U-161 under Albrecht Achilles Bermuda patrol July 1942

U-161          Achilles         16-Jul-1942

On the 11th of July Kapitänleutnant Albrecht Achilles brought the boat synonymous with his name, the Type IXC U-161, back into the region for his second patrol around Bermuda. Coming from the Caribbean U-161 headed steadily northeast from a position south of Bermuda, between when it sank the US steamer Fairport on the 16th of July 1942 to the 20th, when it exited just east of Bermuda northbound for France.

Earlier in this patrol the boat had entered in the Windward Passage and chose to go past the southeast coast of Inagua and along the Turks & Caicos Islands and the Caicos Passage to break back out into the Atlantic.
On her way into the region U-161 was reported (by Cressman, Kelshall, and Wynn, Vol. 1, pp.124-125) to have dispatched the small American 35-ton schooner Cheerio in the Mona Passage off Puerto Rico on the 20th of July, however this is incorrect, as the U-107 sank the Cheerio. On that day U-161 rendezvoused with U-159 well south of the Mona Passage and received fuel and food for torpedoes.
For the next few days the boat steamed steadily northeastwards, pausing only long enough to dispatch the US ship Fairport, part of convoy AS 4, loaded with supplies for the North Africa campaign against General Irwin Rommel. The sinking took place on the 17th of July, and by the following day U-161 exited the region south of Bermuda and homeward bound for Lorient, where it returned to the Second Flotilla.

It was the boat’s third of six patrols and was extraordinary for its length: 102 days from April 28th to August 7th. At the outset, having left Lorient on the 28th of April, U-161 shadowed the SL 109 convoy off the Cape Verde Islands, then went to patrol the coast of Brazil, followed by Trinidad. Later in the patrol U-161 performed one of its characteristically daring probes into the port of Porto Limon, Costa Rica, where it sank the San Pablo.

The return on this patrol was about 100 GRT a day, or a total of 9,500 including the two other ships hit: the Dominican Nueva Altagraciaof 30 tons struck on 16th June and the Panamanian San Pablo of 3,305 tons on the 3rd of July. She was a total constructive loss. On the return voyage U-161 refueled from U-461 west of the Azores and made Lorient on the 7th of August 1942.

Albrecht Achilles was born in 1914 and a member of the Crew of 1934. After serving aboard the school ship Schleswig-Holstein he became signals officer on board the Gneisenau, a battleship. He joined U-boats from the Murwik academy in April 1940. Then he made three patrols under Zapp in U-66 until November 1941. He assumed command of U-161 in January 1942 and was very active in the Caribbean.

Achilles was Kapitänleutnant at the time but promoted posthumously in April 1945 to Korvettenkapitän. Over six patrols in U-161 he accrued 435 days and daringly penetrated the defenses of both Port-of-Spain Trinidad and Castries Saint Lucia, utilizing his watch officer’s experience as a merchant marine officer. His career total was an impressive 20 ships sunk or damaged (6 damaged), for 105,664 tons. For this he was awarded the Knights Cross in January 1943. On 27 September 1943 U-161 was caught by a US Navy Mariner aircraft off Bahia, Brazil and sunk with all hands, Achilles amongst them. He was 29 years of age.

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, Robert J. Cressman, The Official Chronology of the US Navy in World War II, 2000, Gaylord Kelshall, The U-Boat War in the Caribbean, 1994