Operation Neuland
Part of the Atlantic Campaign of World War II
Date16 February – late March 1942
Result German - Italian victory
Commanders and leaders
Karl Dönitz
Romolo Polacchini
John H. Hoover
11 submarines
Casualties and losses
  • Casualties
  • 1 killed
  • 1 wounded
  • Losses
  • 1 submarine damaged
  • Losses
  • 45 cargo ships sunk
  • 1 lighthouse tender sunk
  • 10 cargo ships damaged

Operation Neuland (New Land) was the German Navy's code name for the extension of unrestricted submarine warfare into the Caribbean Sea during World War II. U-boats demonstrated range to disrupt United Kingdom petroleum supplies and United States aluminum supplies which had not been anticipated by Allied pre-war planning. Although the area remained vulnerable to submarines for several months, U-boats never again enjoyed the opportunities for success resulting from the surprise achieved by the submarines participating in this operation.

Background edit

The Caribbean was strategically significant because of Venezuelan oil fields in the southeast and the Panama Canal in the southwest. The Royal Dutch Shell oil refinery on Dutch-owned Curaçao, processing eleven million barrels per month, was the largest in the world; the refinery at Pointe-à-Pierre on Trinidad was the largest in the British Empire; and there was Lago Oil and Transport Company, another large refinery on Dutch-owned Aruba. The British Isles required four oil tankers of petroleum daily during the early war years, and most of it came from Venezuela, through Curaçao, after Italy blocked passage through the Mediterranean Sea from the Middle East.[1]

The Caribbean held additional strategic significance to the United States. The southern United States Gulf of Mexico coastline, including petroleum facilities and Mississippi River trade, could be defended at two points. The United States was well positioned to defend the Straits of Florida but was less able to prevent access from the Caribbean through the Yucatán Channel. Bauxite was the preferred ore for aluminum, and one of the few strategic raw materials not available within the continental United States. United States military aircraft production depended upon bauxite imported from the Guianas along shipping routes paralleling the Lesser Antilles.[2]

United States Navy VP-51 Consolidated PBY Catalinas began neutrality patrols along the Lesser Antillies from San Juan, Puerto Rico on 13 September 1939.[3] The United Kingdom had established military bases on Trinidad; and British troops occupied Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire soon after the Netherlands were captured by Nazi Germany. The French island of Martinique was perceived as a possible base for Axis ships as British relationships with Vichy France deteriorated following the Second Armistice at Compiègne. The September 1940 Destroyers for Bases Agreement enabled the United States to build bases in British Guiana, and on the islands of Great Exuma, Jamaica, Antigua, Saint Lucia and Trinidad.[4]

Concept edit

Declaration of war on 8 December 1941 removed United States neutrality assertions which had previously protected trade shipping in the Western Atlantic. The relatively ineffective anti-submarine warfare (ASW) measures along the United States Atlantic coast observed by U-boats participating in Operation Paukenschlag encouraged utilizing the range of German Type IX submarines to explore conditions in what had previously been the southern portion of a declared Pan American neutrality zone. A 15 January 1942 meeting in Lorient included former Hamburg America Line captains with Caribbean experience to brief commanding officers of U-156, U-67, U-502, U-161 and U-129 about conditions in the area. The first three U-boats sailed on 19 January with orders to simultaneously attack Dutch refinery facilities on 16 February. U-161 sailed on 24 January to attack Trinidad, and U-129 followed on 26 January. U-126 sailed on 2 February to patrol the Windward Passage between Cuba and Hispaniola; and five large Italian submarines sailed from Bordeaux to patrol the Atlantic side of the Lesser Antilles. These eleven submarines would patrol independently to disperse Allied ASW resources until exhaustion of food, fuel or torpedoes required them to return to France.[5]

Implementation edit

U-156 edit

The second patrol of U-156 was under the command of Werner Hartenstein. On the evening of 15 February,U-156 surfaced after nightfall, two miles off Aruba. Hartenstein commenced his attack at 0131 on 16 February, when he fired two torpedoes at the tankers SS Pedernales and SS Oranjestad laying at anchor outside San Nicolaas. Ten minutes later, U-156 moved to within 3/4 mile of the Lago refinery and prepared to bombard it with her 10.5 cm deck gun. However, a crewman failed to remove the tampion from the muzzle, and the first shell detonated in the barrel. One gunner was killed, another was seriously injured, and the muzzle of the gun barrel was splayed open. Following the attack, U-156 sailed past Oranjestad, 14 miles to the west, and fired three torpedoes at the Shell tanker Arkansas berthed at the Eagle pier. One struck the ship, causing minor damage, one missed its mark and disappeared in the water, and the third beached itself. On February 17th, four Dutch marines were killed as they attempted to disarm the beached torpedo. Hartenstein kept U-156 submerged north of Aruba after daybreak. At nightfall the crew buried the sailor who died when the gun exploded, and the captain received permission to sail to Martinique, where the injured crewman was put ashore. The crew used hacksaws to shorten the damaged gun barrel by 40 centimeters, and used the sawed-off gun to sink two ships encountered after all torpedoes had been expended sinking two other ships. U-156 started home on 28 February 1942.[6]

Date[7] Ship[7] Flag[7] Tonnage (GRT)[7] Notes
16 February 1942 Pedernales   United Kingdom 4,317 Tanker torpedoed outside San Nicolaas harbor, but later repaired
16 February 1942 Oranjestad   United Kingdom 2,396 Tanker torpedoed outside San Nicolaas harbor, and capsized in 48 seconds[8]
16 February 1942 Arkansas   United States 6,452 Tanker torpedoed at Eagle Pier near Oranjestad but later repaired
20 February 1942 Delplata   United States 5,127 Freighter torpedoed at 14°45′N 62°10′W / 14.750°N 62.167°W / 14.750; -62.167[9]
25 February 1942 La Carriere   United Kingdom 5,685 Tanker
27 February 1942 Macgregor   United Kingdom 2,498 Freighter sunk by gunfire
28 February 1942 Oregon   United States 7,017 6 crewman killed aboard tanker sunk by gunfire at 20°44′N 67°52′W / 20.733°N 67.867°W / 20.733; -67.867[10]

U-67 edit

The third patrol of U-67 was under the command of Günther Müller-Stöckheim. In coordination with the attack on Aruba U-67 moved into Curaçao's Willemstad harbor shortly after midnight on 16 February to launch six torpedoes at three anchored tankers. The four bow torpedoes hit, but failed to explode. The two torpedoes from the stern tubes were effective on the third tanker.[11]

Date[12] Ship[12] Flag[12] Tonnage (GRT)[12] Notes
16 February 1942 Rafaela   Netherlands 3,177 Tanker torpedoed in Willemstad harbor, but later repaired
21 February 1942 Kongsgaard   Norway 9,467 Tanker
14 March 1942 Penelope   Panama 8,436 Tanker

U-502 edit

The third patrol of U-502 was under the command of Jürgen von Rosensteil. In coordination with the attacks on Aruba and Willemstad, U-502 waited to ambush shallow draft Lake Maracaibo crude oil tankers en route to the refineries. After three tankers were reported missing, the Chinese crews of surviving tankers refused to sail; and Associated Press broadcast a report that tanker traffic had been halted in the area. U-502 moved north and started home via the Windward Passage after launching its last torpedoes on 23 February.[13]

Date[14] Ship[14] Flag[14] Tonnage[14] Notes
16 February 1942 Tia Juana   United Kingdom 2,395 Shallow-draught 'Lake Maracaibo' crude oil tanker
16 February 1942 Monagas   Venezuela 2,650 Shallow-draught 'Lake Maracaibo' crude oil tanker
16 February 1942 San Nicholas   United Kingdom 2,391 Shallow-draught 'Lake Maracaibo' crude oil tanker
22 February 1942 J.N.Pew   United States 9,033 Tanker torpedoed at 12°40′N 74°00′W / 12.667°N 74.000°W / 12.667; -74.000,33 killed; 3 survivors[9]
23 February 1942 Thallia   Panama 8,329 Tanker
23 February 1942 Sun   United States 9,002 No casualties aboard. Tanker damaged by torpedo at 13°02′N 70°41′W / 13.033°N 70.683°W / 13.033; -70.683[15]

U-161 edit

The second patrol of U-161 was under the command of Albrecht Achilles. Achilles and his first watch officer Bender had both visited Trinidad while employed by Hamburg America Line before the war. U-161 entered Trinidad's Gulf of Paria harbor at periscope depth during daylight through a deep, narrow passage or Boca. An electronic submarine detection system registered its passage at 0930 on 18 February 1942, but the signal was dismissed as caused by a patrol boat. After spending the day resting on the bottom of the harbor, U-161 surfaced after dark to torpedo two anchored ships. U-161 then left the gulf with decks awash and running lights illuminated to resemble one of the harbor small craft; and then moved off to the northwest before returning to sink a ship outside the Boca. After sunset on 10 March 1942 U-161 silently entered the shallow, narrow entrance of Castries harbor surfaced on electric motors to torpedo two freighters at dockside; and then raced out under fire from machine guns. The two freighters had just arrived with supplies to construct the new US base; and the harbor previously considered immune to submarine attack was later fitted with an anti-submarine net. U-161 started home on 11 March 1942.[16]

Date[17] Ship[17] Flag[17] Tonnage[17] Notes
19 February 1942 British Consul   United Kingdom 6,940 Tanker torpedoed in Gulf of Paria, but later repaired
19 February 1942 Mokihana   United States 7,460 No casualties aboard freighter torpedoed in Gulf of Paria, but later repaired[18]
21 February 1942 Circe Shell   United Kingdom 8,207 Tanker
23 February 1942 Lihue   United States 7,001 No casualties aboard freighter torpedoed at 14°30′N 64°45′W / 14.500°N 64.750°W / 14.500; -64.750[19]
7 March 1942 Uniwaleco   South Africa 9,755 Whale Factory ship used as a fuel oil carrier[20]
10 March 1942 Lady Nelson   Canada 7,970 Freighter torpedoed in Castries harbor, but later repaired
10 March 1942 Umtata   United Kingdom 8,141 Freighter torpedoed in Castries harbor, but later repaired
14 March 1942 Sarniadoc   Canada 1,940 Freighter exploded and disappeared 30 seconds after torpedo impact[21] 21 lost no survivors
15 March 1942 Acacia   United States Navy 1,130 USCG lighthouse tender sunk by gunfire south of Haiti

Luigi Torelli edit

Luigi Torelli under the command of Antonio de Giacomo sank two ships.[22]

Date[23] Ship[22] Flag[22] Tonnage[22] Notes[22]
19 February Scottish Star   7,300 GRT freighter
25 February Esso Copenhagen   9,200 GRT tanker

U-129 edit

Under the command of Nicolai Clausen U-129 spent its fourth patrol intercepting bauxite freighters southeast of Trinidad.[24] The unexpected sinkings caused a temporary halt to merchant ship sailings. The Allies broadcast suggested routes for unescorted merchant ships to follow when sailings resumed. The U-boats received the broadcast and were waiting at the suggested locations.[25]

Date[26] Ship[26] Flag[26] Tonnage[26] Notes
20 February Nordvangen   2,400 GRT Bauxite freighter sunk with no survivors[27]
23 February George L. Torian   1,754 GRT Bauxite freighter
23 February West Zeda   5,658 GRT no casualties aboard freighter[28] torpedoed at 09°13′N 69°04′W / 9.217°N 69.067°W / 9.217; -69.067[9]
23 February Lennox   1,904 GRT Bauxite freighter
28 February Bayou   2,605 GRT Manganese freighter
3 March Mary   5,104 GRT Freighter[29] torpedoed at 08°25′N 52°50′W / 8.417°N 52.833°W / 8.417; -52.833[30]
7 March Steel Age   6,188 GRT 33 killed;sole survivor taken captive from freighter torpedoed at 06°45′N 53°15′W / 6.750°N 53.250°W / 6.750; -53.250[30]

Leonardo da Vinci edit

Leonardo da Vinci under the command of Luigi Longanesi-Cattani sank one Allied ship[22] and a neutral Brazilian freighter. There were no survivors from the Brazilian ship, and the sinking was not revealed.[31]

Date[32] Ship[32] Flag[32] Tonnage[32] Notes[32]
25 February 1942 Cabedello   3,775 GRT torpedoed at 16°00′N 42°30′W / 16.000°N 42.500°W / 16.000; -42.500; all 54 hands lost
28 February Everasma   3,644 GRT freighter torpedoed at 16°00′N 49°00′W / 16.000°N 49.000°W / 16.000; -49.000

U-126 edit

U-126 patrolled the Windward Passage under the command of Ernst Bauer.[33]

Date[34] Ship[34] Flag[34] Tonnage[34] Notes
2 March Gunny   2,362 GRT freighter
5 March Mariana   3,110 GRT no survivors from freighter torpedoed at 22°14′N 71°23′W / 22.233°N 71.383°W / 22.233; -71.383[30] [36 lost]
7 March Barbara   4,637 GRT freighter torpedoed at 20°00′N 73°56′W / 20.000°N 73.933°W / 20.000; -73.933[35]
7 March Cardonia   5,104 GRT freighter torpedoed at 19°53′N 73°27′W / 19.883°N 73.450°W / 19.883; -73.450[35]
8 March Esso Bolivar   10,389 GRT tanker damaged by torpedoes within sight of Guantánamo[36]
9 March Hanseat   8,241 GRT tanker
12 March Texan   7,005 GRT freighter torpedoed at 21°32′N 76°24′W / 21.533°N 76.400°W / 21.533; -76.400[37]
12 March Olga   2,496 GRT freighter torpedoed at 23°39′N 77°00′W / 23.650°N 77.000°W / 23.650; -77.000[37]
13 March Colabee   5,518 GRT freighter damaged by torpedoes at 22°14′N 77°35′W / 22.233°N 77.583°W / 22.233; -77.583[37]

Enrico Tazzoli edit

The large 1,331-ton Enrico Tazzoli under the command of Carlo Fecia di Cossato sank six ships.[22]

Date[38] Ship[38] Flag[38] Tonnage[38] Notes[38]
6 March Astrea   1,406 GRT freighter
6 March Tonsbergfjord   3,156 GRT freighter torpedoed at 31°22′N 68°05′W / 31.367°N 68.083°W / 31.367; -68.083 with 1 killed
8 March Montevideo   5,785 GRT freighter torpedoed at 29°13′N 69°35′W / 29.217°N 69.583°W / 29.217; -69.583 with 14 killed
10 March Cygnet   3,628 GRT freighter torpedoed at 24°05′N 74°20′W / 24.083°N 74.333°W / 24.083; -74.333 with no casualties
13 March Daytonian   6,434 GRT freighter torpedoed at 26°33′N 74°43′W / 26.550°N 74.717°W / 26.550; -74.717 with 1 killed
15 March Athelqueen   8,780 GRT tanker torpedoed at 26°50′N 75°40′W / 26.833°N 75.667°W / 26.833; -75.667 with 3 killed

Giuseppe Finzi edit

The large 1,331-ton Giuseppe Finzi under the command of Ugo Giudice sank three ships.[22]

Date[39] Ship[40] Flag[40] Tonnage[40] Notes[40]
7 March Melpomene   7,000 GRT tanker
7 March Skåne   4,500 GRT freighter
10 March Charles Racine   10,000 GRT tanker torpedoed with no casualties[41]

Morosini edit

The Marcello-class submarine Morosini under the command of Athos Fraternale sank three ships.[22]

Date[42] Ship[42] Flag[42] Tonnage[42] Notes[42]
12 March Stangarth   5,966 GRT freighter torpedoed at 22°45′N 57°40′W / 22.750°N 57.667°W / 22.750; -57.667
15 March Oscilla   6,341 GRT tanker torpedoed with 4 killed
23 March Peder Bogen   9,741 GRT tanker torpedoed at 24°53′N 57°30′W / 24.883°N 57.500°W / 24.883; -57.500 with no casualties

Results edit

The Aruba refinery was within deck gun range of deep water. Grand Admiral Erich Raeder would have preferred shelling the refinery as the opening action of Operation Neuland. On the basis of experience with the relative damage caused by deck guns in comparison to torpedoes, U-boat officers chose to begin by torpedoing tankers to cause large fires of spreading oil. Results of the initial attacks on Aruba and Curaçao were diminished by weapon failures; and subsequent attempts to shell the Aruba refinery were discouraged by defensive fire from larger numbers of larger caliber coastal artillery and patrols by alerted aircraft and submarine chasers.[43]

An important link in petroleum product transport from Venezuelan oil fields was a fleet of small tankers designed to reach the wells in shallow Lake Maracaibo and transport crude oil to the refineries. Approximately ten percent of these tankers were destroyed on the first day of Operation Neuland. Surviving tankers were temporarily immobilized when their Chinese crews mutinied and refused to sail without ASW escort.[44] Refinery output declined while the mutineers were jailed until sailings could resume.[45]

Torpedoing ships within defended harbors was relatively unusual through the battle of the Atlantic. U-boats more commonly deployed mines to permit a stealthy exit. Although results were perceived as less significant, the difficulty of attacks in the Gulf of Paria and Castries by U-161 was comparable to Günther Prien's penetration of Scapa Flow.[46]

Patrol of the Windward Passage by U-126 was well timed to exploit dispersion of ASW forces north and south. U-126 sank some ships within sight of Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.[47]

Neuland and Paukenschlag were opened with similar numbers of U-boats; but the effectiveness of Neuland was enhanced by coordination with Italian submarines. The level of success by Italian submarines against a concentration of undefended ships sailing independently was seldom repeated and marked a high point of effective Axis cooperation in the battle of the Atlantic.[22]

See also edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ Kelshall pp.7-22
  2. ^ Kelshall pp.7-18
  3. ^ Scarborough, William E. "The Neutralitv Patrol: To Keep Us Out of World War II?" pp.18-23 NAVAL AVIATION NEWS March–April 1990
  4. ^ Kelshall pp.4-24
  5. ^ Blair pp.503-509&728
  6. ^ Kelshall pp.26-31,42,47-48&57
  7. ^ a b c d "Patrol info for U-156". Guðmundur Helgason. Retrieved 29 July 2012.
  8. ^ Kenshall p.29
  9. ^ a b c Cressman p.77
  10. ^ Cressman p.79
  11. ^ Kelshall pp.26&32
  12. ^ a b c d "Patrol info for U-67". Guðmundur Helgason. Retrieved 29 July 2012.
  13. ^ Kelshall pp.26,33,35,43-44&54
  14. ^ a b c d "Patrol info for U-502". Guðmundur Helgason. Retrieved 29 July 2012.
  15. ^ Cressman p.78
  16. ^ Kelshall pp.26,35-42,44,49-51,60-64&67
  17. ^ a b c d "Patrol info for U-161". Guðmundur Helgason. Retrieved 29 July 2012.
  18. ^ Cressman p.76
  19. ^ Cressman pp.77-78
  20. ^ "SS Uniwaleco (+1942)". wrecksite.eu. Retrieved 19 June 2023.
  21. ^ Kelshall p.66
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Blair p.508
  23. ^ Kelshall pp.45&56
  24. ^ Blair p.507
  25. ^ Kelshall p.55
  26. ^ a b c d "Patrol info for U-129". Guðmundur Helgason. Retrieved 29 July 2012.
  27. ^ "D/S Nordvangen". warsailors.com. Retrieved 19 June 2023.
  28. ^ Kelshall p.53
  29. ^ Kelshall p.57
  30. ^ a b c Cressman p.80
  31. ^ Kelshall p.56
  32. ^ a b c d e "Leonardo da Vinci" Archived 13 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine at regiamarina.net, Cristiano D'Adamo; retrieved 25 July 2019
  33. ^ Kelshall p.52
  34. ^ a b c d "Patrol info for U-126". Guðmundur Helgason. Retrieved 29 July 2012.
  35. ^ a b Cressman p.81
  36. ^ Kelshall p.60
  37. ^ a b c Cressman p.82
  38. ^ a b c d e Enrico Tazzoli Archived 27 July 2020 at the Wayback Machine at regiamarina.net, Cristiano D'Adamo; retrieved 25 July 2019
  39. ^ Kelshall pp.58&60
  40. ^ a b c d Giuseppe Finzi Archived 13 November 2020 at the Wayback Machine at regiamarina.net, Cristiano D'Adamo; retrieved 25 July 2019
  41. ^ "M/T Charles Racine". warsailors.com. Retrieved 19 June 2023.
  42. ^ a b c d e Morosini Archived 30 November 2018 at the Wayback Machine at regiamarina.net, Cristiano D'Adamo; retrieved 25 July 2019
  43. ^ Blair pp. 504–505.
  44. ^ Blair pp. 505–506.
  45. ^ Kelshall p. 43.
  46. ^ Blair p. 506.
  47. ^ Kelshall pp. 58–60.

Sources edit

  • Blair, Clay Hitler's U-Boat War: The Hunters 1939-1942 Random House (1996) ISBN 0-394-58839-8
  • Cressman, Robert J. The Official Chronology of the U.S.Navy in World War II Naval Institute Press (2000) ISBN 1-55750-149-1
  • Kafka, Roger & Pepperburg, Roy L. Warships of the World Cornell Maritime Press (1946)
  • Kelshall, Gaylord T.M. The U-Boat War in the Caribbean United States Naval Institute Press (1994) ISBN 1-55750-452-0
  • Morison, Samuel Eliot, History of United States Naval Operations in World War II (volume I) The Battle of the Atlantic September 1939-May 1943 Little, Brown and Company (1975)