German submarine U-166 (1941)

German submarine U-166 was a Type IXC U-boat of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine during World War II. The submarine was laid down on 6 December 1940 at the Seebeckwerft (part of Deutsche Schiff- und Maschinenbau AG, Deschimag) at Wesermünde (modern Bremerhaven) as yard number 705, launched on 1 November 1941, and commissioned on 23 March 1942 under the command of Oberleutnant zur See Hans-Günther Kuhlmann. After training with the 4th U-boat Flotilla, U-166 was transferred to the 10th U-boat Flotilla for front-line service on 1 June 1942. The U-boat sailed on only two war patrols and sank four ships totalling 7,593 gross register tons (GRT).[2] She was sunk on 30 July 1942 in the Gulf of Mexico.[5]

A deck gun of the sunken German U-boat U-166
Nazi Germany
Ordered25 September 1939
BuilderSeebeckwerft, Wesermünde
Yard number705
Laid down6 December 1940
Launched1 November 1941[1]
Commissioned23 March 1942[1]
FateSunk, 30 July 1942 by the United States Navy patrol craft PC-566
General characteristics
Class and typeType IXC submarine
  • 1,120 t (1,100 long tons) surfaced
  • 1,232 t (1,213 long tons) submerged
  • 6.76 m (22 ft 2 in) o/a
  • 4.40 m (14 ft 5 in) pressure hull
Height9.60 m (31 ft 6 in)
Draught4.70 m (15 ft 5 in)
Installed power
  • 4,400 PS (3,200 kW; 4,300 bhp) (diesels)
  • 1,000 PS (740 kW; 990 shp) (electric)
  • 13,450 nmi (24,910 km; 15,480 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) surfaced
  • 64 nmi (119 km; 74 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph) submerged
Test depth230 m (750 ft)
Complement4 officers, 44 enlisted
Service record[2][3]
Part of:
  • Oblt.z.S. Hans-Günther Kuhlmann
  • 23 March – 30 July 1942
  • 2 patrols:
  • 1st patrol:
  • 1 – 10 June 1942
  • 2nd patrol:
  • 17 June – 30 July 1942
Victories: 4 merchant ships sunk
(7,593 GRT)
S.S. Robert E. Lee and U-166 (shipwrecks and remains)
NRHP reference No.100002558[4]
Added to NRHP7 December 2018


German Type IXC submarines were slightly larger than the original Type IXBs. U-166 had a displacement of 1,120 tonnes (1,100 long tons) when at the surface and 1,232 tonnes (1,213 long tons) while submerged.[6] The U-boat had a total length of 76.76 m (251 ft 10 in), 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, and 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 metres (6 ft 4 in) propellers. The boat was capable of operating at depths down to 230 m (750 ft).[6]

The submarine had a maximum surface speed of 18.3 kn (33.9 km/h; 21.1 mph) and a maximum submerged speed of 7.3 kn (13.5 km/h; 8.4 mph).[6] When submerged, the boat could operate for 63 nmi (117 km; 72 mi) at 4 kn (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph); when surfaced, she could travel 13,450 nmi (24,910 km; 15,480 mi) at 10 kn (19 km/h; 12 mph). U-166 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 antiaircraft gun. The boat had a complement of 49.[6]

Service historyEdit

First patrolEdit

U-166 first sailed from Kiel to Kristiansand, Norway, on 30–31 May 1942.[3] The U-boat sailed on her first combat patrol, from Kristiansand on 1 June 1942, around the British Isles, and arrived at Lorient, France, 10 days later.[7]

Second patrolEdit

U-166 departed from Lorient on 17 June 1942, sailed across the Atlantic and into the Gulf of Mexico[8]


Robert E. Lee was under escort from the United States Navy patrol craft PC-566[9] about 45 mi (72 km) south of the Mississippi River Delta when she was torpedoed by U-166 on 30 July 1942. PC-566 immediately attacked, making her approach vector outside the view of U-166's periscope, and claimed to have sunk the U-boat with depth charges. Upon returning to port with the survivors of Robert E. Lee, the Navy did not believe the account provided by PC-566's skipper LCDR Herbert G. Claudius, USNR. Claudius' tactics were criticized, resulting in his reprimand and removal from seagoing command.

On 1 August 1942, a United States Coast Guard J4F-1 Widgeon amphibious aircraft spotted a U-boat around 100 mi (160 km) off the coast of Houma, Louisiana. The aircraft attacked and it appeared that the U-boat was hit in the attack. U-166 was reported missing in action on 30 July 1942, which coincided with the American aircraft's attack on "a U-Boat", leading to the aircraft being credited with the sinking of U-166, with the loss of all 52 crew members. Both aircraft crewmen were decorated for the action.[10][11]

Wreckage located in 2001Edit

A gun on the deck of the sunken U-166

In 2001, when the wreck of Robert E. Lee was located in more than 5,000 ft (1,500 m) of water, the wreck of U-166 was also located, less than 2 miles from where it had attacked her. An archaeological survey of the seafloor prior to construction of a natural gas pipeline led to the discoveries by C & C Marine archaeologists Robert A. Church and Daniel J. Warren. The sonar contacts consisted of two large sections lying roughly 500 ft apart at either end of a debris field that indicated the presence of a U-boat.[12] Petroleum companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico's outer continental shelf are required to provide sonar data in areas that have archaeological potential. BP and Shell sponsored additional fieldwork to record detailed images, including a gun on the deck aft of the submarine's conning tower.[13]

Charles "C.J." Christ, from Houma, spent most of his life searching for U-166 and was involved in the final identification of the U-boat.[14]

The site where U-166 lies, at 28°41′N 88°42′W / 28.683°N 88.700°W / 28.683; -88.700Coordinates: 28°41′N 88°42′W / 28.683°N 88.700°W / 28.683; -88.700, has been designated a war grave because its crew of 52 is entombed there. It is protected against any future attempts to salvage it.

Oceanographer and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Robert Ballard explored and mapped the wreck in the summer of 2014 with remotely operated vehicles, where they noticed that the submarine's bow had been blown off and found rested on the seafloor 100 feet away from the main hull. They determined that the bow of the submarine was destroyed, apparently by a depth charge that landed on the forward deck, exploded, and caused an internal detonation of the submarine's own torpedoes, which broke off the bow. If so, this would be one of the few successful submarine kills caused by direct contact from a depth charge, as typical attacks relied upon depth charges exploding a short distance away to inflict repeated hydraulic shocks that would eventually crack a submarine's pressure hull.[15][16]

Initial credit for the sinking of U-166 had been given to a Grumman G-44 Widgeon, but the position of the wreck made it clear that this should have gone to the submarine chaser PC-566.[10][17][18] On 16 December 2014, the Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus posthumously awarded the captain of PC-566, then-LCDR Herbert G. Claudius, USNR (later CAPT USN[19]), the Legion of Merit with a Combat "V" device for heroism in battle and credited him with the sinking of the U-boat. "Seventy years later, we now know that [Claudius's] report after the action was absolutely correct," he said. "[Claudius's ship] did sink that U-boat, and it's never too late to set the record straight."[20][21]

Results of a study released in February 2019 showed that the wreck of U-166 was being badly damaged because of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Seabed bacteria, feeding on the oil, were causing the damage.[22][23]

Summary of raiding historyEdit

Date Ship Name Nationality Tonnage (GRT) Fate[24] Position Deaths
11 July 1942 Carmen   Dominican Republic 84 Sunk 19°43′N 70°12′W / 19.717°N 70.200°W / 19.717; -70.200 1
13 July 1942 Oneida   United States 2,309 Sunk 20°17′N 74°06′W / 20.283°N 74.100°W / 20.283; -74.100 6
16 July 1942 Gertrude   United States 16 Sunk 23°32′N 82°00′W / 23.533°N 82.000°W / 23.533; -82.000 0
30 July 1942 Robert E. Lee   United States 5,184 Sunk 28°40′N 88°42′W / 28.667°N 88.700°W / 28.667; -88.700 25


  • One of the foremost authorities on the subject is Charles "C.J." Christ, from Houma,[25] who spent most of his life searching for U-166. His personal account about his search and the final locating and identification of the U-boat can be found in a local newspaper, The Houma Courier: C.J. Christ "WAR IN THE GULF: German submarine, U-166, found in the Gulf of Mexico" (The article can be found online as reprint by another local newspaper, The Daily Comet).[26]
  1. ^ a b Kemp 1999, p. 85.
  2. ^ a b Helgason, Guðmundur. "The Type IXC boat U-166". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 22 February 2010.
  3. ^ a b Helgason, Guðmundur. "War Patrols by German U-boat U-166". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 22 February 2010.
  4. ^ "National Register Information System – (#100002558)". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 9 July 2010.
  5. ^ "Historic Shipwrecks in the Gulf of Mexico". Archived from the original on 17 October 2008. Retrieved 22 February 2010.
  6. ^ a b c d Gröner, Jung & Maass 1991, p. 68.
  7. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol of U-boat U-166 from 1 June 1942 to 10 June 1942 - U-boat patrols -". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 22 February 2010.
  8. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol of U-boat U-166 from 17 Jun 1942 to 30 Jul 1942". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 22 February 2010.
  9. ^ "Honesdale (PC 566)". Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  10. ^ a b "U-166". US Coast Guard. Retrieved 16 October 2009.
  11. ^ "173-FOOT STEEL-HULL PATROL CRAFT (PC, 461 - CLASS)". Patrol Craft Sailors Association. Retrieved 8 July 2007.
  12. ^ Daniel J. Warren, Robert A. Church. "The Discovery of U - 166 : Rewriting History with New Technology". Offshore Technology Conference. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 December 2019. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
  13. ^ "Petroleum Survey finds U-166". American Oil & Gas Historical Society. 25 July 2018.
  14. ^ "WAR IN THE GULF: German submarine, U-166, found in the Gulf of Mexico". The Daily Comet (Lafourche). Retrieved 23 January 2013.
  15. ^ Boyle, Alan (6 May 2015). "How an Expedition to Study a Sunken Nazi U-Boat Rescued a Reputation". NBC News. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
  16. ^ "NOVA: Nazi Attack on America". Public Broadcasting System. 6 May 2015. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
  17. ^ "Publications - Newsletter Page 3". Archived from the original on 14 May 2003. Retrieved 15 January 2022.
  18. ^ "Contents". World War II in the Gulf of Mexico. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 8 July 2007.
  19. ^ "claudius". Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  20. ^ "72 Years Later, Snubbed Captain Credited With Downing German U-Boat", Brian Clark,National Geographic, Washington, D.C., 17 December 2014.
  21. ^ Brian Clark Howard (19 December 2014). "72 Years Later, Snubbed Captain Credited With Downing German U-Boat". National Geographic.
  22. ^ Adam, David. "Nazi sub is being destroyed by bacteria due to Deepwater Horizon spill". New Scientist. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  23. ^ Mugge, Rachel L.; Brock, Melissa L.; Salerno, Jennifer L.; Damour, Melanie; Church, Robert A.; Lee, Jason S.; Hamdan, Leila J. (2019). "Deep-Sea Biofilms, Historic Shipwreck Preservation and the Deepwater Horizon Spill". Frontiers in Marine Science. 6. doi:10.3389/fmars.2019.00048.
  24. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "Ships hit by U-166". German U-boats of WWII -
  25. ^ "History of the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry in Southern Louisiana" (PDF). OCS Study MMS 2008-042 Volume 1. p. 42. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
  26. ^ "WAR IN THE GULF: German submarine, U-166, found in the Gulf of Mexico". The Daily Comet. Retrieved 23 January 2013.


  • Busch, Rainer & Röll, Hans-Joachim (1999). German U-boat commanders of World War II : a biographical dictionary. Translated by Brooks, Geoffrey. London, Annapolis, Md: Greenhill Books, Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-55750-186-8.
  • Busch, Rainer & Röll, Hans-Joachim (1999). Deutsche U-Boot-Verluste von September 1939 bis Mai 1945 [German U-boat losses from September 1939 to May 1945]. Der U-Boot-Krieg (in German). Vol. IV. Hamburg, Berlin, Bonn: Mittler. ISBN 978-3-8132-0514-5.
  • Gröner, Erich; Jung, Dieter & Maass, Martin (1991). U-boats and Mine Warfare Vessels. German Warships 1815–1945. Vol. 2. Translated by Thomas, Keith & Magowan, Rachel. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 978-0-85177-593-7.
  • Kemp, Paul (1999). U-Boats Destroyed - German Submarine Losses in the World Wars. London: Arms & Armour. ISBN 978-1-85409-515-2.

External linksEdit