Operation Steuben

(German officer important in the US Revolutionary War)

This was a U-boat wolfpack operation in the Atlantic off the Cape Race area of Newfoundland against Allied convoys (14 November/2 December 1941).

The wolfpack comprised U-43, U-105, U-372, U-434, U-574 and U-575, and for the loss of none of its own number sank three ships (17,979 tons).

On 15 November the ‘Störtebecker’ wolfpack, already in the area, was sent to locate and attack the OS.11 convoy, which had been located by the B-Dienst radio intercept and analysis service, but the convoy was then re-routed to avoid this wolfpack. On 19 November the boats were re-formed in three loose lines, each of four boats, in order to meet the expected OG.77 convoy: these were the ‘Gödecke’ wolfpack with U-69, U-98, U-201 and U-572, the ‘Beneke’ wolfpack with U-96, U-332, U-402 and U-552, and the ‘Störtebecker’ wolfpack with U-85, U-133, U-571 and U-577.

At the same time U-43 and U-575 formed the basis the new ‘Steuben’ wolfpack off Newfoundland, where there were soon joined by U-105, U-372, U-434 and U-574. Then, on 22/23 November, all the boats with sufficient fuel were instructed to redeploy to the area to the west of Gibraltar. In the North Atlantic, meanwhile, the Allies instituted a major re-routing of their convoys to miss known U-boat concentrations. These were the HX.160 eastbound convoy of 62 ships supported by the US Task Unit 4.1.5 (destroyers Mayo, Babbitt, Leary, Nicholson and Schenck), relieved on 15 November by Lieutenant Commander R. B. S. Tennant’s British 8th Escort Group (destroyers Sardonyx, Beverley, Scimitar and Watchman, and corvettes Dahlia and Monkshood); the SC.55 eastbound convoy supported by the Canadian TU4.1.16 (corvettes Sorel, Eyebright, Kenogami, Mayflower, Nanaimo and Prescott); the ONS.36 westbound convoy of 39 ships supported by the British 6th Escort Group relieved on 18 November by Lieutenant Commander T. Taylor’s Canadian TU4.1.12 (British destroyer Broadway, and corvettes Arrowhead, Buctouche, Cobalt, Gait, Moosejaw, Nasturtium, Pictou and Windflower); and the ON.37 westbound convoy of 46 ships supported by the British 8th Escort Group relieved by Lieutenant Commander Marvin P. Kingsley’s US TU4.1.8 (destroyers Swanson, Buck, Greer, Ludlow and McCormick).

While in transit to the area to the west of Gibraltar, on 28 November Kapitänleutnant Wolfgang Lüth’s U-43 sighted and reported the OS.12 convoy supported by Commander J. G. Sutton’s British 42nd Escort Group (sloops Weston, Sennen, Londonderry, Totland and Wellington), on the following day sank the 5,569-ton British Thornliebank of the OS.12 convoy, and one day later still the 4,868-ton British Ashby of the same convoy. U-105, U-372, U-434, U-574 and U-575 were ordered to close on U-43, but though some of the boats reach the area they were not able to make any successful attacks.

On 2 December U-43 sank the 7,541-ton US tanker Astral, which was sailing independently.