Incredible story of the complete capture of U-505 just two days before D-Day.
On June 4, 1944, a German submarine known as U-505 was prowling off the coast of West Africa on a hunt for American and Allied ships, when depth charges from the USS Chatelain blasted the dreaded U-boat out of hiding. It was the end of a violent run for U-505, which had terrorized the Atlantic Ocean as part of a massive U-boat campaign that almost altered the outcome of World War II.
Ultra intelligence from decrypted German cipher messages had informed the Allies that U-boats were operating near Cape Verde, but had not revealed their exact locations. The U.S. Navy dispatched Task Group 22.3, a “Hunter-Killer” group, commanded by Captain Daniel V. Gallery, USN, to the area. TG 22.3 consisted of Gallery’sescort aircraft carrier Guadalcanal, and five destroyer escorts under Commander Frederick S. Hall: Pillsbury, Pope, Flaherty, Chatelain, and Jenks. On 15 May 1944, TG 22.3 sailed from Norfolk, Virginia. Starting in late May, the task group began searching for U-boats in the area, using high-frequency direction-finding fixes (“Huff-Duff”) and air and surface reconnaissance.
At 11:09 on 4 June 1944, TG 22.3 made sonar contact with U-505 at about 150 miles off the coast of Río de Oro The sonar contact was only 800 yards away off Chatelain‘s starboard bow. The escorts immediately moved towards the contact, while Guadalcanal moved away at top speed and launched an F4F Wildcat fighter to join another Wildcat and a TBM Avenger which were already airborne.
Chatelain was so close to U-505 that depth charges would not sink fast enough to intercept the U-boat, so instead she fired Hedgehogs before passing the submarine and turning to make a follow-up attack with depth charges. At around this time, one of the aircraft sighted U-505 and fired into the water to mark the position while Chatelain dropped depth charges. Immediately after the detonation of the charges a large oil slick spread on the water and the fighter pilot overhead radioed, “You struck oil! Sub is surfacing!” Less than seven minutes after Chatelain‘s first attack began, the badly damaged U-505 surfaced less than 600 metres (700 yd) away. Chatelain immediately commenced fire on U-505 with all available automatic weapons, joined by other ships of the task force as well as the two Wildcats.
Believing U-505 to be seriously damaged, Oblt.z.S. Lange ordered his crew to abandon ship. This order was obeyed so promptly that scuttling was not completed, (although some valves were opened) and the engines were left running. With the engines still functioning and the rudder damaged by depth charges, U-505 circled clockwise at approximately 7 knots (13 km/h; 8.1 mph). Seeing the U-boat turning toward him and believing she was preparing to attack, the commanding officer of Chatelain ordered a single torpedo to be fired at the submarine; the torpedo missed, passing ahead of the now-abandoned U-505
Stars and Stripes
Salvage crew hauling tow line aboard sub.
Making Tow line fast to sub.
Wounded German sub survivor being hoisted aboard in stretcher
U Boat survivors coming aboard.
A TBM circling the 505
U.S. Colors flying over captured German sub.
Salvage crew aboard
U-505 shortly after being captured
While Chatelain and Jenks collected survivors, an eight-man party from Pillsbury led by U-505 in a boat and entered through the U-505 was otherwise deserted. The boarding party secured charts and codebooks, closed scuttling valves, and disarmed demolition charges. They stopped the water coming in, and although low in the water and down by the stern, U-505 remained afloat. They also stopped her engines.
While the boarding party secured U-505, Pillsbury attempted to take her in tow, but collided repeatedly with her and had to move away with three compartments flooded. Instead, a second boarding party from Guadalcanal rigged a towline from the aircraft carrier to the U-boat.
Commander Earl Trosino (Guadalcanal‘s chief engineer), joined the salvage party. He disconnected U-505‘s diesels from her electric driving motors, while leaving these motors clutched to the propeller shafts. With the U-boat moving under tow by Guadalcanal, the propellers “windmilled” as they passed through the water, turning the shafts and the drive motors. This caused the motors to act as electrical generators charging U-505‘s batteries. With power from the batteries, U-505‘s pumps cleared out the water let in by the attempted scuttling, and her air compressors blew out the ballast tanks, bringing her up to full surface trim
Port side of Conning of German U 505.
View from the bow of sub showing salvage crew and carrier in background.
View from bow of sub showing salvage crew.
Detection gear aboard
Caption reads “Radio Gear aboard German sub.” This is actially the main battery switch in the E-motor room
Aerial view of German sub just after crew abandoned ship.
The tight space of the control room
The Captain’s cabin
After three days of towing, Guadalcanal transferred U-505 to the fleet tug Abnaki. On Monday, 19 June, U-505 entered Port Royal Bay, Bermuda, after a tow of 1,700 nautical miles.
This action was the first time the U.S. Navy had captured an enemy vessel at sea since the War of 1812. 58 prisoners were taken from U-505, three of them wounded (including Lange); only one of the crew, Oberfunkmaat (Signalman First Class) Gottfried Fischer, was killed in the action. U-505‘s crew was interned at Camp Ruston, near Ruston, Louisiana. Among the guards were members of the U.S. Navy baseball team, composed mostly of minor league professional baseball players who had previously toured combat areas to entertain the troops. The players taught some of U-505 sailors to play the game
TBM coming into land with sub on tow in the background
Aerial view off the port bow showing U-505 in tow
Strange combination – plane being catapulted of the carrier with a U-Boat in tow….
Aerial view off starboard bow of the carrier with the sub in tow.
U.S.S. ABNAKI towing the captured German sub.
U.S. Ensign over German Ensign
Along side the US aircraft carrier
Gear stacked on the hangar deck that was brought over from the sub.
Captain Gallery on the flight deck with the captured sub in background.
View from 35MM AA Gun mount showing stern of U-505.
View of US and German colors flying over conning tower of U-505.
View of forward end of damaged torpedo on U-505.
Close up view of the damaged torpedo from U-505
Damaged torpedo and case in cradle on U-505
Preparing to jettison the damaged torpedo from U-505
Torpedo being dumped over side of U-505. War head was damaged by a depth charge
Captain Gallery on bridge of “JUNIOR”, U-505