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COMMANDER SOUTH ATLANTIC FORCE AT RECIFE - COMMANDER SOUTH ATLANTIC

26)REMAINDER OF OPERATIONS 43


The month of August started busily, as a continuation of the strenuous events of July; then slackened considerably. On the first day, a dispatch arrived from Cominch, in reference to anti-submarine activities just completed by the Fleet. It read, "Well done to the Fighting Fourth and Brazilian Associates". From appearances, there were still several submarines in the Fourth Fleet Area during the early days of August. Contacts occurred with regularity; one resulting in a probable kill. This sub was attacked and evidently severely damaged by a VB-107 plane on the 3rd. The position of the attack was 09° 33' S, 30° 37' W. The plane dropped six bombs, causing a violent explosion, following which the U-Boat had disappeared. Ten hours later another plane from VB-107 sighted a sub so near the first position, that it could well have been the same.


Once more bombs were dropped, but the anti-aircraft fire was so intense that it damaged the starboard wing and the number two propeller of the plane. The Moffett, meanwhile, received orders and steamed to the area, arriving shortly after midnight. As it approached, a Navy plane that had taken over the patrol made a radar contact on the Destroyer. Darkness prevented proper identification. The plane believed the Moffett to be at another location and, mistaking the contact for the U-Boat, opened fire and wounded eight men. As soon as the identification had been made, both ship and plane turned attention to the sub. The Moffett attacked it with her guns as soon as it was daylight, and the plane, hovering overhead, observed hits on the submarine. The enemy disappeared, but whether due to voluntary submergence or to sinking could not be determined.


Assuming, with good reason, that this was the same U-Boat attacked the previous day by the VB-107 plane, and that damage had been inflicted both times, there seemed every reason for scoring the action as a probable kill. By the 10th, submarine contacts south of he Equator had ceased. Those made by the ships of the Fourth Fleet were now all as much as five degrees north, strongly indicating that, for the time being at least, the enemy was retiring.


During September, few subs put in an appearance. In fact until the latter part of the month no contacts were made and no merchant sinkings occurred. On the 26th a Spanish vessel picked up survivors from the St. Usk, British flag, which had gone down in 16° 30' S, 29° 00' W; torpedoed by a submarine apparently German. Later the same day the Itapage, Brazilian, was torpedoed at approximately 10° 00' S, 35°, 50' W.


The fleet made its first September contact on the 27th, when a VP-74 plane attacked a sub in 12° 30' S, 35° 30' W. It made two runs, dropping six bombs in the first and two during the second, whereupon the U-Boat submerged. Both attacks had been delivered through intensive anti-aircraft fire, which wounded two members of the crew. Next day the Davis attacked a very doubtful contact in a position close by, but if the sub existed it certainly received no damage.


At the end of the month, two more dispatches came of merchant vessels destroyed. The S. S. Mello, Portuguese flag, was reported afire, after being torpedoed at 02° 50' S, 31° 54' W. At the same time a whaler arrived on the Brazilian coast, near Bahia, with twelve survivors of the British ship Lady, torpedoed as far back as September 19. From the sparse data furnished by the rescued men, the exact location of the sinking could not be determined.


October likewise produced little in the line of action. Two merchant vessels were lost, the Brazilian Campos and the Norwegian Siranger, on the 23rd and 24th, respectively. The former went down in the Latitude of Rio; the latter close to the equator. No contacts were made, if we accept a possible sighting by a VB-107 plane out of Ascension on the 27th. The only excitement this caused came from the possibility that the submarine involved might be Japanese, but apparently nothing more was heard on the matter. November proved more eventful; the total for the month being three contacts and one kill.


The latter took place on the 5th, and the sub was destroyed only after a five and a half hour battle, participated in by several planes, all based on Ascension Island. A Navy B-24 saw a surfaced submarine in 10° 09' S, 18° 00' W, and attacked, the first time without results. The second attack damaged the U-Boat so badly that it was unable to submerge. The plane pilot, with his ammunition exhausted, called for help by radio and stood by to pin the victim until others could come into action. Meanwhile, two additional Navy B-24s and two Army B-25s, the latter carrying demolition bombs, had been called to assist in the operation. In all, they expended 33 depth bombs and 12 demolition bombs.


The plane finally making the kill participated in the first stages of the battle until it ran out of ammunition and almost out of gas. It flew back to the base, rearmed and refueled, changed pilots, and returned to the scene. On the tenth attack the submarine blew up, and survivors could be seen struggling in the water. The plane crews threw life rafts to them, and a merchant vessel in the area, the Fort Cumberland, was requested to pick them up and bring them to Ascension for questioning.


The record for December reveals only one submarine sighting. This was by an Army Mitchell Bomber, en route from Natal to Ascension, in position 06° 20' S, 29° 40' W. Two Venturas from Natal went out to investigate, but their search revealed nothing. So the year 1943 came to an end. The submarines, for all practical purposes, had been driven out of the South Atlantic.


Hyper War. Commander South Atlantic Force. U.S Naval Administration in WW II.


 

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