The type IXC U-129 under Hans-Ludwig Witt began its seventh of nine patrols in Lorient with the Second Flotilla. This was the boat’s third patrol to the area (starting with Nico Clausen) and Witte’s second. On the 16th of April 1943 it left is patrol area of Hatteras for a fifteen-day, U-shaped incursion into the area of ocean between the Bahamas and Bermuda and east of Georgia and Florida.
Heading south for four days to a point about 300 miles East of Hope Town Abaco, it doubled back and slowly retraced its route for two days. Just before entering the greater Bahamas area (on the 21st and 22nd of April) U-129 was chased away from a New York to Guantanamo convoy by the destroyer USS Swanson off Hatteras.
On the 22nd of April Witt turned east and then south, and on the 25th turned east again for the duration of the 26th. At that point the sub turned north towards Bermuda and was rewarded on the 27th with by encountering the Santa Catalina, which it sank roughly 300 miles southwest of Bermuda. From there the boat returned to the Cape Hatteras, Carolina area on a northwest course, crossing the imaginary line between Savannah and Bermuda on the 30th of April and exiting the 1st of May.
Aside from sinking the Santa Catalina, U-129 experienced a busy patrol. On the 26th of April, in the western Atlantic it encountered what Witte described as an enemy submarine and fired three torpedoes, all of which missed (it is not known which submarine this was). On the way back to France on 21 May, whilst refueling from U-459 two members of U-129’s crew were washed overboard by a large wave, and only one of them was recovered. On the return voyage she was refueled by U-459 in the central North Atlantic one month later (Wynn, Vol. 1, p.106). This patrol began in Lorient on the 11th of March 1943 and ended there on the 29th of May.
Witt sank two allied ships on either side of the date of the Santa Catalina – the Melbourne Star of an impressive 12,806 tons and British registry on 2 April, and the Panama-flagged Panam, 7,277 tons, on the 4th of May – both off Cape Hatteras, the site of early “happy times” during Operation Drumbeat. Witte’s total bag for this patrol was 26,590. His biography was covered in the treatment of his earlier patrol to the region in which he sank the Millinocket, Hardwicke Grange, L.A. Christensen and Onondagaamongst eleven ships of 41,570 tons – a highly successful earlier patrol.
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