Kevin H

U-442 Wehrpass

18 posts in this topic

Heinz Halbleib was born on 12th January 1923 in Frankfurt am Main. When he was registered for military service at the Wehrbezirkskommando in Passau in April 1941 he was 18 years old, Halbleib having originally volunteered for service in January 1941. On 16th May 1941 Halbleib arrived at 9 Schiffsstammabteilung at Stralsund for his basic military training, swearing his oath of allegiance on the 7th June and completing his basic training 3 weeks later. His next period of training took him to 2. Unterseeboots-Lehr-Division where he remained for 6 months before moving to his final training assignment with 2. Baulehrkompanie for 4 months. I’m not entirely sure what type of training unit this was but believe it could have been a U-Boat familiarisation unit (Baubelehrung). Up to this point Halbleib had been in training for his front line service for 10 months but before he would see combat Halbleib would still have a phase of training to undertake although this time it would be with a U-Boat intended for service.

On 21st March 1942 Heinz Halbleib joined U-442, a Type VIIC. This U-Boat was currently serving under the 5 Unterseebootsflottille which was a training flotilla. U-442 was a brand new boat, having been launched on 17th January 1942 and commissioned on 21st March 1942 under the command of Korvettenkapitän Hans-Joachim Hesse. Hesse was a long serving Naval officer having joined the Reichsmarine in 1925, aged 19. From July 1939 to April 1940 he served as a gunnery officer on the cruiser Königsberg which was sunk on 10th April 1940 by aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm while in Bergen. While he had commissioned U-654 in July 1941 he was assigned for his first frontline command when he was posted to U-442, at the time still undergoing construction in Danzig.

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U-442 remained with 5. Flottille until August/September 1942 upon which it was finally assigned to a frontline flotilla, namely 7. Unterseebootsflottille based at St Nazaire, Halbleib having been promoted to Maschenengefreiter on 1st August.

It was 7. Flottille and St Nazaire that formed the backdrop for the novel and film Das Boot, based on the life & work of photographer Lothar-Günther Buchheim who arrived at St Nazaire in October 1941 to join U-96.

However to get to St Nazaire U-442 would need to undertake a war patrol and so on 17th September 1942 she set sail from Kiel for a patrol that would last for 61 days and would prove to be a patrol of mixed blessings. Passing south east of Iceland, on 25th September she came across her first victim, the steam ship Empire Bell of Convoy UR-42 which was heading from Loch Ewe in Scotland to Reykjavik with a cargo of coal. At 1616 U-442 launched her attack and torpedoed the merchant ship which sunk with the loss of 10 sailors from her complement of 37.

Moving on from her first success, U-442 resumed her patrol and experienced the bad weather that the North Atlantic is known for, with one crewmember being badly injured on 10th October 1942.

It would be a few more weeks before U-442 tasted success again but it would prove to be a bitter sweet moment, although the Captain & crew of U-442 probably knew nothing of the effects of her second kill.

In the early hours of 4th November U-132 attacked the merchant ship Hatimura of Convoy SC-107. Damaging the ship, which was carrying a highly volatile cargo which included 200 tons of TNT, 250 Tons of gunpowder and 300 Tons of incendiary bombs, U-132 watched and waited for her victim to sink. Becoming a straggler to the convoy, Hatimura was abandoned by her crew but at 0332, U-442 approached the scene and fired a torpedo into the ship. The subsequent torpedo hit detonated the explosive cargo and the ship exploded in a thunderous roar. But unknown to U-442, Hatimura’s original attacker U-132 was still very near to her victim and was in fact sunk by the debris from the explosion, going down with all hands. Only 4 crewmembers of the Hatimura,out of a crew of 90, were killed in the attacks no doubt being lost in the first attack by U-132.

Twelve days after this event, U-442 finally entered her new home at St Nazaire on 16th November 1942 but her next patrol wasn’t long in coming. After a month in her new base port with the crew no doubt undertaking training and rest periods and the boat undergoing some maintenance, U-442 set sail again on 20th December for what was to be another patrol of mixed blessings as it was also to be her last.

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Having set sail U-442’s hunting grounds were to be a complete contrast to her first patrol as she headed southwest through the Bay Of Biscay for the waters around the Azores and off the coast of western Africa.

It proved to be a wait of nearly 3 weeks before U-442 tasted success again but on the 9th January 1943 as a component of Wolfpack Delphin she came across Convoy TM-1 made up of 9 ships heading from the West Indies to Gibraltar. West of the Canary Islands U-442 fired at two tankers in the convoy but only managed to hit one, the Empire Lytton which was carrying 12,500 Tons of aviation spirit. The ship burned fiercely and from a crew of 48, 14 were killed. Having attacked the tanker in the early morning, U-442 stayed and waited for her to sink but she remained afloat, although the surviving crew had been picked up by the escorts. At this time one of the escorts, HMS Havelock tried to sink the damaged ship with gunfire but had no success. In the mid-afternoon U-442 fired another torpedo at the drifting ship but again she remained afloat and it wasn’t until in the early evening that a third torpedo from U-442 finally caused the Empire Lytton to slip beneath the waves.

Once again, it was to prove another long wait for action as U-442’s next victim wasn’t until the 27th January, 18 days after the sinking of the tanker Empire Lytton. This time her victim, the cargo ship Julia Ward Howe, was US flagged and was carrying 8000 Tons of war material including 60 tanks. A straggler due to heavy weather from Convoy UGS-4 she was transiting from New York to Oran in Algeria when she was torpedoed 175 miles south of the Azores by U-442 at 1807. She didn’t go down without fighting though as she fired her after 5” gun in the direction of the attack although without effect and she was soon abandoned before U-442 fired one more torpedo to finish off the merchant ship. The shot broke the ship in two and U-442 surfaced to question survivors, taking one on board for a more detailed questioning. Releasing him back to the lifeboats U-442 departed the scene. After 15 hours the ships survivors were picked up by a Portuguese destroyer and taken to the Azores.

Continuing her patrol U-442 headed east and started to close the Portuguese coast, quite possibly to target convoys heading for, or leaving, the Straits Of Gibraltar. However as would be expected for such a strategic area the British defences included patrolling aircraft and in December 1942 the Hudson aircraft of Coastal Commands 48 Squadron had been transferred to Gibraltar from the UK. It was one of this squadron’s aircraft that was to prove the nemesis of U-442. While U-442 was approximately 150 miles west of the Cape Of St Vincent on the 12th February 1943 a patrolling Hudson spotted the U-Boat and flew in to conduct a depth charge attack, an attack that proved successful as U-442 was sent to the bottom with all hands, just one of 18 U-Boats sunk in February 1943 and 243 U-Boats sunk in the entire year of 1943, a year that proved to be the turning point in the war against the U-Boats. In her brief frontline career U-442 had accounted for 4 merchant ships for a combined tonnage of 25,417 Tons which seems quite a respectable total for a new boat in just 2 patrols. In the paperwork of the day, the date for the loss of U-442 is credited as being the 19th February 1943. The website Ubootwaffe.net also credits U-442 with damaging two further ships, the Parthenon on 2nd November 1942 (first patrol) and also the Albert L Ellsworth on the 9th January 1943 (second patrol) which would account for the other torpedo fired during the attack on Empire Lytton but as of yet I have yet to find further confirmation for these two damaged ships.

Although - unfortunately - not a part of the Wehrpass a death card for Heinz Halbleib does exist (although I don’t know where!) The only award entered in the WP is for the U-Boat Badge and was awarded in November 1942 which would match the criteria of being awarded for two engagements with the enemy, namely the two merchant ships sunk on U-442’s first patrol.

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Very nice Wehrpass and interesting write up. I hope you will able to find the deathcard from him. It will be nice when that one "surface"

Erwin

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So it was you who bought this from Klaus Butschek. :thumbup:

Aye, it was me. Apparantly he received quite a few emails afterwards from others wishing to buy it.

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Great write-up, Kevin!! A lot of history in one little book.

It's always quite eeire to think about these boats going down with all hands. These guys really went through hell.

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Hi Kevin,

Nice Wehrpaß and a great description.

"Although - unfortunately - not a part of the Wehrpass a death card for Heinz Halbleib does exist (although I don’t know where!) "

The death card image that Klaus Butchek did use comes from Ubootwaffe.net, http://www.ubootwaffe.net/crews/crewalbum.cgi?n=HALBLEIB;b=Z442Z;g=1923-01-12;f=Heinz ,as the card is in exact the same condition.

Best regards

Eric-Jan

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Thanks for the comments guys and also thanks for the link to his deathcard being on Ubootwaffe. Much appreciated.

As an aside, would anyone know where (online or in a publication) there is a list explaining what the trade letters mean after the sailors Stammrollen-Nr? the example above shows 7188/41 T and while I know the significance of the numbers I can never remember what the letters mean (T, S etc). I'm not sure if T means Torpedo Mechaniker or something else (maybe along the lines of maintenance of the telegraphs). T seems to be a common one but S also seems to be fairly common.

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SEARCH, FIND AND KILL, THE RAF'S U-BOAT SUCCESSES IN WORLD WAR TWO.

By Norman Franks.

Information is taken from the second edition, 1995., note that the first edition is really overloaded with errors concerning the Uboats, and while the second edition is updated and better I already noticed errors in the four lines for the description for U 442 ........

12 February 1943.

U 442, a type VIIC submarine, commanded by Korvettenkapitän Hans Joachim Hesse, sunk.

Hudson 'F', 48 Squadron, on patrol 1134 - 17 34 hrs.

FO. G.R. Mayhew Pilot.

FO. D.F. Stewart.

Sgt. D.L.M. Matheson.

Sgt. W.L. Sargent.

At 1402 hrs sighted a fully surfaced U-boat in position 3732/1156 while flying at 3,500 feet.

Mayhew dived to the attack, coming in from dead astern to release D/Cs from 40 feet.

The second D/C exploded right alongside the U-boat, level with the C/T on its port side, while two more exploded in line ahead of the boat.

During the attack the pilot fired his front guns and the rear gunner fired 400 rounds as they flew over.

The aircraft then circled and photographed oil and debris 200 yards in diameter before leaving 40 minutes later.

U 442, which had been in the famous action against convoy PQ 14 during its first cruise in September 1942, had then sailed to St.Nazaire. ( ! note that Ships in Convoy PQ 14 sailed from Oban at 16:00 on March 26-1942 for Iceland - arriving Reykjavik on March 31,Departed Reykjavik at 14:30 on Apr. 8 and arrived Murmansk on Apr. 19., so Franks mentions the wrong convoy, as PQ14 was an arctic convoy and sailed at another date).

This second cruise had begun on 20 September and she was returning from the Azores when she was sunk west of Cape St Vincent.

She had sunk seven ships ( ! note that Franks number of ships is too high).

Geoffrey Richard Mayhew received the DFC.

I could leave the U 442 info by Franks out, but wanted to show that his book does still contain errors.

Kevin,

Concerning the photos taken by the Hudson, one can find such photos at the archive of the Imperial War Museum in London, the problem is that not all those photos are filed.......but one can go through the boxes with those original wartime photos, and when one does have the date / squadron number / position, one is able to identify those not filed photos.

That is how I got my photos from the attack on U 550 (I still thank you for that Hilde !), and asked to make reprints for me.

One can find the squadron books in the National Archives in London (former PRO in Kew), sometimes there are photos in them too.

And another link is the pilot - Mayhew as a DFC winner.

......and the merchant ships and their crew......

This U 442 can be another great research project Kevin.

Best regards

Eric-Jan

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Hi Kevin,

Concerning the Stammrollen -Nr., same as what is on your man's Erkennungsmarke.

O = Ostsee Station.

7188 = your man's personal number.

41 = year that he entered service.

T = Technischen Dienst.

The U is later placed for his O number = Uboot Dienst.

Your man's Wehrpaß shows the rank Maschinengefreiten so that fits perfectly with the T in his Stammrollen - Nr. for the Technischen Dienst.

N instead of the O at front = Nordsee Station.

S = Seemanischen Dienst.

T = Technischen Dienst.

K = Küsten Dienst.

Although I have seen Kriegsmarine Stammrollen - Nr. and Erkennungsmarke - Nr. without a letter N or O at the front and without a letter S, T or K at the end.

Best regards

Eric-Jan

Extra information taken from Forum-Marine-Archiv.de , posted by Uwe.

Nach den "Bestimmungen über Erkennungsmarken und Behandlung des Nachlasses Verstorbener" aus dem Jahre 1934 der Reichsmarine wird festgestellt, dass die besonderen Verhältnisse in der Reichsmarine es nötig machten, Erkennungsmarken zu tragen. Von allen an Bord befindlichen der Reichsmarine, Offizieren Beamten, Deckoffizieren, Unteroffizieren und Mannschaften wurden Erkennungsmarken aus Metall (Aluminiumbronze) auf bloßem Leibe an einer Schnur von der linken Schulter nach der rechten Seite getragen.

Die EM bestanden aus Metall und waren in der Längsachse in zwei gleiche Hälften geteilt. Bei Offz. und Bea. der Reichsmarine standen auf beiden Hälften der Marke Dienstgrad sowie Vor- und Zuname. Deckoffiziere, Uffz. und Mannschaften trugen eine gleichgroße Marke mit Vor- und Zunamen und den Buchstaben O oder N für die jeweilige Marinestation Ost- oder Nordsee, die Buchstaben S oder T für Zugehörigkeit zum seemännischen oder technischen Personal. Ausserdem wurden die Jahrgangsnummern (Geburtsjahr) und eine persönliche Nummer eingeschlagen, unter welcher der Träger dieser EM im jeweiligen Jahrgang eingetragen wurde.

Etwas später wurden den Marken von Offz. und Bea. nur Vor- und Zunamen statt des Dienstgrades die Offz.Gattung (Seeoffizier, Ing.Offz., San.Offz., Waffen-Offz. usw.) sowie das Jahr des Diensteintritts zugefügt. Die Marine-EM war etwas kleiner als bei Heer und Luftwaffe. Es gab aber auch Ausnahmen. Marken mit dem Vor- und Zunamen waren bis 1941 üblich und ab 1942 durch das Wort Kriegsmarine ersetzt.

Im Gegensatz zur Marine, die Erkennungsmarken auch in Friedenszeiten an die Besatzungen in See gehender Schiffe ausgab, wurden die Marken bei Heer und Luftwaffe nur vor kriegsmäßigen Einsätzen ausgegeben.

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Thanks for all the extra information EJ, that is a tremendous help especially with the additional information with regards to U-442's final moments.

And thanks for the reply with regards to the Stammrollen Nr. I knew what the numbers meant but could never remember what the letters stood for so all that is much appreciated.

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Kevin H.

 

Thank you for sharing Heinz Halbleib's wehrpass with the forum, very nice document. Your write-up is excellent; Eric-Jan is a wealth of information.

 

Best regards,

John

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John,

 

Although I do thank you for your kind words my friend, I must say that - that is too much honor for me, the pleasure is all mine, in this hobby I am so glad that I am able to help others with the same historical interest.

A very important part in this hobby for me is to share all possible and available information with others.

I can have as much pleasure to do research for others as I do on my own historical material.

 

And I don't have the answers or information on all the questions that do show up on my screen.

 

Best regards

 

Eruc-Jan

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