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Date: Saturday, 19 July 1941
Place: Saint-Nazaire, Loire-Atlantique, France
When U-553 returned to St. Nazaire from its second combat patrol on 19 July 1941, not only did it come home with two combat pennants, but a badly-damaged attack periscope as well! On 12 June 1941, after five days at sea, Kapitänleutnan Karl Thurmann (4 September 1909 - 20 January 1943) came upon stragglers from the westbound convoy OG-64 north of the Azores. at 0122 hours on the night of 12 June Thurmann sank the British steamer "Susan Maersk" (2,355 GRT). Because of the darkness and the speed with which the ship sank, less than a minute, only a rough tonnage estimate was posible, thus the gross registered tonnage on the sinking pennant is incorrect! At 1505 hours U-553 attacked the Norwegian tanker "Ranella" (5,590 GRT). A torpedo struck the ship, but it did not sink. A finishing shot was attempted at 1536, however the contact pistol failed. After the shot, Kapitänleutnant Thurmann turned away in the direction of the steamer, passing under the bow of the "Ranella", which was now stopped. The periscope, which was not fully lowered, struck the tanker and and the top two meters were bent backwards. Finally, at 1635 hours, a third torpedo struck its target, causing the ship to break into two parts. It still did not sink, however (read Lothar-Günther Buchheim "Die U-Boot Fahrer - Die Boote, die Besatzungen und ihr Admiral", page 160-161)! 100 rounds from the 88-mm deck gun were needed to finally sink the two parts of the wreck. The 29-man Norwegian crew had already left the ship and reached the Azores 12 days later.
"U-Boot Im Focus" edition no.2 - 2007