The German Account of
CONVOY SC-48

NOTE: I have included only the portion which includes the USS KEARNY,
the rest of the account will be added at a later date

October 16, 1941
At 11:40, the American Escort Group with the destroyers PLUNKETT, LIVERMORE, KEARNY, and DECATUR met Convoy SC-48, while the destroyer GREER stood still further south-east. After having repaired the engine troubles, he tried to contact SC-48 as fast as possible. About at midday, from North, the British destroyer BROADWATER and the free-French corvette ALYSSE reached the convoy which now had safeguards of 6 destroyers and 4 corvettes.


Although the safeguards had been re-inforced and the weather conditions for the U-boats were very bad (rainstorms, changing sights, and heavy winds), U-553 found the convoy at 13:12. Shortly afterwards, U-558 came along and during the afternoon, U-568, U-502, and U-432 took up contact. All U-boats except U-502 could keep in touch until the night came, although about 15:30 the first Sunderland flying boat of the RAF Squadron 204 from Iceland met the convoy. Obviously, it was heavily hindered by the sight conditions, as some U-boats were overflown without being noted by the plane.

It seemed to the U-boats, that the convoy had changed its formation: from a tight column formation, to a long spread-out formation. This impression was caused by bad sight conditions and the still existing wrong-position reports of some U-boats. The commander of the convoy tried to escape from the U-boats by driving wild circles, but he did not succeed. Also the attempts of the guard-ships to irritate the U-boats by firing light-shells in a greater distance from the convoy failed. On the American destroyers, which were the first time in a battle with the enemy it seemed, that a certain nervosity took place. In the dark night, the destroyers were not equipped with radar-they could not see the U-boats, which were driving over water at a distance of some thousand meters and they could also not locate the U-boats with the sonar, because these instruments reached only about 1000 meters. So, the destroyers dropped some water-bombs and fired light-shells without having seen any U-boats.

So, it is reported by USS LIVERMORE, which had a position in front of the convoy, that she dropped 2 water-bombs after a "sonar-sweep" about at 17:40 and that she - when at 20:43 from behind light-shells were fired, connected the convoy and fired also 4 light-shells. Probably, it was the same destroyer, which was passed shortly before by U-553 at a distance of only 150 meters, without been sighted, when it pushed into the convoy for attacking. From the left side, it fired 3 single torpedoes against 3 tankers, but all 3 missed their targets. Finaly, about 21:07, it fired another torpedo and hit the Norwegian steamer ERVIKEN (6595 tons), which had loaded phosphate. The ship was blown up in the air after a heavy explosion. In the fire-shine of the explosion, U-553 had to submerge very quickly from a destroyer, which approached at high speed from only 400 meters. This destroyer had 2 gun-stands at the back. The destroyer dropped 3 water-bombs, without doing much damage. m This destroyer must have been one of the 3 modern American destroyers, because of the safety-guard-ships, only they had 2 gun-stands at the back. Indeed, after this attack, also the destroyer USS KEARNY fired light-shells and at 21:22, he dropped water-bombs. KPTLT. Thurmann had not recognized these destroyers as Americans, because, at 22:00, he sent out the following message "Convoy Qu 1965, 90 grades, 5 sea-miles, at least 10 medium and big tankers, 2 destroyers of the 'Tribal' class".

The "Tribal" class are big British destroyers, which easily could be mixed up in a dark night and bad sights with the American destroyers of the "Benson" class, to which LIVERMORE, PLUNKETT, and KEARNY belonged to.

40 minutes afte the first attack, U-558 fired a torpedo and hit the Esso-tanker W.C. Teagle (under British flag - 9551 tons). The tanker burned and sank 5 minutes afterwards. At 23:05, U-432 sunk the Greek steamer Evros in the middle of the convoy.

About that time, the corvettes HMS VERONICA and HMS PICTOU reached the convoy. The safety-guard now consisted of 3 modern American destroyers, 3 American 4-chimney destroyers(one under American, one under Canadian, and one under British flag), and 6 corvettes (3 Canadian, 2 French, and 1 British). Another American 4-chimney destroyer (GREER) stood about 20 sea-miles aside, he could see the explosions and the light-shells. About at midnight, the corvette PICTOU attacked an over-water-driving U-boat and pursued it, the U-boat fired two torpedoes, which missed. As the PICTOU came slowly nearer, the U-boat was forced to submerge and it was covered by a water-bomb carpet. Probably, it was U-502, which was located in trying an attack.

October 17, 1941
In the meantime, the other U-boats had reloaded their torpedoes and they were preparing their next attacks. About 00:30, U-558 started the second attack and hit shortly afterwards the Norwegian steamer Rym (1369 tons), which sunk in a big fire-ball. Shortly afterwards, U-432 fired a fan of torpedoes and hit the Panamanian steamer Bold Venture (3222 tons) which caught fire and soon afterwards the Norwegian tanker Barfonn (9739 tons). The destroyer KEARNY, which stood only about 1200 meters from the torpedoed ship, turned backwards and began-following the American convoy tactic-to throw a new barrier of waterbombs. In doing so, KEARNY came just in the shoot line of U-568, which just had begun it's attack. The commander of U-568, Kptlt. Preuss, who did not regognize the American Nationality of the destroyer, fired a spread of torpedoes. In this very moment, one of the corvettes crossed the way of KEARNY, so that KEARNY had to stop to prevent a collission. When it was reported to the commander, LCDR. Danis, from the listening room, that torpedoes were approaching, he tried to turn the ship out of the deadly danger, but the ship was not able to take up high speed. One torpedo hit the right side and exploded in the Vessel-room, where 11 men were killed and 7 wounded. 15 other men were injured on the upper deck and bridge by the heavy shock, among them the commander. The crew succeeded to start the backbord-engine after half an hour @ 01:40, so that the destroyer could move on, at first with 3 miles, then with 5 miles, and at last with 8 miles speed, following next was an an order of Capt. Thebaud--to reach the next harbour, Reykjavic. At 02:30, Capt. Thebaud ordered the destroyer GREER, which had reached the convoy in the meantime, to support the KEARNY. GREER found the KEARNY in the afternoon of the 17th, shortly before another American destroyer, MONSSEN, came along to back-up. In the morning of the 19th, the 3 ships arrived at Reykjavic, where the wounded men were transferred to the British hospital-ship AVONGLEN.

In the "light-shell-magic" which was fired by the 2 remaining destroyers after KEARNY had been torpedoed, U-553 could no longer attack. It turned away to try a new attack from the right side. At 02:30, it met another American destroyer (probably PLUNKETT) at a distance of 800 meters, but the destroyer did not notice the U-boat. Kptlt. Thurmann fired his last two torpedoes at the destroyer at 02:38. He thought, the destroyer belonging to the "Tribal-class". But one of the torpedoes was a "surface-runner" and jumped with a loud growl from wave-to-wave towards the target. The destroyer heard the noise and turned towards the U-boat, which was lucky to escape in high-speed. The destroyer probably thought that the U-boat had submerged.

USS LIVERMORE and DECATUR made 3 and 4 waterbomb attacks against more or less located sonar-sweepd, without having any success. U-432 succeeded in torpedoing again the still swimming tanker Barfonn at 02:58. The ship sunk after a heavy explosion. At 06:30, the British Escort-Group, which was supposed to relieve the Canadian Escort-Groups of SC-48 on the MOMP reached the convoy. It consisted of British destroyers HIGHLAND, BULLDOG, AMAZON, RICHMOND, and GEORGETOWN. The last two belonged to the American 4-chimney type. So, the whole Safety-Guard consisted now of 10 destroyers and 6 corvettes. At the same time, the first Sunderland flying-boat arrived for air security. Nevertheless, U-558, and U-568 succeeded to keep up contact, while U-553, which had fired all his torpedoes, started for home. U-432 tried to connect again and U-502 had stayed back.

At 11:45, 3 Catalina/Mariner flying-boats of the American VP-squadron 73 and 74 from Iceland arrived at the convoy and ten minutes later, the 3 US destroyers turned off for Argentia, where they arrived on Oct. 21.


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