It seems well worthwhile to recall the German’s U-boat offensive in 1942 off the east coast or the United States and in the Gulf of Mexico. The U-boats that came over to our coast were mainly Type VIIs with — according to our submarine experts — insufficient fuel tankage to allow them any patrol time, if they got to our coastal areas at all. They theoretically didn’t have the endurance or enough torpedoes to be a real threat to u.s. coastal shipping. So the United States was totally unprepared for a German offensive against mainly our oil tankers carrying oil from our Gulf of Mexico oil wells to our east coast oil consumers.
Admiral Doenitz, who planned this U-boat campaign, had developed a group of larger submarines for carrying oil and extra torpedoes. He called them his “milch” cows. They were for resupplying his Type VIIs on station in the Western Hemisphere. We hadn’t paid much attention to these logistic support submarines, merely seeing the German submarine threat as one of small, diesel attack submarines or very limited range and a small load of torpedoes.
As the Supervisor or shipments or Texaco oil products from the Gulf to U.S. east coast ports, I was highly interested as a spectator to what was happening throughout 1942 to my oil shipments. When the American tanker S/S RAWLEIGH WARNER, out of Port Arthur. Texas, was evidently lost in late June in the Gulf of Mexico, my best friend, Captain Jewel Levington, the Master of the WARNER disappeared along with his ship and its crew of 33 men — without a trace. A cloud of smoke rising from the waters of the Gulf on June 22nd might have been from the torpedoed WARNER. or all the ships sailing out of the Gulf which were undoubtedly sunk by the German U-boats, the WARNER alone had no survivors or any evidence of floating debris to tell the tale of how she was lost. I’d heard rumors that there were some cases where the Nazi submariners gunned the survivors in the water to prevent their telling or how their ship was lost. but I never talked with a survivor and I talked with a lot — who had seen this happen.
The sinking of the WARNER was the 18th in the Gulf of Mexico and was the only sinking not well accounted for. I did see a report which told or the WARNER carrying a cargo of “high octane aviation fuel.” This might explain her loss from torpedo-induced deadly explosion from which all of the crew were destroyed before any could launch a lifeboat or dive overboard.
The WARNER was listed as ship “Number 320” in the official tabulations of Allied vessels lost since Pearl Harbor — in the Western Atlantic. But the WARNER’s loss was only a continuation of a highly successful U-boat campaign which didn’t slow down until the u.s. had mobilized an over-whelming number of ASW units to confront this threat, and had started to convoy their ships out of the Gulf. Most importantly, the U.S. land-based ASW patrol aircraft brought into the war effort against the U-boats, began to deny the refueling and replenishment operation of the Type VIIs from the milch cows on the surface, and the Germans didn’t have a means to do it submerged.
The toll of U.S. ships destroyed by U-boats mounted, as did the number of merchant seamen lost or missing throughout 1942. On September 18, 1942, a wire news-release said that the sinking of merchantmen the previous month had brought the western Atlantic ship toll to 471. A later release on October 22nd, announced a figure of 502 ships destroyed — 31 ships in little over a month. Then on November 19th, the sinking totaled 572 — 70 ships in less than a month! That meant that at about 4,000 tons per ship — a figure used for our submarine sinkings of unidentified Japanese merchant ships — a total of some 280,000 tons of U.S. shipping had gone down. And for the war’s total to date, about 2.3 million tons of ships were sunk off the u.s. east coast alone. For this figure of 572 ships, there were 3,400 crew members and passengers declared lost or missing and over 15,000 were rescued and safely landed in Allied ports.
In checking all news releases I later found that in the month of June we lost 112 ships to the U-boats about half a million tons of shipping and much of it in oil tanker.
Now, I read about the hundreds of diesel subumarines which the Soviets might use in a war against the United States. I picture great numbers of them coming over to mine our coasts and shoot up our sparsely escorted merchantmen at the beginning of the war. And again, I get the impression that there has not been taken into account the probability that the Soviets have logistic support submarines to make another east coast campaign for diesel submarines more than feasible.