U-552 under Erich Topp Bermuda patrol April 1942

U-552          Topp  11-Apr-1942         4 days

Kapitänleutnant (later Fregattenkapitän) Erich Topp brought U-552 into the Bermuda region on a straight line of four days north of the island. During the sub’s return from the US coast off Hatteras U-552 entered the area northwest of Bermuda on the 11thof April and motored northeast until leaving the sphere on the 14thApril, 1942.

While he did not sink vessels during his tangent north of Bermuda, Topp managed to attack seven ships during this patrol: Ocana, David H. Atwater, Byron D. Benson, British Splendour, the whale factory ship Lancing, Atlas, and Tamaulipas. Except for the Ocana sinking which occurred outbound, these attacks occurred off Hatteras between the 25th of March and the 10th of April, 1942 – the last the Tamaulipas occurred a day before his voyage back to France for the 7th U-boat Flotilla out of Saint Nazaire. The patrol began on seven March as one of 11 u-boats comprising the fourth wave of Operation Drumbeat. It ended on the 27th of April 1942.

Born in Hannover in 1914, Topp was a member of the Crew of 1934. After a stint on the light cruiser Karlsruhe before he joined U-boats in October 1937. He joined U-46, then U-57 and finally U-552 which was known as the “Red Devil Boat.” He accrued 352 patrol days between July 1940 and July 1942, sinking a highly impressive 36 ships of 198,650 tons and a further four ships damaged for 32,317 tons.

Topp is, along with Hardegen and Suhren, one of the better known u-boat commanders. He moved ashore as commander of the 27th U-boat Flotilla and wrote battle instructions for novel u-boats. At war’s end he was in command of U-2513 off Horten Norway (he also commanded the XXI Elektro boat U-3010). After a stint as an architect following the war he rejoined the navy and served with NATO, retiring in 1969 as a Konteradmiral. He passed away the day after Christmas in 2005 at the age of 91.


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