U-463 under Leo Wolfbauer Bermuda patrol July 1942

U-463          Wolfbauer    31-Jul-1942 20 days

Korvettenkapitän Leo Wolfbauer commanded one of Germany’s innovations – the refueling tanker submarine U-463 which was also known as a “milch-kuh” or “milk cow” as it provided liquid sustenance to other U-boats in faraway battle zones. On this particular patrol – Wolfbauer’s first one in command of this vessel – the submarine refueled a number of colleagues southeast of Bermuda. Because the rendezvous’ were essential to so many U-boats which patrolled around Bermuda, the tanker is included here although it was not actively pursuing Allied ships – much as other subs which deposited saboteurs and mined US ports are included.

The patrol began in Kiel Germany for the 10th U-boat Flotilla on the 11th of July 1942. U-463 entered the Bermuda area on the 31st of July east of the island and made steady progress southwest. It reached and area between 400 and 500 miles south-southeast of Bermuda and remained there for over a week, between the 3rdof August and the 13th, refueling U-boats.

In the course of this one patrol U-463 provided fuel, medical treatment, fresh food, and other equipment to the following dozen U-boats: U-164, U-217, U-510, U-564, U-598, U-600, U-654, U-658 (all to continue their patrols) and for their returns to Europe U-84, U-129, U-134 and U-154. Her job complete and the tanks most likely empty, U-463 commenced her own return voyage about the 16th of August, leaving the Bermuda region to the southeast of the island on the 29th of August. She made it back to her new base in Saint Nazaire on the third of September 1942.

Wolfbauer was the only submarine commander in this study to have been born in the 1800’s, making him the oldest skipper out of 143 patrols. At the time he took U-463 on this patrol he was 46 years of age, and turned 47 on 21 July, ten days before his tanker, or “milk cow” entered the region on the 31st of July. 

Starting in 1913 Wolfbauer originally served in the Austro-Hungarian Navy as a Korvettenkapitän. He served in the First World War as a Third Officer of the submarine U-29 in 1917, then as Second Officer until the Armstice. He joined German U-boats in March 1940 and commissioned U-463 in February 1942.

He and the entire crew of 57 men were lost when surprised by a British Handley Page airplane in the Bay of Biscay south of the Scilly Islands in western England on the 16th of May 1943. Since his submarine was a supply tanker there were no ships hit by Wolfbauer in his career during WWII which covered five patrols and 204 days from July 1942 to May 1943.

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