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Ordered - 5 Jun 1941

Laid down - 15 Jun 1942  AG Weser, Bremen (werk 1066)

Launched - 23 Mar 1943

Commissioned - 12 Aug 1943  Korvkpt. Paul Büchel


                      12 Aug 1943  - 15 Jun 1944  FrgKpt. Paul Büchel


1 patrol              12 Aug 1943 - 31 Mar 1944 4. Flotille (training)                   

                   1 Apr 1944 - 15 Jun 1944 12. Flottille (active service)

Successes - No ships sunk or damaged

Fate:Sunk 15 June 1944 in the South Atlantic south of St. Helena in position 25.27S, 05.30W, by depth charges and rockets from seven Avenger and Wildcat aircraft (Task Group 22.10) from the US escort carrier USS Solomons. 42 dead and 20 survivors.


U-860, a 1200 ton U-boat, commanded by F. K. Paul Buechel, was sunk by aircraft from the USS SOLOMONS in position 24-56 South 04-58 West on 15 June at 1753Z.  Contact was first made on U-860 by one aircraft from the USS SOLOMONS on 15 June at 1021Z.  This aircraft was shot down by the U-boat.  At 1722Z U-860 was sighted fully surfaced by one aircraft from the carrier.  Twenty minutes later six aircraft were on the scene.

Three accurate attacks were delivered by these planes and after a seven minute engagement the U-boat was sunk.Twenty survivors, including the Commanding and Executive Officer, five Petty Officers and thirteen men were picked up some six hours later by the escorts of the USS SOLOMONS and transferred soon thereafter to the carrier itself.  One German rating was dead when picked up by the escort ship and was buried at sea.  Prisoners were brought to a port in Brazil.  Most of the survivors were making their first patrol in U-860.

At about 1200 German time an aircraft warning was picked up on U-860’s G.S.R. set.  Shortly thereafter one plane appeared and commenced its attack.  Four attacks were delivered by this plane.  No hits were made on the submarine.  While the plane was making its run-in on the fourth attack hits from a 20 mm. gun were scored in the open bomb bay of the plane.  Fire broke out immediately inside the plane and it plunged out of control into the sea about 1000 meters from the U-boat.  Search was made for possible survivors but without success.  Only an “oil spot” (dye?) marked the spot of its plunge into the sea.

U-860 submerged. Shortly before sunset Buechel gave the order to surface.  He was not satisfied with his gunners’ performance during the morning battle and intended they should have more anti-aircraft gunnery practice.  The bridge watch had just manned when the man who scanned the starboard 000 – 090 sector sighted a plane.  Almost simultaneously they had a G.S.R. warning.  Alarm was immediately sounded and all guns manned.   

For some twenty minutes the U-boat kept circling keeping the plane on its stern and firing with the 37 mm. guns.  Then the arrival of the second plane was noted and before long six planes were counted.  (Note:  Since only two survivors got out from inside the U-boat and because the final attacks were so intense and so quickly made no coherent account of the planes’ attacks and subsequent damage to the U-boat could be obtained.  The following then is a summary of the prisoners’ impressions of the fatal attacks. The first attack consisting of four planes apparently scored hits in the forward part of the U-boat. 

One survivor stated that immediately after this attack all telephone connections with the forward torpedo room were broken off.  The resulting starboard list was believed to have been caused by a water entry in the forward torpedo room.  The second attack consisting of four planes scored hits in the warrant officers’ room and in the bilges below the control room.  Water entry in both sections was said to have been reported. 

One prisoner said that chlorine gas developed after this attack and killed many men.  Another described a “shot” as landing a few meters away from the U-boat and reappearing on the other side.  He believed this “shot” passed through the pressure hull, through the bilges underneath the control room, and out through the other side of the pressure hull.  Only one prisoner described these attacks as “rocket attacks”.  A very pronounced starboard list was noted after this second attack.The third attack consisting of two planes sank the U-boat very quickly.

Two bombs were seen to fall.  These landed directly on the U-boat in front of the conning tower and were believed to have exploded on contact.  The resulting pressure dazed everybody, many of them coming to only when the U-boat sank from beneath them and they found themselves in the water.  It was stated by all prisoners that it was impossible for anyone else to have escaped.  With the exception of two men in the conning tower at the final attack no other men escaped from within the U-boat itself.

Plane VTB-12 piloted by Ensign G.E. Edwards based on the carrier escort USS SOLOMONS took off from the carrier 15 June at 0709Z.  At 1021Z Edwards reported a contact in position 25-27 South 05-30 West, bearing 070 degrees true, distance 50 miles.  There was no further communication from him.  (Note:  See Sinking, Survivor’s Account, paragraph a for details of Edwards attacks and loss.) Plane VTB-33 piloted by Lt. Cmdr. Avery took off from the USS SOLOMONS 15 June at 1414Z to conduct a normal square search gambit over the reported contact to look for Edwards and the submarine.

At 17:22Z, from a height of 1500 feet the wake of a submarine was sighted, distance 10-12 miles.  Upon closing a fully surfaced submarine on course 120 degrees true was sighted.  A contact report was made at 17:24Z. )  When the plane was eight miles from the submarine the latter altered course to 090 degrees true.  As the plane closed in the U-boat began circling, successfully keeping the plane on its stern.  The plane remained about 4000 yards away from the U-boat while awaiting assistance.  Intense AA fire was encountered during this time. 

The U-boat made no attempt to submerge. At 17:46Z, eight minutes after sunset, the first coordinated attack consisting of two VF and two VTB planes was made on the U-boat.  One VF suffered a damaged wing tank during this attack and was ordered back to the carrier.  The VTB planes launched fourteen rockets, twelve of which were believed to have hit the U-boat forward of the conning tower.  In this attack all four planes had passed over the sub within ten seconds)  A second coordinated attack consisting of one VF and one VTB plane was made on the port beam of the U-boat.  Six of the eight rockets fired were believed to have hit the sub directly in front of the conning tower. 

The submarine had straightened out on a course of 180 degrees true after the first attack and was still on this course after the second attack though its speed had been reduced to three knots.  In addition to the oil trailed by the U-boat as a result of the first attack large quantities of greenish-yellow oil were now seen. )  The third attack consisting of two VTB planes was made on the port quarter of the U-boat.  After a strafing run by Lt. Cmdr. Avery in the first VTB, Lt. (jg) Chamberlain in the second VTB made a depth charge run in the face of intense AA fire. 

He released two depth charges from an altitude of less than 50 feet directly over the conning tower.  The depth charges landed in front of the conning tower causing a violent explosion which engulfed his plane and started a fire in the bomb bay and center cockpit.  The pilot was able to maintain control of his plane and after making a 180 degree turn landed in the water about 500 yards ahead of the U-boat.  All hands were lost.  (Note:  Prisoners from U-860 believe Chamberlain’s plane was hit by their AA fire before the depth charges were released.  They ascribe the loss of this plane to their AA fire rather than as a result of the explosion of the depth charges).

The U-boat sank immediately after this attack at 17:53Z.The gunners aboard the submarine were well protected by armor because despite concentrated strafing attacks they continued to fire until the submarine went down.  (Note:  This fact is borne out by the physical condition of the survivors.  Only one survivor was badly wounded by the strafing attacks.  All other survivors had superficial fragmentation wounds caused by the explosion of the depth charges.  Prisoners stated that only one man was killed outright by the strafing. 

By Capt. Jerry Mason  USN Ret.



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