Operation Rasmus

(Norse god of the wind)

This was a U-boat wolfpack operation in the Arctic against the JW.64 and BK.3 convoys (6/13 February 1945).

The wolfpack comprised U-286, U-293, U-307, U-318, U-425, U-636, U-711, U-716, U-739, U-968, U-992 and U-995, and for the loss of none of its own number sank two merchant ships (15,329 tons) and one British corvette.

Of these boats, U-286, U-307, U-425, U-636, U-711, U-716, U-739 and U-968 were deployed in the Bjørnøya Passage, and U-293, U-318, U-992 and U-995 off the Kola inlet.

On 7 February a force of no fewer than 48 Junkers Ju 88 medium bombers of Oberstleutnant Georg Teske’s Kampfgeschwader 26 was launched to attack the JW.64 convoy of 29 ships with strong close escort and more distant cover forces, but failed to find the convoy and lost seven of its aircraft.

On 8/9 February reconnaissance aircraft located the convoy and were able to shadow it for a time, and U-992 missed a destroyer on 8 February. On 10 February an attack by the II/KG 26 and III/KG 26, with 14 and 18 torpedo-bombers respectively, failed to penetrate the fighter and anti-aircraft defences, and the Germans lost five Ju 88 aircraft shot down. On 11 February the escort was strengthened by the arrival of the Soviet destroyers Uritskyi, Karl Libknekht, Zhivuchyi and Zhostkyi, patrol ship Groza, two minesweepers and six submarine chasers, and this Soviet escort took 12 transports and three tankers to the White Sea. The U-boats were unable to attack in face of the escort’s strength, and were then relocated to the area off the Kola inlet. When the convoy entered the Kola inlet, Oberleutnant Hans Falke’s U-992 torpedoed the corvette Denbigh Castle on 13 February: the damaged ship was taken in tow by the Soviet salvage ship Burevestnik, but grounded, capsized and had to be written off.

On 13 February the same Soviet escort took six transports and two tankers as the BK.3 convoy from the White Sea to Murmansk. On 14 February Oberleutnant Otto Westphalen’s U-968 torpedoed the 7,200-ton US Horace Gray, which sank while under tow by two Soviet tugs, and the 8,129-ton Norwegian tanker Norfjell, which was run aground and, perhaps hit by another torpedo from U-992, became a total loss. U-995 missed the 4,287-ton Norwegian freighter Idefjord in the harbour at Kirkenes on 9 February.