German submarine U-754
|Ordered:||9 October 1939|
|Laid down:||8 January 1940|
|Launched:||5 July 1941|
|Commissioned:||28 August 1941|
|Fate:||Sunk, 31 July 1942|
|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|
|Victories:||13 ships sunk for a total of 55,659 GRT|
German submarine U-754 was a Type VIIC U-boat deployed by Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine during the Second World War against allied shipping in the Atlantic Ocean. She was a successful if short-lived boat, sinking 13 ships during her career. She was most notorious for her final attack, in which she shelled and sank the small fishing vessel MV Ebb, and killed a number of its crew with machine-gun fire as they attempted to launch a life raft. She was sunk with all hands by a Royal Canadian Air Force bomber three days later on 31 July 1942.
The U-754 was built in the Kriegsmarinewerft at the main fleet base of Wilhelmshaven in Northern Germany on the North Sea. She was completed on 28 August 1941, and given to the experienced Kapitänleutnant Johannes Ostermann to command. Following her work-up period in which the boat was tested and the crew trained, she was despatched on her first patrol.
German Type VIIC submarines were preceded by the shorter Type VIIB submarines. U-754 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 Garbe, Lahmeyer & Co. RP 137/c 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-754 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.
U-754 departed Kiel on her first patrol on 30 December 1941, and her operating area was primarily in the mouth of the St Lawrence River, operating against convoys entering or leaving the waterway, or destined for the many ports at the river's mouth, such as Halifax, Nova Scotia or St. John's, Newfoundland. During this patrol, she sank four freighters. The submarine narrowly escaped a bombing attack by a Royal Canadian Air Force Bolingbroke bomber on 23 March which inflicted minor damage. The submarine returned to Brest in France on 2 February to resupply and rearm.
The second patrol left from Brest on 9 March 1942, and after a brief sweep in her previous area of operations, she swung south to take advantage of the Second happy time then occurring off the United States's Eastern Seaboard. During this patrol she sank seven more ships; three of them in one attack on a small coastal convoy, in which she hit several small barges and coastal cargo ships. She sank the tanker MV British Prudence by torpedo on 23 March. U-754 returned to Brest on 25 April 1942.
Her final patrol was her least successful, in terms of ships sunk, although the tonnage was higher, as she sunk the 12,435-ton SS Waiwera in the mid-Atlantic on 29 June, ten days after leaving Brest.
Attack on F/V Ebb
It was nearly a month later, on 28 July, that U-754 scored her final victim, when she controversially shelled the fishing vessel Ebb near Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia.
The Ebb was a motor fishing trawler operating out of Boston for the General Sea Foods Company. The crew of the small 260-ton vessel felt it was unlikely that they would be troubled by the war, as she was far too small for an effective torpedo shot, and too insignificant to justify the risk of a surface attack by gunfire. On 28 July 1942, however, while fishing off Cape Sable her crew were shocked to see U-754 emerge from the water.
The submarine immediately opened fire without warning on Ebb with her anti-aircraft guns. The ship stopped and made signals that they had surrendered, but the gunfire continued, one gun sweeping through the crowd of crew members attempting to launch the ship's life raft. Five of the seventeen crew were killed and seven more seriously wounded, before the Ebb sank after taking over fifty hits. The survivors were discovered and rescued by the W class destroyer HMS Witherington fourteen hours later.
Had U-754's crew survived the war, it is possible that they would have been charged with war crimes as were the officers of U-852 who also fired on sailors who had abandoned their ship. Similar incidents of gun attacks aimed at crews occurred on the U-247 and U-552.
RCAF attack and sinking
Radio transmissions from U-754 betrayed a pattern to Royal Canadian Navy intelligence, information which was used by Norville Everett Small the commander of RCAF 113 Squadron to deploy patrols from RCAF Station Yarmouth targeting the suspected position of U-754.
On 31 July, a Hudson bomber piloted by Squadron Leader Small himself caught U-754 on the surface south of Yarmouth not far from the scene of the Ebb sinking. The submarine was precisely straddled by a cluster of depth charges as it began to dive. The conning tower of the wounded submarine briefly surfaced to be strafed by the Hudson's machine guns before submerging for the last time.
A trail of large air bubbles was followed by a massive underwater explosion as U-754 went to the bottom with all 43 hands. It marked the first submarine kill of the RCAF's Eastern Air Command.
U-754 took part in one wolfpack, namely.
- Ziethen (6–22 January 1942)
Summary of raiding history
|21 January 1942||Belize||Norway||2,135||Sunk|
|21 January 1942||William Hansen||Norway||1,344||Sunk|
|25 January 1942||Mount Kitheron||Greece||3,876||Sunk|
|26 January 1942||Icarion||Greece||4,013||Sunk|
|23 March 1942||British Prudence||United Kingdom||8,620||Sunk|
|31 March 1942||Menominee||United States||441||Sunk|
|31 March 1942||Ontario||United States||490||Damaged|
|31 March 1942||Barnegat||United States||914||Sunk|
|31 March 1942||Alleghany||United States||914||Sunk|
|1 April 1942||Tiger||United States||5,992||Sunk|
|3 April 1942||Otho||United States||4,389||Sunk|
|6 April 1942||Kollskeg||Norway||9,858||Sunk|
|29 June 1942||Waiwera||United Kingdom||12,435||Sunk|
|28 July 1942||Ebb||United States||260||Sunk|
- Gröner 1991, pp. 43-46.
- The Creation of a National Air Force W.A.B. Douglas, (University of Toronto Press, 1986) p. 480.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Ebb". German U-boats of WWII - uboat.net. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
- The Creation of a National Air Force W.A.B. Douglas, (University of Toronto Press, 1986) p. 520 and http://www.rcaf.com/squadrons/1-100series/113squadron.php
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- 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.
- Sharpe, Peter (1998). U-Boat Fact File. Great Britain: Midland Publishing. ISBN 1-85780-072-9.
- Bridgland, Tony, Waves of Hate, Leo Cooper, Great Britain: 2002. ISBN 0-85052-822-4.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "The Type VIIC boat U-754". German U-boats of WWII - uboat.net. Retrieved 29 December 2014.