Kapitänleutnant Ralph Kapitzky took U-615 into the Caribbean via the Anegada Passage on the 9th and 10th of July, 1942. It was an eventful patrol for the U-615 for many of the wrong reasons. To escape Biscay the boat crossed in league with U-68, U-155, U-257 and U-600. They were attacked by a Sunderland on the 14th of June, having left on the 12th. U-615 and U-257 came to the aid of U-600 which had been damaged by a Whitley aircraft, and chased it away. One plane was shot from the sky with all crew killed. Attacks by a Fortress and a Wellington followed, the latter damaging U-615. The boat was refueled by U-535 west of the Azores in late June (Wynn, Vol. 1, p.83).
Once in the Caribbean, the boat sank the Dutch steamer Rosaliaof 3,177 tons on the 28th of July. Because Kapitzy was reticent with radio reports and was sunk in a famous duel with half a dozen aircraft during this patrol, there was some confusion as to whether the boat utilized the Guadeloupe or Anegada passages as a means of ingress to the Caribbean Sea.
Wynn states that the sub used the Anegada Passage on the 13th of August A study of the reconstructed KTB indicates that it must have been on the 10th of August The Rosalia sinking was part of a strategy to disrupt the crucial specialized small tanker route from Maracaibo Venezuela to the Dutch island of Curacao. The message to headquarters informing them of the attack initiated one of the most thorough and long-lasting counter-attacks of the Battle of the Caribbean.
The death of Kapitzky and his submarine is well chronicled in Kelshall’s U-boat War in the Caribbean and is not germane to this study of more northern waters. The site Uboat.net summarized it well: “This was possibly the longest ongoing combat between a U-boat and aircraft. U-615‘s battle enabled many other U-boats in the Caribbean to surface and escape to the east …First to hit the boat was the American B 18 aircraft. For the next week the boat was limping to the Atlantic but under multiple attacks (shot down one Mariner aircraft and damaged others). Finally the boat was overcome and sunk.”
Kapitzky was dying of wounds when he ordered his officers and crew to abandon ship. Forty-three of them were rescued by the destroyer USS Walker. Such were the undoubted heroics of her crew that they were treated with deference even by their enemies (Kelshall).
Ralph Kapitzky turned 28 years of age on this patrol, a year and eight days after he achieved the rank of Kapitänleutnant on June 1, 1942. Over four patrols he covered 221 days on patrol and sank four ships of 27,231 tons. He was a member of the Crew of 1935.
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, Gaylord Kelshall, The U-Boat War in the Caribbean, 1994