Perhaps learning from his predecessor’s poor pickings near the Windward Passage, the next skipper into the area, Hans-Günther Brosin in U-134, opted for a three-week patrol in the Bahamas area by utilizing the Northeast and Northwest Providence channels both for inward and outward passages. On the way U-134 was refueled by U-170 west of the Azores, followed by an attack from a Bermuda-based Mariner aircraft (Wynn, Vol. 1, p.110). The boat was to be attacked no fewer than four times by Allied forces, the final attack being fatal to the boat.
Fortunes had indeed changed for the U-boats by mid-1943, however Brosin was to achieve the unique feat of bringing down a US Navy airship during this patrol, exacting what might appear a pyric revenge. Two days before it entered the area U-134 was placed on the defensive when a Bermuda-based naval aircraft under command of John T. Hitchcock dropped six to eight depth-charges, though the boat was able to survive (Blair Vol. 2, p.364).
Entering the area on the 10th of July, Brosin steamed due west for Hole in the Wall Abaco, arriving on the 15th. By the following day U-134 was in the Gulf Stream heading south in the Straits of Florida. Two days later, while off the northwest tip of the Cay Sal Bank, the U-boat was spotted and (in-advisedly) attacked by the US naval airship K-74. Contrary to standing orders, the observation blimp dove in for the attack but the little-used release mechanism for the depth-charges failed to work, and Brosin’s deck crew were able to shoot down the dirigible.
Afraid that the charges would explode when they sank, the crew swam for their lives towards nearby Elbow Cay, Cay Sal Bank. Some claimed to see the U-boat approach the blimp to cut away samples of the material for analysis back in Germany, though this seems doubtful, given the danger this would have placed the submarine in, presuming that their position would have been radioed in to the Allies in nearby Key WeSaint In any event, this was the only known case of an Axis submarine bringing down a Navy blimp during the war, and when he drowned on the cusp of rescue US Navy seaman Isadore Stassel became the only Allied personnel so lost during the conflict.
Harried by both Allied attacks and concomitant technical problems, U-134 was again attacked the following day, this time by US Ventura aircraft piloted by John C. Lawrence. Three depth-charges found their mark, severely damaging the forward battery compartment. After this Brosin performed a box maneuver southeast of the Florida Keys without approaching Key West or the US Gulf directly, and turned back towards the relative safety of the Northwest and Northeast Providence channels. On the 22nd of August the submarine doubled Great Isaacss Light heading east past Nassau, and emerged over the north coast of Eleuthera on the following day.
For the next week U-134 steamed eastwards and exited the region on the 1st of August at a point south of Bermuda and south of its point of entry. Three weeks later the U-boat escaped a fourth close call when Wildcat and Avenger aircraft from the USS Croatan (engaged in escorting a convoy off Europe) attacked the submarine – however Brosin was able to escape once again.
Ultimately, U-134 was sunk four days later, on the 24th of August off Vigo, Cape Finisterre, Spain, at the entrance to the Bay of Biscay. A Gibraltar-based Leigh Light Wellington bomber led by D. F McRae attacked during the night (Wynn, Vol. 1, p.110). All 48 crew were killed. A Type VIIC boat sailing in the Third Flotilla out of La Pallice France, the U-134 was launched in September 1940 and commissioned in July 1941.
Hans-Günther Brosin began his final patrol as an Oberleutnant zur See and ended it – and his life – as a Kapitänleutnant, having been promoted on the first of July 1943. He was 26 years of age. Aside from the U-boat War Badge of 1939 this member of the Crew of 1936 achieved no ships sunk or damaged except, of course, the airship K-74 off Cay Sal. The fact that he was on war patrol for an impressive 134 days (twenty-one of them in the Bahama area) speaks to the challenges facing U-boat commanders in the later years of the war in the Caribbean area, as contrasted with the successes of his predecessors.
Whereas a study of a typical patrol in mid-1942 would include roughly four attacks on Allied shipping, by mid-to-end 1943 the patrols like Brosin’s were a catalogue of nearly half a dozen Allied attacks on submarines on a single patrol, with no effective retribution achieved to tip the balance.
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, Clay Blair, Hitler’s U-boat War, The Hunters, 1939-1942, and Hitler’s U-boat War, The Hunted, 1942-1945, 2000