U-546

Career (Nazi Germany)
Name: U-546
Ordered: 5 June 1941
Builder: Deutsche Werft AG, Hamburg-Finkenwerder
Laid down: 6 August 1942
Launched: 17 March 1943
Commissioned: 3 June 1943
Status: Sunk 24 April 1945 by US Navy ships in the north Atlantic[1]
General characteristics
Class & type: Type IX U-boat C-40
Installed power: Siemens
Propulsion: M.A.N. Type with mechanical supercharger
Complement: 59
Sensors and
processing systems:
• FuMO-61 Hohentwiel U
• FuMB-26 Tunis
• G.H.G. Atlas Type multi-unit hydrophones
Armament: Two twin 2 cm cannon on platform I, single 3.7 cm automatic cannon on platform II, 16 torpedoes
Notes: 26 dead and 33 survivors

German submarine U-546 was a Type IXC/40 U-boat operated by the German Kriegsmarine during World War II. She was laid down at the Deutsche Werft in Hamburg as Werk 367 on 6 August 1942, launched on 17 March 1943 and commissioned on 2 June 1943 under Oberleutnant Paul Just.[2] The U-boat was a member of three wolf packs.

U-546 was responsible for the last combat sinking of a United States Navy vessel in the Atlantic Theatre, during Operation Teardrop. On 24 April 1945 U-546 sank the destroyer escort USS Frederick C. Davis, but was in turn sunk by combined fire of five other USN destroyers.[3] Her captain and most of her crew were rescued by US vessels, and taken to Argentia Naval Station. It was from this crew that the USN eventually learned that no V-1/2 attacks from the U-boats were planned by the Kriegsmarine.[4]

Service history

She commenced her training on 2 June 1943, making her first silent run at Sønderborg, she remained with the 4th U-boat Flotilla (training) at Stettin until 31 December 1943.[5] She completed her training with a voyage from Hela to Swinemünde to practice A.A. cannon fire.

1st patrol

The boat was reassigned to the 10th U-boat Flotilla for combat duties in the Atlantic on 1 January 1944, departing Kiel on 22 January 1944, with a three day stopover at Marviken in Norway. After forming up with the Gruppe Igel 1 (Group Hedgehog) north-west of Scotland on 3 February 1944, U-546 commenced a patrol in the North Atlantic with other boats to the west of Ireland on anti-convoy duties.[6] At 1229 on 16 February U-546 reported she had been attacked by a British Sunderland flying boat from No. 201 Squadron RAF, killing one crewman. On 20 February 1944 she was again attacked by an aircraft.[5] On 17 April while returning to base in France, the U-boat was caught on the surface by a Leigh light -equipped Liberator of 53 Squadron in the Bay of Biscay, steaming south-east, ahead of convoy HX-278 and was attacked with depth charges, but shooting down the attacker with the 3.7 cm gun.[7] She returned to Lorient for service and refit on 23 or 25 April 1944. The crew was given leave while the boat was overhauled and the Schnorchel was fitted.

2nd patrol

Leaving her base again on 15 June 1944 for her second patrol to the African Gold Coast, she was detected by a USN anti-submarine patrol, which begun to hunt her. She soon had to abort her patrol and was ordered to return to Germany after the invasion of Normandy. On the 18 June 1944 U-546 was attacked, again by a Sunderland, which was not equipped with radar.[8] The boat then briefly returned to France on 22 June to replenish her cannon ammunition, sailing again on 25 June. On the 20 July 1944 she was detected by USN surface ships forming the escort for an escort carrier; U-546 fired a torpedo at the carrier, but missed and was subjected to three hours of depth charge attacks from the escort destroyers. She managed to escape this attack. U-546 was then ordered to patrol a zone near Cape Verde where she operated for about four weeks, attacking a convoy with a spread of three torpedoes, but scoring no hits.

During the second patrol due to fuel shortages the captain achieved significant fuel saving and extended the cruise to 150 days (the boat's longest patrol),[9] by floating submerged for days on water-layers with all engines stopped. The boat returned to base with 30 metric tons of fuel left.

3rd patrol

On 10 November 1944 U-546 was reassigned to the 33rd U-boat Flotilla based at Flensburg, where she received a 14-day overhaul, eventually departing Kristiansand in Norway, on 2 March 1945. The boat proceeded to the eastern coast of North America on 10 March 1945 with six companions.[10] In mid-April the group was ordered to commence operations individually. On 23 April the submarine was spotted surfacing north-west of the Azores by aircraft from USS Bogue as part of Operation Teardrop. The planes were looking for U-boats carrying V-1 flying bombs and V-2 rockets, which intelligence suggested were going to be used to attack American cities. Depth charges were dropped just after the boat submerged, but failed to damage her hull.

Sinking

On 24 April 1945, U-546 made contact with the destroyer escort USS Frederick C. Davis and proceeded to attack, firing a stern torpedo. The destroyer turned into it and was hit, which tore the DE apart and sent her down with heavy loss of life.

The U-boat was in turn pursued by other destroyer escorts; Flaherty (DE-135) (LCDR H.C. Dufe), Varian (DE-798) (LCDR L.A. Myhre), Neunzer (DE-150) (LCDR V.E. Gex), Hubbard (DE-211) (CDR L.C. Mabley), Keith (DE-241) (LCDR W.W. Patrick), Chatelain (DE-149) (LCDR D.S. Knox), Janssen (DE-396) (LCDR S.G. Rubinow, Jr.), and Pillsbury (DE-133) (LCDR G.W. Casselman)[11] Neunzer and Hayter (DE-212) conducted a search while Pillsbury circled the area and Flaherty picked up survivors. Flaherty made contact in less than an hour and with Pillsbury proceeded to attack. The U-boat went to 600 feet (180 m). Contact was lost from 1045 until 1201 when Varian, Janssen and Hubbard began another attack. Neunzer got into the fight after several attacks by the other DE's, delivering a creeping attack with Varian and Hubbard while Chatelain directed. Contact was lost once more at about 1600, so Chatelain and Neunzer were ordered to return to the scouting line.

The line was expanded, the ships began a sweep through the area, determined to prevent the submarine's escape. Varian made contact once more at 1731 and Flaherty was ordered to attack. She fired at 1810. Four minutes later a small oil slick began coming to the surface. Flaherty made another Hedgehog attack at 1828, and at 1838 the U-boat broke the surface.

Every ship in the line within range began firing. At 1844, after more than ten and a half hours of attacks, U-546 rolled under and sank (in position 43°53′N 40°07′W / 43.883°N 40.117°W / 43.883; -40.117Coordinates: 43°53′N 40°07′W / 43.883°N 40.117°W / 43.883; -40.117, south-south-east of Cape Farewell, Greenland). Her captain and most of her crew were rescued by US vessels, and taken to Argentia Naval Station. It was from this crew that the USN eventually learned that no V-1/2 attacks from the U-boats were planned by the Kriegsmarine.[12]

Sensors

Radar

U-546 was one of the few U-boats that was fitted with a FuMO 61 Hohentwiel Radar Transmitter. The apparatus aboard U-546 was installed on the starboard side of the conning tower.

Radar Detection

U-546 was fixed with the FuMB-26 Tunis antenna.

References

Notes
Bibliography
  • Y'Blood, William T., Hunter-killer : U.S. escort carriers in the Battle of the Atlantic, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1983.
  • Syrett, David, Failure at Sea: Wolf Pack Operations in the North Atlantic, 10 February-22 March 1944 "The Northern Mariner/Le Marin du nord", V, No. 1 (January 1995), 33–43. [2]

Further reading

  • Niestle, Axel, German U-Boat Losses During World War II. 1998.
  • Blair, Clay, Hitler's U-boat War, 1996.
  • Blair, Clay, Hitler's U-boat War, Vol II, 1998.
  • Wynn, Kenneth, U-Boat Operations of the Second World War – Vol 1, 1998.
  • Wynn, Kenneth, U-Boat Operations of the Second World War – Vol 2, 1998.
  • Just, Paul, Vom Seeflieger zum U-Boot-Fahrer, 1982.


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