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Ordered - 16 Jan 1940

Laid down - 30 Oct 1940 Blohm & Voss, Hamburg (werk 567)

Launched - 20 Aug 1941

Commissioned - 9 Oct 1941 Oblt. Hans-Jürgen Zetsche


                9 Oct 1941 - 8 Sep 1942 Kptlt. Hans-Jürgen Zetzsche (German Cross in Gold)

                9 Sep 1942 - 12 Nov 1942 Oblt. Peter Schrewe

               12 Nov 1942 - 17 May 1943   Hans-Jürgen Zetzsche (German Cross in Gold) 

                15 May 1943 - 17 May 1943 Ltn. Joachim Sauerbier 

                  1 Jul 1943 - 30 Jul 1943 Oblt. Reimar Ziesmer       


8 patrols        9 Oct 1941 - 1 Jan 1942 6. Flottille (training)   

                    1 Jan 1942 - 30 Jun 1942  6. Flottille (active service) 

                    1 Jul 1942 - 31 May 1943 11. Flottille (active service)

                  1 Jun 1943 - 30 Jul 1943 9. Flottille (active service)

Successes - 4 ships sunk, total tonnage 19,932 GRT

                1 ship damaged, total tonnage 5,701 GRT

Fate: Sunk on 30 July 1943 in the South Atlantic south-east of Recife, Brazil, in position 08º.36'S, 34º.34'W, by depth charges from a US Ventura aircraft (VB-127 USN/B-10). 19 dead and 28 survivors.



After having patrolled inshore, U-591 was standing out to sea 30 July 1943; she was steering 1000 T and was proceeding at moderate speed.  Her bridge watch consisted of the First Watch Officer, a petty officer and two enlisted men.  The weather was clear and visibility unlimited.


VB-127-B-10 was on air escort patrol with convoy TJ-2 when the wake of a U-boat was sighted from an altitude of 4,000 feet on a relative bearing of 3550.  The bomber's course was 1300 T, the U-boat was observed steering about 900 T.  No radar contact was made as it was out of commission.  The range of the sighting was about 12 miles. The airplane achieved complete surprise after completing his run down sun and into the wind.  Six Mark 44 bombs, set at 25 feet, were dropped from a height of 50 feet, while flying at a speed of 260 knots.  The bombs straddled the U-boat, and one was observed falling on the deck.


The approach of the bomber had been so fast that no time remained to fire the 20-mm. cannon, though the order to man them had been given by the U-boat's commander.  One of the bombs fell close to U-591 and exploded to starboard, tearing a large hole in the pressure hull.  It was probably also the effect of this bomb which tore off the vent of one of the diving tanks; a rating thought that the main ballast tank must have filled as the U-boat settled quickly in the water.  A second bomb hit the 20-mm. cannon located on Platform II, demolishing the cannon, and, piercing the upper deck, fell into the pressure hull. 

It may also have broken the high pressure air bottles located under the deck grating abaft the conning tower The diesel engines of U-591 were still working and headway was still made.  Water was entering fast from the starboard side of the forward compartments and Ziesmer himself at one time had the high pressure air manifold in his hands; this was apparently torn loose by the force of the explosion as well as of the bomb which penetrated through the upper deck. 

All electric power was gone, thus preventing any signal to be sent to the Commander in Chief U-boats.Ziesmer, realizing that his boat was doomed, gave the order to abandon ship.  The water was about three to four feet high in the control room when the last man to get out of U-591 climbed up the ladder to the bridge.  It could not be established whether the part of the crew in the after compartments ever heard the order to abandon ship or whether they were physically unable to escape. A few minutes after the bombs were dropped, U-591, which had been settling slowly, came out of the water again probably due to the fact that the forward hydroplanes were in the "up" position.


At this moment the attacking airplane came over for a second run and fired 280 rounds of 50 cal. ammunition at the boat.  U-591 sank quickly and quietly before this was over.  It should be noted, however, that none of the survivors who were in the water by that time were under the impression that they were being fired at, for they realized that the U-boat was still on the surface.


After circling, the Ventura dropped a life raft onto which those who were wounded were placed.  The other survivors took turns hanging on the raft.  Once a shark swam into the group brushing against one of the men.  The commander saw the shark but told his men that it was only a porpoise; his Quartermaster upheld him, although he was fully aware that the animal had been a shark. 


U.S.S. Saucy, which had been in the neighborhood of the attack, arrived on the scene about five hours after the sinking.  She picked up 28 prisoners while her crew kept firing at sharks which apparently had been following the ship.  One of the prisoners, still nervous and excited, jumped overboard after having been brought aboard the U.S.S.Saucy; he was under the impression that the shots were directed at his comrades rather than at the closely bunched sharks  The prisoners were landed at Recife at 2240, 30 July 1943. 

PG 65 Saucy. Photo.  By Joe Radigan

By Capt. Jerry Mason USN Ret.

U 591 sunk 5 ships and damaged 1 during her career. None were sunk in the South Atlantic. They were: Montreal City,  Norse King, Zarian, Empire Impala and Vojvoda Putnik,



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