U-153 began its second and final patrol on the 6th of June 1942 from Lorient. On the 27th of June Wilfried Reichmann sank the US freighter Potlatch well east of the Anegada Passage and east-northeast of the Virgin Islands. It was a long attack and was to have ramifications for survivors landed in the Bahamas one month later. The following day, heading west, Riechman in his Type IXC U-boat U-153 entered the area north of Anegada.
On the 29th and sank the US freighter Ruth on the same track towards the Anegada Passage. Because the survivors of the Ruth gave the wrong position (stating at first that the ship has been sunk in the Crooked Island Passage in the Bahamas, perhaps because that was where the ship was supposed to be according to Allied routing instructions) there was some confusion about the location of this sinking, even in the survivor reports.
The matter has been resolved now using radio reports from the submarine, which was subsequently lost. Since the sub never went anywhere near Crooked Island, was confirmed to have sunk the Ruth, and could not have deviated from its known course to reach the Bahamas and return to its course in the time provided, the position has been corrected by this author and the webmaster of Uboat.net with input from the webmaster of Uboatarchive.net. In an act of compassion Reichmann collected four members of the Ruth’s crew and put them in a lifeboat. The survivors were to spend three days drifting in the area before being rescued (more in the Allies section).
The fact that the survivors were rescued north of Puerto Rico – several hundred miles upwind of the original position in the Bahamas – indicates the impossibility that they were sunk in the Crooked Island Passage. If they had been sunk there, they would have drifted into the islands to leeward – Crooked and Acklins islands, Long Island, Ragged Island – in the Bahamas within days if not hours, like the survivors of the Potlatch before them, because the prevailing winds – the trade winds – blow from the east.
After sinking the Ruth U-153, on the 30th the boat continued southwest and entered the Anageda Passage on the 2nd of July, thereby exiting the area. During its patrol in the Caribbean proper the boat steamed for Panama. On 6th July U-153 was damaged by USAF aircraft of the A 20A type. On the 38th day of the patrol the ship was caught and sunk by the destroyer USS Lansdowneand USS Evelyn R. north of Colon in the Panama Canal and all 52 crew including Reichmann were killed. Having sunk the British Anglo Canadian on the 25th of July (like the Potlatch east of the Bahamas), the total tonnage for this patrol was 16,186.
A member of the crew of 1924, FregattenkapitänRiechmann had been promoted from Korvettenkapitänon the first of July 1942, only three weeks before his death at age 36. During his two patrols of 51 days he sank only those ships recorded in this patrol. He sailed for the Second Flotilla out of Lorient, and little else is known about him except that he showed compassion for, and rendered assistance to, crews of both the Potlatch and Ruth, which indirectly saved a number of Allied lives – as we shall see the survivors of the Potlatch were rescued after colorful drama in the Bahama Islands.
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, Capt. Jerry Mason, www.uboatarchive.net