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German submarine U-161 (1941)

Career (Nazi Germany)
Name: U-161
Ordered: 23 December 1939
Builder: Deutsche Schiff und maschinenbau AG, Bremen
Yard number: 700
Laid down: 23 March 1940
Launched: 1 March 1941
Commissioned: 8 July 1941
Fate: Sunk on 27 September 1943[1]
General characteristics [2]
Type: Type IXC submarine
Displacement: 1,120 t (1,100 long tons) surfaced
1,232 t (1,213 long tons) submerged
Length: 76.76 m (251 ft 10 in) overall
58.7 m (192 ft 7 in) pressure hull
Beam: 6.76 m (22 ft 2 in) overall
4.4 m (14 ft 5 in) pressure hull
Height: 9.6 m (31 ft 6 in)
Draft: 4.7 m (15 ft 5 in)
Propulsion: 2 × MAN M 9 V 40/46 supercharged 9-cylinder diesel engines, 4,000 hp (2,983 kW)
2 × SSW 2 GU 345/34 double-acting electric motors, 1,000 hp (746 kW)
Speed: 18.3 knots (33.9 km/h) surfaced
7.3 knots (13.5 km/h) submerged
Range: 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 depth: 230 m (750 ft)
Complement: 48 to 56
Service record
Part of: Kriegsmarine
4th U-boat Flotilla
(8 July–31 December 1941)
2nd U-boat Flotilla
(1 January 1942–27 September 1943)
Commanders: Kptlt. Hans-Ludwig Witt
(8 July–30 November 1941)
Kplt. Hans-Ludwig Witt
(1 December–31 December 1941)
Kplt. Albrecht Achilles
(1 January 1942–27 September 1943)
Operations: Six patrols
Victories: 12 ships sunk for a total of 60,107 gross register tons (GRT)
one warship sunk, (1,130 tons)
five ships damaged,
(35,672 tons)
one warship damaged, (5,450)
one ship a total loss, (3,305 tons)

German submarine U-161 was a Type IXC U-boat of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine built for service during World War II. The keel for this boat was laid down on 23 March 1940 at the Deutsche Schiff und maschinenbau AG, Bremen yard as yard number 700. She was launched on 1 March 1941 and commissioned on 8 July under the command of Kapitänleutnant Hans-Ludwig Witt (Knight's Cross).

The U-boat's service began with training as part of the 4th U-boat Flotilla. She then moved to the 10th flotilla on 1 January 1942 for operations. She sank 12 ships, totalling 60,107 tons; one warship of 1,130 tons and damaged five others, for 35,672 tons. She also damaged one warship (5,450 tons) and caused one merchant vessel to be declared a total loss (3,305 tons).

She was sunk by an American aircraft in September 1943.


  • Operational career 1
    • 1st and 2nd patrols 1.1
    • 3rd patrol 1.2
    • 4th patrol 1.3
    • 5th patrol 1.4
    • 6th patrol and loss 1.5
  • Summary of raiding career 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4

Operational career

1st and 2nd patrols

The submarine's first patrol took her from Kiel on 3 January 1942, across the North Sea and into the Atlantic Ocean through the gap between the Faroe and Shetland Islands. She arrived at Lorient, in occupied France, on 3 May. She would be based at this Atlantic port for the rest of her career.

U-161 '​s second sortie proved to be successful, damaging British Consul and Mokihana on 19 February 1942 while the ship rode at anchor in the Gulf of Paria off Port of Spain, Trinidad.[3] She went on to sink ships such as Circe Shell, Lihue the petrol tanker Uniwaleco off St Vincent and daringly she made her way at night through the narrow passage into Castries Harbour, St Lucia where she damaged the Lady Nelson and Umtata. One ship sunk by U-161, Sarniadoc, sank in 30 seconds after her boiler exploded. There were no survivors. On March 15, 1942, while en route alone from Curaçao, Netherlands West Indies to Antigua, British West Indies, the USCGC Acacia (WAGL-200), a Speedwell-class mine planter originally built for the U.S. Army in 1918 and 1919 and transferred to the U.S. Lighthouse Service at no cost in 1922, was sunk by gunfire from the German submarine U-161 approximately 150 miles south of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The entire crew of Acacia abandoned ship before she sank and all were rescued unscathed. She was the only U.S. tender sunk by enemy action during the war.

3rd patrol

The boat's third patrol took her past the Azores and Cape Verde Islands, to the Brazilian coast north of Fortaleza. She then followed that coastline north until she reached the Caribbean. On 16 June 1942 she stopped the sailing ship Neuva Altagracia with gunfire and sank the vessel with scuttling charges. She also attacked San Pablo while the ship was being unloaded in Puerto Limón, Costa Rica on 3 July. Although the ship sank, she was raised with the intention of repair; but she was declared a total loss and sunk as a target on 25 September.

She crossed the Atlantic in an easterly direction, but turned about and returned to the Caribbean. Having commenced the return leg to France, she encountered Fairport 500 nmi (930 km; 580 mi) north of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands on 16 July and sank her. The boat returned to Lorient on 7 August.

4th patrol

Her fourth foray was to west Africa. This patrol was her longest—113 days. She damaged the light cruiser HMS Phoebe six miles and 282° from Pointe Noire, French Equatorial Africa on 23 October 1942 and sank theWest Humhaw 60 nmi (110 km; 69 mi) southwest of Takoradi in Ghana on 8 November.

5th patrol

The boat's fifth patrol involved another Atlantic crossing and sinking a second sailing ship, Angelus, north of Bermuda, again with gunfire. Ten survivors abandoned the vessel; only two were still alive when their lifeboat was discovered.

6th patrol and loss

Aerial attack on U-161 by a PBM-Mariner of VP-74 on 27 September 1943.

The U-boat departed Lorient for the last time on 8 August 1943. Returning to the Brazilian coast, she sank St. Usk on 20 September and Itapagé on the 26th. She was sunk with all hands (53 men), on 27 September 1943 by an American PBM Mariner aircraft of VP-74 in the South Atlantic.

Summary of raiding career

Date Name Nationality Tonnage
19 February 1942 British Consul  United Kingdom 6,940 Damaged
19 February 1942 Mokihana  United States 7,460 Damaged
21 February 1942 Circe Shell  United Kingdom 8,207 Sunk
23 February 1942 Lihue  United States 7,001 Sunk
7 March 1942 Uniwaleco  South Africa 9,755 Sunk
10 March 1942 HMCS Lady Nelson  Royal Canadian Navy 7,970 Damaged
10 March 1942 Umtata  United Kingdom 8,141 Damaged
14 March 1942 Sarniadoc  Canada 1,940 Sunk
15 March 1942 USCGC Acacia  United States Coast Guard 1,130 Sunk
16 June 1942 Nueva Altagracia  Dominican Republic 30 Sunk
22 June 1942 E.J. Sadler  United States 9,639 Sunk
3 July 1942 San Pablo  Panama 3,305 Total loss
16 July 1942 Fairport  United States 6,165 Sunk
23 October 1942 HMS Phoebe  Royal Navy 5,450 Damaged
8 November 1942 Benalder  United Kingdom 5,161 Damaged
8 November 1942 West Humhaw  United States 5,527 Sunk
29 November 1942 Tjileboet  Netherlands 5,760 Sunk
12 December 1942 Ripley  United Kingdom 4,997 Sunk
19 May 1943 Angelus  Canada 255 Sunk
20 September 1943 St. Usk  United Kingdom 5,472 Sunk
26 September 1943 Itapagé  Brazil 4,998 Sunk


  1. ^ Kemp, Paul: U-Boats Destroyed - German Submarine Losses in the World Wars, 1997, Arms & Armour, ISBN 1-85409-515-3, p. 147
  2. ^ Gröner 1985, pp. 105-7.
  3. ^ Kelshall, Gaylord: The U Boat War in the Caribbean. pub by The Naval Institute Press
  4. ^ "Ships hit by U-161". Retrieved 3 October 2014. 
  • Busch, Rainer; Röll, Hans-Joachim (1999). Deutsche U-Boot-Verluste von September 1939 bis Mai 1945. Der U-Boot-Krieg (in German) IV (Hamburg, Berlin, Bonn: Mittler).  
  • Gröner, Erich (1985). U-Boote, Hilfskreuzer, Minenschiffe, Netzleger, Sperrbrecher. Die deutschen Kriegsschiffe 1815-1945 (in German) III (Koblenz:  

External links

  • Helgason, Guðmundur. "The Type IX boat U-161". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 7 December 2014. 
  • at ubootwaffe.netU-161
  • Hofmann, Markus. "U-161". Deutsche U-Boote 1935-1945 - (in German). Retrieved 7 December 2014. 

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