German submarine U-558
U-558 in June 1942
|Ordered:||25 September 1939|
|Builder:||Blohm & Voss, Hamburg|
|Laid down:||6 January 1940|
|Launched:||23 December 1940|
|Commissioned:||20 February 1941|
|Fate:||sunk on 20 July 1943 in the Bay of Biscay|
|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|
|Part of:||1st U-boat Flotilla|
|Operations:||Ten patrols from 1 June 1941 to 20 July 1943|
|Victories:||19 ships sunk totalling approximately 100,000 tons|
The German submarine U-558 was a Type VIIC U-boat in the service of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine during World War II. She sank 19 merchant ships and military vessels totalling nearly 100,000 tons before being sunk by bombers in July 1943.
Construction and early service life
U-558 was laid down on 6 January 1940 at Blohm & Voss in Hamburg, Germany as yard number 534 and launched on 23 December 1940. She was commissioned on 20 February 1941, with Oberleutnant zur See Günther Krech in command.
Her service began with the 1st U-boat Flotilla where she conducted training before moving on to operations, also with the 1st flotilla, on 1 May 1941.
German Type VIIC submarines were preceded by the shorter Type VIIB submarines. U-558 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-558 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 a 2 cm (0.79 in) C/30 anti-aircraft gun. The boat had a complement of between forty-four and sixty.
She was a member of nine wolf packs, although group 'Ziethen' is not on uboat.net's list. However, U-558 is mentioned as part of 'Ziethen' in Michael Gannon's book Operation Drumbeat (on p. 200).
1st, 2nd and 3rd patrols
U-558 departed Kiel on 1 July 1941 and entered the Atlantic via the North Sea and the gap between Iceland and the Faroe Islands with no major encounters, arriving at her new home port of Brest in occupied France on the 28th.
Her second patrol was also relatively uneventful.
The submarine's third patrol, from 25 August to 16 September 1941, became interesting when she came upon the British Convoy OS 4 about 330 miles northwest of Fastnet Rock. She torpedoed and sank the Otaio, a 10,300-ton cargo ship, on 28 August.
4th and 5th patrols
Her fourth patrol, which began on 11 October 1941, first saw action off Ireland when she torpedoed and sank the unescorted Vancouver Island, a Canadian merchant ship of 9,472 tons, on 15 October. Two days later on 17 October, U-558 was involved in a devastating attack on Convoy SC 48 in the North Atlantic. During the battle, U-558 sank three ships: the 9,552-ton British merchant steamer W.C. Teagle, and the Norwegian merchant steamers Erviken (which broke in two and sank in three minutes) and Rym, 6,595 and 1,369 tons respectively U-558 took a hit from a depth charge dropped by a Catalina flying boat, but did not sustain serious damage and continued to shadow the convoy. She returned to Brest on 25 October 1941, having sunk four ships in the 15 days of her fourth patrol.
U-558's fifth patrol began on 24 November 1941. On 2 December, a British aircraft spotted the U-boat attempting to enter the Mediterranean Sea and called for surface support. U-558 took serious damage from depth charges dropped by the two ships that responded. She was able to escape, but had to return to Brest for repairs, arriving 7 December 1941 after only 14 days at sea, having had no success.
6th and 7th patrols
U-558 required significant repairs and remained in port until 10 February 1942, when she embarked on her sixth patrol. On 21 February Convoy ONS 67 was spotted, so she moved into position along with five other submarines. Eight of its ships were sunk by the U-boats, another two were left damaged. On 24 February, U-558 torpedoed the 8,009-ton British tanker Anadara, which escaped. That same day she also torpedoed and sank the 9,432-ton Norwegian tanker Eidanger and the 5,578-ton British steamer Inverarder. She returned to Brest on 11 March 1942.
U-558 departed Brest to begin her seventh patrol of the war on 12 April 1942 . On 12 May, she sank the 913-ton British armed trawler HMT Bedfordshire off the coast of Ocracoke Island, North Carolina, where the ship had been assisting the United States Navy with anti-submarine patrols. Six days later on 18 May, she sank the 1,254-ton Dutch steamer Fauna. On 21 May she sank the 1,925-ton Canadian steamer Troisdoc in the Caribbean. Off Jamaica on 23 May, U-558 torpedoed the 7,061-ton American merchant steamer William Boyce Thompson, but the tanker used evasive maneuvers and reached the safety of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for repairs. Still in the Caribbean on 25 May, U-558 next attacked the 3,451-ton American merchant steamer Beatrice. When her torpedo hit the ship but failed to detonate, U-558 surfaced and trained her deck guns on the vessel, which was quickly ordered abandoned, and subsequently sunk. Remaining in the Caribbean, U-558 next torpedoed and sank the 2,622-ton United States Army transport USAT Jack on 27 May. Her last target during the patrol was the 2,078-ton Dutch steamer Triton, which she shelled and sank on 2 June about 470 miles southeast of Bermuda. U-558 returned to Brest to end her seventh patrol on 21 June 1942, having sunk six ships and damaged one.
8th, 9th and 10th patrols
U-558's eighth patrol began when she left Brest on 29 July 1942. On 25 August, she encountered the 1,987-ton British steamer Amakura, which had been travelling with Convoy WAT 15 but had fallen behind. U-558 torpedoed and sank her approximately 90 miles southeast of Port Morant, Jamaica. U-558 encountered Convoy TAG 5 on 13 September; she torpedoed and sank the 7,241-ton British cargo ship Empire Lugard and the 7,915-ton Dutch steamer Suriname. The same day she also hit the convoy's 6,672-ton Norwegian tanker Vilja, whose crew quickly abandoned ship but were able to reboard after U-558 left the area. Vilja did not sink, but was later deemed a total loss. On 16 September U-558 torpedoed and sank the 2,606-ton American steamer Commercial Trader about 75 miles east of Trinidad. U-558 returned to port on 16 October, having sunk four ships and damaged a fifth.
U-558 remained in port until the end of 1942, and embarked on her ninth war patrol on 9 January 1943. On 23 February, she torpedoed and sank the 9,811-ton British steam tanker Empire Norseman south of the Azores, which had been travelling with Convoy UC 1 but was drifting unmanned after being torpedoed by U-382 and U-202. She found no other targets during her ninth patrol, which ended when she returned to Brest on 29 March 1943.
Her tenth—and ultimately last—patrol began on 8 May 1943. U-558 ran into difficulty many times during this patrol. At one point, she manoeuvred to attack a large eastbound convoy, but a destroyer harried her into retreat. Off Lisbon on 14 July, a British Wellington bomber from No. 179 Squadron RAF dropped depth charges; U-558 was not hit, and damaged the plane with anti-aircraft fire. Three days later off Porto on 17 July, a British Liberator from 224 Squadron dropped 24 35-pound anti-submarine bombs, but U-558 was able to escape by crash-diving; the plane took damage from anti-aircraft fire and its own malfunctioning bombs.
In the Bay of Biscay on 20 July, an American B-24 Liberator from the 19th Antisubmarine Squadron, United States Army Air Forces, called the Sea Hawk dropped depth charges on U-558; the boat was undamaged, and returned fire, shooting down the bomber.
Later the same day, a second Liberator from the 19th Antisubmarine Squadron, 479th Antisubmarine Group, piloted by Charles F. Gallmeier, dropped 7 depth charges on U-558. The sub was severely damaged and unable to dive. The Liberator, her port inner engine taken out by U-558's anti-aircraft flak guns, left the scene and was relieved by a Halifax bomber from 58 Squadron, piloted by Geoffrey R. Sawtell. Although the U-boat was devastated by the previous attack, and the Germans were attempting to scuttle and to abandon the ship, the Halifax attacked U-558 with 8 depth charges. Captain Krech, badly wounded in the spine, and four of his crew miraculously escaped in a raft, and were picked up on 24 July by HMCS Athabaskan.". All others 41 perished. She sank at position Coordinates: north-west of Spain in the Bay of Biscay.
U-558 took part in nine wolfpacks, namely.
- Bosemüller (28 August - 2 September 1941)
- Seewolf (2–12 September 1941)
- Delphin (24 January - 14 February 1943)
- Rochen (16–28 February 1943)
- Tümmler (1–22 March 1943)
- Oder (17–19 May 1943)
- Mosel (19–24 May 1943)
- Trutz (1–16 June 1943)
- Trutz 1 (16–29 June 1943)
Summary of raiding history
|Date||Ship Name||Nationality||Tonnage[Note 1]||Fate|
|28 August 1941||Otaio||United Kingdom||10,298||Sunk|
|15 October 1941||Vancouver Island||Canada||9,472||Sunk|
|17 October 1941||Erviken||Norway||6,595||Sunk|
|17 October 1941||Rym||Norway||1,369||Sunk|
|17 October 1941||W.C. Teagle||United Kingdom||9,552||Sunk|
|24 February 1942||Anadara||United Kingdom||8,009||Damaged|
|24 February 1942||Eidanger||Norway||9,432||Sunk|
|24 February 1942||Inverarder||United Kingdom||5,578||Sunk|
|12 May 1942||HMT Bedfordshire||Royal Navy||913||Sunk|
|18 May 1942||Fauna||Netherlands||1,254||Sunk|
|21 May 1942||Troisdoc||Canada||1,925||Sunk|
|23 May 1942||William Boyce Thompson||United States||7,061||Damaged|
|25 May 1942||Beatrice||United States||3,451||Sunk|
|27 May 1942||USAT Jack||United States Army||2,622||Sunk|
|2 June 1942||Triton||Netherlands||2,078||Sunk|
|25 August 1942||Amakura||United Kingdom||1,987||Sunk|
|13 September 1942||Empire Lugard||United Kingdom||7,241||Sunk|
|13 September 1942||Suriname||Netherlands||7,915||Sunk|
|13 September 1942||Vilja||Norway||6,672||Sunk|
|16 September 1942||Commercial Trader||United States||2,606||Total loss|
|23 February 1943||Empire Norseman||United Kingdom||9,811||Sunk|
- Gröner 1991, pp. 43-46.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "The Type VIIC boat U-558". German U-boats of WWII - uboat.net. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
- Gannon, Michael - Operation Drumbeat - the dramatic true story of Germany's first U-boat attacks along the American coast in World War II, 1990, Harper and Row publishers, ISBN 0-06-016155-8, p. 200.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Otaio". Ships hit by U-558 - uboat.net. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Vancouver Island". Ships hit by U-558 - uboat.net. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "W.C. Teagle". Ships hit by U-558 - uboat.net. Retrieved 3 December 2008.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Erviken". Ships hit by U-558 - uboat.net. Retrieved 3 December 2008.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Rym". Ships hit by U-558 - uboat.net. Retrieved 3 December 2008.
- "D/S Erviken". warsailors.com. Retrieved 4 December 2008."D/S Rym". warsailors.com. Retrieved 4 December 2008.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Anadara". Ships hit by U-558 - uboat.net. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Eidanger". Ships hit by U-558 - uboat.net. Retrieved 28 December 2014.Helgason, Guðmundur. "Inverarder". Ships hit by U-558 - uboat.net. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
- "M/T Eidanger". warsailors.com. Retrieved 4 December 2008.
- Runyan, Timothy J.; Jan M. Copes (1994). To Die Gallantly: The Battle of the Atlantic, Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-2332-0. p. 163. Retrieved 3 December 2008.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Fauna". Ships hit by U-558 - uboat.net. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Troisdoc". Ships hit by U-558 - uboat.net. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "William Boyce Thompson". Ships hit by U-558 - uboat.net. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Beatrice". Ships hit by U-558 - uboat.net. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Jack". Ships hit by U-558 - uboat.net. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Triton". Ships hit by U-558 - uboat.net. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Amakura". Ships hit by U-558 - uboat.net. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Empire Lugard". Ships hit by U-558 - uboat.net. Retrieved 28 December 2014.Helgason, Guðmundur. "Suriname". Ships hit by U-558 - uboat.net. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Vilja". Ships hit by U-558 - uboat.net. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
- "M/T Vilja". warsailors.com. Retrieved 4 December 2008.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Commercial Trader". Ships hit by U-558 - uboat.net. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Empire Norseman". Ships hit by U-558 - uboat.net. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
- "U.558 Interrogation of Survivors", p. 2. Admiralty Report ADM186/808. Uboatarchive.net. Retrieved 3 December 2008.
- Hitler's U-boat War, The Hunted, by Clay Blair, p345
- U.558 Interrogation of Survivors", p. 4. Admiralty Report ADM186/808. Uboatarchive.net. Retrieved 3 December 2008.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Ships hit by U558". German U-boats of WWII - uboat.net. Retrieved 28 December 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.
- Edwards, Bernard (1996). Dönitz and the Wolf Packs - The U-boats at War. Cassell Military Classics. pp. 54, 56, 57, 75, 85, 86. ISBN 0-304-35203-9.
- 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.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "The Type VIIC boat U-558". German U-boats of WWII - uboat.net. Retrieved 28 December 2014.