U-576 under Hans-Dieter Heinicke Bermuda patrol April 1942

U-576  Heinicke       19-Apr-1942         4 days

Kapitänleutnant Hans-Dieter Heinicke brought his command U-576 northeast of Bermuda starting on the 19thof April 1942 for four days. During that time he managed to sink the US freighter Pipestone County of 5,102 tons north of Bermuda on the 21stof April. U-576’s patrol into the region looks like a horseshoe, as the sub motored southwest, then west, then northwest out of the area on the 22ndof April.

U-576 sailed from the 7thU-boat Flotilla in Saint Nazaire on the 29th of March. It was acting in concert with a group of at least eight (Wynn says 12) u-boats whose purpose it was to determine if ships were using routes away from the US mainland, catch, intercept and sink them. The other boats in the group were U-135, U-213, U-404, U-432, U-455, U-566, and U-653, all of them also covered herein.

After waiting several days most boats moved closer to the coast, however Heinicke stuck further out and damaged the Tropic Star, which was ironically carrying survivors of his earlier attack on the Pipestone County who had been picked up from lifeboats by the captain of the Tropic Star. The latter attack occurred on the 24th of April south of Nantucket and the Tropic Star managed to make it to Boston despite the torpedo hit, which was a dud, saving the survivors the ignomy of being torpedoed twice by the same submarine.

Several days later U-576 struck for a third time, this time sinking the Norwegian ship Taborfjell of 1,339 tons east of Cape Cod on the 30th of April. On the first of May the sub tried to attack a troop convoy but Allied aircraft protected the precious shipment 80 miles from Cape Sable, Canada, so U-576 resumed its course back to France, where it arrived on the 16th of May 1942.

Hans-Dieter Heinicke was born in 1913 and celebrated his 29th birthday two days after his return to France. It was to be his last, as U-576 was caught by USS Unicoi and two Kingfisher aircraft off Cape Hatteras on the 15th of July that summer and all 45 men on board the submarine perished.

Heinicke was a member of the Crew of 1933 and served as watch officer of the u-boat tender Wiechsel in 1939 and 1940, at which point he began u-boat training. He served on U-73 and helped commission U-576, the only boat he served on and on which he accrued 163 patrol days over five missions. His career tally was six ships sunk or damaged for 34,907 ton. Hienicke received no decorations over his career. 


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