German submarine U-553

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History
Nazi Germany
Name: U-553
Ordered: 25 September 1939
Builder: Blohm & Voss, Hamburg
Yard number: 529
Laid down: 21 November 1939
Launched: 7 November 1940
Commissioned: 23 December 1940
Status: Missing, presumed sunk, in the mid North Atlantic on 20 January 1943. All hands lost[1]
General characteristics
Class and type: Type VIIC submarine
Displacement:
  • 769 tonnes (757 long tons) surfaced
  • 871 t (857 long tons) submerged
Length:
Beam:
  • 6.20 m (20 ft 4 in) o/a
  • 4.70 m (15 ft 5 in) pressure hull
Height: 9.60 m (31 ft 6 in)
Draught: 4.74 m (15 ft 7 in)
Installed power:
  • 2,800–3,200 PS (2,100–2,400 kW; 2,800–3,200 bhp) (diesels)
  • 750 PS (550 kW; 740 shp) (electric)
Propulsion:
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 nmi (15,700 km; 9,800 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) surfaced
  • 80 nmi (150 km; 92 mi) 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: 4 officers, 40–56 enlisted
Armament:
Service record
Part of:
Identification codes: M 23 789
Commanders:
Operations: 10 patrols
Victories:
  • 14 ships sunk for a total of 71,779 GRT
  • one ship damaged of 8,106 GRT

German submarine U-553 was a Type VIIC U-boat built for Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine for service during World War II.

Design[edit]

German Type VIIC submarines were preceded by the shorter Type VIIB submarines. U-553 had a displacement of 769 tonnes (757 long tons) when at the surface and 871 tonnes (857 long tons) while submerged.[2] She had a total length of 67.10 m (220 ft 2 in), a pressure hull length of 50.50 m (165 ft 8 in), a beam of 6.20 m (20 ft 4 in), a height of 9.60 m (31 ft 6 in), and a draught of 4.74 m (15 ft 7 in). The submarine was powered by two Germaniawerft F46 four-stroke, six-cylinder supercharged diesel engines producing a total of 2,800 to 3,200 metric horsepower (2,060 to 2,350 kW; 2,760 to 3,160 shp) for use while surfaced, two Brown, Boveri & Cie GG UB 720/8 double-acting electric motors producing a total of 750 metric horsepower (550 kW; 740 shp) for use while submerged. She had two shafts and two 1.23 m (4 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 17.7 knots (32.8 km/h; 20.4 mph) and a maximum submerged speed of 7.6 knots (14.1 km/h; 8.7 mph).[2] When submerged, the boat could operate for 80 nautical miles (150 km; 92 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph); when surfaced, she could travel 8,500 nautical miles (15,700 km; 9,800 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). U-553 was fitted with five 53.3 cm (21 in) torpedo tubes (four fitted at the bow and one at the stern), fourteen torpedoes, one 8.8 cm (3.46 in) SK C/35 naval gun, 220 rounds, and an anti-aircraft gun. The boat had a complement of between forty-four and sixty.[2]

Service history[edit]

Her keel was laid down 21 November 1939, by Blohm & Voss in Hamburg as yard number 529. She was launched on 7 November 1940 and commissioned on 23 December, with Kapitänleutnant Karl Thurmann in command. He was captain for her entire career.

Her service began with training under the 7th U-boat Flotilla and moved on to operations on 1 April 1941. She then transferred to the 3rd flotilla on 1 December 1942. She was a member of ten wolfpacks. She moved from Kiel in Germany to Bergen in Norway in April 1941.

1st patrol[edit]

The boat departed Bergen on 19 April 1941 and headed for the Atlantic via the gap between the Faeroe and Shetland Islands. She arrived at her new base of St. Nazaire in occupied France on 2 May 1941 after suffering serious engine trouble.

2nd patrol[edit]

Departing St. Nazaire on 7 June, she achieved success north of the Azores, by sinking the Susan Maersk (she went down in 90 seconds)[3] and the Ranella (she broke in two)[4] both on 12 June 1941.

3rd, 4th and 5th patrols[edit]

Her next three sorties met with mixed fortune; her third patrol saw no success, despite ranging far and wide over the north Atlantic.

U-553's next foray saw her attack merchantmen such as the Silvercedar, (sunk on 15 October 1941)[5] and HMS Gladiolus (sunk on 17 October).[6]

The boat's fifth patrol took her toward the eastern Canadian/US coast where she succeeded in damaging the Diala on 15 January 1942[7] and sinking the Innerøy on 22 January.[8]

6th and 7th patrols[edit]

The boat's sixth patrol took her from St. Nazaire as far north as the Faeroe Islands. It was unsuccessful.

Outing number seven saw the submarine penetrate the Gulf of St. Lawrence where she sank two ships; the Leto[9] and the Nicoya.[10] The Mattawin[11] was sent to the bottom of the Atlantic.

8th patrol[edit]

The boat's eighth patrol began with her departure from St. Nazaire on 19 July and to which she returned on 17 September after 61 days at sea, her longest. In that time, she damaged the Belgian Soldier off Newfoundland[12] and attacked three other ships near Cuba.[13][14] one of which, the Empire Bede, was sunk by gunfire from HMS Pimpernel.[15]

9th patrol[edit]

Her last full patrol commenced on 23 November 1942; she sank the Charles L D on 9 December 1942. She returned to France, but this time La Pallice on 18 December.[16]

Loss[edit]

Her tenth and final sortie began with her departure from La Pallice on 16 January 1943. On the 20th, she sent a radio message: "Sehrohr unklar" (periscope unready for action), and was never heard from again. She had suffered no casualties to her crew until lost with all hands. She most probably sank because of technical problems and was officially declared missing on 28 January 1943.[17]

Wolfpacks[edit]

U-553 took part in ten wolfpacks, namely.

  • West (13–20 June 1941)
  • Grönland (10–23 August 1941)
  • Kurfürst (23 August – 2 September 1941)
  • Seewolf (2–13 September 1941)
  • Ziethen (6–22 January 1942)
  • Westwall (2–12 March 1942)
  • York (12–26 March 1942)
  • Pirat (29 July – 3 August 1942)
  • Draufgänger (29 November – 11 December 1942)
  • Landsknecht (19–20 January 1943)

Summary of raiding history[edit]

Date Ship Name Nationality Tonnage[Note 1] Fate[18]
12 June 1941 Ranella  Norway 5,590 Sunk
12 June 1941 Susan Maersk  United Kingdom 2,355 Sunk
15 October 1941 Ila  Norway 1,583 Sunk
15 October 1941 Silvercedar  United Kingdom 4,354 Sunk
17 October 1941 HMS Gladiolus  Royal Navy 925 Sunk
15 January 1942 Diala  United Kingdom 8,106 Damaged
22 January 1942 Innerøy  Norway 8,260 Sunk
12 May 1942 Leto  Netherlands 4,712 Sunk
12 May 1942 Nicoya  United Kingdom 5,364 Sunk
2 June 1942 Matawin  United Kingdom 6,919 Sunk
3 August 1942 Belgian Soldier  Belgium 7,167 Damaged
18 August 1942 Blankaholm  Sweden 2,845 Sunk
18 August 1942 Empire Bede  United Kingdom 6,959 Sunk
18 August 1942 John Hancock  United States 7,176 Sunk
9 December 1942 Charles L D  United Kingdom 5,273 Sunk

U-553 in fiction[edit]

Neal Stephenson's novel Cryptonomicon includes a fictitious U-553 which runs aground about ten miles north of Qwghlm, a fictional pair of islands, Inner Qwghlm and Outer Qwghlm, off the northwestern coast of Great Britain.

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Merchant ship tonnages are in gross register tons. Military vessels are listed by tons displacement.

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Kemp 1997, p. 100.
  2. ^ a b c d Gröner 1991, pp. 43-46.
  3. ^ "Ship Details: Susan Maersk". Ubootwaffe. Archived from the original on 10 May 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2009. 
  4. ^ "Ship Details: Ranella". Ubootwaffe. Archived from the original on 10 May 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2009. 
  5. ^ "Ship Details: Silvercedar". Ubootwaffe. Archived from the original on 10 May 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2009. 
  6. ^ "Ship Details: Gladiolus". Ubootwaffe. Retrieved 29 October 2009. 
  7. ^ "Ship Details: Diala". Ubootwaffe. Retrieved 29 October 2009. 
  8. ^ "U-553". Ubootwaffe. Retrieved 29 October 2009. 
  9. ^ "Ship Details: Leto". Ubootwaffe. Retrieved 29 October 2009. 
  10. ^ "Ship Details: Nicoya". Ubootwaffe. Retrieved 29 October 2009. 
  11. ^ "Ship Details: Mattawin". Ubootwaffe. Retrieved 29 October 2009. 
  12. ^ "Ship Details: Belgian Soldier". Ubootwaffe. Retrieved 29 October 2009. 
  13. ^ "Ship Details: Blankaholm". Ubootwaffe. Retrieved 29 October 2009. 
  14. ^ "Ship Details: Empire Bede". Ubootwaffe. Retrieved 29 October 2009. 
  15. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "Empire Bede". German U-boats of WWII - uboat.net. Retrieved 29 October 2009.  (classed as sunk by U-553)
  16. ^ "Ship Details: Charles L D". Ubootwaffe. Retrieved 29 October 2009. 
  17. ^ Paul Kemp (1998). Die deutschen und österreichischen U-Boot-Verluste in beiden Weltkriegen (in German). Urbes. p. 103. ISBN 978-3-924896-43-0. 
  18. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "Ships hit by U-553". German U-boats of WWII - uboat.net. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Busch, Rainer; Röll, Hans-Joachim (1999). Deutsche U-Boot-Verluste von September 1939 bis Mai 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 (1997). U-Boats Destroyed - German Submarine Losses in the World Wars. Arms & Armour. ISBN 1-85409-515-3. 

External links[edit]