The Monsun boats

4. Evacuation

The Indian Ocean had become as dangerous for U-boats as the Atlantic. The base at Penang had very limited resources that affected operations. Supply ships could no longer operate in the Far East. This meant that U-boats had to spend too much time on pass age and very little in the operation area. Penang commander, Frgkpt. Dommes, was ordered to move to Jakarta which gave better access to oil and the Indian Ocean. All the boats were to be prepared for sea, packed with as much cargo and torpedoes as possible and to be sent home. As the French ports were not available any more, U-boats were to go to Norway, being refuelled by other submarines when necessary.

How difficult it was to get back from the Far East could be seen from the experience of first wave Monsun boats early in 1944. Only U-188 made it home while U-183 and U-532 had to return to the Far East bases due to fuel difficulties. U-178 while on the way back was attacked by aircraft.

Since early 1944 the way back to Europe had become increasingly dangerous and only few boats made it. The inherent danger came from the fact that most of the Monsun boats were not equipped with schnorkel (U-862, U-195, U-532, U-510, U-861, U-843 certainly were not). Also, they lacked the most advanced radar and radar-detection equipment and AA armament was often inadequate.

boat commander sailed returned
U-1062 Oblt. Karl Albrecht Penang 6/07/44 sunk 5/10/44
U-168 Kptlt. Helmeut Pich Jakarta 4/10/44 sunk 6/10/44
U-181 Frgkpt. Kurt Freiwald Jakarta 19/10/44 Jakarta 5/01/45
U-537 Kptlt. Peter Schrewe Jakarta 8/11/44 sunk 9/11/44
U-196 Oblt. Werner Striegler Jakarta 11/11/44 sunk 30/11/44
U-510 Kptlt. Alfred Eick Jakarta 26/11/44 Jakarta 3/12/44
U-843 Kptlt. Oskar Herwartz Jakarta 10/12/44 Bergen 3/04/45
U-510 Kptlt. Alfred Eick Jakarta 11/01/45 France 24/04/45
U-532 Frgkpt. Ottoheinrich Junker Jakarta 13/01/45 surrendered
U-861 Kptlt. Jürgen Oesten Jakarta 14/01/45 Norway 18/04/45
U-195 Oblt. Friedrich Steinfeldt Jakarta 17/01/45 Jakarta 3/03/45
U-183 Kptlt. Fritz Schneewind Jakarta 22/04/45 sunk 24/04/45

U-181 got as far as South Africa but had to return due to propeller shaft trouble. She scored 1 ship though. Engine trouble forced U-510 to come back to Jakarta on her first attempt to return. This demonstrated the outcome of poor labour and poor quality fuel available in the Far East. The second time U-510 ran out of fuel and had to surrender at St Nazaire.

U-510 had the honour of sinking the last ship to be sunk by U-boats in the Indian Ocean when she torpedoed the 7136-ton Canadian steamer Point Pleasant Park on 23 Feb, 1945.

While proceeding home U-843 refuelled from east-bound U-195 around 20/12/44. U-843 arrived safely to Norway but was later sunk when passing Kattegat.

U-532 scored hits on the way home but eventually surrendered at sea and was brought to Liverpool, England where her cargo was unloaded. The cargo consisted of 110 tons of tin ingots, 8 tons of wolfram, 4 tons of molybdium and smaller amounts of selenium, quinine and crystals plus 8 tons of rubber in tube-like containers. She was refuelled by U-195 around 20 Feb, 1945. U-195 then came back to Jakarta since her engines were not fit enough for the long journey home.

The returning Monsun U-boats were often sunk by the Allied submarines patrolling off the bases. This was the case of U-168 (Dutch submarine Zwaardrish), U-537 (US submarine Flounder), U-183 (US submarine Besugo). In case of U-168 the reason was noisy diesels because of poor quality fuel. Generally, Monsun U-boats lacked schnorkel and advanced radar equipment which made them particularly vulnerable to radar-equipped Allied submarines (apparently U-168 had schnorkel apparatus fitted in the far east).

For more information on this check out U-boats Sunk by Allied Subs.

In 1944 only 2 U-boats reached Europe from the Far East with cargoes: U-178 and U-188 (additionally a Japanese submarine). Plans were for 14 boats. In 1945 again only 2 U-boats came home: U-843 and U-861, each carrying 100 tons of zinc. U-843 was later sunk in the Belt when transferring to Germany. U-510 and U-532 did manage to reach Europe and surrender.

The Monsun boats