R.Smg. Giuseppe Finzi under Amendola July 1942 Bahamas patrol

R.Smg. Giuseppe Finzi

Although the Enrico Tazzoli, on its highly successful sinking spree (Cygnet, Daytonian and Athelqueen) came within five miles of the coast of San Salvador, no Italian submarine except the Giuseppe Finzi actually penetrated the islands. On an extraordinary patrol which saw three fuel transfers, the Finzi, as it is known, encircled the entire southern Bahamas and Turks & Caicos south of Crooked Island. And it spent more patrol days in the region than most other boats as well, its total patrol lasting nearly two and a half months, for from June 6th (the day it left Bordeaux with the Tazzoli) and August 18th, 1942.

Although the exact daily positions for Italian boats are nowhere near as easy to decipher as with the German U-boats, her rough itinerary under commander (Tenente di Vascello, or Lieutenant) Amendola were as follows: On the 20th of June the Finzi rendezvoused with the submarine Da Vinci well southeast of Bermuda and continued steaming west. On or about the 28th of June 1942 it entered the region, crossing the line between Bermuda and Anegada.

For the next week it steamed southwest on the conventional course for the Windward Passage via the Crooked Island Passage, which it reached on the 8th of June. During the next three days it patrolled inside the Bahamian islands, emerging off Cuba on the 11th and in the Windward Passage itself on the 12th of June.

According to Cristiano D’Adamo of RegiaMarina.net, “The night of the 12th, the crew sighted a large passenger ship escorted by light units and airplanes which was not attacked.” Tenente di Vascello Amendola was apparently not as aggressive as di Cossato – or the Allied sea and air coverage was much stronger in the Windward Passage than off San Salvador four months before.

 In the ensuing week the submarine either backtracked through the Bahamas, or from the information gleaned it headed east along the coasts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic (Hispaniola). It would appear that on the 16th (there is some ambiguity in the daily projected positions, which cannot be verified without the sub’s log book), she turned north and on the 18th was north of Turks and Caicos.

In either event on the 19th Finzi was again off the mouth of the Crooked Island Passage, again looking for victims and finding none. On the following day, while heading northeast and away from the islands, she sighted a tanker but again did not drive home the attack. This was apparently because it was “a fast tanker escorted by destroyers” (Regiamarina.net).

While it is true that convoys had begun to be instituted along the US eastern seaboard by this time, the author has not ascertained which convoy this was (referring to Hague, the convoy expert), and is doubtful whether fast convoys were occurring in this area at this time.

It is highly unlikely that not one but several destroyers were deployed to escort a single tanker in the open sea in this area at this time, given the paucity and value of destroyers to other Allied undertakings at the time (the US and interlocking convoy system to the south and west and a buildup for the invasion of North Africa, not to mention the ongoing war versus Japan in the Pacific, then in its 7th month).

Four days after this missed opportunity near the spot where the Mariana had met her end, Finzimet up with the other Italian submarine, the Reginaldo Giuliani under Lieutenant Commander Giovanni Bruno, who put the fifty tons of fuel and five tons of drinking water to good use on a highly effective patrol to Cape Verde Islands later on the same patrol.

After the rendezvous with the Giuliani, Finziproceeded eastwards to the rough border of the region, “22 15 N 60 25 W, [where] it launched two torpedoes against a two-funneled motor vessel of new construction which, despite having been hit once, was able to run away at high speed. It has not been possible to identify the ship in question.” Leaving the larger Bahamas area the Finzinevertheless experienced a failed attack on another allied merchant sip on the 29th of July. 

Following this, on the 27th of July, Finzi had another fuelling operation with the submarine Morosini to the south. This means that in one patrol a single submarine rendezvoused with three others: the Da Vinci, the Giuliani, and the Morosini – testament to the high degree of coordination and communication amongst the Italian boats in the Betasom flotilla and also the relative safety from Allied aircraft at this time. As the Charles Racine attack demonstrated, the Italians were not above breaking off a refueling operation to sink Allies, only to return to their replenishment.

These boats were also substantially bigger and of different design than their German counterparts (see photos) and this may account for both the larger fuel carrying capacity and also the higher consumption and thus the need for more frequent refueling. Whatever the root causes, the ability to repeatedly meet ship-to-ship and transfer fuel is a testament to the seamanship of these Italian skippers and to the skill of their handlers ashore. Together this resulted in some extraordinarily long and successful patrols.

            Two days after the Morosini rendezvous, on the 29th of July, Finziencountered a passenger ship steaming at 18 knots but was unable to catch here despite firing three torpedoes. On the last day of July, commander Amendola decided that with low fuel reserves it was time for the submarine to return to base, preceded only days previously by the Giuliani, which was re-positioning to the south.

Though they encountered several Allied air patrols in the Bay of Biscay and off the Gironde estuary, they arrived back at Le Verdon on the 19th of August 1942, having completed its second and final mission to the Bahamas area, and the last Italian submarine in the region for the balance of the war. The Morosini left the area on the 19th of July and was sunk on its return voyage.

            SOURCES: Cristiano D’Adamo, www.regiamarina.net, 2011, Kenneth Wynn, U-boat Operations of the Second World War, Volume 1 and Volume 2, 1997