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Affondamento U-73


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Sempre sull'U 73 riporto quanto é riportato nel:




Attività e affondamento dell’U 73


"U 73" was scheduled to sail from Toulon towards the end of November, 1943, but was prevented from doing so by an aircraft attack on the base on 24th November.  A crane was knocked over by bomb blast and struck the U-Boat, injuring her slightly.  During the raid, the leading W/T rating was wounded and the U-Boat was forced to make her fifteenth patrol without him.




Departure from Toulon


U 73" sailed at midnight, 3rd December, 1943.  She was escorted by several small patrol craft which remained with her for about one hour.  The U-Boat proceeded directly to her operational area off Oran and Algiers.  On passage she remained submerged continually except to charge batteries, usually between about 2000 and midnight, and to ventilate, for about 30 minutes before dawn each day.


Attack on a Corvette


On the sixth day at sea, while patrolling off Oran, "U 73" sighted two corvettes.  A spread of three F.A.T-T.3's was fired but all failed to hit.  A T.5 was then fired from Tube II, forward, and struck one of the corvettes.  The prisoners believed that she was sunk.  (N.I.D. Note.  There is no record of such an attack taking place.)


Flooded Torpedo


It was probably after this event, while servicing the torpedoes, it was discovered that one of the T.5's in the tube had leaked and become flooded with sea water. The torpedo was dislodged with some difficulty.


Sighting of a Destroyer


On 12th December, while proceeding submerged, screw noises were reported by the hydrophone operator.  The U-Boat came to periscope depth and sighted a destroyer, distant about 1,000 m.  (1,093 yards), bearing Green 96.  Prisoners believed that the destroyer sighted their periscope.  She dropped depth-charges in what was described as a haphazard manner.  They thought that the destroyer was attempting to frighten the U-Boat away rather then sink her. (N.I.D. Note.  This incident cannot be identified in Admiralty.)


Collision with another Vessel


On 13th December, while "U 73" was proceeding by day at periscope, she collided with a vessel.  Some prisoners stated that the vessel was a destroyer, while others believed her to have been a small patrol boat.  Heavy seas were running and the U-Boat was driven upwards by a wave.  The vessel came down heavily on "U 73," leaving what prisoners took to be her Asdic dome behind.  The U-Boat's 20 mm. quadruple mounting was badly bent and rendered useless as a result of this encounter.  (N.I.D. Note.  This incident cannot be identified in Admiralty.)


Off Algiers on 16th December


Early on 16th December, "U 73" was patrolling off Algiers.  At about 0800, an Italian cruiser was sighted leaving the harbour and heading for Spain.  Prisoners believed that a military commission of 60 men of the Badoglio regime were on board.  Although "U 73" was at action stations, as the cruiser was 3,000 m. (3,281 yards) distant and proceeding at a speed of 45 knots (sic) Deckert felt that it was useless to attempt an attack.  (N.I.D. Note.  The Italian cruiser, "Pompeo Magno, "3,362 tons, sailed from Algiers on the morning of 16th December

At 0830, a British submarine was making for Algiers.


Attack on a Convoy


At about 1530 on 16th December, "U 73" sighted a convoy and closed to attack.  A T.5 torpedo was fired from Tube II and, according to the prisoners, hit a destroyer.  The prisoners were astonished to see the entire convoy come to a full stop at the time of the attack.  The U-Boat then fired a spread of three T.3 torpedoes from Tubes I, III and IV.  It was stated that one of these scored a hit on an 8,000-ton merchant vessel, one hit a corvette, and the third, its rudder jammed, circled around and above the U-Boat herself, causing considerable consternation among the crew.  The prisoners believed that the merchantman had been sunk and the corvette damaged.  (N.I.D. Note.  S.S." J.S. Copley," 7,176 tons, was torpedoed by a U-Boat on 16th December, 1943, in position 35° 54' N., 00° 53' W.  A tug was dispatched to her aid and she was towed into harbour, reaching Oran on 17th December.  There is no record of an escort ship being damaged.)

After making this attack, "U 73" submerged to a depth of about 40 m. (131.2 ft.).




Depth-Charge Attack


About three hours after attacking the convoy.  "U 73" was proceeding submerged when she was taken completely by surprise by a destroyer.  Some prisoners were violent in their criticism of Deckert, saying that he had been careless about maintenance, with the result that the rudders and motors were too noisy.  Others blamed him for proceeding at too shallow a depth.

The destroyer dropped a pattern of depth-charges which exploded below the U-Boat, inflicting considerable damage.  There was water entry forward between the bow torpedo tubes.  A sea inlet valve of the Diesel cooling system was fractured causing water to flow into the motor room.  "U 73" lost trim and sank to a depth that was variously estimated to have been between 160 and 230 m. (524.8 and 754.6 ft.).


Gunfire Attack


Deckert ordered all tanks blown and, with the aid of one main motor, "U 73" broke surface at about 1900.  No enemy ship was visible and full speed ahead on the Diesels was ordered.  Suddenly searchlights from surface craft illuminated the U-Boat and she was immediately engaged by gunfire.  A number of hits were scored on the bridge and several of her crew were killed.

The order to abandon ship was given and shortly thereafter, the U-Boat sank.  One prisoners stated that "U 73" was not scuttled but was shipping so much water through rents in her pressure hull that she sank twenty minutes after being shelled.  No signal was sent to Control regarding the sinking.

(N.I.D. Note.  On the afternoon of 16th December, 1943, U.S.S. "Wolsey" was proceeding with U.S.S. "Edison" and U.S.S. "Trippe."  At 1815, "Wolsey" obtained asdic contact on a submerged U-Boat and made a depth-charge attack.  The U-Boat was forced to the surface.  The destroyer regained contact with radar and "Wolsey" and "Trippe" opened fire.  The U-Boat sank at 1935 in position 36° 09' N., 00° 50' W.)




Early History


None of the prisoners from "U 73," with the exception of her C.O. had served in the U-Boat prior to her entrance into the Mediterranean.  It was not possible, therefore, to learn anything of her early history from the prisoners.

From other sources it is known that "U 73" was built by the Vulkan Yard, Vegesack, and that under command of Kapitänleutnant Helmut Rosenbaun she had completed her trials by late November or early December, 1940.  Her first patrol was probably off Ireland and it ended at Lorient which she reached late in December.  In April 1941, "U 73" was one of a group of U-Boats that attacked Convoy SC. 26.  Ten ships were sunk by the group then operating.  By the summer of 1941, she had changed her base from Lorient to St. Nazaire.  On about 31st July, 1941, she sailed from St. Nazaire on what was probably her fifth patrol, returning to port about 9th September.


Sixth Patron


On her sixth patrol, "U 73" entered the Mediterranean.  She sailed from St. Nazaire the end of September, 1941, passing through the Strait of Gibraltar about 1st October.  The patrol ended at Spezia.  In that base, she underwent extensive repairs and her Diesels were overhauled.


Seventh Patron


The U-Boat sailed from Spezia on her seventh patrol about 11th March, 1942.  After being at sea for about ten days, while proceeding at a depth of 40 m. (131 ft.) she was attacked by an aircraft.  Depth-charges were dropped, one of which exploded close to the bow torpedo hatch.  The pressure hull was badly buckled but it was not ruptured by the attack.  The U-Boat lost trim and Rosenbaum himself took over the controls.  "U 73" was forced to put in at Messina for two days and then proceeded to Spezia, reaching her base about 27th March.


Eighth Patron


The eighth patrol was Rosenbaum's last in command of "U 73" and on it he achieved his most spectacular success.  The U-Boat sailed from Spezia on 5th August, 1942, with instructions to attack U.S. shipping off the coast of North Africa.  On 11th August, H.M.S. "Eagle" was sighted, sailing in convoy with other warships and many transports.  "U 73" attacked from close range, firing a spread of four torpedoes with 15 m. (49 ft.) interval between each one.  The gyro angle setting was 1°.  All four scored hits on the aircraft carried which sank rapidly.  The U-Boat then took evading action as destroyers from the convoy hunted her.  She reached Spezia on 4th September.  At the end of this patrol, Rosenbaum left "U 73" and Deckert assumed command.


Ninth Patron


On the ninth patrol "U 73" experienced much trouble from aircraft and was forced to submerged continuously.  She sailed from Spezia under her new commanding officer towards the end of October, 1942.  One prisoner, whose memory was rather vague, stated that a 26,000-ton ship was sunk with four torpedoes.  After the attack a U-Boat surfaced near "U 73" and thinking that she was a British submarine, Deckert beat a hasty retreat.  The patrol was said to have lasted 19 days and to have ended at Spezia during the second half of November.


Tenth Patrol


On 30th November, 1942, the U-Boat left Spezia on her tenth patrol.  At about 2045 on 5th December she was attacked by aircraft and some damage was sustained, forcing her back to port.  She reached Spezia on 9th December.  (N.I.D. Note.  Aircraft "A" of 179 Squadron attacked a U-Boat 18 miles North-west of Cape Tenes at 2106 on 5th December, 1942.  It was thought that the U-Boat had been damaged.


Eleventh Patron


On about 23rd December, 1942, "U 73" began her eleventh patrol.  Prisoners stated that at least one and possibly two ships were sunk.  One was described as a merchantman of 8,000 tons loaded with munitions.  When she was hit by a torpedo she blew up with an enormous explosion.  Bits of debris were later found lodged on the bridge of the U-Boat, among them being an axe-head with "U.S.A." inscribed on the blade.  At the suggestion of one of the C.P.O.s this was adopted as the badge of "U 73."  The U-Boat returned to Spezia on 13th January, 1943, and remained in port for several months undergoing complete overhaul.


Twelfth Patron


Early in May, 1943, following a lengthy overhaul at Spezia, "U 73" began her engine-trials, prior to going on patrol.  During the course of these, an explosion in the Diesel crank case occurred, injuring a number of the engine-room ratings.  After the damage had been repaired the trials were resumed and a second explosion occurred.  Several of the prisoners suspected sabotage in connection with these incidents.

It was not until the end of May or beginning of June, 1943, that the U-Boat was finally able to sail from Spezia on her twelfth patrol.  One prisoner claimed the sinking of a 4,000-ton freighter in the Western Mediterranean.  The patrol ended at Toulon about 25th June, 1943.  "U 73" remained in port for over a month while her 88 mm. (3.46 in.) deck gun was removed, the second bandstand added and the 20 mm (0.79 in.) quadruple mounted.


Thirteenth Patron


"U 73" sailed from Toulon on her thirteenth patrol on 8th August, 1943.  On 11th August, the anniversary of the sinking of "Eagle," it was stated that the U-Boat sighted a U.S. cruiser of the "Portland class off the coast of Italy.  In spite of the fact that two destroyers were escorting her, the U-Boat attacked the cruiser, scoring two hits.  Prisoners stated that breaking-up noises could be heard in the U-Boat and they were convinced that the cruiser had been sunk.  (N.I.D. Note.  There is no record of such an attack taking place.)  According to one prisoner, after this incident eight German army officers were taken off the coast of North Africa and transported to Toulon.  The patrol ended about 20th August.


Fourteenth Patron


Late in September, 1943, "U 73" sailed from Toulon on her penultimate patrol, carrying with her a French civilian, said to be a Corsican.  En route to North Africa, this passenger was accommodated in the P.O.s' quarters.  The U-Boat proceeded to a point north of Oran.  At 2000, date unspecified, she altered course to 185° and at 0500 on the following day sighted a cape.  She approached the cape until she was about four miles off shore and then waited until dawn.  At break of day "U 73" submerged to periscope depth and approached to within 2 1/2 miles of shore.  She then submerged deeper and lay on the bottom for the rest of the day, in about 25 fathoms of water.  After dark the U-Boat surfaced once more and proceeded slowly towards land with her motors.  A few trusted members of the crew prepared a rubber dinghy for the Corsican.  It was loaded with various types of gear, including a hatchet, explosives and fuses. The Corsican was clad only in swimming trunks in which his money had been sewn.  He was armed with a new pistol of very superior design.  When the U-Boat was about 400 yards off shore and with about 12 ft. of water under her keel, she hove to.  The Corsican sang a few snatches of "Deutschland über Alles," his only German words, launched his dinghy and made for shore.  The prisoners stated that he had been back and forth six times between France and North Africa.  (N.I.D. Note.  An agent was captured on 11th October, 1943, in the vicinity of Cape Khamis, and a powerful wireless set which he had hidden was found.  When interrogated he stated that he had been landed by "U 73" on the morning of 10th October, having sailed from Toulon early on 5th October.

After this incident, the U-Boat proceeded with her patrol.  Prisoners said that two merchant ships were sunk, one of 8,000 and one of 3,000 tons.  (N.I.D. Note.  There is record of only one attack made by a U-Boat on merchant shipping in the Western Mediterranean at this time.  On 1st October, 1943, S.S. "Stanmore," 4,970 tons, sailing in Convoy KNS. 27 was torpedoed and damaged in position 36° 41' N., 01° 10' E.  She was able to make port.)  "U 73" returned to Toulon on 28th October.

Edited by Corto Maltese
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