Three German U-boats entered the region on 28th April 1942: U-333, U-98 under Schulze, and U-506 under Würdemann, and all entered from either south or west of Bermuda and made for the east coast of Florida before returning. Next across the imaginary line was KorvettenkapitänWilhelm Schulze in U-98, a VIIC type U-boat on its seventh of nine patrols for the Seventh Flotilla out of St. Nazaire, France; it was the first boat in the region to sail out of and back to St. Nazaire.
The trajectory of this patrol indicates a skipper who is fastidious about following his cruising orders: from a point roughly midway between the Carolinas and Bermuda the boat made a bee-line for Cape Canaveral, then made a 90-degree turn to the north, sailing past Jacksonville and Savannah before taking another such turn, and then another, with the effect that a box is drawn off those ports.
On his return to the north end of Grand Bahama Schulze turned west 90 degrees to the Florida coast, turned hard to port and proceeded against the Gulf Stream in the Straits of Florida, where ships would be likely to be riding the current northwards. Reaching a point off West End Grand Bahamas on May 10th, he turned 180 degrees and began heading northeast and in the general direction of home. Though on the 14th and 15th the boat headed due north, on the 16th it turned due east and steamed towards an exit from the region west of Bermuda on the 18th of May. Aside from an attack in the Bay of Biscay while outbound on the 2ndof April, U-98 saw no enemy action during this patrol and returned after 68 days.
This patrol began in St. Nazaire on the 31st of March 1942 and ended there on the 6th of June. U-98 was refueled by U-459 around the 27thof April roughly 500 miles northeast of Bermuda, making her one of the first boats to utilize this novel means of extending patrols. Readers will note however that this made the patrol neither more successful nor any longer than those of its contemporaries (Wynn, Vol. 1, p.79).
Wilhelm Schultze was ranked Korvettenkapitänin September 1942 and retired without decorations after two patrols of 130 days. Born in July 1909 he was a member of the crew of 1928. His career total was the damage of the US Armed Merchant Cruiser (AMC) Bold by mines on 10 August 1942 – she was 185 tons. Contrasted with the long list of kills which some submarine commanders achieved, Schultze’s career demonstrates that success was by no means a given.
For a large number of U-boat commanders’ patrols consisted of staring at a hard grey horizon wishing for an enemy ship to sail across it, and hearing of the accolades pouring upon more successful colleagues. This patrol is also a harbinger of things to come, as the only enemy sighted in over two months was the attacker, in the form of British aircraft, and not an Allied merchant marine victim. Schulze may have had the last laugh, however: as of end-2011 he is still alive at age 102.
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