German submarine U-578

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History
Nazi Germany
Name: U-578
Ordered: 8 January 1940
Builder: Blohm & Voss, Hamburg
Yard number: 552
Laid down: 10 August 1940
Launched: 15 May 1941
Commissioned: 10 July 1941
Status: Missing in the Bay of Biscay from August 1942; no explanation for her loss
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[1]
Part of:
Commanders:
  • F.Kapt. Ernst-August Rehwinkel
  • 10 July 1941 – 6 August 1942
Operations:
  • 1st patrol: 19–27 November 1941
  • 2nd patrol: 15–28 January 1942
  • 3rd patrol: 3 February – 25 March 1942
  • 4th patrol: 7 May – 3 July 1942
  • 5th patrol: 6 August 1942
Victories:
  • Four ships sunk, total 23,635 GRT;
  • one warship sunk - 1,090 GRT

German submarine U-578 was a Type VIIC U-boat of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine during World War II.

She carried out five patrols, sank four ships of 23,635 gross register tons (GRT) and sank a warship of 1,090 tons.

She was posted missing in the Bay of Biscay from August 1942, with no explanation for her loss.

Design[edit]

German Type VIIC submarines were preceded by the shorter Type VIIB submarines. U-578 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-578 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]

The submarine was laid down on 1 August 1940 at Blohm & Voss, Hamburg as yard number 554, launched on 15 May 1941 and commissioned on 10 July under the command of Fregattenkapitän Ernst-August Rehwinkel.

She served with the 5th U-boat Flotilla from 10 July 1941 and the 7th U-boat Flotilla for training from 1 September. She stayed with the latter organization for operations until her loss, from 1 October 1941 to 6 August 1942.

1st and 2nd patrols[edit]

U-432's first patrol was from Kirkenes in Norway, she was rammed by a Soviet escort on 25 November 1941 off the Kola Peninsula; damage was slight. She arrived back at Kirkenes on the 27th.

She then headed for the Atlantic Ocean via the gap separating the Faroe and Shetland Islands. She arrived at St. Nazaire in occupied France, on 28 January 1942.

3rd patrol[edit]

Having left St. Nazaire on 3 February 1942, as part of Operation Drumbeat, (U-boat operations off the eastern seaboard of the United States), U-578 hit R.P. Resor on the 27th with a torpedo 20 nautical miles (37 km; 23 mi) east of Manasquan Inlet, New Jersey. The tug USS Sagamore attempted to take the ship in tow, but she capsized and sank 48 hours after the initial attack 31 nautical miles (57 km; 36 mi) east of Barnegat, also New Jersey.

The next day she sank the American destroyer USS Jacob Jones. The 'four-stacker', completed in October 1919, was the first warship to be lost to enemy action in US waters.[3]

On the return leg toward France, she sank the in-ballast Ingerto on 12 March 1942 in mid-Atlantic. She docked at St. Nazaire on the 25th.

4th patrol[edit]

Patrol number four was the boat's longest (58 days), but in terms of tonnage sunk, her most successful. She attacked Polyphermus on 27 May 1942 340 nautical miles (630 km; 390 mi) north of Bermuda. She also sank Berganger on 2 June southeast of Cape Cod.

5th patrol and loss[edit]

The boat set out from St. Nazaire for the last time on 6 August 1942. She was posted missing in the Bay of Biscay from that date, with no explanation for her loss.

Forty-nine men died with U-578; there were no survivors.

Previously recorded fate[edit]

Sunk on 10 August 1942 in the Bay of Biscay by depth charges from a Czechoslovakian aircraft of No. 311 Squadron RAF. This attack was on U-135. Damage was minor.

Summary of raiding history[edit]

Date Name Nationality Tonnage[Note 1] Fate[4]
27 February 1942 R.P. Resor  United States 7,451 Sunk
28 February 1942 USS Jacob Jones  United States Navy 1,090 Sunk
12 March 1942 Ingerto  Norway 3,089 Sunk
27 May 1942 Polyphemus  Netherlands 6,269 Sunk
2 June 1942 Berganger  Norway 6,826 Sunk

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

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

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "The Type VIIC boat U-578". German U-boats of WWII - uboat.net. Retrieved 9 October 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d Gröner 1991, pp. 43-46.
  3. ^ 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. 310
  4. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "Ships hit by U578". German U-boats of WWII - uboat.net. Retrieved 3 February 2014. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • 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. 

External links[edit]