U-69 under Ulrich Gräf, Bermuda patrol May 1942

U-69  Gräf 1-May-1942 

Oberleutnant zur See Ulrich Gräf took U-69 on a virtually straight line southwest from the day he sank the Canadian schooner James E. Newsom northeast of the island on the first of May 1942 to when he exited a week laer to the south of Bermuda on the seventh. It appears that east of the island Gräf patrolled in a dog-leg or ziz-zag looking for prey starting on the thirds of May southbound, then northbound till the fifth and south again during the sixth and seventh.

Later Graf took his boat on a conventional transit of the Bahamas region starting on the 3rd of May, 1942 just southeast of Bermuda. The boat made a straight bee-line for the Mona Passage, which it transited, thus exiting the area, five days later, on the 8th. During that time no ships were encountered or sunk, however the Type VIIC sub was highly active both before and after its transit. As soon as it entered the Mona Passage on the 9th it attacked a US Coast Guard cutter. There was a counter attack by the cutter reinforced by USAF B 18s from the 45 Squadron and the boat retreated deeper into the Caribbean (Wynn, Vol. 1, p.52).

On the way to the Bahamas area U-69 rendezvoused with U-459 in order to refuel, like several of its predecessors, 500 miles northeast of Bermuda on the 1st of May. Later on the same day, but two days before entering the area, U-69 sank the 671-ton Canadian schooner James E. Newsom. Once inside the Caribbean, Gräf sank three ships in just over a week: the Norwegian Lise of 6,826 tons, on 12 May, the American Norlanticof 2,606 tons the following day, and another Canadian, the Torondoc, of 1,927 tons on the 21st of May.

On the 5th of June, while northeast of Anegada and east of the Bahamas area the submarine made an unusual discovery: an abandoned tug drifting on the open sea. Though the attack report does not record the name of this vessel, it was sunk by gunfire (Wynn, Vol. 1, p.52, Mason, UboatArchive.net).

At the time Gräf, who was 26, was Oberleutnant zur See, being promoted to Kapitänleutnant in January of 1943. He received no decorations over a career which was to see him sink six ships of 16,627 tons. Born on 15 December 1915 in Dresden, he was killed in the North Atlantic on 17 February 1943 east of Newfoundland when caught by the destroyer HMS Fame, also reported to have been the HMS Viscount(Ibid).

Gräf was the commander who sent the escorted railway passenger ferry Caribou(2,222 tons) to the bottom in the Cabot Strait, Canada. The old ship was carrying hundreds of civilians to Newfoundland, of whom 105 of them, including women and children, and 31 crew were drowned, forming the basis of the book The Night of the Caribou(Ibid.) It seems symmetrical that the sub was sunk so close to where the Caribou went down that horrible night of 13 October 1942.
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, Jerry Mason, www.uboatarchive.net, 2011, Douglas How, Night of the Caribou, 1988