During World War II, the German navy began to activate the long-planned plan to send submarines to operate in the waters of the Caribbean Sea with the purpose, mainly, of cutting supplies to the United States and creating panic and insecurity in the convoys of merchant ships, among other objectives
During World War II, the German navy began to activate the long-planned plan to send submarines to operate in the waters of the Caribbean Sea with the purpose, mainly, of cutting supplies to the United States and creating panic and insecurity in the convoys of merchant ships, among other objectives.
On August 12, 1942, a convoy of three Cuban merchants and one Nicaraguan set sail from the port of Cayo Hueso to Havana. The Manzanillo steam, the Nicaraguan Guardian merchant, the Julián Alonso steam and the Humrrick tug.
Moments before leaving the ships, US submarine fighters explored the area and did not detect anything. But it was not like that.
The German submarine U 508, under the command of Lieutenant Georg Staats, at the depth of the periscope and with the machines stopped, was waiting for them.
The first to be hit by two torpedoes was the Manzanillo, which exploded and immediately sank. Minutes later the Nazi submarine attacked the ship Santiago de Cuba.
It was a useless maneuver to try to escape. A torpedo pierced the hull by the starboard side, at the height of the bridge, by the engine room, splitting it into two parts.
20 crew members from Manzanillo and 11 from Santiago de Cuba lost their lives.
The fire caused on the merchant ships could be observed by a group of sailors who studied at the sonar school of the Cayo Hueso Naval Base. Months later, the sailor Norberto Collado Abreu, who was one of the helmsmen of the yacht Granma, would receive training there.
To get an idea of the damage caused by the attacks of German submarines in the Caribbean Sea to merchant ships, most of them old, slow and unescorted, it is enough to point out the number of sunken ships and dead sailors.
On July 9, 1942, the motorboat Nicolás Cuneo was scuttled by a “gray wolf”, as they were called to the Nazi submarines. One month later, on August 12, Manzanillo and Santiago de Cuba, they would have the same luck.
The Mambí merchant ship was torpedoed on May 13, 1943, and Libertad on December 4, 1944. Approximately 75 Cuban sailors perished in those attacks. It is known that six German submarines operated in our waters.
For these reasons, it was not certain that merchant ships would sail without the escort of submarine fighters. That was more than clear. And whoever did it would run the risk of being sunk, as unfortunately had happened.
These security measures were taken into account when a convoy of several merchant ships was organized that had to sail towards the West. From Isabela de Sagua to Havana.
The protection and custody of the convoy were in charge of the submarine fighters CS-11, CS-13 and CS-22, who sailed two miles from the coast in zigzag, ten minutes to land, and ten to the starboard side of the convoy. .
It would be approximately 5:00 p.m. on the hot May 15, 1943, when a US seaplane Vougt King Fisher of the US Navy flew over the convoy and blew smoke signals to warn them of the presence of a submarine in the area.
Immediately the leader of the submarine fighters put the convoy on alert. He ordered the Ensign of Frigate Mario Ramírez Delgado, who commanded the CS-13, to locate and launch deep charges to the enemy submarine.
Norberto Collado, who was one of the sonarists of the CS-13, was on duty in the sonar room:
“… I was surprised at 1,600 yards or so a metallic sound, clean, clear, like a bell. It was the same sound that I had heard so many times in the practice polygon. Quick I communicated with the bridge of command so that the commander directed the ship towards where I indicated. This moment is the dream of every detectorist because in his hands is the ship’s address.
“At full speed, the boat was launched towards the target. The whole structure of our ship was moving. “We entered the danger zone. The distance was reduced quickly and I was communicating:
-800 yards, 750, 700, 600 …
-Collado, are you sure it’s a submarine? -the commander asked me.
-Yes. Be careful that in less than a second we will pass over it.
«Every time we were closer: 500, 400 yards … The sweat ran down my forehead. I had to turn the projector and inform the command post the direction of the submarine and the distance at which we were on it.
«Course in degrees and direction of movement. For the submarine everything was a surprise; I was greedy and intoxicated by the recent triumphs, I was hunting for an apparently easy prey and did not notice our presence because we got out of it. The convoy ships had them in front when they were about to attack them from the rear.
“Under these circumstances, the enemy enjoyed advantages: a sea completely calm, our sonar equipment had difficulty locating by the existing, compact salinity at that time; On the other hand, the team picks up the larger sound of the propellers of the convoy’s ships and they always try to attack from the rear, get into the center of the convoy to choose their victims.
“My information had to be very precise so that the bridge was ready to drop the bombs when we passed it over because at 200 yards it is not mine, I would lose contact with it. Then Abela, who was on duty on the deck, came down to help me. I would follow the direction and speed, he would inform the bridge. I lost contact at the minimum distance allowed by the team. This was the report to the bridge, while the fighter kept all speed on the battle course.
«From the depth of the sounding room, the seconds seemed hours. It is a moment of great tension; nor breathe. “What will be happening on deck?” One wonders. The wait was pure nerve. I looked at Abela, he at me. Both without uttering words. Suddenly, a great rumble accompanied by a sudden movement shook the entire ship. We both went against the walls of the narrow room full of electronic equipment. I had no doubt, the first bomb had exploded.
«At the moment when, through the acoustic tube, he told the commander:” We have him underneath, we can not escape “, another rumble; the second exploded … the third. With the stopwatch in hand, Ramírez was ordering the launch of the graduated pumps at different depths ».
Reiner Dierksen was the experienced commander of that submarine, the U-Boat-176. He quickly tried to perform an escape maneuver. Immerse yourself at full speed as much as you could to avoid the depth charges that were being thrown at you.
But he did not succeed. After the third depth bomb, a fourth explosion was heard, more powerful as if one of its torpedo cameras had exploded.
The explosion was of such magnitude that the underwater fighter sank its bow into the water, and part of it reached the engine room. And a column of murky water rose strongly, indicating that the enemy ship had been hit by the depth charge.
The underwater fighter was then located in the area where it had launched other depth bombs, turned off the engines and Collado was in listening position. He reported that he clearly heard how the submarine got water, as when a large empty doorknob is submerged and the glu, glu, glu, characteristic, begins.
An oil slick on the surface of the sea with bubbles began to increase in diameter, confirming that the enemy had been mortally wounded. The German submarine was sinking with more than fifty crew on board.
Corvette Captain Reiner Dierksen was assigned on November 15, 1941, to the 4th. flotilla. He conducted patrols from July 1942 until May 15, 1943. He had sunk 11 merchant ships.
It operated in the Atlantic. In this campaign, he was decorated with the Iron Cross of 1st. class.
The images that we show of the interior of a submarine of the type IX-C (stretch-oceanic), similar to the U-Boat 176, correspond to the U-505, that is in the Museum of Science and Industry, in Chicago, the United States, since September 25, 1954.
This submarine was captured on June 4, 1944, by the crew of the escort destroyer USS Chatelain (DE 149), 241 km from Rio de Oro, West coast of Africa.