U-576 under Hans-Dieter Hienicke Bermuda patrol July 1942

U-576          Heinicke       6-Jul-1942   4 days

Kapitänleutnant Hans-Dieter Heinicke began his second and final incursion into the waters of Bermuda by entering to the northeast on the 6th of July 1942 and proceeding west. He exited the area to the northwest of the island on the 9th and was sunk by US forced off Hatteras on the 15th of July, 1942.

U-576 sailed for the 7thU-boat Flotilla out of Saint Nazaire on the 16th of June. She was refueled by U-460 north of the Azores later that month before proceeding westwards. After transiting Bermuda, on the 14th the submarine was detected while surfaced by two US Navy OS2U-3 airplanes and quickly submerged, however several depth charges forced the boat to re-emerge. It was again depth-charged and sank in a swirl of oil. Under most circumstances that would have been the end of the U-boat.

Apparently Heinicke was cut from different cloth. Effecting repairs on the sea bottom, he determined that one of his main ballast tanks was irreparably damaged, and a great deal of fuel had been lost. He opted to head back to base. However the sight of an Allied convoy the following day proved too much for him, and Heinicke moved into attack. He successfully dispatched the Panamanian motor ship J A Mowinckel of 1,114 tons, the Nicaraguan steamer Bluefield  of 2,063 tons, and the US Chilore of 8,301 tons.

Alas it was to be the last stand of U-576. Two other US Navy aircraft, of the Kingfisher type, were escorting the convoy and dove in to attack the submarine. It is also possible that the steam ship Unico rammed the submarine. In any event Heinicke’s sub was no mortally damaged and forced to the surface, where her men fell victim to Naval Armed Guard gunners. Overwhelmed, the boat submerged, taking all 45 German sailors with it, including Heinicke, who was 29.

Hans-Dieter Heinicke was born in 1913. 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