German submarine U-109 (1940)
The German submarine U-109 was a Type IXB U-boat of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine that operated during World War II. She conducted nine war-patrols, sinking 12 ships and damaging one. All but one of these successes were during the six patrols she carried out under the command of the U-boat ace, Heinrich Bleichrodt.
U-107, a U-boat identical to U-109
|Ordered:||24 May 1938|
|Builder:||DeSchiMAG AG Weser, Bremen|
|Laid down:||9 March 1940|
|Launched:||14 September 1940|
|Commissioned:||5 December 1940|
|Fate:||Sunk by aircraft, all crew lost.|
|Class and type:||German Type IXB submarine|
|Height:||9.60 m (31 ft 6 in)|
|Draught:||4.70 m (15 ft 5 in)|
|Test depth:||230 m (750 ft)|
|Complement:||48 to 56 officers and ratings|
Construction and design
U-109 was ordered by the Kriegsmarine on 24 May 1938 (as part of Plan Z and in violation of the Treaty of Versailles). Her keel was laid down on 9 March 1940 by DeSchiMAG AG Weser, Bremen as yard number 972. U-109 was launched on 14 September 1940 and commissioned on 5 December under the command of Hans-Georg Fischer.
German Type IXB submarines were slightly larger than the original German Type IX submarines, later designated IXA. U-109 had a displacement of 1,051 tonnes (1,034 long tons) when at the surface and 1,178 tonnes (1,159 long tons) while submerged. The U-boat had a total length of 76.50 m (251 ft), a pressure hull length of 58.75 m (192 ft 9 in), a beam of 6.76 m (22 ft 2 in), a height of 9.60 m (31 ft 6 in), and a draught of 4.70 m (15 ft 5 in). The submarine was powered by two MAN M 9 V 40/46 supercharged four-stroke, nine-cylinder diesel engines producing a total of 4,400 metric horsepower (3,240 kW; 4,340 shp) for use while surfaced, two Siemens-Schuckert 2 GU 345/34 double-acting electric motors producing a total of 1,000 metric horsepower (740 kW; 990 shp) for use while submerged. She had two shafts and two 1.92 m (6 ft) propellers. The boat was capable of operating at depths of up to 230 metres (750 ft).
The submarine had a maximum surface speed of 18.2 knots (33.7 km/h; 20.9 mph) and a maximum submerged speed of 7.3 knots (13.5 km/h; 8.4 mph). When submerged, the boat could operate for 64 nautical miles (119 km; 74 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph); when surfaced, she could travel 12,000 nautical miles (22,000 km; 14,000 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). U-109 was fitted with six 53.3 cm (21 in) torpedo tubes (four fitted at the bow and two at the stern), 22 torpedoes, one 10.5 cm (4.13 in) SK C/32 naval gun, 180 rounds, and a 3.7 cm (1.5 in) SK C/30 as well as a 2 cm (0.79 in) C/30 anti-aircraft gun. The boat had a complement of forty-eight.
U-109 conducted a total of nine war patrols in her career and sank 12 enemy vessels for a total of 79,969 gross register tons (GRT). She also damaged one other of 6,548 GRT.
Following training exercises with the 2nd U-boat Flotilla from 5 December 1940 to 30 April 1941, U-109 was transferred to front-line service, still as a member of the 2. Unterseebootsflottille on 1 May. U-109 left Kiel on 6 May. For 24 days, she roamed the North Sea and eventually the North Atlantic in search of Allied convoys heading to Britain. It was here that she claimed her first enemy vessel, the British steam merchantman Harpagus, which was torpedoed and sunk on 20 May, a loss of 5,173 tons. Following this victory, U-109 entered the German occupied port of Lorient in France. This city was to remain her home base for the remainder of her career.
Second and third patrols
U-109's second and third patrols took place without any victories. Her second voyage began on 28 June 1941 when she left her home port of Lorient. For 51 days, she travelled south past Cape Verde in search of any Allied convoys off the coast of Africa. Having not found any, U-109 returned to Lorient on 17 August.
Her third patrol was much like her second. Having left Lorient on 5 October 1941, she proceeded to travel north into the North Atlantic. The U-boat travelled as far west as Nova Scotia and as far north as Labrador before heading back, arriving in Lorient on 18 November after spending 45 days at sea and without sinking any vessels.
U-109's fourth patrol was much more successful than her last two. The U-boat left Lorient on 27 December 1941 and for 59 days she travelled to the eastern seaboard of the United States in search of Allied shipping as part of Operation Paukenschlag (Drumbeat). On 23 January 1942, she sank her first enemy vessel when she torpedoed the British merchant vessel, Thirlby. On 1 February, U-109 sank another British vessel, Tacoma Star. These victories were followed by the sinking of the Canadian Montrolite on 5 February and the Panamanian Halcyon on 6 February. Following these victories, U-109 returned to Lorient on 23 February 1942, she was reported by the BBC to be sunk and the crew taken prisoner.
Her fifth patrol was also eventful. Having left Lorient on 25 March 1942, the U-boat headed to the southern coast of the United States. On 20 April, she sank the British merchant vessel Harpagon. This was followed by the damaging of the British ship La Paz off the coast of Florida on 1 May. Two days later, on 3 May, U-109 torpedoed and sank the Dutch vessel Laertes. She returned to Lorient on 3 June 1942, after 72 days at sea.
Much like her second patrol, U-109's sixth foray took place off the coast of Africa. For 81 days, she traveled as far south as the Gold Coast and sank five enemy vessels: the Norwegian Arthur W. Sewall on 7 August; and a further four British vessels, Vimeira on 11 August, Ocean Might on 3 September, Tuscan Star on 6 September and Peterton on 17 September. U-109 then returned to Lorient on 6 October 1942.
Seventh and eighth patrols
U-109's remaining patrols were without any victories. The U-boat left Lorient on 28 November 1942 and traveled south off the northern coast of South America. 57 days later, on 23 January 1943, she returned to Lorient without any victories.
Her eighth patrol was much the same. The submarine left port on 3 March and travelled as far south as the Azores, circled the island chain and returned to Lorient on 1 April after 30 days at sea and without sighting any enemy vessels.
U-109's ninth and last war patrol took place from 28 April 1943, when she left Lorient, on 4 May. She was sunk by four depth charges from a RAF Liberator aircraft (89 Squadron) south of Ireland. The aircraft was flying to a rendezvous with an Allied convoy when it detected the boat with its H2S radar, north-east of the Azores. The U-boat was seen to surface before slowly sinking, apparently with enough time for the crew to abandon her, although none were seen to emerge from her hatches. It is assumed that all 52 of her crew went down with her.
Summary of raiding history
|20 May 1941||Harpagus||5,173||Sunk|
|23 January 1942||Thirlby||4,877||Sunk|
|1 February 1942||Tacoma Star||7,924||Sunk|
|5 February 1942||Montrolite||11,309||Sunk|
|6 February 1942||Halcyon||3,531||Sunk|
|20 April 1942||Harpagon||?||Sunk|
|20 April 1942||La Paz||6,548||Damaged|
|3 May 1942||Laertes||5,825||Sunk|
|7 August 1942||Arthur W. Sewall||6,030||Sunk|
|11 August 1942||Vimeira||5,728||Sunk|
|3 September 1942||Ocean Might||7,173||Sunk|
|6 September 1942||Tuscan Star||11,449||Sunk|
|17 September 1942||Peterton||5,221||Sunk|
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