The Kriegsmarine begins Operation
Drum Beat, the first coordinated attack carried out by five
U-boats initially against US shipping along the East Coast
of the United States. Their first victim is the 9,000 ton British
steamer Cyclops which is sunk by U-123 (Kptlt. Hardegen), 300miles
to the east of Cape Cod.
Hitler orders Admiral
Otto Ciliax, who commands the battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau
and the cruiser Prinz Eugen at Brest, to prepare to return
to Germany. The new German battleship Tirpitz, sister ship
of the Bismarck is ordered to Norway.
The German battleship Tirpitz, arrives
at Trondheim in Norway, to threaten the Arctic convoys, but
is wasn't until the 23rd January that the British became aware
of this threat.
RAF Bomber Command mount an attack
to sink the Tirpitz, while she is at anchor in Trondheim. The
raid is unsuccessful as the Tirpitz survives unscathed.
All U-boats adopt an new
Enigma cipher known as 'Triton'. The new cipher replaces the
previous cipher, 'Hydra' and has an additional rotor in the
Enigma machine. This meant that the British were unable to
read U-boat coded communications traffic until much later in
the year, seriously affecting there ability re-route their
convoys around U-boat wolf packs.
At 23.00 hours, Admiral Ciliax orders
his squadron, which includes the battleships Scharnhorst and
Gneisenau and the cruiser Prinz Eugen, to leave Brest and dash
through the English Channel for the safety of Kiel in Germany.
At 11.00 hours, British aircraft spot
the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen as they enter
the straits of Dover. At 12.00 hours the British launch MTB
attacks against Admiral Ciliax's squadron, but were forced
to fire at extreme range and so missed. An hour later at 13.00
hours the British again launch torpedo attacks, this time using
six Swordfish aircraft, but five were shot down and all torpedo's
missed. At 14.30 hours the battleship Scharnhorst hits a mine
off the Dutch coast. The mine inflicts only minor damage and
the Scharnhorst is able to continue towards Germany. A short
time later the British again launch attacks against the three
German ships, this time using destroyers from the port of Harwich
and aircraft from both Bomber and Coastal commands, but without
success. At 20.35 hours the battleship Gneisenau hits a mine,
while at 20.55 hours the Scharnhorst hits its second mine of
the day, although both ships are able to continue towards Kiel.
In the early hours of the morning,
the Scharnhorst puts into Wilhelmshaven, while the Gneisenau
and Prinz Eugen reach Kiel a short while later.
Dönitz orders all available U-boats
in the Atlantic to attack British and American shipping off
the US eastern seaboard. German U-boats, with their deck guns,
bombard oil storage facilities and refineries on the Dutch
islands of Aruba and Curacao in the southern Caribbean.
German vessel disguised as a British
merchantman is reported sunk by a U-boat off Azores.
The British submarine HMS Trident,
torpedo's the cruiser Prinz Eugen which is sailing to Norway
from Kiel, forcing its return to Germany for substantial repairs.
The RAF launch an attack against the
battleship Gneisenau, which is being repaired at Kiel's floating
dock. The damage caused is severe and the battleship is never
again put to sea under her own power.
A US Hudson of squadron
VP-82 which is based at Argentia, Newfoundland sinks U-656
off Cape Race.
Churchill declares that the Tirpitz
is 'the most important naval vessel in the situation today'
and believes her destruction would 'profoundly affect the course
of the war'.
German reconnaissance planes locate
the British convoy PQ-12 bound for Murmansk.
Having received permission from Hitler,
the Battleship Tirpitz and 3 destroyers set sail from Trondheim
to intercept convoy PQ-12, but is spotted by a British submarine
which relays the information onto the British Admiralty. However,
bad weather means that the Tirpitz is unable to locate PQ-12
and so heads back to base. Enroute to Trondheim the Tirpitz
is spotted and attacked by aircraft from HMS Victorious, but
is not damaged.
Convoy PQ-12 arrives unscathed at
Murmansk, earning the distinction of being the last PQ convoy
to sail without losses.
U-503 is sunk near the Grand Banks,
off Newfoundland, by another aircraft from the US squadron,
Escorts of the Arctic convoy PQ13,
beat off a German destroyer attack, sinking Z26.
The RAF make a second unsuccessful
attempt to sink the Tirpitz while in port at Trondheim.
As a result of the immense
loss in shipping along the US eastern seaboard, since January
1942, the US authorities instituted a partial convoying system,
known as the 'Bucket Brigade'. This meant that ships would
sail in convoy as close to the coast as possible during daylight
hours and anchor in protected harbours at night. Due to the
shortage of escort vessels, continuous convoying was not possible
and the 'Bucket Brigade' system did not apply to the Caribbean
or Gulf of Mexico.
The US destroyer USN Roper, sinks
U-85 south of Norfolk, Virginia. This is the first success
of the war by a US warship against a U-boat.
The entire US eastern seaboard is
ordered to black-out its lights at night, in an attempt to
reduce the success of the U-boats at night.
The first U-boat tanker or ' Milch
cow', U-459, sets sail for the Atlantic. Her role was to prolong
the time that U-boats could spend in US waters by refueling
and re-arming them at sea.
RAF Bomber Command again attack the
Tirpitz at Trondheim, without success. Wing Commander Bennett
who led the raid crashes in Norway, but manages to escape to
Off the northern coast
of Norway, German destroyers sink the British cruiser Edinburgh
which was escorting Convoy PQ-15.
Convoy PQ-15 arrives at Murmansk.
The damaged British escort cruiser
HMS Trinidad returning from Murmansk is sunk by Luftwaffe dive-bombers
off the northern Norwegian coast.
The Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm attacks
and hits the German heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen off Norway, but
she makes it back to Kiel. Despite increasing losses, Churchill
remains determined to continue the Artic convoys to Russia.
In the Barents Sea, Convoy QP-12 is
on its way home to Britain with 15 ships, while Convoy PQ-16
is en-route to Murmansk with 35. Some 260 Luftwaffe aircraft,
including He 111 torpedo bombers, swing in to attack, joined
by U-boats, amid appalling weather. QP-12 emerges unscathed,
but PQ-16 feels the teeth of a running five-day battle, losing
an acceptable six ships.
The Luftwaffe bombers sink 5 ships
of Convoy PQ-16 off the northern coast of Norway.
Since the start of Operation Paukenschlag
(Drum Beat) in January, the U-boats operating along the US
eastern seaboard have sunk 111 vessels.
U-boats begin laying
mines off Boston, Delaware and Chesapeake Bay.
U-552 (Kptlt. Topp) sinks
5 ships of Convoy HG-84 in the northern Atlantic.
Convoy PQ-17 sets sail from Iceland.
It consists of 35 merchants, 3 rescue ships and 2 tankers for
refueling and is heavily loaded with 297 aircraft, 594 tanks,
4246 lorries and gun carriers, plus an additional 156,000 tons
of cargo. The convoy is to be guarded by 21 close escorts,
7 warships from a cruiser covering force and a further 19 warships
in a distant covering force. All told 1 aircraft-carrier, 2
battleships, 6 heavy cruisers, 23 destroyers, 4 corvettes,
3 minesweepers, 2 AA ships, 4 ASW trawlers are to protect the
convoy. Additionally, 15 submarines, six of them Russian are
placed ahead of the the convoy.
2 freighters and 1 tanker from convoy
PQ-17 suffer accidental damage and are forced to abort.
Returning from a successful patrol
in the Gulf of Mexico (12 ships sunk), U-158 (Kptlt. Rostin)
is destroyed by a US Mariner flying boat off Bermuda.
U-456 spots PQ-17 and
flashes an alarm, but is driven under almost immediately by
the destroyer HMS Leamington. However U-408, U-255 and U-703
locate and shadow the convoy in order to provide reports on
the convoy while reinforcements are sent to the area.
PQ-17 and its reverse convoy QP-13
(35 freighters and 15 escorts) pass each other. U-88 spots
and reports this, but German forces are told not to attack
QP-13 as it is an empty convoy. Rather, they are to concentrate
there whole strength on PQ-17.
11 U-boats in the area begin to close
in on convoy PQ-17 or place themselves along the route of the
convoy. 6 U-boats make attack runs throughout the day, but
have no success and either lose contact or fall behind the
Convoy PQ-17, now reinforced with
the 7 warships of the cruiser force which had come up during
the night, comes under heavy attack from Luftwaffe dive-bombers
and torpedo planes during the morning. An American merchant
(7,200 tons) was badly hit by a torpedo and had to be abandoned,
although U-457 found and sank it. U-457, also incorrectly reported
that it had seen a battleship with the convoys escorts. Because
of this report, Admiral Raeder believed that the British distant
covering force, which included an aircraft-carrier had arrived
to help the convoy. He therefore refused permission for the
German battleship Tirpitz, pocket battleship Admiral Scheer,
heavy cruiser Hipper, 7 destroyers and 2 E-boats to put to
sea until the British aircraft-carrier had been sunk. In the
afternoon, larger numbers of Luftwaffe planes attacked convoy
PQ-17 twice, severely damaging 3 merchants, two of which later
sank. Later that day, the British First Sea Lord Dudley Pound,
thought that the German surface force had sailed to attack
the PQ-17 and would in all probability wipe out the convoy
along with the covering cruiser force. He therefore made the
catastrophic decision to withdraw the cruiser force and "scatter" PQ-17
in the hope that this might save most of the convoy. Almost
immediately, the U-boats benefited, with U-703 sinking 2 merchants
for 12,100 tons, U-88 sank 2 merchants for 12,300 tons, U-334
sank 1 merchant for 7,200 tons and U-456 sank a merchant for
7,000 tons. On the downside the Luftwaffe, having difficulty
in spotting friend from foe, damaged U-334 and U-456 forcing
them to return to Norway for repairs.
Upon learning that the covering force
for PQ-17 had fled and the convoy had scattered. Admiral Raeder
secured Hitlers approval to use the German surface force, although
caution was to be exercised in order not to risk the sinking
or damage of the Battleship Tirpitz, pocket battleship Admiral
Scheer or heavy cruiser Hipper. Escorted by 7 destroyers and
2 E-boats, the 3 big German ships sailed from Altenfiord at
3pm. As the force left moved in to open seas, the soviet submarine
K-21 saw and attacked the Tirpitz, but its torpedos missed.
An hour later an RAF Coastal Command Catalina reported the
force as at sea and a further two hours later HMS Unshaken,
radioed in a sighting and an exact description of the force.
Hearing of these allied sightings through allied intelligence,
Admiral Raeder became nervous and cancelled the sortie, ordering
the surface fleet to return to port leaving the Luftwaffe and
U-boats to finish off PQ-17.
U-132 (Kptlt. Vogelsang)
enters the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the Canadian East coast
and sinks 3 merchant ships.
The first two ships of
convoy PQ-17, arrive at Archangel.
Final losses for convoy
PQ-17 are 24 ships sunk for 141,721 tons. 8 ships were sunk
by the Luftwaffe, 7 by U-boats and another 9 were combined
Luftwaffe/U-boat kills. The loss of material was likewise very
heavy with 210 aircraft, 430 tanks, 3350 lorries, and 99,316
tons of general cargo going to the bottom of the Arctic Ocean.
The Germans lost only 5 planes and no U-boats.
An interlocking convoy
system is introduced along the entire US eastern seaboard,
as well as the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.
The British convoy, code-named
'Pedestal' leaves Britain for the strategically-important island
of Malta in the Mediterranean. The convoy consists of 14 fast
merchant ships loaded with fuel, food, and ammunition. The
convoy is accompanied by 2 battleships (Nelson and Rodney),
3 aircraft carriers (Victorious, Indomitable, and Eagle), 14
destroyers, and 3 anti-aircraft cruisers.
Allied convoy SC-94 is sighted by
German U-boat in the Atlantic, when a group of 6 ships with
2 escorts get lost from the convoy due to the fog. One ship
is sunk, but two U-boats are driven off.
Convoy SC-94 lose 7 British, U.S.
and Dutch ships, torpedoed by German U-boats in the North Atlantic.
The Admiralty announces the loss of
the famous submarine Upholder.
Twelve British merchant
seamen are awarded Russian decorations.
Convoy PQ-18 consisting of 41 merchants
sets sail from Loch Ewe in Scotland bound for Murmansk. Since
the slaughter of PQ-17 in July the escort system had been radically
overhauled, meaning that this convoy had among others and the
escort carrier HMS Avenger and 16 destroyers to protect it.
In spite of intense pressure
from U-boats and the Luftwaffe, convoy PQ-18 reaches Murmansk.
Its losses amounted to 1 destroyer, 1 minesweeper and 13 merchant
ships. In return for this the Germans lost 3 U-boats sunk and
5 damaged, along with 41 aircraft destroyed.
The naval convoys assemble
for Operation 'Torch', the Anglo-American landings in French
The battleship Tirpitz leaves Bogenfjord
and moves south to Lofjord near Trondheim, where it is to be
U-boat control in France creates wolfpack
'Battleaxe'. This will operate in the North Atlantic until
it is disbanded on the 1st November 1942 and will include at
one time or another U-134, U-203, U-409, U-509, U-510, U-572,
U-604 and U-659.
Wolfpack 'Battleaxe' attacks Convoy
SL-125 (37 ships) which is sailing from Sierra Leone to the
UK. The attack begins off the northwest coast of Africa, not
far from Gibraltar and continues until the 31st October 1942.
During this time 12 merchants (80,005 gross tons) are sunk
and 7 damaged. While the battle rages, the allies re-route
all convoys associated with the 'Torch' landings in North Africa.
A British merchant seaman
is hanged at Wandsworth for supplying the Germans with shipping
Convoy JW-51A sets sail
from Lock Ewe in Scotland with 16 merchants bound for the Kola
Convoy JW-51B (14 merchants)
leaves Loch Ewe escorted by 6 destroyers and a minesweeper.
Convoy JW-51A arrives at Murmansk
The British cruisers HMS Jamaica and
HMS Sheffield join convoy JW-51B south of Bear Island as its
makes the dangerous passage through the Barents Sea.
The German pocket battleship Lützow,
cruiser Admiral Hipper and 6 destroyers leave Altenfjord and
head north to intercept convoy JW-51B.
In what is to become known as the
'Battle of the Barents Sea', the German pocket battleship Lützow,
cruiser Admiral Hipper and 6 escorting destroyers are intercepted
at 9.30am by the British cruisers HMS Jamaica, HMS Sheffield
and five destroyers before they can reach convoy JW-51B. During
the naval exchanges that follow, the British lose 1 destroyer
and a minesweeper, which had been searching for stragglers
from the convoy, whilst the Germans lose a destroyer. By Midday
the Germans have decided to withdraw and the battle is over.
Allied merchant shipping sunk by U-boats, world-wide from January
to year's end 1942 is 1,323 ships, equalling 7,047,744 gross
tons. 87 U-boats were lost worldwide in the same period.