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German submarine U-66 (1940)
An angled photo of two submarines with bomb splashes around them
U-66 and U-117 under attack by aircraft from the USS Block Island on 7 August 1943
Career (Nazi Germany)
Name: U-66
Ordered: 7 August 1939
Builder: AG Weser, Bremen
Yard number: 985
Laid down: 20 March 1940
Launched: 10 October 1940
Commissioned: 2 January 1941
Fate: Sunk 6 May 1944 west of the Cape Verde Islands by US aircraft and warships[1]
Class & type: Type IXC U-boat
Service record[2][3]
Part of: 2nd U-boat Flotilla
(2 January 1941 – 6 May 1944)
Identification codes: M 24 266
Commanders: Kapitänleutnant Richard Zapp
(2 January 1941–21 June 1942)
Kapitänleutnant Friedrich Markworth
(22 June 1942–1 September 1943)
Oblt. (R) Paul Ferks
(6 August–1 September 1943)
Oberleutnant zur See Gerhard Seehausen
(2 September 1943–6 May 1944)
Operations: Nine:
1st patrol:
13 May–11 June 1941
2nd patrol:
23 June–5 August 1941
3rd patrol:
28 August–9 November 1941
4th patrol:
25 December 1941–10 February 1942
5th patrol:
21 March–27 May 1942
6th patrol:
23 June–29 September 1942
7th patrol:
6 January– 24 March 1943
8th patrol:
7 April–1 September 1943
9th patrol:
16 January– 6 May 1944
Victories: 33 commercial ships sunk (200,021 GRT)
two commercial ships damaged (22,674 GRT)
two warships damaged (64 tons)

German submarine U-66 was a Type IXC U-boat of the German Kriegsmarine during World War II.[2] The submarine was laid down on 20 March 1940 at the AG Weser yard at Bremen, launched on 10 October and commissioned on 2 January 1941 under the command of Kapitänleutnant Richard Zapp as part of the 2. Unterseebootsflottille.[2]

After her transfer from a training organization to front line service in May 1941, until her sinking in May 1944, U-66 conducted nine combat patrols,[2] sinking 33 merchant ships, for a total of 200,021 gross register tons (GRT), and damaged two British motor torpedo boats.[2] She was a member of four wolfpacks.

U-66 was the seventh most successful U-boat in World War II.[4]

On 6 May 1944, during her ninth patrol, she was sunk west of the Cape Verde Islands by depth charges, ramming and gunfire from Avenger and Wildcat aircraft of the US escort carrier Block Island and by the destroyer escort USS Buckley.

Service record

1st patrol

On 13 May 1940, three days after the start of the invasion of France, U-66 departed her homeport of Kiel under the command of Richard Zapp, a future Knights Cross recipient, on her first patrol. After about 10 days she rounded the northern coast of Britain and made her way into the mid-Atlantic ocean. After another 20 days, U-66 headed for her new base at Lorient, on the French Atlantic cost, where the Keroman Submarine Base was just about to begin construction[5] and where the U-boat was based for the rest of her career.

File:Richard Zapp.jpg

Robert-Richard Zapp, the first commander of U-66

2nd patrol

After refitting and refueling, U-66 set off to the Cape Verde islands. Following an uneventful six day voyage, she came upon convoy SL-78, a convoy designated to give supplies to Allied African countries. It had been attacked just recently by U-123 and U-69, one of which (U-123) was in her flotilla. U-66 managed to sink the George J. Goulandris and Kalypso Vergotti, two Greek merchantmen of 4,345 and 5,686 GRT, respectively,[6][7] west of the Canary Islands. She extended her tonnage sunk with the torpedoing of the Saint Anselm on the following day, which was a British steam merchant ship of 5,614 tons. More than two weeks later, she picked off the Holmside, a 3,433-ton straggler from the convoy OG-67 northeast of the Cape Verde Islands. The remainder of the patrol was unsuccessful; she returned to Lorient in about a month.[8]

3rd patrol

On 28 August, U-66 left Lorient for north-eastern South America. The patrol was mostly uneventful, but the boat managed to locate the Panamanian steam tanker I.C. White (7,052 GRT), off the eastern coast of Brazil on 24 September. After a two day chase, the tanker was hit with one torpedo, U-66 continued the remainder of the patrol without any further incident. She returned to Lorient on 9 November.[9]

4th patrol

U-66's fourth sortie was part of Operation Drumbeat, a German attempt to hinder American convoys off the east coast of the United States.[10] U-66, leaving on 25 December 1941 and in compliance with orders, positioned herself off Cape Hatteras on 15 January 1942 and started to hunt for a target. She found the 6,635-ton American steam tanker Allan Jackson three days later and sank her with two torpedoes 60 miles (97 km) north-east of Diamond Shoals, North Carolina. The next day, she came upon the Lady Hawkins, a 7,988 GRT Canadian steam passenger ship, which was sunk by two stern-launched torpedoes. Casualties amounted to 250 crew and passengers. The 71 survivors were picked up five days later by the USS Coamo.[11] Three days later, the Olympic, a 5,335 GRT Panamanian steam tanker, was hit twice with stern-launched torpedoes and broke in two after one minute. Two days after that, the Empire Gem and Venore (a 8,139 GRT British motor tanker and an 8,017 GRT American steam merchant ship, the latter following the former), were both sunk by U-66. The Empire Gem was hit amidships and aft by two torpedoes, whilst the Venore, 20 miles behind, had only one torpedo hit that set her boilers on fire. U-66 then continued eastward back to Lorient, where she arrived on 10 February.[5]

5th patrol

On 21 March, U-66 left for what would be her most successful patrol, resulting in 43,956 gross metric tons sunk and 12,502 gross metric tons damaged in the Caribbean Sea. 24 days after departure, she encountered the Korthion, a 2,116 GRT Greek steam merchantman just south of Barbados. This ship sank after one torpedo hit her amidships.[12] Two days later, the boat came across the Amsterdam, a 7,329 GRT Dutch steam tanker. The ship split in two parts after a double hit of torpedoes, one amidships, and one in the engine room. Most of the survivors were picked up near Port of Spain, (Trinidad) by the Ivan, a Yugoslavian steam merchant vessel.[13] The next day, U-66 attacked the Heinrich von Riedemann, an 11,020-ton Panamanian motor tanker. The ship proved tough to sink, as the first torpedo severely damaged the steering control of her portside engine and ruptured a tank of oil, making much of it leak out. Twenty minutes after the first hit, just after the starboard engine was stopped, the ship was abandoned when the crew took to the lifeboats. An hour later, U-66 fired another torpedo at the ship, setting her on fire. It extinguished itself within twenty five minutes. Fifty minutes later, the submarine launched a third torpedo, which set the ship on fire again. She remained that way for about an hour and 10 minutes before she finally sank.[14] Nine days later, the 5,513 GRT American Alcoa Partner was sunk by U-66 following a torpedo and a shot from her deck gun.[15]

6th patrol

After her fifth patrol, Richard Zapp left U-66 to take command of the 3rd U-boat Flotilla. This meant that Kapitänleutnant Friedrich Markworth would be in charge.[16] The submarine started her sixth patrol with the sinking of the Triglav, a 6,396 GRT Yugoslavian steamer, after depositing a sick crew-member in Spain.[17] After a couple of weeks, U-66 ran across the 4,942-ton Brazilian merchant ship Tamandarē, sinking her with a torpedo hit in her stern. The survivors were picked up by the USS PC-492.[18] Two days after the attack on Tamandaré, U-66 found the Weirbank, a 5,150 GRT British merchantman on 28 July 1942, sinking her with the second of two torpedoes launched at her.[19] Four days after her previous sinking, two mines from U-66 severely damaged two British motor torpedo boats that had left on a patrol from Port Castries, St. Lucia. Those two mines had been laid, along with four others, on 20 July.[16] U-66 subsequently sank the 766 ton Polish Rozewie on 6 August and the Liberian 5,356 GRT Topa Topa on the 29th. The next day she sank both the 6,049 GRT Panamanian Sir Huon and the 5,637 GRT American West Lashaway in separate attacks. A raft with survivors from the West Lashaway was spotted by three aircraft on 18 September; HMS Vimy, one of the escorts of a small convoy went to investigate. Deciding that the raft could be a disguised U-boat, Vimy opened fire, luckily with no result. The raft's sail was hastily cut down, upon which the British destroyer rescued 17 people. U-66 also sank the 8,621 GRT Winamac on 31 August and the Swedish 6,390 GRT Peiping on 9 September.[20] She returned to Lorient on 29 September.[16]

7th patrol (aborted)

On 9 November 1942, U-66 left Lorient on what should have been her 7th war patrol. Soon after departure, leaks were encountered, and she decided to return. On 10 November, the day before she returned, a British Wellington bomber, equipped with a Leigh Light, spotted her and dropped four depth charges. The U-boat escaped without serious damage.[2]

7th patrol

U-66 left Lorient on 6 January 1943 for what was officially her seventh patrol. On 20 January, the ship landed an espionage agent on the coast of Mauritania, but the agent and two crewmen were immediately captured. Her first sinking came with the attack on the 113-ton French Joseph Elise on 1 February. On the 27th, U-66 attacked the 4,312-ton British coal merchant ship St. Margaret in mid-Atlantic near Bermuda, sinking her with one torpedo and, after several misses, a shell. Several survivors were captured and taken to the prison camp Marlag und Milag Nord.[21] U-66 then returned to port, arriving on 24 March 1943.[22]

8th patrol

U-66's eighth patrol started after a quick refit on 7 April 1943 when she left Lorient. At 148 days, it was to be her longest. She first sank the 10,173-ton American Esso Gettysburg, which was carrying crude oil, on 10 June after unsuccessfully attempting to attack several other American tankers. On 2 July, she successfully sank the 10,195-ton Bloody Marsh (this ship was on her maiden voyage), with a torpedo. The last ship encountered on the patrol was the 10,172-ton Cherry Valley, also American, which she sank on 22 July. U-66 then returned to Lorient.[23]

9th patrol

On 16 January 1944, U-66 left Lorient for what would be her last patrol and the last command of Oberleutnant zur See Gerhard Seehausen (posthumously promoted to Kapitänleutnant). A month and ten days after departure, U-66 spotted the Silvermaple, a 5,313-ton British motor merchant in the convoy ST-12. She was sunk after one torpedo hit. Four days later, the boat came upon the French 5,202-ton St. Louis, which she sank with two torpedoes off Accra, Ghana. The ship broke into three sections which sank in less than 50 seconds. Four days after the sinking of the St. Louis, 'U-66 came upon the 4,964-ton British John Holt. After sinking her with two torpedoes, the submarine managed to take the captain and a passenger prisoner. These men were later lost with the U-boat. Nearly three weeks after the sinking of the John Holt, the U-boat came across the 4,257-ton British Matadian, which she torpedoed and sank. After the attack, U-66 was forced to bottom out in the mud as British patrol craft engaged her. U-66 was supposed to be resupplied by U-488, but this boat, a 'Milch cow' supply submarine, was sunk[2][24] on 26 April.[25]


Survivors from U-66 aboard USS Block Island, 6 May 1944

On 1 May 1944, U-66 came under attack by American ships from an antisubmarine hunter-killer group formed around USS Block Island. Three Fido homing torpedoes were dropped near the boat, and numerous aircraft from the Block Island, along with smaller craft, were designated to hunt for her. On the morning of 6 May, the destroyer escort USS Buckley found the submarine. After an exchange of gunfire and torpedoes, Buckley, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Brent Abel, rammed the submarine.[26]

The bow of the USS Buckley after the ramming of the U-66

With the two vessels stuck fast, a party of Germans, under the command of U-66's first officer, Klaus Herbig, attempted to climb onto the American escort's forecastle[27] to create a diversion while Seehausen and the remainder of the U-boat's crew worked to free the boat. As American sailors saw the boarding party climbing on deck, hand-to-hand fighting broke out in which a number of Germans were killed or wounded before the U-boat was able to make good its escape. Five armed Germans remained on deck of the destroyer but they were quickly over-powered and taken prisoner.[28] Buckley's 3-inch gun was unleashed on the U-boat as the Americans chased after her, but U-66 then turned and rammed the Buckley near her engine room, damaging the ship's starboard screw.[27] Soon afterward, U-66 was scuttled on Seehausen's orders to prevent her secret equipment from being captured. Buckley then began rescue operations, which lasted three hours.[28]

U-66 was lost at position 17°17′N 32°29′W / 17.283°N 32.483°W / 17.283; -32.483Coordinates: 17°17′N 32°29′W / 17.283°N 32.483°W / 17.283; -32.483 with 24 dead and 36 survivors, all of whom were captured by the Buckley. Seehausen was not among the survivors, who were later transferred to Block Island.[28] For his act of ramming U-66, Brent Abel received the Navy Cross.[27][29]

Summary of raiding history

Date Ship Nationality Tonnage Fate[30]
29 June 1941 George J. Goulandris  Greece 4,345 Sunk
29 June 1941 Kalypso Vergotti  Greece 5,686 Sunk
30 June 1941 Saint Aslem  Great Britain 5,614 Sunk
19 July 1941 Holmside  Great Britain 3,433 Sunk
26 July 1941 I. C. White  Panama 7,052 Sunk
18 January 1942 Allan Jackson  USA 6,635 Sunk
19 January 1942 Lady Hawkins  Canada 7,988 Sunk
22 January 1942 Olympic  Panama 5,335 Sunk
24 January 1942 Empire Gem  Great Britain 8,139 Sunk
24 January 1942 Venore  USA 8,017 Sunk
14 April 1942 Korthion  Greece 2,116 Sunk
16 April 1942 Amsterdam  Netherlands 7,329 Sunk
17 April 1942 Heinrich von Riedemann  Panama 11,020 Sunk
26 April 1942 Alcoa Partner  USA 5,513 Sunk
29 April 1942 Harry G. Siedel  Panama 10,354 Sunk
2 May 1942 Sandar  Norway 7,624 Sunk
3 May 1942 Geo. W. McNight  Great Britain 12,502 Damaged
9 July 1942 Triglav  Yugoslavia 6,363 Sunk
26 July 1942 Tamadaré  Brazil 4,942 Sunk
28 July 1942 Weirbank  Great Britain 5,150 Sunk
2 August 1942 HMS MTB-339  Great Britain 32 Damaged
2 August 1942 HMS MTB-342  Great Britain 32 Damaged
6 August 1942 Rozewie  Poland 766 Sunk
29 August 1942 Topa Topa  USA 5,356 Sunk
30 August 1942 Sir Huon  Panama 6,049 Sunk
30 August 1942 West Lashaway  USA 5,637 Sunk
31 August 1942 Winamac  Great Britain 8,621 Sunk
9 September 1942 Peiping  Sweden 6,390 Sunk
1 February 1943 Joseph Elise  France 113 Sunk
27 February 1943 St. Margaret  Great Britain 4,312 Sunk
10 June 1943 Esso Gettysburg  USA 10,173 Sunk
2 July 1943 Bloody Marsh  USA 10,195 Sunk
26 February 1944 Silvermaple  Great Britain 5,313 Sunk
1 March 1944 St. Louis  France 5,202 Sunk
5 March 1944 John Holt  Great Britain 4,964 Sunk
21 March 1944 Matadin  Great Britain 4,275 Sunk

See also


  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Helgason, Guðmundur. "U-66". German U-boats of WWII. Retrieved 18 April 2010. 
  3. Helgason, Guðmundur. "War Patrols by German U-boat U-66". U-boat patrols. Retrieved 18 April 2010. 
  4. Helgason, Guðmundur. "The Most Successful U-boats". U-boat Operations. Retrieved 18 April 2010. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-66 (First patrol)". U-boat patrols. Retrieved 6 September 2010.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Patrol1" defined multiple times with different content
  6. Helgason, Guðmundur. "George J. Goulandris (Greek Steam merchant) - Ships hit by U-boats during WWII". Retrieved 3 May 2010. 
  7. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Kalypso Vergotti(Greek Steam merchant) - Ships hit by U-boats during WWII". Retrieved 3 May 2010. 
  8. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-66 (Second patrol)". U-boat patrols. Retrieved 6 September 2010. 
  9. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-66 (Third patrol)". U-boat patrols. Retrieved 6 September 2010. 
  10. Dunmore 2002, p. 166
  11. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Lady Hawkins (Steam passenger ship)". Merchant history. Retrieved 18 April 2010. 
  12. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Korthion (Greek Steam merchant)". Retrieved 2 October 2011. 
  13. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Amsterdam (Dutch Steam tanker)". Retrieved 2 October 2011. 
  14. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Heinrich von Riedmann (Panamanan Motor Tanker)". Retrieved 2 October 2011. 
  15. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Alcoa Partner (American Steam Merchant)". Retrieved 2 October 2011. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-66 (Sixth patrol)". U-boat patrols. Retrieved 6 September 2010. 
  17. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Triglav (Yugoslavian Steam Merchant)". Retrieved 2 October 2011. 
  18. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Tamandare (Brazilian Steam Merchant)". Retrieved 2 October 2011. 
  19. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Weirbank (British Motor Merchant)". Retrieved 2 October 2011. 
  21. Helgason, Guðmundur. "St. Margaret (British Steam merchant)". Retrieved 2 October 2011. 
  22. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-66 (Seventh Patrol)". Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  23. Morission, pp. 181–183
  24. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-66 (Ninth patrol)". U-boat patrols. Retrieved 11 November 2012. 
  26. Blair 2000, p. 547
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 "Sinking of U-66". Destroyer Escort Sailors Association. Retrieved 12 November 2012. 
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 Blair 2000, pp. 547–548
  29. "Navy Cross Awards to members of the U.S. Navy in World War II". Home of Heroes. Retrieved 12 November 2012. 
  30. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". Retrieved 20 November 2012. 


  • Blair, Clay (2000). Hitler's U-Boat War: The Hunted, 1942–1945. New York: Modern Library. ISBN 0-679-64033-9. 
  • Dunmore, Spencer (2002). Lost Subs: From the Hunley to the Kursk. The Greatest Submarines Ever Lost – and Found. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-81140-5. 
  • Morisson, Samuel (1956). The Atlantic Battle Won, May 1943 – May 1945. History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. X. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. OCLC 768913584. 

External links

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