaced
80 km (43 nmi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph) 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: Kriegsmarine:
7th U-boat Flotilla (Training)
7th U-boat Flotilla (Front Boat, 11 patrols)
24th U-boat Flotilla (Training)
22nd U-boat Flotilla (Schoolboat)
Identification codes: M 29 052
Commanders: Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock
Hans-Jürgen Hellriegel
Wilhelm Peters
Horst Willner
Robert Rix
Operations: Eleven
1st patrol:
4–29 December 1940
2nd patrol:
9–22 January 1941
3rd patrol:
30 January–28 February 1941
4th patrol:
12 April–22 May 1941
5th patrol:
19 June–9 July 1941
6th patrol:
2 August–12 September 1941
7th patrol:
27 October–6 December 1941
8th patrol:
31 January–23 March 1942
9th patrol:
23 April–1 July 1942
10th patrol:
28 August–5 October 1942
11th patrol:
26 December 1942–8 February 1943
Victories: 27 ships sunk for a total of 181,206 gross register tons (GRT)
Four ships damaged for a total of 33,043 GRT
One ship a total loss of 8,888 GRT

German submarine U-96 was a Type VIIC U-boat of the German Navy (Kriegsmarine) during World War II. Her keel was laid down on 16 September 1939, by Germaniawerft, of Kiel as "Werft-Nummer 601". She was commissioned on 14 September 1940, with Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock in command. Lehmann-Willenbrock was relieved in March 1942 by Oberleutnant zur See Hans-Jürgen Hellriegel. He was relieved in turn in March 1943 by Oblt.z.S.. Wilhelm Peters. In February 1944, Oblt.z.S. Horst Willner took command, turning the boat over to Oblt.z.S. Robert Rix in June of that year. Rix commanded the boat until February 1945.

As part of the 7th U-boat Flotilla, stationed in Saint Nazaire, on the French Atlantic coast, U-96 conducted 11 patrols, sinking 27 ships totalling 180,206 gross register tons (GRT) and damaging four others totalling 33,043 GRT. She also caused one vessel of 8,888 GRT to be declared a total loss. The boat was a member of eleven wolfpacks. On 30 March 1945, U-96 was sunk by US bombs while in the submarine pens in Wilhelmshaven. In her entire career, she suffered no casualties to her crew. The boat was also known for its emblem, a green laughing sawfish. It became the symbol of the 9th Flotilla after Lehmann-Willenbrock took command in March 1942.

During 1941, war correspondent Lothar-Günther Buchheim joined U-96 for a single patrol. His orders were to photograph and describe the U-boat in action for propaganda purposes. Over 5,000 photographs, mostly taken by Buchheim, survived the war. From his experiences, he wrote a short story, "Die Eichenlaubfahrt" ("The Oak-Leaves Patrol") and a 1973 novel which was to become an international best-seller, Das Boot, followed in 1976 by U-Boot-Krieg ("U-Boat War"), a nonfiction chronicle of the voyage. In 1981 Wolfgang Petersen brought the novel to the big screen with the critically acclaimed, Das Boot.

Operational career[edit]

1st patrol[edit]

U-96 departed Kiel on 4 December 1940 on her first patrol. Her route took her across the North Sea, through the 'gap' between the Faroe and Shetland Islands and into the Atlantic Ocean.

She was soon in the thick of the action; sinking the Rotoura and the Towra on the 11th and the Macedonier on the 12th. She then damaged the Empire Razorbill with six rounds from her deck gun on the 14th and sank the Western Prince, also on the 14th. She damaged the Pendrecht on the 18th before sailing to Lorient in occupied France, arriving there on 29 December.

2nd patrol[edit]

For her second foray, U-96 departed Lorient on 9 January 1941 and returned to the waters west of Scotland, sinking the Oropesa on 16 January and the Almeda Star a day later. The Almeda Star was lost with all hands and passengers, a total of 360 people. U-96 docked once more in Lorient on the 22nd.

3rd patrol[edit]

U-96 sortied from Lorient on 30 January 1941, sinking the Clea and the Arthur F. Corwin near Iceland on 13 February. Five more ships went to the bottom on this patrol: the Black Osprey on 18 February, the Scottish Standard on the 22nd, (which had already been bombed by a Focke Wulf 'Kondor' and abandoned by her crew), the Anglo-Peruvian on the 23rd, the Linaria and the Sirishna a day later.

The boat returned to St. Nazaire in France on 28 February.

4th patrol[edit]

The carnage continued, in one attack the boat sank the Oilfield, the Port Hardy and the Caledonia south of Iceland on 28 April 1941 and in turn was depth charged by the Flower class corvette HMS Gladiolus. It was originally thought that the British ship had sunk U-65, but U-96 escaped unscathed. She went on to sink the Empire Ridge 90 nautical miles (170 km; 100 mi) west of Bloody Foreland (Ireland), before returning to St. Nazaire on 22 May.

5th patrol[edit]

The boat was about 300 nautical miles (560 km; 350 mi) north of the Azores on 5 July 1941 when she found the survey vessel HMS Challenger leading an armed merchant cruiser (AMC) HMS Cathay[citation needed] and the Anselm, a cargo and passenger liner that had been converted into a troop ship. Also escorting the small convoy were three Flower-class corvettes: HMS Lavender, Petunia and Starwort. U-96 was under the impression that she had hit the survey ship and the AMC; instead, she had struck the Anselm twice, sinking her and killing 254 people. Starwort's ASDIC was not working, but Lavender and Petunia counter-attacked with depth charges. The U-boat was seriously damaged and forced to curtail her patrol.

6th and 7th patrols[edit]

Patrol number six was relatively uneventful; the boat left St. Nazaire on 2 August 1941. She returned to the same port on 12 September, having scoured the North Atlantic, with nothing to show for her efforts.

U-96's seventh patrol was almost as barren, except the submarine did sink the Bennekom on 31 October 1941. As a consequence she was attacked with 37 depth charges by the sloop HMS Lulworth. The U-boat escaped the barrage, returning to St. Nazaire on 6 December.

8th patrol[edit]

The boat's eighth patrol saw success when she operated off the Canadian east coast. She sank the Lake Osweya near Halifax on 20 February 1942. She was only 500 yd (460 m) from her target when the torpedo was launched.

She sank the Torungen off Nova Scotia on 22 February and attacked the Kars later the same day. The latter ship broke in two following the torpedo's impact. The bow section quickly sank, but the stern section was beached and declared a total loss.

The submarine's final victory this time out came on 9 March when she sank the Tyr about 100 nautical miles (190 km; 120 mi) from Halifax.

9th and 10th patrols[edit]

U-96 left St. Nazaire on 23 April 1942 and returned 73 days later, on 1 July without attacking anything.

On the tenth patrol, the boat damaged the F. J. Wolfe on 10 September 1942 (although this ship was able to keep up with its convoy). U-96 also sank the Sveve on the same day, as well as the Elisabeth van Belgie. It also sank the Deläes on the 11th.

11th patrol and fate[edit]

The boat's final operational patrol commenced with her departure from St. Nazaire on 26 December 1942. Crossing the Atlantic for the last time, she then came back to the eastern side and after transferring a sick crew-member to U-163 on 3 January 1943, arrived at Konigsberg (now Kaliningrad) on 8 February.

She spent most of the rest of the war as a training vessel. She was sunk at Wilhelmshaven by US bombs on 31 March 1945.

Summary of War Career[edit]

Date Ship Nationality Tonnage
(GRT)
Convoy Fate[2] Location Deaths
11 December 1940 Rotorua  United Kingdom 10,890 HX-92 Sunk 58°56′N 11°20′W / 58.933°N 11.333°W / 58.933; -11.333
22
11 December 1940 Towa  Netherlands 5,419 HX-92 Sunk 58°50′N 10°10′W / 58.833°N 10.167°W / 58.833; -10.167
18
12 December 1940 Macedonier  Belgium 5,227 HX-92 Sunk 57°52′N 08°42′W / 57.867°N 8.700°W / 57.867; -8.700
4
12 December 1940 Stureholm  Sweden 4,575 HX-92 Sunk 57°50′N 08°40′W / 57.833°N 8.667°W / 57.833; -8.667
32
14 December 1940 Empire Razorbill  United Kingdom 5,118 OB-257 Damaged 59°31′N 13°15′W / 59.517°N 13.250°W / 59.517; -13.250
0
14 December 1940 Western Prince  United Kingdom 10,926 Sunk 59°32′N 17°47′W / 59.533°N 17.783°W / 59.533; -17.783
14
18 December 1940 Pendrecht  Netherlands 10,746 OB-259 Damaged 45°18′N 36°40′W / 45.300°N 36.667°W / 45.300; -36.667
0
16 January 1941 Oropesa  United Kingdom 14,118 Sunk 56°28′N 12°00′W / 56.467°N 12.000°W / 56.467; -12.000
106
17 January 1941 Almeda Star  United Kingdom 14,936 Sunk 58°16′N 13°40′W / 58.267°N 13.667°W / 58.267; -13.667
360
13 February 1941 Arthur F. Corwin  United Kingdom 10,516 HX-106 Sunk 60°25′N 17°11′W / 60.417°N 17.183°W / 60.417; -17.183
46
13 February 1941 Clea  United Kingdom 7,987 HX-106 Sunk 60°25′N 17°10′W / 60.417°N 17.167°W / 60.417; -17.167
59
18 February 1941 Black Osprey  United Kingdom 5,589 HX-107 Sunk 61°30′N 18°10′W / 61.500°N 18.167°W / 61.500; -18.167
25
22 February 1941 Scottish Standard  United Kingdom 6,999 OB-287 Sunk 59°20′N 16°12′W / 59.333°N 16.200°W / 59.333; -16.200
5
23 February 1941 Anglo-Peruvian  United Kingdom 5,457 OB-288 Sunk 59°30′N 21°00′W / 59.500°N 21.000°W / 59.500; -21.000
29
24 February 1941 Linaria  United Kingdom 3,385 OB-288 Sunk 61°00′N 25°00′W / 61.000°N 25.000°W / 61.000; -25.000
34
24 February 1941 Sirikishna  United Kingdom 5,458 OB-288 Sunk 58°00′N 21°00′W / 58.000°N 21.000°W / 58.000; -21.000
43
28 April 1941 Caledonia  Norway 9,892 HX-121 Sunk 60°03′N 16°10′W / 60.050°N 16.167°W / 60.050; -16.167
12
28 April 1941 Oilfield  United Kingdom 8,516 HX-121 Sunk 60°05′N 17°00′W / 60.083°N 17.000°W / 60.083; -17.000
47
28 April 1941 Port Hardy  United Kingdom 8,897 HX-121 Sunk 60°14′N 15°20′W / 60.233°N 15.333°W / 60.233; -15.333
1
19 May 1941 Empire Ridge  United Kingdom 2,922 HG-61 Sunk 54°47′N 11°10′W / 54.783°N 11.167°W / 54.783; -11.167
31
5 July 1941 Anselm  United Kingdom 5,954 Sunk 44°25′N 28°35′W / 44.417°N 28.583°W / 44.417; -28.583
254
31 October 1941 Bennekom  Netherlands 5,998 OS-10 Sunk 51°20′N 23°40′W / 51.333°N 23.667°W / 51.333; -23.667
8
19 February 1942 Empire Seal  United Kingdom 7,965 Sunk 43°14′N 64°45′W / 43.233°N 64.750°W / 43.233; -64.750
1
20 February 1942 Lake Osweya  United States 2,398 Scuttled 43°14′N 64°45′W / 43.233°N 64.750°W / 43.233; -64.750
39
22 February 1942 Kars  United Kingdom 8,888 HX-175 Total Loss 44°15′N 63°25′W / 44.250°N 63.417°W / 44.250; -63.417
50
22 February 1942 Torungen  Norway 1,948 Sunk 44°00′N 63°30′W / 44.000°N 63.500°W / 44.000; -63.500
19
9 March 1942 Tyr  Norway 4,265 Sunk 43°40′N 61°10′W / 43.667°N 61.167°W / 43.667; -61.167
13
10 September 1942 Elisabeth van Belgie  Belgium 4,241 ON-127 Sunk 51°30′N 28°25′W / 51.500°N 28.417°W / 51.500; -28.417
1
10 September 1942 F.J. Wolfe  United Kingdom 12,190 ON-127 Damaged 51°30′N 28°25′W / 51.500°N 28.417°W / 51.500; -28.417
0
10 September 1942 Sveve  Norway 6,313 ON-127 Sunk 51°28′N 28°30′W / 51.467°N 28.500°W / 51.467; -28.500
0
11 September 1942 Delães *  Portugal 415 Sunk 50°03′N 29°32′W / 50.050°N 29.533°W / 50.050; -29.533
0
25 September 1942 New York **  United Kingdom 4,989 RB-1 Damaged 54°34′N 25°44′W / 54.567°N 25.733°W / 54.567; -25.733
0

*Sailing ship
**Sunk the next day by U-91 with all hands lost.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kemp, Paul (1997). U-Boats Destroyed, German submarine losses in the World Wars. Arms and Armour. p. 241. ISBN 1-85409-515-3. 
  2. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur (1995–2013). "Ships hit by U-96". uboat.net. Guðmundur Helgason.