Operation Baker Roger

This was a US naval operation to intercept and sink three German blockade-running ships in the South Atlantic (1/5 January 1944).

From the middle of November 1943 Rear Admiral Albert C. Read’s Task Force 41, comprising the light cruisers Cincinnati, Marblehead, Memphis, Milwaukee and Omaha, and the destroyers Winslow, Moffett, Davis, Jouett and Somers, had been operating on the western side of the South Atlantic in cruiser and destroyer pairs from Recife in Brazil against the German blockade runners known, from ‘Ultra’ decrypts, to be returning from eastern Asia.

Two forces made up of French and co-belligerent Italian warships, one comprising the light cruisers Montcalm, Georges Leygues and Luigi di Savoia Duca degli Abruzzi, and the other the heavy cruiser Suffren and light cruisers Gloire and Emanuele Filiberto Duca d’Aosta, were deployed in turns from Freetown and Dakar to cover the eastern side of the southern Atlantic. In addition, from the beginning of January the large French destroyers Fantasque and Malin were stationed in Horta in the Azores to cover the central Atlantic.

From Ascension island, Natal and Freetown, US, Brazilian, British and French squadrons flew reconnaissance sorties.

On 1 January a Consolidated Liberator patrol bomber from Ascension island sighted the 6,528-ton blockade runner Weserland, which damaged the bomber with anti-aircraft fire. On 2 January another Liberator of the same VB-107 squadron was shot down and then, during the night 2/3 January, Somers arrived and sank the Weserland with gunfire, then rescuing 133 of her survivors.

On 4 January a floatplane from Omaha sighted the 6,062-ton blockade runner Rio Grande, which was sunk by the cruiser and the destroyer Jouett with gunfire; there was only one survivor.

On 5 January the last German blockade runner, the 7,320-ton Burgenland, was sighted by a US flying boat from Natal and scuttled by her crew as Omaha and Jouett arrived in the area. Omaha, Jouett, Davis, Winslow, the Brazilian minelayer/corvette Camocim and the Brazilian freighter Poti recovered more than 2,000 bales of rubber over the next few days.