U.S. Submarine Operations in the Atlantic during World War II
While the extraordinary success of U.S. submarines against Japanese shipping in the Pacific completely overshadowed the achievements of their counterparts in the Atlantic, LANTFLT boats nonetheless made a major contribution to winning the war in Europe. In February 1941, shortly after the Navy reorganization that created the Atlantic, Pacific, and Asiatic Fleets, RADM Richard Edwards became Commander Submarines, Atlantic, the forerunner of COMSUBLANT. Originally comprising only B, O, R, and S-class boats, of which only the last were truly oceangoing, Submarines Atlantic prepared for war with a series of contingency plans that led eventually to basing submarines in Key West, St. Thomas (U.S.Virgin Islands), Bermuda, Coco Solo (Panama), and Argentia (Newfoundland). Additionally, all East Coast new-construction boats - the great majority - honed their skills for the Pacific war on shakedown and training cruises in the LANTFLT area.
During June 1941, with the rising threat of the German U-boat campaign against Britain, U.S. submarines began defensive patrols in both the Atlantic and Caribbean, with particular emphasis on protecting shipping lanes off the East Coast and through the Panama Canal. After Pearl Harbor brought the United States into the war, U.S. boats established an intermittent patrol line from Bermuda to Nantucket, but despite regular sightings and several brief skirmishes with German U-boats, there were no kills or losses.
For operations in European waters, Submarine Squadron 50 was established at New London in September 1942. Comprising six new Gato-class boats and the submarine tender USS Beaver (AS-5), it departed in October for a base at Rosneath on the west coast of Scotland and saw its first major action in support of Operation TORCH, the Allied invasion of Vichy-controlled French North Africa. Five SUBRON 50 boats served in the invasion force, performing reconnaissance off the landing sites in Morocco, establishing navigation references for the amphibious assault, patrolling against possible Vichy French resistance, and even putting U.S. Army scouts ashore in advance of the main landings on 8 November 1942. On D-Day, USS Herring (SS-233) sank a 5,700-ton cargo ship, Ville de Havre, but French opposition to the invasion was only token, and the North African campaign was off to a successful beginning.
Following TORCH, SUBRON 50 passed under Royal Navy operational control and patrolled the Bay of Biscay to interdict German blockade-runners attempting to run war supplies through Axis-leaning Spain. In this role, they inflicted significant damage - and even a few losses - on both small freighters and several German escorts. Moreover, in March 1943, Herring scored a probable kill on a 517-ton U-boat. In April 1943, the squadron's patrol responsibilities were shifted to the Norway-Iceland area, but lack of targets in the Atlantic soon motivated a decision to return SUBRON 50 to the United States and re-allocate its submarines to the Pacific.
This was indicative of the turning tide in the Battle of the Atlantic, and although German U-boats remained a recurring threat until late in the war, improved sensors and weapons, convoying, increasingly effective combined-arms ASW prosecutions, and a significant cryptologic advantage drove them back. Because U.S. submarines played little part in ASW operations during the final phases of the European conflict, the primary role that remained for LANTFLT submarines was to support the training of escort ships and patrol aircraft, largely from a training base in Bermuda.
Three submarines were lost in the Atlantic area during World War Two. In January 1942, USS S-26 (SS-131) went down in the Gulf of Panama after a collision with the patrol craft PC-460, and in June 1943, R-12 (SS-89) was lost near Key West due to accidental flooding. Then, during October 1943, USS Dorado (SS-248) disappeared with all hands during a transit between New London and Panama, and her fate remains unknown to this day. There is some evidence that she was either depth-charged by one of our own aircraft or torpedoed by a German U-boat that had been operating in the same vicinity near Cuba.
Perhaps the best appreciation of U.S. LANTFLT submarine operations was offered by RADM C.B. Barry, Royal Navy, to SUBRON 50 on the occasion of their departure from the British Isles:
". . . The targets that have come your way in European waters have been disappointingly few, but your submarines have invariably seized their opportunity and exploited themselves to the utmost. Their actual contribution has been very great and personal, far beyond the number of ships sunk or damaged."
- Edward C. Whitman
From this site: http://www.public.navy.mil/subfor/underseawarfaremagazine/Issues/Archives/issue_06/silent_victory.html
In addition, S-boats in the Caribbean and R-Boats out of Bermuda had a few encounters with U-boats. The USS Mackerel was almost torpedoed off the East Coast.
The PT Dockyard
Where the 1942 USS Shad lives in 1/1200