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German submarine U-161 (1941)
Career (Germany)
Name: U-161
Ordered: 23 December 1939
Builder: Deutsche Schiff und maschinenbau AG, Bremen
Yard number: 700
Laid down: 23 March 1940
Launched: 1 March 1941
Commissioned: 8 July 1941
Fate: Sunk on 27 September 1943[1]
General characteristics
Type: Type IXC submarine
Displacement: 1,120 t (1,100 long tons) surfaced
1,232 t (1,213 long tons) submerged
Length: 76.8 m (252 ft 0 in) overall
58.7 m (192 ft 7 in) pressure hull
Beam: 6.8 m (22 ft 4 in) overall
4.4 m (14 ft 5 in) pressure hull
Height: 9.4 m (30 ft 10 in)
Draft: 4.7 m (15 ft 5 in)
Propulsion: 2 × MAN M9V40/46 supercharged 9-cylinder diesel engines, 4,000 hp (2,983 kW)
2 × SSW GU345/34 double-acting electric motors, 1,000 hp (746 kW)
Speed: 18.2 knots (33.7 km/h) surfaced
7.3 knots (13.5 km/h) submerged
Range: 24,880 nmi (46,080 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h) surfaced
117 nmi (217 km) at 4 kn (7.4 km/h) submerged
Test depth: 230 m (750 ft)
Complement: 48 to 56
Armament: 6 × torpedo tubes (four bow, two stern)
22 × 55 cm (22 in) torpedoes
1 × 10.5 cm SK C/32 naval gun[2] (110 rounds)
Service record
Part of: Kriegsmarine
4th U-boat Flotilla
(8 July–31 December 1941)
2nd U-boat Flotilla
(1 January 1942–27 September 1943)
Commanders: Kptlt. Hans-Ludwig Witt
(8 July–30 November 1941)
Kplt. Hans-Ludwig Witt
(1 December–31 December 1941)
Kplt. Albrecht Achilles
(1 January 1942–27 September 1943)
Operations: Six patrols
Victories: 12 ships sunk for a total of 60,107 gross register tons (GRT)
one warship sunk, (1,130 tons)
five ships damaged,
(35,672 tons)
one warship damaged, (5,450)
one ship a total loss, (3,305 tons)

German submarine U-161 was a Type IXC U-boat of the Nazi German Kriegsmarine built for service during World War II. The keel for this boat was laid down on 23 March 1940 at the Deutsche Schiff und maschinenbau AG, Bremen yard as 'werk' 700. She was launched on 1 March 1941 and commissioned on 8 July under the command of Kapitänleutnant Hans-Ludwig Witt (Knight's Cross).

The U-boat's service began with training as part of the 4th U-boat Flotilla. She then moved to the 10th flotilla on 1 January 1942 for operations. She sank 12 ships, totalling 60,107 tons; one warship of 1,130 tons and damaged five others, for 35,672 tons. She also damaged one warship (5,450 tons) and caused one merchant vessel to be declared a total loss (3,305 tons).

She was sunk by an American aircraft in September 1943.

Operational career

1st and 2nd patrols

The submarine's first patrol took her from Kiel on 3 January 1942, across the North Sea and into the Atlantic Ocean through the gap between the Faroe and Shetland Islands. She arrived at Lorient, in occupied France, on 3 May. She would be based at this Atlantic port for the rest of her career.

U-161's second sortie proved to be successful, damaging the British Consul and the "Mokihana" on 19 February 1942 while the ship rode at anchor in the Gulf of Paria off Port of Spain, Trinidad.[3] She went on to sink ships such as the Circe Shell, the Lihue the petrol tanker Uniwaleco off St Vincent and daringly she made her way at night through the narrow passage into Castries Harbour, St Lucia where she damaged the "Lady Nelson" and the "Umtata"' One victim, the Sarniadoc, was particularly tragic: she sank in 30 seconds after her boiler exploded. There were no survivors.

3rd patrol

The boat's third patrol took her past the Azores and Cape Verde Islands, to the Brazilian coast north of Fortaleza. She then followed that coastline north until she reached the Caribbean. On 16 June 1942 she stopped the sailing ship Neuva Altagracia with gunfire and sank the vessel with scuttling charges. She also attacked the San Pablo while the ship was being unloaded in Puerto Limón, Costa Rica on 3 July. Although the ship sank, she was raised with the intention of repair; but she was declared a total loss and sunk as a target on 25 September.

She crossed the Atlantic in an easterly direction, but turned about and returned to the Caribbean. Having commenced the return leg to France, she encountered the Fairport 500 mi (800 km) north of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands on 16 July and sank her. The boat returned to Lorient on 7 August.

4th patrol

Her fourth foray was to west Africa. This patrol was her longest—113 days. She damaged the light cruiser HMS Phoebe six miles and 282° from Pointe Noire, French Equatorial Africa on 23 October 1942 and sank theWest Humhaw 60 mi (97 km) southwest of Takoradi in Ghana on 8 November.

5th patrol

The boat's fifth patrol involved another Atlantic crossing and sinking a second sailing ship, the Angelus, north of Bermuda, again with gunfire. Ten survivors abandoned the vessel; only two were still alive when their lifeboat was discovered.

6th patrol and loss

Aerial attack on U-161 by a PBM-Mariner of VP-74 on 27 September 1943.

The U-boat departed Lorient for the last time on 8 August 1943. Returning to the Brazilian coast, she sank the St. Usk on 20 September and the Itapagé on the 26th. She was sunk with all hands (53 men), on 27 September 1943 by an American PBM Mariner aircraft of VP-74 in the South Atlantic.

Summary of raiding history

Date Name Nationality Tonnage
19 February 1942 British Consul  United Kingdom 6,940 Damaged
19 February 1942 Mokihana  USA 7,460 Damaged
21 February 1942 Circe Shell  United Kingdom 8,207 Sunk
23 February 1942 Lihue  USA 7,001 Sunk
7 March 1942 Uniwaleco  South Africa 9,755 Sunk
10 March 1942 Lady Nelson  Canada 7,970 Damaged
10 March 1942 Umtata  United Kingdom 8,141 Damaged
14 March 1942 Sarniadoc  Canada 1,940 Sunk
15 March 1942 USCGC Acacia  USA 1,130 Sunk
16 June 1942 Nueva Altagracia  Dominican Republic 30 Sunk
22 June 1942 E.J. Sadler  USA 9,639 Sunk
3 July 1942 San Pablo  Panama 3,305 Total loss
16 July 1942 Fairport  USA 6,165 Sunk
23 October 1942 HMS Phoebe  United Kingdom 5,450 Damaged
8 November 1942 Bonalder  United Kingdom 5,161 Damaged
8 November 1942 West Humhaw  USA 5,527 Sunk
29 November 1942 Tjilboet  Netherlands 5,760 Sunk
12 December 1942 Ripley  United Kingdom 4,997 Sunk
19 May 1943 Angelus  Canada 255 Sunk
20 September 1943 St. Usk  United Kingdom 5,472 Sunk
26 September 1943 Itapagé  Brazil 4,998 Sunk

See also


  1. Kemp, Paul: U-Boats Destroyed - German Submarine Losses in the World Wars, 1997, Arms & Armour, ISBN 1-85409-515-3, p. 147
  2. Campbell, John Naval Weapons of World War Two ISBN 0-87021-459-4 pp.248 and 249
  3. Kelshall, Gaylord: The U Boat War in the Caribbean. pub by The Naval Institute Press

External links

Coordinates: 12°30′S 35°35′W / 12.5°S 35.583°W / -12.5; -35.583

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