German submarine U-553
|Ordered:||25 September 1939|
|Builder:||Blohm & Voss, Hamburg|
|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|
|Class and type:||Type VIIC submarine|
|Height:||9.60 m (31 ft 6 in)|
|Draught:||4.74 m (15 ft 7 in)|
|Complement:||4 officers, 40–56 enlisted|
|Identification codes:||M 23 789|
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. 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).
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). 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.
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.
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.
3rd, 4th and 5th patrols
Her next three sorties met with mixed fortune; her third patrol saw no success, despite ranging far and wide over the north Atlantic.
6th and 7th patrols
The boat's sixth patrol took her from St. Nazaire as far north as the Faeroe Islands. It was unsuccessful.
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 and attacked three other ships near Cuba. one of which, the Empire Bede, was sunk by gunfire from HMS Pimpernel.
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.
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
|Date||Ship Name||Nationality||Tonnage[Note 1]||Fate|
|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
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.
- Kemp 1997, p. 100.
- Gröner 1991, pp. 43-46.
- "Ship Details: Susan Maersk". Ubootwaffe. Archived from the original on 10 May 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2009.
- "Ship Details: Ranella". Ubootwaffe. Archived from the original on 10 May 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2009.
- "Ship Details: Silvercedar". Ubootwaffe. Archived from the original on 10 May 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2009.
- "Ship Details: Gladiolus". Ubootwaffe. Retrieved 29 October 2009.
- "Ship Details: Diala". Ubootwaffe. Retrieved 29 October 2009.
- "U-553". Ubootwaffe. Retrieved 29 October 2009.
- "Ship Details: Leto". Ubootwaffe. Retrieved 29 October 2009.
- "Ship Details: Nicoya". Ubootwaffe. Retrieved 29 October 2009.
- "Ship Details: Mattawin". Ubootwaffe. Retrieved 29 October 2009.
- "Ship Details: Belgian Soldier". Ubootwaffe. Retrieved 29 October 2009.
- "Ship Details: Blankaholm". Ubootwaffe. Retrieved 29 October 2009.
- "Ship Details: Empire Bede". Ubootwaffe. Retrieved 29 October 2009.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Empire Bede". German U-boats of WWII - uboat.net. Retrieved 29 October 2009. (classed as sunk by U-553)
- "Ship Details: Charles L D". Ubootwaffe. Retrieved 29 October 2009.
- Paul Kemp (1998). Die deutschen und österreichischen U-Boot-Verluste in beiden Weltkriegen (in German). Urbes. p. 103. ISBN 978-3-924896-43-0.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Ships hit by U-553". German U-boats of WWII - uboat.net. Retrieved 1 February 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 (1997). U-Boats Destroyed - German Submarine Losses in the World Wars. Arms & Armour. ISBN 1-85409-515-3.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "The Type VIIC boat U-553". German U-boats of WWII - uboat.net. Retrieved 28 December 2014.