Günther Krech began his first patrol into the Bahamas area aboard the U-558 on the 15th of May, a mere day after Bigalk and Von Mannstein. Having left Brest on the 12thof April U-558 refueled from U-459 on the 29th northeast of Bermuda. Like Bigalk he opted for a straight line from Hatteras to the Windward Passage, and like his colleague he sank a steamer – the Dutch Fauna – en route along the islands.
The Fauna, of 1,254 tons was struck off the Turks & Caicos Islands in a channel so narrow – only ten miles wide – that the survivors supposed that the sub must have been waiting there for resupply. They made a harrowing week-long rowing and sailing voyage along the coast of several settlements in the Turks & Caicos Islands before finally making it a coastal village in Haiti and that country’s capital, in a saga recounted in more detail herein. Two of her crew were killed in the attack and 27 survived.
U-558 followed a pattern of light success in its eight-day transit of the Bahamas area followed by heavy losses inflicted in a different zone (in this case the Caribbean) and a further ship bagged on the return voyage. The submarine also attacked and sank the HMS Bedfordshire(FY 141) on 12 May, off Cape Hatteras, then after the Fauna the Canadian Troisdoc, damaged to the William Boyce Thompson, and the sinking of the Beatrice and Jack in the Caribbean and the Triton on the way home – northeast of the Caribbean on 2nd June. The total tonnage for the patrol was 19,301 in seven ships.
Krech was amongst the first U-boat skippers to utilize the Mona Passage between Hispaniola (the Dominican Republic) and Puerto Rico, which he did on 29th May. Over the next four days he steamed northeast until the sub left the region north of St. Martin on the 1st of June 1942 bound for Brest where the boat was based with the First Flotilla. On the return trip U-558 again refueled from U-459, this time in mid-June west of the Azores. It returned to Brest on the 21stof June 1942 (Wynn, Vol. 2, p.33).
Günther Krech, 27 at the time, became one of the better known U-boat skippers of the war, made famous in part by his over twenty ships and over 100,000 tons sunk and his activity off the American coast. He is also remarkable for his youth and early recognition: he earned the Knights Cross shortly after this patrol four days before his 28th Birthday on 17 September 1942. In April 1941 he had achieved the rank of Kapitänleutnant. On 20 July 1943 U-558 was sunk by Allied aircraft in the Bay of Biscay, with Krech and four others surviving and being kept in captivity by the Allies during the balance of the war and sometime thereafter. Günther Krech survived and lived until age 85, not passing away until June 2000. A member of the crew of 1933, he had served in the Luftwaffe for four years before returning to the U-boat arm in November 1939 and serving under Schepke in U-100. He was the officer to commission U-558.
Over ten patrols of 437 days Krech sank seventeen ships of 93,186 tons, the HMS Bedfordshire (the British officers and crew of which are buried on Cape Hatteras) and damaged two others for 15,070 as well as effectively destroying a further ship of 6,672. This was a ship deemed a constructive total loss, which means that while the ship might have been salved and scrapped, it was taken out of the war.
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