U-598 under Gottfried Holtorff Bermuda patrol July 1942

U-598          Holtorf         29-Jul-1942         12 days

Korvettenkapitän Gottfried Holtorff led the next incursion into the area aboard the Type VIIC U-598. There were two legs to Hotlotff’s patrol around Bermuda. The first portion lasted from 29 July to 5 August and involved refueling from U-463 southeast of the island. U-598’s course was generally southwest during this time, though there were jogs to the south in order to keep the rendezvous. Having attacked ships in the Windward Passage and Old Bahama Channel the sub then returned on the 25th of August on its homeward bound leg, heading northeast from a position southwest of Bermuda, and exiting on the 28th of August 1942 for France.

Like most boats he entered the area midway between Bermuda and Anegada, bound southwest towards the Windward Passage, and like other recent submarines he had sailed directly from Kiel on the boat’s first of four patrols.
Two days before entering the area it met with U-463, a Milch Cow, or floating gas station, in the mid-Atlantic at 28.03N / 58.54W. During the fueling operations machinist Willi Bredereck was diving on the hydroplanes and propellers and was drowned.

Entering on the 7th of August U-598 steamed for the northwest of Mayaguana, at which point, on the 10th of August, turned south sharply and entered the Crooked Island Passage. Reaching Cape Maysi Cuba south of Inagua the following day, Holtorff made a 90 degree turn to the right, or west, and proceeded up (and later down) the Old Bahama Channel.

While there, on the 14th of August he engaged in one of the most successful single-handed attacks on a convoy in the region when he sank or badly damaged three ships in the space of an hour or so in Convoy TAW (Trinidad – Aruba – Key West) 123. Holtorff was apparently so brazen that he carried out his attacks on the flagship of the convoy not only at dawn but audaciously on the surface as well.

In what could be called the Battle of Ragged Island, U-598 pinned the Empire Corporal, Standella, and Michael Jebsen up against the back end of the Ragged Island chain on the northern (or Bahamas) end of the channel, and picked off the three ships one by one. Even though one of the vessels (the Standella) was repaired and put back in service it was an impressive series of attacks. Total tonnage was 15,492: for the damage to Standellaof 6,197 tons, and the destruction of the Empire Corporal of 6,972 tons and Michael Jebsen of 2,223 tons respectively. All ships were British and the flagship was intentionally hit, meaning the convoy became in effect rudderless. The convoy scattered in confusion, eventually repairing to Guantanamo.

Showing his apparent contempt for the Allied defenses in nearby Guantanamo, Holtorff turned around at the end of his run up the Old Bahama Channel and in the Saint Nicholas channel on the 16th he proceded back to the site of his earlier sinkings, arriving there on the 21st of August after a leisurely cruise in the passages adjacent to the Bahamas of nearly a week. 

Returning to the waters of Inagua on the 22nd, U-598 kept going as far as Cape Mole, the northwest tip of Haiti, before backtracking to the Crooked Island Passage, which it transited on the 23rd of August. For the next five days he motored northeast back towards Saint Nazaire, exiting the area south of Bermuda on the 28th of August.

This was the boat’s first patrol, having left Kiel on the 7th of July. U-598 was again refueled, this time by U-462 west of the Azores. She arrived at her new base of Saint Nazaire on the 13th of December, 1942 (Wynn, Vol. 2, p.68).

A member of the Crew of 1936, Gottfried Holtorff was promoted to Kapitänleutnant during this patrol – on the 1st of September 1942 – and Korvettenkapitän less than a year later. He was aged 30 at the time of this patrol. Over his naval career the three ships he sank or damaged off Ragged Island Bahamas accounted for his career total of Allied tonnage. He led four patrols of 211 days before being caught by two Allied Liberator aircraft off Natal Brazil and sunk on the 23rd of July 1943. There were two survivors – Holtorff was not among them.

SOURCES: Gudmundur Helgason, Rainer Kolbicz, www.uboat.net, 2013, Kenneth Wynn, U-boat Operations of the Second World War, Volume 1 and Volume 2, 1997, R. Busch, and H.-J. Röll, German U-boat Commanders of World War II, 1988, Franz Kurowski, Knights Cross Holders of the U-boat Service