We Nailed U-515!

By DeNardo, Frank P. | Sea Classics, August 2012 | Go to article overview

We Nailed U-515!


DeNardo, Frank P., Sea Classics


American sailors could never predict how Hitler's U-boat crewmen would react when being captured

Fighting Hitler's U-boats was a dangerous and risky business and neither the hunter nor the hu hunted ever really knew what to expect. Most Uboats went down under a barrage of depth charges without ever surfacing. As a result, especially in 19421943, seldom were there any survivors from sunken U-boats. But by 1944, the "Happy Days" (Paukenslag) of the U-boat's successes in sinking Allied shipping were only a dim memory as Allied anti-submarine tactics grew in both number and sophistication.

The appearance of roving Allied hunter-killer groups of warships built around escort carriers sealed the doom of Hitler's submariners as more and more U-boats were caught and sunk. U-boats caught on the surface by Naval aircraft were often badly damaged by HVAR, machine guns, and depth charges. Their sieved boats fast going down beneath them, crews could abandon ship and save their lives rather than die in their steel tombs as was the fate of more than 70% of Hitler's U-boat crews.

The result was that increased numbers of German submariners, some of whom were Nazi zealots, were captured at sea and sent to prisoner of war camps in the United States. Most of those fished from the sea by Allied warships were simply glad the war was over for them and posed no further threat to their captors. But every now and again, the American bluejackets encountered a German who had no intention of giving up the fight. This is the saga of how one sailor handled the situation with the restive captain of captured U-515:

"Our group was called a hunter-killer group. It consisted of the baby flattop carrier USS Guadalcanal [CVE-60), and the destroyer escorts USS Pillsbmy [DE133], USS Châtelain [DE-149], USS Flaherty [DE135], USS Pope PE-134], and the USS Nunzer [DE-150].

"Our first tour was off the French West African Coast. It was for three-months and our job was to search and destroy enemy submarines preying on Allied shipping. During this tour, we sunk the German submarine U-68 with all hands except one and recovered two torpedoes with dummy warheads. This was Easter Sunday.

"The day before, the USS Châtelain attacked a submarine with depth charges and forced it to the surface some 75-yds away from the ship. As she broke the surface, the German sailors manned their deck gun and began firing at us. We fired back and cleaned them off the gun. They scuttled their submarine and dove overboard, abandoning her. A fighter plane from the USS Guadalcanal dove in and placed a bomb right in her conning tower. She went down. We immediately began to pick up survivors from the water. …

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