Ulrich Heyse in U-128 was the first commander to sink ships in the Bahamas area, starting with the O A Knudsen March 5, 1942 off Abaco


Ulrich Heyse of U-128, Photo source: http://www.uboat.net/men/heyse.htm

NOTE: An extensive treatment of Heyse’s attack on the O A Knudsen and a summary of the Office of Naval Intelligence report on interrogation of the survivors of the U-128 is featured in the book, U-Boats in the Bahamas (or Drifting to the Duchess) due fall 2013.

           The next patrol to the region was mounted by Ulrich Heyse in U-128. Because the story of this submarine, its commander, and specifically this patrol and the sinking of Pan Massachusetts, Cities Services Empire, and O. A. Knudsen are carefully detailed in other chapters, we will pass on further details of this patrol at this juncture. The reason is that U-128’s crew were captured off South America and fully interrogated, resulting in a detailed intelligence report on her war career – everything from manufacture to manning.

          Based on that report and the fact that one of her victims, the O. A. Knudsen was sunk so close to the Bahamas (65 miles off Abaco) and one of her crew, Olaus Johansen, was buried on Great Abaco, U-128 merits its own chapter in this study, as does the Italian submarine R.Smg. Enrico Tazzoli, which sank so many ships in the area (Athelqueen, Cygnet, Daytonian, et. al.).

          Suffice to say that U-128 entered the region on 13 February 1942, arrived at the US coast on 19th of February (the same day it sank the Pan Massachusetts), sank the Cities Services Empire roughly a week later, and a week after that rounded Abaco for its fateful encounter with the O. A. Knudsen, which it took a whole day to sink.

          Thereafter U-128 headed northeast for Bermuda and an exit of the region just south of that island colony. On a map the patrol looks roughly like the letter “U” turned clockwise on its side. This patrol began in Lorient on the 8th of January and ended there on the 23rd of March 1942.

SOURCES: Gudmundur Helgason, Rainer Kolbicz, www.uboat.net, 2011, Kenneth Wynn, U-boat Operations of the Second World War, Volume 1 and Volume 2, 1997