SM U-156

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German Empire
Name: U-156
Ordered: 29 November 1916
Builder: Atlas e, Bremen
Launched: 17 April 1917
Commissioned: 22 August 1917
Fate: Sunk in the Northern Barrage minefield on 25 September 1918. 77 dead.
General characteristics [1]
Class and type: German Type U 151 submarine
  • 1,512 tonnes (1,488 long tons) (surfaced)
  • 1,875 tonnes (1,845 long tons) (submerged)
  • 2,272 tonnes (2,236 long tons) (total)
  • 8.90 m (29 ft 2 in) (o/a)
  • 5.80 m (19 ft) (pressure hull)
Height: 9.25 m (30 ft 4 in)
Draught: 5.30 m (17 ft 5 in)
Installed power:
  • 800 PS (590 kW; 790 bhp) (surfaced)
  • 800 PS (590 kW; 790 bhp) (submerged)
Propulsion: 2 × shafts, 2 × 1.60 m (5 ft 3 in) propellers
  • 12.4 knots (23.0 km/h; 14.3 mph) surfaced
  • 5.2 knots (9.6 km/h; 6.0 mph) submerged
Range: 25,000 nmi (46,000 km; 29,000 mi) at 5.5 knots (10.2 km/h; 6.3 mph) surfaced, 65 nmi (120 km; 75 mi) at 3 knots (5.6 km/h; 3.5 mph) submerged
Test depth: 50 metres (160 ft)
Complement: 6 officers, 50 enlisted
Service record
Part of:
Operations: 2 patrols

SM U-156[Note 1] was a German Type U 151 U-boat commissioned in 1917 for the Imperial German Navy. From 1917 until her disappearance in September 1918 she was part of the U‑Kreuzer Flotilla, and was responsible for sinking 44 ships and damaging 3 others, including a warship. She took part in the Attack on Orleans.


U-156, built by the Atlas Werke in Bremen, was originally one of seven Deutschland class U-boats designed to carry cargo between the United States and Germany in 1916. Five of the submarine freighters were converted into long-range cruiser U-boats (U-kreuzers) equipped with two 15 cm (5.9 in) SK L/45 deck guns, including U-156. They were the largest U-boats of World War I.

Service history

U-156 was launched on 17 April 1917 and commissioned on 22 August 1917 under Konrad Gansser, who commanded her until 31 December 1917, following which Richard Feldt took command of her on 1 January 1918.

On 15 June 1918, U-156 sailed with 77 crew. She passed through the North Sea, negotiated the Northern Passage around the northern end of the British Isles, and out into the Atlantic Ocean where she sailed for Long Island. She then proceeded to New York Harbor, where she had been ordered to lay mines. Records show that she was to lay a field of mines in the shipping lane along the south shore of Long Island, just east of the Fire Island lightship.[2]

On 8 July 1918 U-156 stopped and scuttled the Norwegian owned Manx King at 40°05′N 52°00′W / 40.083°N 52.000°W / 40.083; -52.000, which was traveling between New York and Rio de Janeiro. Captain Rasmus Emil Halvorsen and her crew were rescued from the lifeboats after 27 hours by DS Anchites of Liverpool, England.

A mine laid by U-156 is often credited with the loss of the cruiser USS San Diego on 19 July 1918, ten miles southeast of Fire Island, New York.[2][3]

On 21 July 1918 U-156 opened fire on the American town of Orleans, Massachusetts, and several nearby merchant vessels. She sank a tugboat and four barges. HS-1L flying boats and R-9 seaplanes were dispatched from the Chatham Naval Air Station and dive-bombed the enemy raider with bombs that failed to explode. It was the first time in history that American aviators engaged an enemy vessel in the western Atlantic. The Attack on Orleans was the only Central Powers raid mounted against the United States mainland during World War I and the first time the Continental United States was shelled by a foreign power's artillery since the Siege of Fort Texas in 1846.

U-156 had meanwhile headed north to attack the US fishing fleet. She sank 21 fishing boats in the Gulf of Maine area, from Cape Cod to the Bay of Fundy, ranging from the 72 ton schooner Nelson A. (4 August) to the 766 ton Dornfontein (2 August).[4]

U-156 has been credited with the sinking of the tanker Luz Blanca, just off the headlands of Halifax on August 5/1918.[5] On 20 August, U-156 captured the Canadian trawler Triumph southwest of Canso, Nova Scotia. They manned and armed the vessel, and used it in conjunction with the submarine to capture and sink seven other fishing boats in the Grand Banks area, before eventually scuttling her.[6]


On 25 September 1918 and in the following days, U-156 failed to report that she had cleared the Northern barrage minefield between the United Kingdom and Norway on her return voyage to Germany. The U-156 is presumed to have struck a mine of the Northern Barrage during the last leg of her cruise. Prior to her arrival at the northern end of the barrage she had radioed the estimated time and exact route she planned to take through the mines. The British intercepted this message, decoded it, and sent a submarine to ambush U-156. The U-156 escaped the trap by diving but likely attempted to transit the barrage while underwater. The 77 crew on board were never heard from again.[7]

Rene Bastin, a prisoner on SM U-140, claimed to have witnessed the fate of U-156. He said that he was on the bridge of U-140 while she was running the Northern Barrage in company with SM U-100, SM U-102, SM U-117 and U-156 when he suddenly saw U-156 blown up. He claimed that she was "blown 500 feet in the air". However, Bastin gave the date of this event as 22 October 1918, which was almost a month after the return to Germany of U-140, the submarine aboard which he was held captive. Additionally, U-140 never met up with U-156 and crossed the Northern Barrage with only U-117 for company on 17 September.[8]



  1. ^ "SM" stands for "Seiner Majestät" (English: His Majesty's) and combined with the U for Unterseeboot would be translated as His Majesty's Submarine.


  1. ^ Gröner 1991, pp. 20-21.
  2. ^ a b Sheard, p. 114
  3. ^ Bleyer, Bill. "The Sinking of the San Diego". Newsday. Archived from the original on 13 August 2007. 
  4. ^ Sheard, p. 117
  5. ^ Sarty, Roger (2012). War in the St. Lawrence. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Allen Lane, Penguin Canada. ISBN 978-0-670-06787-9. 
  6. ^ Halpern, Paul G. (1994). A Naval History of World War I. Routledge. p. 433. ISBN 1-85728-498-4. 
  7. ^ Hodos, Paul (2017). The Kaiser's Lost Kreuzer (1st ed.). Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland Publishing. pp. 164–165. ISBN 1476671621. Retrieved 20 December 2017. 
  8. ^ Sheard, p. 121


  • Gibson, R.H.; Maurice Prendergast (2002). The German Submarine War 1914-1918. Periscope Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-904381-08-1. 
  • Gröner, Erich; Jung, Dieter; Maass, Martin (1991). U-boats and Mine Warfare Vessels. German Warships 1815–1945. 2. Translated by Thomas, Keith; Magowan, Rachel. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-593-4. 
  • Jung, Dieter (2004). Die Schiffe der Kaiserlichen Marine 1914-1918 und ihr Verbleib [German Imperial Navy ships 1914-1918 and their fate] (in German). Bonn: Bernard & Graefe. ISBN 3-7637-6247-7. 
  • Sheard, Bradley (1997). Lost Voyages: Two Centuries of Shipwrecks in the Approaches to New York. Aqua Quest Publications, Inc. ISBN 1-881652-17-3. 

External links

  • Helgason, Guðmundur. "WWI U-boats: U 156". German and Austrian U-boats of World War I - Kaiserliche Marine - 

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