(German Type IXD-2 long range submarine)

IJN Submarine I-501: Tabular Record of Movement

© 2001-2010 Bob Hackett & Sander Kingsepp

Revision 3

15 March 1941:
Bremen, Germany. Laid down at Deschimag (Deutsche Schiff und Maschinenbau) AG Weser, as a 1,616-ton surface displacement Type IXD-2 long-range submarime.

30 December 1941:
Launched and numbered U-181.

9 May 1942:
Completed and registered in the Kriegsmarine. Korvettenkapitän (later Kapitän zur See) Wolfgang Lüth is Commanding Officer. [1]

12 September 1942:
U-181 departs for the South Atlantic. In two patrols under KvtKpt Lüth (Germany's second-ranking U-boat Ace), she sinks 22 ships for 103,712-tons of Allied shipping.

9 August 1943:
Indian Ocean. While on patrol, a signal is received from the Führer's Headquarters of the award to KK Lüth of the Oak Leaf Cluster with Swords and Diamonds to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. Lüth is the first of only two Kriegsmarine officers to receive the Diamonds, Germany's highest combat award at that time. [2]

In the summer of 1943, it is decided to send U-boats to operate in the Indian Ocean. The first group of U-boats arrives in the Far East at the end of September 1943, after the tropical monsoon rains period. Thereafter, the group is named "Monsun".

14 October 1943:
Arrives at Bordeaux, France. Lüth travels to the Führer's Headquarters where, on 25 October, Hitler personally awards him the Diamonds. [3]

1 November 1943:
Fregattenkapitän Kurt Freiwald assumes command of U-181.

16 March 1944:
U-181, under Kapitän zur See Freiwald, departs Bordeaux for the Far East. She carries mercury, lead, steel, uncut optical glass and aluminum in her keel and a cargo of drawings, models and blueprints of German weaponry and equipment for Japan. Enroute, she sinks three ships for 19, 557-tons.

8 August 1944:
Arrives at Penang, Malaya. Penang is the home of the Monsun U-boat Group under Fregattenkapitän Wilhelm Dommes. The Monsun Group has satellite facilities at Singapore, Batavia (Djakarta) and Surabaja in Java (Indonesia) and at Kobe, Japan.

30 August 1944:
Departs Penang.

31 August 1944:
U-181 arrives at Singapore. Drydocked at the No. 101 Navy Repair Unit at Seletar Naval Base. Hundreds of flasks of mercury are removed from her keel.

23 September 1944:
Departs Singapore.

25 September 1944:
Arrives at Batavia.

19 October 1944:
U-181 departs Java for Norway loaded with 130-tons of tin in ingots, 20-tons of molybdenum, 100-tons of caoutchouc (raw rubber) in bales in her tanks and a ton of quinine. Medicinal opium is carried in her torpedo tubes. She has only two torpedoes available.

1 November 1944:
U-181 torpedoes and sinks 10,198-ton American tanker FORT LEE in the Indian Ocean. Later, in the "Roaring Forties" latitude, S of the Cape of Good Hope, a leaking fuel tank causes Freiwald to abort the mission.

5 January 1945:
Returns to Batavia.

14 January 1945:
I-181 departs Batavia.

16 January 1945:
Arrives at Singapore for bearing repairs and a major overhaul. The Germans construct a snorkel and otherwise prepare U-181 to return to Germany. U-181 is expected to have limited navigating capacity by the middle of April and final readiness by 1 Jun '45 for departure to Germany with cargo.

7 April 1945:
The Singapore Base Commandant, FK Dommes and Kpt z S Freiwald present the German Cross in Gold to Stabsobermaschinist Franz Persch, Obermaschinistenmaat Karl Kaiser and Maschinist Wilhelm Linka, all of U-181.

6 May 1945: The Surrender of Germany:
Seletar Naval Base, Singapore. Vice Admiral Fukudome Shigeru (former CO of NAGATO), Commander, 13th Area Fleet and staff officers arrive by automobile alongside Freiwald's U-181 and KK Heinrich Timm's U-862. Fukudome informs Freiwald, Dommes and Timm they are being interned since Germany capitulated.

The DKM's swastika ensigns are lowered from the U-Boats and replaced by the IJN's battle flags During four patrols, the U-181 sank 27 ships for a total of 138,779-tons. Later, she is overhauled at No. 101 Navy Repair Unit at Seletar.

15 July 1945:
At Singapore. U-181 is commissioned in the IJN as I-501 and assigned to Fukudome's 13th Area Fleet. LtCdr Sato Kiyoteru (66)(former CO of RO-62) is the CO. It is planned is to use I-501 for training in late August, then make a transportation run to the Andaman Islands and later send her to Japan to have her torpedo tubes remodeled to accommodate IJN torpedoes.

July-August 1945:
Potsdam, Germany. The USA, UK and USSR establish a Tripartite Naval Commission to allocate captured German Kriegsmarine and merchant marine ships between them. The “Big Three” agree that all "unallocated" German submarines which had surrendered should be sunk not later than 15 Feb 46.

5 August 1945:
At 2005, a message from Chief of Staff, 10th Area Fleet, reads ""Report on ex-German submarines. (1) Present state. (a) I-501 and I-502 crews have been instructed and ships fitted out, largely by the Germans. Working up is about to start and should be completed by the end of the month. They will then be kept ready for sea at short notice. Each submarine will have 16 torpedoes. (b) I-505 and I-506 have completed their crews, and hulls and armament are generally satisfactory. I-505 has a mine compartment for 30 mines in which about 130 tons of aviation petrol can be loaded. The compartment has been modified for petrol stowage. In addition she can take about 35 tons of cargo. I-506 is 60% completed - - . (2) Plans for use. (a) I-501 and I-502 when ready will be used for operational transport (oil etc.) to the Andamans. After that she will operate in the Pacific and then proceed to Japan for torpedo tubes to be altered. (b) I-505 and I-506, when their crews are completed, will be detailed to transport oil and important cargoes within the Southern Area, particularly to French lndo-China, outlying islands, and Hong Kong. However, since I-506 - to be replaced, she will have to be sent to Japan as soon as possible."

16 August 1945: The Surrender of Japan:
Seletar Naval Base, Singapore. The Japanese surrender to the Royal Navy. I-501 and I-502 are moored next to damaged cruiser MYOKO.

30 November 1945:
Removed from the Navy List. Under British supervision, her former German crew strips I-501 of all her valuable parts.

15 December 1945:
A Tripartite Naval Commission (TNC) memo from Vice Admiral Robert L Ghormley, USN, to the Senior British Representative on the TNC, Vice Admiral (later Admiral, Sir) Geoffrey J. A. Miles, RN, says: "I have been directed by the Chief of Naval Operations to inform you that the destruction of the U-219 at Batavia, the U-195 at Surabaya, the U-181 and U-862 at Singapore is considered to be a British responsibility".

24 January 1946:
At 1411, the British Admiralty sends a message to the Royal Navy’s C-in-C East Indies Vice Admiral (later Admiral, Sir) Clement Moody that orders destruction of the four U-Boats in Singapore and Java by not later than the TNC deadline of 15 February 1946. 14 February 1946:
I-501 and I-502 are towed by tugs GROWLER and ASSIDUOUS to the Straits of Malacca.

16 February 1946:
At 0545 local, I-501 is scuttled by Cdr (later Captain) Stanley Darling's frigate HMS LOCH LOMOND and frigate HMS LOCH GLENDHU in the Straits of Malacca at 03-05.5N, 100-04.5E.

Authors' Note:
[1] German Naval Officer Ranks: Leutnant zur See (Lt=Ens) Oberleutnant zur See (OL=Lt(jg) Kapitänleutnant (KL=Lt) Korvettenkapitän (KK=LtCdr) Fregattenkapitän (FK=Cdr) Kapitän (K=Capt) Flottillenadmiral (FA=RAdm, LC) Konteradmiral (KA=RAdm, UC) Vizeadmiral (VA=VAdm) Admiral (A=Adm)

[2] On 24 Nov '44, KK Albrecht Brandi becomes the second Kriegsmarine officer to receive the Diamonds. On 29 Dec '44 Hitler created the Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds as the Third Reich's highest combat decoration. He awarded only one, to Luftwaffe Stuka ace Oberst (Colonel) Hans-Ulrich Rudel.

[3] A week after the war ends, on 13 May 1945, at the Flensburg-Murwik Naval College, Lüth, then the college's Commandant, fails to give a German guard the password and is shot dead.

Thanks for help in preparing this TROM go to Dr. Higuchi Tatsuhiro of Japan and to Derek Waller of UK and Hans McIlveen of the Netherlands for input concerning the final months of I-501

- Bob Hackett and Sander Kingsepp.

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