U-129 Witt 2-Apr-1943 – 24 days in region
The type IXC U-129 under recently promoted Korvettenkapitän Hans-Ludwig Witt began its seventh of nine patrols in Lorient with the Second Flotilla. It was a complicated 24-day mission around Bermuda, making it the longest such patrol to the area. It can be broken into three legs:
1 – from April 2nd to the 11ththe boat passed from southeast of Bermuda to northwest, spending five days close to the eastern shore of the island. In transit northwest from the 2ndto the 5th, the boat then slowed down and patrolled off Saint Davids until the 8th, then sped up again, changed course from north to northwest, and exited the area on the 11th to the northwest of Bermuda.
2 – During this 9-day mission from east of Hatteras the bus managed to sink the American liner Santa Catalina on the 24thof April 1943. The incursion began the day before heading southeast from a point roughly 400 miles west of Bermuda. On the 25th the boat turned east until the 27th, then north-northwest until the 1stof May, when it returned to the Hatteras region.
3 – This was a straight “homeward bound” eastward trajectory of five days. Entering the area on the 8thof May U-129 headed straight east until the 12th when it exited the area eastbound, well northeast of Bermuda.
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 Swansonoff Hatteras.
Aside from sinking the Santa Catalina, U-129 experienced a busy patrol. On the 26th of April, in the western Atlantic it encountered what Witt 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. Witt’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 Onondaga amongst eleven ships of 41,570 tons – a highly successful earlier patrol.
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