Operation Eisbär (i)

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This was a U-boat wolfpack operation in the Atlantic off the Iberian peninsula and North-West Africa (25/29 August and 7 October/13 November 1942).

The wolfpack comprised U-68, U-156, U-172, U-459 and U-504, and for the loss of none of its own number initially sank one 5,941-ton ship of the SL.119 convoy.

The convoy was located by U-214 of the ‘Iltis’ wolfpack, and the wolfpack’s other three boats, U-566, U-406 and U-107, were ordered to make for the convoy, as too were the conveniently located boats of the ‘Eisbär’ (i) wolfpack, which was on passage to the waters off South Africa. On 26 August Korvettenkapitän Werner Hartenstein’s U-156 sank the 5,941-ton British straggler Clan Macwhirter.

On the orders of the German naval high command the ‘Eisbär’ (i) wolfpack then continued its sortie to the south and, between 7 October and 13 November, operated off South Africa. After Korvettenkapitän Karl-Friedrich Merten’s U-68 had sunk the 5,296-ton British Trevilley and 6,861-ton Dutch Breedijk on 12 and 15 September respectively in the central Atlantic, and all of the boats had refuelled from U-459 on 24/25 September off Ascension island, the four boats were once gain in position off South Africa on 7 October.

Up to 7 November Kapitänleutnant Carl Emmermann’s U-172 sank six ships (6,196-ton US Chickasaw City, 4,700-ton Panamanian Firethorn, 3,845-ton Greek Pantelis, 23,456-ton British Orcades, 4,891-ton British Aldington Court and 4,936-ton British Llandilo); Kapitänleutnant Helmut Witte’s U-159 sank seven ships (5,821-ton British Boringia, 7,631-ton British Clan MacTavish, 6,557-ton US Coloradan, 7,167-ton British Empire Nomad, 4,978-ton British Ross, 7,327-ton British Laplace and 5,462-ton US La Salle); Merten’s U-68 sank seven ships (35,98-ton Greek Koumoundouros, 8,679-ton Dutch Gaasterkerk, 8,207-ton US Swiftsure, 5,271-ton British Saarthe, 4,981-ton US Examelia, 5,403-ton Belgian Belgian Fighter and 8,034-ton British City of Cairo); and Korvettenkapitänleutnant Hans-Georg Friedrich Poske’sU-504 sank six ships (5,970-ton British Empire Chaucer, 5,669-ton British City of Johannesburg, 7,176-ton US Anne Hutchinson, 7,041-ton British Empire Guidon, 5,113-ton British Reynolds and 5,187-ton Brazilian Porto Alegre).

In addition, Fregattenkapitän Ernst Sobe’sU-179 from the second wave of ‘Type IXD2’ boats arrived on 8 October and sank the 6,558-ton British City of Athens, but was itself then rammed and sunk by the British destroyer Active, which had brought the boat to the surface in a depth charge attack.