U-654 under Ludwig Forster patrolled 6 days off New England, sank Empire Prairie 10 April 1942

Patrol 23 under Ludwig Forster, 7 days 10 April to 2 May 1942.

Ludwig Forster who patrolled off New England east and west bound in April and May 1942. Photo courtesy of http://uboat.net/men/commanders/299.html

Oberleutnant zur SeeLudwig Forster took his command U-654 both east and west bound through New England waters between the 10th of April and 2nd of May 1942. First he entered westbound south of Cape Sable, Nova Scotia and motored five days, exiting south of Montauk, NY on the 14th of April. Then he returned briefly to the area coming from the Bermuda area northbound on the 1st of May and heading east to a position south of Cape Sable on the 2nd.
On the day he entered the region Forster and his men dispatched the Empire Prairie off New England waters on the 10th of April. She was a British ship of 7,010 tons under Captain Richard Townsend Payne. When struck after a six-hour pursuit the ship immediately broke apart and sank, leaving only men floating in the water with debris. None of the 49 Allied sailors survived.

After leaving New England to patrol hundreds of miles east of Hatteras, the U-654 sank the Steelmaker and the Agra (see www.uboatsbermuda.blogspot.comfor more on these casualties). The patrol began in Brest France on 21 March and ended there on the 19th of May. A week into the patrol one of the German sailors broke his arm (Uboat.net).

This was Ludwig Forster’s second patrol to the US coast, the first being Patrol 5 off New England between January 24 and 28, 1942. Born on 9 October 1915 near Dillingen, Forster was a member of the Naval Class of 1936. His career total was 3 merchant ships sunk and one naval ship destroyed (Alysse). Before serving aboard U-654 he was 2ndWatch Officer of U-29, and 1st Watch Officer of U-62.

On his next patrol to the Caribbean U-654 made it to Panama without sinking any ships and the submarine was itself sunk east of Nicaragua and north of Panama on the 22nd of August 1942 by bombs dropped from a B-18 Digby plane of US Army Bomber Squadron 45. Forster and all 44 men aboard the U-Boat were killed.

Busch, Rainer and Röll, Hans-Joachim, “German U-Boat Commanders of World War II, A Biographical Dictionary,” Greenhill Books, London and Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 1999

Helgasson, Guðmundur and Kolbicz, Rainer, www.uboat.net, 2015
gel, Georg, “U-Boat Emblems of World War II 1939 – 1945,” Schiffer Military History, Atglen, PA, US, 1999

Kurowski, Franz, Knights of the Wehrmacht, Knight’s Cross Holders of the U-Boat Service,” Schiffer Military/Aviation History, Atglen, PA, US, 1995
Mason, Jerry, www.uboatarchive.net – for the KTB or war diary of this patrol, 2015

Niestlé,Axel, “German U-Boat Losses During World War II – Details of Destruction,” Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 1998