German U-boat Found Off American Coast
A New Jersey lawyer who privately financed a group to search for a German U-Boat off the coast of Nantucket Island finally saw his dream come true. On July 23, 2012 the crew, using a side-scan sonar ship, spotted the 252 foot German submarine U-550, 70 miles south of the island. After scanning 100 square miles of ocean floor the actual wreck site turned out to be further offshore than what they expected.
Like many U-Boats during World War II, U-550 was used to harass and shut down the convoys that were essential to keep the Allied powers strong in Europe. This particular U-Boat was sunk while it was on its first combat patrol. It had spotted convoy CU-21 from New York to Great Britain. The Allied convoy was protecting the SS Pan Pennsylvania, which held 140,000 barrels of 80-octane aviation fuel. U-550 torpedoed the tanker which obviously caught fire, and killed 25 of the 81 men on board.
While the Pennsylvania was settling, getting ready to capsize, U-550 tried to hide underneath the sinking ship. Three of the convoy’s destroyer escorts went to rescue the surviving tanker’s crew.
When one of the destroyers, the Joyce, was leaving, its sonar picked up U-550 which was leaving its hiding spot. The Joyce then dropped 13 depth charges which bracketed the U-boat, and forced them to surface.
The crew of the U-boat was not going down without a fight and gathered on the submarines raised platform and began firing their deck guns. The American destroyers returned fire, dropped more depth charge damaging the hull of the sub, and rammed the tower. The Germans realized they were fighting a lost cause, and set off explosions on the U-boat to scuttle it before abandoning ship.
The American destroyers saved 13 Germans from the wreckage, as well as the survivors from the tanker, and delivered everyone safely to authorities in Great Britain.
One of the rescued U-boatmen later died on board the Joyce from wounds he received while fighting after the submarine surfaced. The crew on the Joyce, before committing his body to the sea gave the German a proper funeral. He was draped in an American Flag.
Unfortunately most of the crew never even got out of their airtight compartments on the U-boat. A body with a German-type life jacket was recovered floating off the coast and a German escape lung was found near the corpse. An autopsy showed he died only five days prior to being found, which was 19 days after U-550 sank. Most weren’t lucky enough to even get that far, although there was some speculation that Germans actually made it to shore.Google+