The following patrol into the area was mounted two days after the simultaneous arrival of three boats. It was led by the indefatigable Reinhardt “Teddy” Suhren, an undisputed (and self-described) Ace of Aces who would accrue 284 days on six war patrols over his career. His career total of eighteen merchant ships sunk for 95,544 tons, four more damaged for 28,907 tons and a warship sunk for 900 tons would earn him the Knights Cross with Oak Leaves on the last day of 1941 and the ultimate accolade, the Crossed Swords in Fall of 1942, followed by the War Merit Cross Second Class with Swords in January 1944.
Suhren’s autobiography Ace of Aces is highly readable and his post-war business career (starting with running a beer garden in the ruins of Hamburg) makes him a memorable commander. A Kapitänleutnant on his first voyage to the Bahamas, he would end the war as a Fregattenkapitänin command of all U-boats in Norwegian waters and later the head of the North Sea region for the Führer der Unterseeboote (FdU, or Karl Dönitz). He served on U-564 between April and October 1941 – the boat was subsequently lost in the Bay of Biscay under a different commander.
All of Suhren’s six successes on this patrol occurred on the northern Florida coast west and northwest of Grand Bahama. U-564 was able to replenish her fuel from U-459 outbound 500 miles northeast of Bermuda on or around the 27thof April (Wynn, Vol. 1, p.39). Entering the region east of Savannah Georgia on the 30th of April from Brest in the First Flotilla, he steamed southwest for a point south of Cape Canaveral Florida. On the 3rd of May he sank the Ocean Venus, 7,174 tons, of British registry, and the following day dispatched her compatriot the Eclipse of 9,767 tons. Sailing in convoy ON 87, the ship was only damaged and returned to service. The following day Suhren also damaged the Delisle, an American freighter of 3,478 tons, also off Florida.
On the 8th of May her compatriot Ohioansteamed its last mile before encountering U-564 and the next day the Lubrafol of Panama registry and 7,138 tons was sunk in the region. Commenting on the absence of anti-submarine-warfare (ASW) defenses and the lights not only of Miami but Great Isaac in the Bahamas, Suhren proceeded south in the Straits of Florida until he encountered the and sank the Potrero del Llano, a Mexican tanker of 4,000 tons whose flag he claims to have mistaken for the Italian. This sinking pushed Mexico considerably closer to declaring war against Germany, which it did mere weeks later.
Suhren’s patrol has two unique features to it – he is the first to utilize the Santarem channel east of the Cay Sal Bank and west of the Great Bahama Bank (this channel connects with both the Saint Nicholas Channel to the west and the Old Bahama Channel to the south).
U-564 made two probes into Bahamian waters – to the Old Bahama Channel, from which he turned around 180 degrees on the 13th of May, and the Northwest Providence Channel which he explored as far as the north of the Berry Islands on the 17th and 18th of May but did not actually transit to the Northeast Providence Channel.
It appears that following his success off Florida Suhren spent the week of 13th to 21st May dipping into and out of Bahamian waters between Bimini, Grand Bahama and Florida, seeking to recapture some of the glory of his success earlier in the patrol. On the 21st, whether from lack of prey or fuel, he turned due east from a point north of Grand Bahama and, skirting the Grand Bahama Bank and Walker’s Cay as well as the northern tip of Abaco he headed gradually northeast. On the 22nd of May he exited the area just west of Bermuda and returned to Brest, France, one of the early commanders to be based from that port. The patrol lasted between the 4th of April and the 6th of June 1942.
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