German submarine U-159 (1941)

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For other ships with the same name, see German submarine U-159.
Bundesarchiv Bild 101II-MW-4386-01, Frankreich, Lorient, U-159 und U-107.jpg
U-159 (left) returning to Lorient, U-107 (right), 12 July 1942
Nazi Germany
Name: U-159
Ordered: 23 December 1939
Builder: DeSchiMAG AG Weser, Bremen
Yard number: 1009
Laid down: 11 November 1940
Launched: 1 July 1941
Commissioned: 4 October 1941
Fate: Sunk on 28 July 1943[1]
General characteristics
Class and type: Type IXC submarine
  • 1,120 t (1,100 long tons) surfaced
  • 1,232 t (1,213 long tons) submerged
  • 76.76 m (251 ft 10 in) o/a
  • 58.75 m (192 ft 9 in) pressure hull
  • 6.76 m (22 ft 2 in) o/a
  • 4.40 m (14 ft 5 in) pressure hull
Height: 9.60 m (31 ft 6 in)
Draught: 4.70 m (15 ft 5 in)
Installed power:
  • 4,400 PS (3,200 kW; 4,300 bhp) (diesels)
  • 1,000 PS (740 kW; 990 shp) (electric)
  • 13,450 nmi (24,910 km; 15,480 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) surfaced
  • 64 nmi (119 km; 74 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph) submerged
Test depth: 230 m (750 ft)
Complement: 4 officers, 44 enlisted
Service record
Part of:
  • Kptlt. Helmut Witte
  • 4 October 1941 – 6 June 1943
  • Oblt.z.S. d.R. Heinz Beckmann
  • 7 June – 28 July 1943
Operations: Five patrols
  • 22 ships sunk for a total of 119,554 GRT
  • one ship damaged of 265 GRT

German submarine U-159 was a Type IXC U-boat of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine built for service during World War II. The keel for this boat was laid down on 11 November 1940 at the DeSchiMAG AG Weser yard in Bremen, Germany as yard number 1009. She was launched on 1 July 1941 and commissioned on 4 October under the command of Kapitänleutnant Helmut Witte (Knight's Cross).

The U-boat's service began with training as part of the 4th U-boat Flotilla. She then moved to the 10th flotilla on 1 May 1942 for operations. She sank 22 ships, totalling 119,554 gross register tons (GRT) and damaged one more of 265 tons.

She was sunk by an American aircraft in July 1943.


German Type IXC submarines were slightly larger than the original Type IXBs. U-159 had a displacement of 1,120 tonnes (1,100 long tons) when at the surface and 1,232 tonnes (1,213 long tons) while submerged.[2] The U-boat had a total length of 76.76 m (251 ft 10 in), a pressure hull length of 58.75 m (192 ft 9 in), a beam of 6.76 m (22 ft 2 in), a height of 9.60 m (31 ft 6 in), and a draught of 4.70 m (15 ft 5 in). The submarine was powered by two MAN M 9 V 40/46 supercharged four-stroke, nine-cylinder diesel engines producing a total of 4,400 metric horsepower (3,240 kW; 4,340 shp) for use while surfaced, two Siemens-Schuckert 2 GU 345/34 double-acting electric motors producing a total of 1,000 metric horsepower (740 kW; 990 shp) for use while submerged. She had two shafts and two 1.92 m (6 ft) propellers. The boat was capable of operating at depths of up to 230 metres (750 ft).[2]

The submarine had a maximum surface speed of 18.3 knots (33.9 km/h; 21.1 mph) and a maximum submerged speed of 7.3 knots (13.5 km/h; 8.4 mph).[2] When submerged, the boat could operate for 63 nautical miles (117 km; 72 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph); when surfaced, she could travel 13,450 nautical miles (24,910 km; 15,480 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). U-159 was fitted with six 53.3 cm (21 in) torpedo tubes (four fitted at the bow and two at the stern), 22 torpedoes, one 10.5 cm (4.13 in) SK C/32 naval gun, 180 rounds, and a 3.7 cm (1.5 in) as well as a 2 cm (0.79 in) anti-aircraft gun. The boat had a complement of forty-eight.[2]

Service history[edit]

1st and 2nd patrols[edit]

The submarine's first patrol took her from Kiel on 22 April 1942, across the North Sea and into the Atlantic Ocean through the gap between the Faroe and Shetland Islands. She arrived at Lorient, in occupied France, on 3 May. She would be based at this Atlantic port for the rest of her career.

U-159's second sortie proved to be successful, sinking ships such as Montenol on 21 May 1942 140 nmi (260 km; 160 mi) east southeast of Santa Maria, in the Azores. She also attacked Illinois, which with a cargo of 8,000 tons of manganese ore, sank in 40 seconds. The U-boat's deck gun got plenty of use, sinking Sally on 5 June and Flora on the 18th. On another occasion, due to rough seas, the weapon could not be used in the attack on the Brazilian sailing ship Paracury; her 20mm AA gun was used instead. Holes at the waterline were shot into the vessel, which capsized but did not sink. The wreck was subsequently recovered and repaired. The boat was attacked by a Leigh Light equipped Vickers Wellington aircraft of No. 172 Squadron RAF on 13 July 1942. She was severely damaged and barely managed to reach Lorient, some 12 hours later.

3rd patrol[edit]

Her third foray was to the South Atlantic and at 135 days, her longest and most destructive. Attacking and sinking among others, Boringia, theEmpire Nomad and Ross. The boat was attacked by a SAAF [South African Air Force] Lockheed Ventura on 10 October 1942; only minor damage was sustained. She also torpedoed and sank La Salle on 7 November 1942. When the ships' cargo of ammunition exploded, it was heard at the Cape Point lighthouse, more than 300 nmi (560 km; 350 mi) away. Another of her victims, Star of Scotland, (which despite the name was registered in the US), was a steel sailing ship which was attacked and sunk with the deck gun about 900 nmi (1,700 km; 1,000 mi) west of Luderitz Bay, South Africa. Her master was to be taken away as a prisoner, but he was returned to his men after he pointed out to the submariners that he was the only man who could navigate.

Another "Star", Star of Suez, was sunk. Amongst the floating debris were 45 aircraft tyres, a 20 hp electric motor and 120 grapefruits; they were recovered by U-159. Another U-boat, U-134, which had been thwarted in her attempt to get into an attacking position in time, also managed to rescue some aircraft tyres and spare parts for cars.

4th patrol[edit]

On her fourth patrol, U-159 sank Silverbeech on 28 March 1943 south of the Canary Islands. The U-boat was attacked by aircraft (she was one of eight), off the coast of Spanish, (now Western) Sahara.

5th patrol and loss[edit]

U-159 attacked and sunk by a PBM-3C of VP-32 on 28 July 1943.

Her final patrol saw U-159 depart Lorient on 12 June 1943. She was sunk by a US Navy Mariner aircraft of VP-32.


U-159 took part in two wolfpacks, namely.

  • Wohlgemut (12–22 March 1943)
  • Seeräuber (25–30 March 1943)

Summary of raiding history[edit]

Date Name Nationality Tonnage
21 May 1942 Montenol  United Kingdom 2,646 Sunk
21 May 1942 New Brunswick  United Kingdom 6,529 Sunk
2 June 1942 Illinois  United States 5,447 Sunk
5 June 1942 Paracury  Brazil 265 Damaged
5 June 1942 Sally  Honduras 150 Sunk
7 June 1942 Edith  United States 3,382 Sunk
11 June 1942 Fort Good Hope  United Kingdom 7,130 Sunk
13 June 1942 Sixaola  United States 4,693 Sunk
13 June 1942 Solon Turman  United States 6,762 Sunk
18 June 1942 Ante Matkovic  Yugoslavia 2,710 Sunk
22 June 1942 E.J. Sadler  United States 9,639 Sunk
7 October 1942 Boringia  United Kingdom 5,821 Sunk
8 October 1942 Clan Mactavish  United Kingdom 7,631 Sunk
9 October 1942 Coloradan  United States 6,557 Sunk
13 October 1942 Empire Nomad  United Kingdom 7,167 Sunk
29 October 1942 Laplace  United Kingdom 7,327 Sunk
29 October 1942 Ross  United Kingdom 4,978 Sunk
7 November 1942 La Salle  United States 5,462 Sunk
13 November 1942 Star of Scotland  United States 2,290 Sunk
13 November 1942 City of Bombay  United Kingdom 7,140 Sunk
15 December 1942 Star of Suez  Egypt 4,999 Sunk
16 December 1942 East Wales  United Kingdom 4,538 Sunk
28 March 1943 Silverbeech  United Kingdom 5,319 Sunk


  1. ^ Kemp 1999, pp. 131-2.
  2. ^ a b c d Gröner 1991, p. 68.
  3. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "Ships hit by U-159". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 3 October 2014. 


  • Busch, Rainer; Röll, Hans-Joachim (1999). German U-boat commanders of World War II : a biographical dictionary. Translated by Brooks, Geoffrey. London, Annapolis, Md: Greenhill Books, Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-186-6. 
  • Busch, Rainer; Röll, Hans-Joachim (1999). Deutsche U-Boot-Verluste von September 1939 bis Mai 1945 [German U-boat losses from September 1939 to May 1945]. Der U-Boot-Krieg (in German). IV. Hamburg, Berlin, Bonn: Mittler. ISBN 3-8132-0514-2. 
  • Gröner, Erich; Jung, Dieter; Maass, Martin (1991). U-boats and Mine Warfare Vessels. German Warships 1815–1945. 2. Translated by Thomas, Keith; Magowan, Rachel. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-593-4. 
  • Kemp, Paul (1999). Ships hit by U-Boats Destroyed - German Submarine Losses in the World Wars. London: Arms & Armour. ISBN 1-85409-515-3. 

External links[edit]

  • Helgason, Guðmundur. "The Type IXC boat U-159". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 7 December 2014. 
  • Hofmann, Markus. "U 159". Deutsche U-Boote 1935-1945 - (in German). Retrieved 7 December 2014.