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German submarine U-502
Name: U-502
Ordered: 25 September 1939
Builder: Deutsche Werft, Hamburg
Yard number: 292
Laid down: 2 April 1940
Launched: 18 February 1941
Commissioned: 31 May 1941
Fate: Sunk, 6 July 1942[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) o/a
58.7 m (192 ft 7 in) pressure hull
Beam: 6.8 m (22 ft 4 in) o/a
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, 4,400 hp (3,281 kW)
2 × SSW GU345/34 double-acting electric motors, 1,000 hp (746 kW)
Speed: 18.2 knots (33.7 km/h) surfaced
7.7 knots (14.3 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 × 533 mm (21 in) torpedoes
• 1 × 10.5 cm SK C/32 naval gun[2] (110 rounds)
• AA guns
Service record[3][4]
Part of: 2nd U-boat Flotilla
(31 May 1941–6 July 1942)
Commanders: Kptlt. Jürgen von Rosenstiel
(31 May 1941–6 July 1942)
Operations: 1st patrol: 29 September–9 November 1941
2nd patrol: 18–22 December 1941
3rd patrol: 19 January –16 March 1942
4th patrol: 22 April –6 July 1942
Victories: 14 commercial ships sunk (78,843 GRT)
two commercial ships damaged (23,797 GRT)

German submarine U-502 was a Type IXC U-boat of the Nazi German Kriegsmarine during World War II. The submarine was laid down on 2 April 1940 at the Deutsche Werft yard in Hamburg with yardnumber 292, launched on 18 February 1941 and commissioned on 31 May under the command of Kapitänleutnant Jürgen von Rosenstiel.

She began her service life under training with the 2nd U-boat Flotilla between 31 May and 1 September 1941 before moving on to operations, also with the 2nd flotilla. U-502 sank fourteen Allied vessels between September 1941 and July 1942 before she was sunk by a British aircraft in the Bay of Biscay.

Service history

1st patrol

U-502 departed Kiel on 29 September 1941, and ventured out into the mid-Atlantic.[5] On 7 October, south of Iceland, she torpedoed the 14,795 ton British ship Svend Foyn, a straggler from Convoy HX-152 en route from New York to Liverpool, carrying fuel oil and aircraft and tanks as deck cargo. The former whale factory ship was damaged, but managed to escape and assisted by the Flower class corvette HMS Sunflower, reached Reykjavík on 11 October.[6] U-502 arrived in Lorient in occupied France on 9 November.[4]

2nd patrol

U-502 sailed from Lorient on 18 December 1941, but aborted her patrol, having barely left the Bay of Biscay and returned to her French base on the 22nd.[7]

3rd patrol

U-502's next patrol began on 19 January 1942. She sailed for the Caribbean waters north of Venezuela to attack the vital oil trade.[8]

On the morning of 16 February off the Gulf of Venezuela she torpedoed and sank three tankers in as many hours; the British 2,395-ton Tia Juana,[9] the Venezuelan 2,650-ton Monagas,[10] and then the British 2,391-ton San Nicolas.[11]

U-502 struck again on 22 February near Aruba, sinking the American 9,033-ton tanker J.N. Pew with torpedoes during the night,[12] then the Panamanian 8,329-ton Thalia with torpedoes and shell-fire that morning.[13] That afternoon she badly damaged the American 9,002-ton Sun with a single torpedo. The crew initially abandoned ship, but later re-boarded and managed to take her into Aruba to make repairs.[14] The U-boat returned to Lorient on 16 March after 57 days at sea.[4]

4th patrol

Her fourth and final patrol was her most productive. Sailing from Lorient on 22 April 1942, she resumed her predations in the Caribbean Sea.[15]

Her first success came on 11 May, northeast of the Virgin Islands, where she sank the unescorted British 4,963-ton cargo ship Cape of Good Hope with torpedoes and shell-fire.[16]

She mistakenly sank the unescorted and neutral 4,996 ton Brazilian merchant ship Gonçalves Dias with two torpedoes about 100 miles south of Ciudad Trujillo on 24 May. The ship was identified as Brazilian only after the attack when the survivors were questioned.[17] On 28 May, about 150 miles south of the Mona Passage, she sank the unescorted American 6,759-ton Type C1 ship Alcoa Pilgrim, carrying a cargo of bauxite ore,[18] and on 3 June, about 150 miles north-west of Trinidad, she torpedoed the unescorted American 6,940-ton tanker M.F. Elliott. Hit below the waterline, the ship sank within six minutes.[19]

U-502 attacked Convoy TO-5, en route from Trinidad to Curaçao, on 9 June, about 35 miles north-east of Cape Blanco, Venezuela, sinking the Belgian 5,085-ton merchant ship Bruxelles,[20] and damaging the American 6,589-ton tanker Franklin K. Lane to such an extent that it was abandoned and later sunk by gunfire from HMS Churchill.[21]

On 15 June, U-502 struck once again and sank three ships in a single day. The first, at 01:00, was the unescorted American 8,001-ton merchant ship Scottsburg, hit by two torpedoes about 90 miles west of Grenada.[22] At 04:10, about 100 miles north-west of Trinidad, she sank the unescorted Panamanian 5,010-ton Hog Islander Cold Harbor, carrying a cargo of tanks, aircraft and ammunition, with two torpedoes. The first torpedo struck the starboard side causing the ammunition in No.2 hold to explode. About 30 minutes later, a second torpedo struck the port side and the ship sank after 15 minutes.[23] Finally, at 20:15 about 30 miles west of Grenada, she sank the unescorted American 5,702 ton ship West Hardaway with a spread of three torpedoes. Two missed, passing ahead and astern, but the third struck the starboard bow. The ship's Navy Armed Guard returned fire (the ship was armed with a 4-inch (100 mm) gun, four 20 mm guns, and two .30 calibre machine guns), but the ship was hit by another torpedo and sank an hour later. All hands abandoned ship and survived.[24]


U-502 then headed for her base, but at 04:45 on 6 July in the Bay of Biscay, west of La Rochelle, at position 46°10′N 06°40′W / 46.167°N 6.667°W / 46.167; -6.667Coordinates: 46°10′N 06°40′W / 46.167°N 6.667°W / 46.167; -6.667, she was sunk by depth charges dropped by a Leigh light-equipped Wellington bomber of No. 172 Squadron RAF. All 52 hands were lost. This was the first confirmed kill using a Leigh light.[3] The pilot of the aircraft P/O Wiley B. Howell, an American volunteer serving in the RAF, was subsequently awarded the DFC.[25] Howell later returned to serve in the United States Navy, commanding the carrier Bennington in 1965-66.[26]

Raiding history

Date Name Nationality Tonnage
7 October 1941 Svend Foyn  United Kingdom 14,795 Damaged
16 February 1942 Monagas  Venezuela 2,650 Sunk
16 February 1942 San Nicholas  United Kingdom 2,391 Sunk
16 February 1942 Tia Juana  United Kingdom 2,395 Sunk
22 February 1942 J.N.Pew  USA 9,033 Sunk
23 February 1942 Sun  USA 9,002 Damaged
23 February 1942 Thalia  Panama 8,329 Sunk
11 May 1942 Cape of Good Hope  United Kingdom 4,963 Sunk
24 May 1942 GonçalvesDias  Brazil 4,996 Sunk
22 May 1942 Alcoa Pilgrim  USA 6,759 Sunk
3 June 1942 M.F. Ellliot  USA 6,940 Sunk
9 June 1942 Bruxelles  Belgium 5,085 Sunk
9 June 1942 Franklin K. Lane  USA 6,589 Sunk
15 June 1942 Cold Harbor  Panama 5,010 Sunk
15 June 1942 Scottsburg  USA 8,010 Sunk
15 June 1942 West Hardaway  USA 5,702 Sunk


  1. Kemp, Paul: U-Boats Destroyed - German Submarine Losses in the World Wars, 1997, Arms & Armour, ISBN 1-85409-515-3, p. 83.
  2. Campbell, John Naval Weapons of World War Two ISBN 0-87021-459-4 pp.248&249
  3. 3.0 3.1 "The Type IXC boat U-502 - German U-boats of WWII -". Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "War Patrols by German U-boat U-502 - Boats -". Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  5. "Patrol of U-boat U-502 from 29 Sep 1941 to 9 Nov 1941 - U-boat patrols -". Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  6. "Svend Foyn (Whale factory ship) - Ships hit by U-boats -". Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  7. "Patrol of U-boat U-502 from 18 Dec 1941 to 22 Dec 1941 - U-boat patrols -". Retrieved 2010-01-24. 
  8. "Patrol of U-boat U-502 from 19 Jan 1942 to 16 Mar 1942 - U-boat patrols -". Retrieved 2010-01-24. 
  9. "Tia Juana (Steam tanker) - Ships hit by U-boats -". Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  10. "Monagas (Steam tanker) - Ships hit by U-boats -". Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  11. "San Nicolas (Steam tanker) - Ships hit by U-boats -". Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  12. "J.N. Pew (Steam tanker) - Ships hit by U-boats -". Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  13. "Thalia (Motor tanker) - Ships hit by U-boats -". Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  14. "Sun (Motor tanker) - Ships hit by U-boats -". Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  15. "Patrol of U-boat U-502 from 22 Apr 1942 to 6 Jul 1942 - U-boat patrols -". Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  16. "Cape of Good Hope (Motor merchant) - Ships hit by U-boats -". Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  17. "Gonçalves Dias (Steam merchant) - Ships hit by U-boats -". Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  18. "Alcoa Pilgrim (Steam merchant) - Ships hit by U-boats -". Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  19. "M.F. Elliott (Steam tanker) - Ships hit by U-boats -". Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  20. "Bruxelles (Steam merchant) - Ships hit by U-boats -". Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  21. "Franklin K. Lane (Steam tanker) - Ships hit by U-boats -". Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  22. "Scottsburg (Steam merchant) - Ships hit by U-boats -". Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  23. "Cold Harbor (Steam merchant) - Ships hit by U-boats -". Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  24. "West Hardaway (Steam merchant) - Ships hit by U-boats -". Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  25. "Deutsche U-Boote U-502". Retrieved 2010-01-24. 
  26. "Commanding Officers - Captain Wiley B. Howell - USS Bennington". Retrieved 2010-01-24. 

See also

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