How US Sailors Saved U-Boat, Enigma, Codebooks in Daring High-Sea Raid

  • In June 1944, Allied militaries had been making ready to go the English Channel and invade France.
  • Loads of miles south, US Military crews had been making ready to land any other roughly blow to the Nazis.
  • Shooting U-505 used to be an intelligence coup, yielding essential perception into German submarine operations.

In early June 1944, greater than 100,000 Allied infantrymen and hundreds of ships and plane massed at the English coast, making ready for one of the vital necessary battles in historical past: the invasion of Normandy.

A number of hundred miles to the south, the six ships of US Military Activity Crew 22.3 had been on a fairly regimen U-boat hunter-killer patrol — an earthly undertaking when put next.

After a couple of weeks at sea, the duty pressure used to be heading to Casablanca to refuel. At the method, they pulled off one of the vital spectacular naval feats of the battle: taking pictures the German U-boat U-505 totally intact — together with its treasured Enigma machines and the codebooks wanted to make use of them.


Navy destroyer USS Chatelain closes on U-boat submarine U-505

USS Chatelain closes in at the broken U-505, June 4, 1944.

US Military

More or less 250 toes lengthy and displacing about 1,200 lots submerged, U-505 used to be a Sort IXC U-boat with a team of 60. It had six torpedo tubes to fireplace its 22 torpedoes, one 4-inch deck gun (which were got rid of by means of 1944), and two anti-aircraft weapons.

U-505 briefly earned a recognition for being unfortunate. Its first deployment used to be again and again not on time by means of mechanical issues — a continuing factor that lower a lot of its patrols quick. Its first commanding officer had his tenure ended by means of appendicitis, and its 2d commanding officer had a psychological breakdown all the way through a depth-charge assault and killed himself.

Over 12 wartime patrols, U-505 best sank 8 ships, together with the unintentional sinking of a Colombian diplomat’s schooner, which contributed to that nation stating battle on Germany in November 1943.

Navy carrier USS Guadalcanal tows captured U-boat submarine U-505

USS Guadalcanal tows U-505 on June 4, 1944.

US Military

In summer season 1944, U-505 used to be commanded by means of Oberleutnant zur See Harald Lange and working in its same old searching grounds off the West African coast.

Sadly for Lange, the German U-boat fleet’s “glad instances” had been over. The Allies had cracked Germany’s codes and had been the use of intercepted messages to decide the overall space and timing of U-boat operations.

The Allies despatched hunter-killer teams with escort carriers and sonar at the offensive, however they nonetheless did not know exactly the place German subs can be since the subs’ coordinates had been encrypted the use of a more recent model of the Enigma that the Allies hadn’t gotten their arms on.

The seize

Navy sailors salvage Nazi German U-boat submarine U-505

Participants of the salvage birthday celebration from USS Guadalcanal use a small handy-billy pump aboard the in part scuttled U-505, June 4, 1944.

US Military

Activity Crew 22.3 sailed from Norfolk, Virginia, on Might 15. It used to be commanded by means of Capt. Daniel Gallery, an anti-submarine-warfare pioneer, with the Casablanca-class escort provider USS Guadalcanal within the lead and 5 destroyer escorts: USS Pillsbury, USS Pope, USS Flaherty, USS Chatelain, and USS Jenks.

On a prior anti-submarine patrol, Gallery had sunk U-515 and U-68 inside 12 hours of one another, however he knew that taking pictures a German sub may well be extra treasured. He ordered the crews of Activity Crew 22.3 to coach to seize a U-boat fairly than sink it once they subsequent had the risk.

Gallery used to be in a position to get the approximate location of U-505 from decrypted German transmissions, however after weeks of attempting to find the sub off of West Africa, the duty staff used to be operating low on gasoline and headed north for Casablanca.

Coincidentally, U-505 used to be additionally operating low on gasoline and had set a path for France.

Navy sailors U-boat U-505 USS Chatelain Grumman TBM Avenger

US Military salvage events paintings on U-505 with a TBM Avenger overhead and USS Chatelain within the background, June 4, 1944.

US Military

At 11:09 a.m. on June 4, USS Chatelain reported imaginable sound contacts 150 miles off of what’s now a part of Western Sahara. Two F4F Wildcat fighter planes introduced from Guadalcanal to research, whilst the destroyers Chatelain, Jenks, and Pope moved in.

U-505 used to be best about 60 toes deep, and Chatelain and the Wildcats found out it nearly concurrently. The destroyers fired Hedgehog anti-submarine mortars and dropped over 60 intensity fees, whilst the Wildcats fired their mechanical device weapons into the ocean to mark U-505’s path.

U-505 started taking up water, main its team to consider the hull used to be cracked and that they might quickly sink. Lange ordered them to floor not up to 800 yards from Chatelain and abandon send.

Gallery then put his plan into motion. All 5 destroyer escorts took place across the sub because it surfaced and sprayed it with small-caliber machine-gun fireplace, which wounded Lange, killed his leader officer, and panicked the team.

A herculean effort

Navy sailors salvage Nazi German U-boat submarine U-505

A boarding birthday celebration from USS Pillsbury secures a tow line to the bow of U-505, June 4, 1944.

US Military

The destroyers ceased fireplace after two mins, and the Germans hurriedly jumped into the water. They’d opened scuttling valves to flood the sub however, of their haste to desert send, did not set the scuttling fees as it should be.

An eight-man boarding birthday celebration from Pillsbury quickly boarded U-505. Because the F4F Wildcats fired into the water to stay the Germans from returning, the boarding birthday celebration grabbed as many codebooks, paperwork, and maps as they might, at the side of the Enigma mechanical device.

The United States sailors then fixed a herculean effort to save lots of U-505. With its rudder broken and engine operating, the sub sailed in a continual proper flip. They’d closed the scuttling valves, but if the engine used to be disabled the sub sank quicker, in order that they became it again on.

Pillsbury attempted to tow the sub however gave up as a result of U-505 saved operating into it, tearing a hollow within the destroyer’s hull. At one level over 90% of U-505 used to be underwater, with simply its bow and conning tower above the outside.

Navy tug tows captured U-boat U-505

US Military fleet ocean tug USS Abnaki tows U-505 within the Atlantic, June 4, 1944.

US Military

Thankfully for the American citizens, a half-Polish member of the German team named Ewald Felix agreed to assist. Felix confirmed them how the bilge pumps labored, letting them pump water out of the sub.

The engine used to be disconnected, halting the sub’s steady proper flip, and Guadalcanal took it below tow. Regardless that the engine used to be off, the towing made the propellers spin, which charged the sub’s battery and allowed the pumps to stay operating.

With a big American flag flying over its German ensign, U-505 used to be now totally secured. It used to be the primary time US Military staff boarded and captured an enemy warship since 1815, and one in every of best six German U-boats captured all the way through the battle.

Now not everybody used to be glad — Adm. Ernest J. King, the manager of US naval operations, used to be to start with livid, fearing the Germans would determine what took place and alter their codes — however the worth of the sub quickly was transparent.

U-505 submarine Chicago Museum of Science and Industry

U-505 on show on the Chicago Museum of Science and Trade.

J.B. Spector/Museum of Science and Trade

To stay information of U-505’s seize from spreading, the sub used to be towed some 1,700 miles to Port Royal Bay in Bermuda, which, as it noticed little army site visitors, US officers believed most probably had few if any German spies. The sub used to be additionally painted in US colours and renamed “USS Nemo.”

The German team, all however one in every of whom survived, used to be despatched to Camp Ruston in Louisiana and held in isolation — a contravention of the Geneva Conventions at the remedy of POWs.

U-505 yielded extraordinarily treasured intelligence. Ten sacks filled with codebooks, paperwork, and maps weighing over 900 kilos had been recovered, as had been two up-to-date Enigma machines and more than one acoustic torpedoes.

The sub’s seize used to be saved secret till the battle in Europe used to be over. It used to be then used as a prop to inspire battle bond gross sales. U-505 used to be for use for gunnery and torpedo apply after the battle, nevertheless it used to be as an alternative donated to the Museum of Science and Trade in Chicago in 1954, the place it’s nonetheless on show.

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