For Otto Von Bulow and his crew onboard the U-404 the year 1942 was called "The Happy Time" because the American Admiralty had not yet organized their merchant marine into armed convoys. Nor had they instituted blackouts along the coastlines. With the bright lights of Atlantic City illuminating the silhouette of a lone freighter, hunting targets was easy. A friend of Von Bulow's relates this story the commander told him:
Otto told me that many of his ‘kills’ in the early part of the war were managed because the American Admiral did NOT believe that the British could teach him anything about the convoy system and protection.Lawrence T. Sullivan (pictured above) was serving as third-mate on the LEMUEL BURROWS that fateful March day in 1942. He was 42-years-old and had been sailing for most of his life. He graduated from the Massachusetts Nautical Training School (later to become Mass Maritime Academy) in 1921, obtained his pilot's license for the ports of Portland, Me., Boston, New York and Chesapeake bay and at 25 years-old was appointed captain of a steamship collier. He knew that coastline and he knew that ship (the LEMANUEL BURROWS was a collier, built in 1917), she was 7610 gross tons, and had 34 crew onboard. An old steamship carrying necessary freight up the coastline.
He also laughs as he tells me that he used to bring U404 close inshore off the coast of the USA and allow his crew on deck, to get some fresh air, watch the lights on shore and occasionally listen to music being wafted out to sea on the breeze.
Lawrence told his mother that it was only a matter of time before his ship was hit. He had seen the damage the uboats were inflicting on merchant marine vessels like his. He was sadly right and on March 14, 1942 twenty (Lawrence being one of the twenty) of that thirty-four member crew lost their lives when U404's torpedoes struck and sank the LEMUEL BURROWS.
Below is a 1942 German Newsreel on Uboat activity on the northeast US coast. While it does not show U404, nor the LEMANUEL BURROWS, it does give you an idea of how easy it was for the uboats to target freighters. This newsreel was filmed in Feb 1942