U-990 - 4th War Patrol

Translation by Harald Jazdziewski

Days at Sea
22 May 1944
25 May 1944


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      Ships Attacked

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" U  990 "
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4th Patrol.
Transfer from Bergen to Narvik.
        Kommandant:  Kapitänleutnant Nordheimer  
        Beginning:  12.  April  1944  
        Ending:       25.  May  1944  
Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine Copy No. 1
Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine Copy No. 2
Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine 2. Skl. B.d.U. Op. Copy No. 3
Kommandier Admiral der Unterseeboote Copy No. 4
Führer der Unterseeboote Norwegian Copy No. 5
Führer der Unterseeboote Ausbildung Copy No. 6
Kommando der 27. Unterseebootsflottille Copy No. 7
Kommando der 11. Unterseebootsflottille Copy No. 8
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- 3 -
    10.00 Bergen Moored at Bergen after 3rd patrol.  
    13.04.44 to 14.04.44    
        Boat cleared/vacated.  
    15.04.44 to 29.04.44    
        Boat in shipyard/battery capacity tested.  
    08.05.44   Boat undocked.  
    12.05.44   Sea trial.  
    13.05.44   Docked again to replace a propeller which generated noise during sea trial.  
    14.05.44   Cast off.  New sea trial.  Anti-Aircraft training and AA practice firing; a shell exploded in the barrel below the muzzle of the 3.7 cm.  Cause: defective AA ammunition; the shell feeding mechanism often jams when firing AA ammunition.  
      I do not recognize Anti-Aircraft training as sufficient.  To test weapons and train the whole crew, all we have left are 4 days, 200 rounds and 3 balloons.  
    19.30   Left Bergen with U-921 (Leu) for the 4th war patrol. (Transfer Bergen - Narvik).  Escorted by "UNITAS" to Hellisoe.  
    23.30 Hellisoe Released by "UNITAS".  Left coast together with U-921 at high speed with irregular zigzags.  General course 315°.  
    03.00 to   Proceed submerged.  
    12.00   Day's run: 108 nm.  
    13.00 to   Surfaced charging batteries with full anti-aircraft readiness.  Order for the duration of transit:  Crew must wear life vests.  Test firing; feeding mechanism for the 3.7 cm again out of action.  Automatic fire impossible.  Malfunction corrected shortly before dive.  
    15.00 to   Proceed submerged.  
    21.00 to   Surfaced charging batteries; the 3.7 cm malfunctions again.  
Sun and Moon Data 22.05.44
Sun and Moon Data 23.05.44
- 4 -
    23.05.44 (Continued)    
    23.00   Submerged.  
    09.00 to   Surfaced charging batteries.  The 3.7 cm malfunctions once again (feeding mechanism).  

Radio message received: 1138/24/652.

        KR KR Borger , Brammer, Leu, Nordheimer:  
        Operate at maximum speed on war emergency message. Niethmann: Operational area AF 5573.  
    12.00 AF 8150

Proceeding at maximum speed towards U-476.

        Day's run:  138 nm.  

Radio message received: 1159/24/654.


Vp.-boat 5901:  Sail immediately at maximum speed to grid AF 5573 for rescue of U-boat crew.  Proceed via 64 28N 08 06E.  Meet aircraft support ship there.

                                              Adm. Nordküste.  

Radio message received: 1213/24/653.

        SSD Pietsch, Leu, Borger, Brammer und Nordheimer:  
        According to last war emergency message, Niethman sunk at 12.00 hours. in AF 5573.  Crew probably in rubber life rafts.  Search until orders revoked, immediately report any finding.  Sea rescue planes dispatched.  Beware of enemy planes.  

Radio message received: 1433/24/663:

        1.)  Brammer do not help Niethman, instead return to former course according to orders No.13 and 14.  
        2.)  After 22.00 hours.Vp.-boat 5901, M132 and 2 R-boats will arrive at sinking location AF 5573.  

Radio message received: 1735/24/664:

        KR KR:  Aircraft will transmit bearing signals from 17.30 hours. on frequency Dora for boats that look for Niethman.  Rubber life rafts in AF 5571 firing flares.  
      Expecting that life rafts will drift, I set course straight into the wind and sea.  
Sun and Moon Data 24.05.44
- 5 -
    18.00   Bearing signal 30º relative.  
    19.20   Aircraft to port.  Change course to due east and speed to HF, otherwise it is impossible to use 3.7 cm anti-aircraft gun in these weather conditions.  Recognized as Condor at 2500 meters, no recognition signal fired.  
        Condor flies irregular circles in all directions until out of sight. Circles partially obscured by gusts of rain.  Does not give any indication, either through course or signal where the scene might be.  Repeatedly firing white flares in front of their cockpit to encourage them to use the same to mark the spots where rafts are, but to no avail!  
    19.30 AF 5575

Radio message received: 1915/24/664:

        KR KR:  Aircraft sighted in AF 5571 one U-boat and life rafts.  Boat that found survivors immediately report with a short signal "Yes".  

From this I take that I must be close to the scene.  Position according to navigational fix: AF 5575.

      Started a systematic search since Condors are more of an annoyance than a help.  Searching for 4 nm in either direction of the end points of a baseline against wind and sea.  Zags at end points deviate by 1.5 nm.  
    19.45   Second aircraft in sight.  Estimated distance: 10,000 meters.   Quickly pulls up into the clouds.  Type not identified.  
    19.50   Final departure of Condor.  
    20.00   Debris sighted, probably the tail section of an aircraft.  
    20.20   Empty one-man life raft sighted.  Using position as starting point for search.  Firing flares every 20 minutes to show my position to other boats and encourage rafts to shoot signal stars.  

Radio message sent: 2215/25/91:

        To F.d.U.:  Life raft in 5575 unoccupied.  On the lookout for flares.  
Sun and Moon Data 24.05.44
- 6 -
    22.16   Noticed emergency signals bearing 30º and 280º relative approximately 3.5 nm apart.  
    22.25   11 men rescued from life raft.  Recovery difficult because of sea state 5-6.  Maneuvering difficult since E-motor reverse has no power and boat turns immediately stern into the wind.  

Radio message sent: 2222/25/84:

        SSD So far 11 men rescued.  Looking for flares.  Observed several more emergency signal stars.  
    22.50   U-476 in sight.  Intend to take the boat in tow.  

Radio telegram sent: 2257/24/85:

        KR KR Niethmann afloat AF 5574.  10 men taken aboard.  
        All engines out of commission.  Rudder jammed at full starboard.  Lying alongside.  
    23.15   Commander U-476 report:  Boat will stay afloat for 2 more hours.  Compressed air and electricity depleted.  
    00.40   Commander, LI and 8 men taken from life raft U-476.  
    00.45   Enemy radar detection.  
    00.55   Enemy radar detection.  
    01.02   Boat sunk with torpedo because of strong radar detection.  Enemy planes are probably incoming.  
    01.05   Submerged.  
    01.55   Surfaced.  Continue search.  

Radio message sent:

        KR KR Unable to save U-476.  Sank with torpedo.  Rescued:  Commander, Engineering Officer, First Watch Officer, Ob. Strm., 2 Ob. Masch. and 15 men.  
    02.00   White signal star, bearing 50º relative, distance 10 nm. Heading towards it at maximum speed.  
    02.45   Vp.-boat 5901 in sight.  
      Abandoned search after 7 ½ hours, since in my opinion, shared by Commander U-476, no one was found during the high speed search and, considering the relatively large area, that after 17 ½ hours in no one will be still alive.  Single person life rafts probably capsized  
Sun and Moon Data 25.05.44
- 7 -
    25.05.44 (Continued)    

due to wind and sea, occupants probably frozen stiff with a water temperature of +3º C.  The work boat (2 wounded and 3 men) that was put out, was certainly also sunk since it was too stiff and no possibility for towing.  Intention to sail to Narvik abandoned.  Current plan:  Combined Anti-Aircraft capabilities of Vp.-boat and myself strong enough to repel enemy planes.

        If I dive, the Vp.- boat will be destroyed.  I will have to return to the surface to rescue the survivors and then it will be my turn to be attacked.  Trailing Vp. 5901 at a distance of 3-400 meters enroute Trondheim.  

Radio message sent:

        Met Vp.-boat.  Sailing together to Trondheim since transfer of survivors is impossible due to the sea state.  

Aircraft to port, Liberator.  Maintains contact.  Circles around us at a distance of 7000 meters.


Radio message sent: 0655/25/9.

        Enemy scout plane made contact.  Request immediate air cover.  

Under air attack from starboard.  At an estimated distance of 6000 meters permission given to fire 3.7 cm.  It malfunctions after just 7 rounds fired.  Single fire not possible.  Liberator fires with all he has.  Drops 6 depth charges, similar to German versions, but slightly thinner and longer.

        Last DC falls into the water around 3-5 meter away near magazine and detonate under the boat.  
        Violent and strong concussion.  Watch on the bridge and M.G. crew thrown around.  Some men were wounded by M.G. fire from plane.  Boat starts to sink over the bow.  Engaging E-Motors at 3/5 reverse.  Engineering Officer informs me that boat will only stay afloat for a short while through continuous blow of ballast tanks 3 and 5 and watertight compartment.  
    07.32   Orders: All men out of the boat.  

Heavy sea rolls over the boat.  We call to Vp.-boat:  Put lines into the water.  Water pours in through the bridge hatch.

Sun and Moon Data 25.05.44
- 8 -

I manage to pull Oblt. z.S. Heidt out of the hatch.  I got Ob. Fähnrich z.S. Tils out up to the hips when the boat sank into the depths with us.  Both Watch Officers and control room mate (Masch. Mt. Regber) had voluntarily reentered the boat to recover more emergency dinghies and floats.

        Attempts to reach the Vp.-boat by swimming usually fail since the boat drifts faster than men are able to swim in the heavy sea.  
        Since there is total destruction in the stern section of the boat, only 1 single person raft and 1 _ -person raft could be taken out of the boat.  A group of 8 to 10 men cling to each raft. The Vp.-boat rescues the men that are swimming alone in the water first.  The men in the water are calm, and comforting each other.  Vp.-boat 5901 rescues 34 men in 75 to 90 minutes.  Mtr. Hpt. Gfr. Anger dies; 18 men are missing. Rescued: Kommandant, Engineering Officer, First Watch Officer, Second Watch Officer, Ob. Strm., 8 Petty Officers and 20 men.  
    19.15   Moored in Trondheim.  


        The report from Engineering Officer Oblt. (Ing.) Bröskamp gives the following picture of the destruction that took place inside the boat:  
        Apparent crack in pressure hull near fuel oil bunker 2 inboard, since magazine and Kommandant's room full of oil. Stern room takes on water through torpedo tubes and torpedo loading hatch.  The whole pressure hull is warped and distorted such that bulkheads are not closable anymore.  All bilge pumps are out of action thanks to fractured pipes and broken or bent pump rods.  
        Fu.M.G. fell into the control room;  
Sun and Moon Data 25.05.44
- 9 -

fuse panels and transformer fell from overhead.  The Diesel air compressor was pushed amidships.  Port switch panel was also pushed amidships.   Periscope head broken off.  Periscope pedestal broken.  All lockers fell into the passageways.  Barely able to get through bow room Chief Petty Officers, Officers and Kommandant's rooms because of the lockers, radio equipment and canned foodstuff.

        The latter fell out of the food locker and blocked the corridor.  It was impossible to recover the emergency and rescue equipment.  
        Men were slammed against the overhead by the detonation. Boat stayed afloat due to continuing pressure blow of ballast tanks 3 and 5 and watertight compartment.  
        Stopped blow at 120 kg to observe boat which sank over the bow immediately.  Continued blow.  
        Order:  All men out of the boat.  When there was only 40 kg of compressed air left, the Enigineering Officer was the last man to leave the interior.  
      All grid and time data reconstructed since all documents were lost with the boat.  
                                Kapitanleutnant and Kommandant.  
Sun and Moon Data 25.05.44
                                                                                            Anlage 1 zu F.d.U. Norwegian Gkdos 3520  
Comments of "F.d.U. Norwegian"
on the K.T.B. "U 990" for 12.04.44 to 25.05.44
1) Loss of the boat through air attack in unfavorable conditions after successfully lending assistance to "U-476".
2) The assistance to "U-476" (Niethmann) on 24./25.05.:  The measures taken for the search for the stricken boat were thought-out and correct.  The experienced commander broke off the search after rescuing 21 men and sinking the stricken U-boat, since it was improbable that the remaining life rafts were still afloat and that after 17 hours in the cold water any swimming person would be frozen to death or drowned.  He deemed any further search as hopeless and that any further search would be too great of a risk to the already rescued survivors and his own boat due to enemy air operations in this area.  I therefore approve of his decision, even though under more favorable conditions a further search should have yielded more certainty about the missing sailors.
3) The loss of his own boat:  The Kommandant chose to sail surfaced for the purpose of air-defense, since he felt secure in the proximity of the Vp.- boat, without considering that an attack would be made against the target with the highest value and that the heavy sea would restrict the air-defense capabilities of the U-boat.  After the hit and the quick sinking of the boat only 2 life rafts from the inside could be brought onto the deck.  The commitment of both Watch Officers and the Control Room Mate is acknowledged.  It is due to the proper operation of Vp. 5901 that, regardless of the difficult circumstances, a large portion of the shipwrecked personal could be rescued. "Nordheimer" chose all the correct options and probable solutions for the rescue of his boat.
  Fuhrer der Unterseeboote Norwegen  
  B.Nr.                 -Gkdos 3520-                                                                             An Bord, den B. Juli 1944  
                                                                                                                                     In sextuplicate  
                                                                                                                                     Copy No. -1-  
  Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine - 1.Skl.-,
  Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine - 2.Skl.B.d.U.Op.,
  Kommandierenden Admiral der Unterseeboots,
  Fuhrer der Unterseebootsausbildung,
  Kommando 27. Underseebootsflottille,
  Kommando 11. Unterseebootesflottille.

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