U-518 Offermann 24-Aug-1944 6 days
Oberleutnant zur See Hans-Werner Offermann brought U-518 into the Bermuda area for six days inward bound between the 24th and 29th of August 1944. It was the last boat patrolling the Bermuda and Hatteras areas of the war, though some still probed the New York – New England and Canadian waters and the bauxite route from Trinidad southwards yet later in the conflict.
U-518’s patrol around Bermuda began to the northeast on August 24th and proceded in south and west steps to an area roughly 200 miles north-northwest of the island on the 27th. Then Offermann turned due west and exited the area towards the US coast on the 29th of August. Thus ended two years and eight months of enemy incursions into the area, which had been begun by Hardegen in U-123 in January 1942.
The final patrol by a German submarine into the Bermuda and Bahamas areas was initiated by U-518, this time under a new commander, Offermann. It was a brief dip into the area from Hatteras made notable not only because the boat rode out a hurricane (easier to do under water admittedly than on the surface) but also because it was in the vicinity of the USS Warrington, the destroyer which was sunk by weather with heavy loss of life northeast of Abaco on the 14th of September.
Though the Warrington was in a naval convoy and dozens of ships were sent to comb the seas for Warringtonsurvivors, none of them detected U-518, patrolling in the same general area at the same time. In fact they tragically could not even detect each other.
U-518’s dip south from Hatteras occurred between the 4th and 6th of September 1944. East of Savannah on the line to Bermuda the submarine steamed south for a day, then due west towards the coast until the 6th of September, then returned to the area off South Carolina to patrol. Interestingly, though U-518 sailed out of Lorient with the Second Flotilla, it returned to Kristiansand, Norway – the only U-boat of those covered that ended its patrol in that port.
The 102-day patrol of U-518 was punctuated not just by storms but by two attacks, one defensive and the other offensive. On the 8th of August, while proceeding westwards for the Americas the boat was attacked by Allied escorts but escaped undamaged. On the 12th of September, as the hurricane brewed up, Offermann was able to attack and damage the American ship George Ade of 7,176 tons off Cape Hatteras. The counter-measures from the ship and from the minesweeper USS Projectwere considerable and drove the sub off. The Ade was salvaged by Escape, but sank while under town in the hurricane on the 13th. Aside from this vessel, Offermann sank one ship for 3,401 tons over his career.
This patrol was the second to the region undertaken by a submarine with the new schnorkel equipment which enabled the boat to remain underwater, ventilate the boat, and charge the batteries all from beneath the ways – a game-changing modification which arrived too late in the game.
The boat had left on another back-to-back patrol to the region on the 15th of July and return to Norway (after the Allied blockade of the Bay of Biscay) on the 24th of October. Taking up the duties which U-858 had been engaged in off Iceland when it refueled U-539 weeks before, U-518 was assigned weather-reporting duties for roughly a month from mid-September through mid-October (Wynn, Vol. 2, p.10).
A member of the Crew X of 1939, Offermann was 23 at the time of the patrol and would only live for less than a year and go down as “one of the youngest commanders during WWII.” He was killed on 22 April 1945 north-west of the Azores, sunk with all hands by the US destroyer escorts Carterand Neal A. Scott. He was 42 days into his third patrol at the time. Ranked Oberleutnant zur See, Offermann received the German Cross in Gold at the end of 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