When Tides Turn U-Boat Tour, Part 2
In When Tides Turn, my fictional hero, Lt. Dan Avery, serves aboard the auxiliary carrier USS Bogue. The aircraft of the Bogue were the first to sink a German U-boat without assistance from surface ships. The escort carriers soon became the nuclei of “hunter-killer” groups, along with destroyers or destroyer escorts. These groups not only escorted convoys, but were sent to hunt down U-boats based on intelligence gleaned from intercepted and decrypted German Enigma messages and from radio direction-finding.
While researching escort carriers for this novel, I read one of the most thrilling and fascinating stories to come out of World War II—the capture of U-505 by the USS Guadalcanal group on June 4, 1944. Currently the U-505 is in a gorgeous display at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. When my husband and I had the honor of attending our son’s graduation from Navy boot camp at Great Lakes Recruit Training Center near Chicago in 2016, there was only one item on my must-see list. After our son, of course.
Capture of the U-505—Part 2
On June 4, 1944, US Navy Task Group 22.3, led by the escort carrier USS Guadalcanal under the command of Captain Daniel Gallery, hunted down the German submarine U-505, damaged her, and forced the crew to abandon ship by 11:27 am. (Read Part 1 for a fuller account).
At 1230, a boarding party from the destroyer escort USS Pillsbury, led by Lt. (j.g.) Albert David—who won the Medal of Honor for his actions that day—arrived by motor whaleboat. David leapt from the whaleboat to the deck of the U-boat and attached a towline. Then he led a party of four men into the damaged sub—possibly rigged with explosive scuttling charges or booby traps—an extremely dangerous job.
The men quickly closed valves and the sea strainer, which were letting seawater stream into the boat. At the same time, they seized papers and passed them to men outside. At 1240, a boarding party from the Guadalcanal joined them. They searched for scuttling charges, set up pumps to remove seawater, and captured the Enigma machine and code books.
By 1415, the U-505 was stabilized and placed under tow to keep her afloat, since she was riding low in the stern. Captain Gallery and his prize set sail for Casablanca, but were later fueled at sea and directed to Bermuda to keep the capture secret.
The next morning, the U-505 was riding even lower and was in danger of sinking. The controls for the damaged rudder were in the aft torpedo room. The hatch hadn’t been opened for fear of booby traps. Captain Gallery himself went over to the U-505, inspected the hatch door, decided it wasn’t rigged, and opened it. Then he put the rudder amidships, stabilizing the sub once again.
On June 19, the Guadalcanal arrived in Bermuda with the U-505, the first ship captured on the high seas by the US Navy since 1815. The prisoners were kept sequestered from other German prisoners so word wouldn’t get back to Germany. The crews of the entire task group were ordered to keep the incident secret for the duration of the war—a difficult feat considering how proud they were of their accomplishment. Yet all 3000 men kept that secret.
On May 16, 1945, after Victory in Europe Day, the United States announced the capture of the U-505. The sub was taken to various American ports for war bond drives, then languished for years after the war. Captain Gallery fought hard to prevent his prize from being scuttled along with other U-boats captured postwar, and in 1954 he succeeded in having the U-505 brought to his hometown of Chicago to be put on display at the Museum of Science and Industry. The journey was an engineering accomplishment of its own. The U-505 was displayed outside until 2004, when she was placed in her current underground exhibit, which is brimming with information and artifacts—well worth a visit!
See more sights from When Tides Turn!
Wise, James E., Jr. U-505: The Final Journey. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2005.
Y’Blood, William T. Hunter-Killer: U.S. Escort Carriers in the Battle of the Atlantic. Annapolis, MD: Bluejacket Books, 1983.
http://www.uboatarchive.net/U-505.htm (Tons of primary source documents, logs, and photographs).
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No photo of the teeny kitchen and the fake soup? 🙂 So glad you enjoyed it, and terrific blog! What was it like for you to walk around inside the sub and see all the German?
Not all my photos turned out – and I had too many to post here 🙂 I was absolutely fascinated by everything! The tour was long enough for most people, but not for me 😉
Those are really cool! It must be so neat to actually go inside. 🙂
Did you see anything else while you were at the Museum? Chicago fans want to know!
We saw the whole museum. Particularly loved the train section 🙂
You are welcome back any time! The train layout of very cool, as is the Silver Streak.
Wow. Those are so awesome. Thanks for sharing them.
How many men in the crew? 48, I think?
59 on U-505 at the time of its capture. One was killed in the attack.
Tried looking it up, but no luck. That’s a lot of bodies in a small space, no matter how big it looks from the outside!
I really enjoy the information you provide concerning WWII. It is exciting to see the insides of the ships that you visit!
I also enjoy the black and white pictures that are posted and the daily historical comments. Looking forward to reading your books.
Fascinating and amazing pictures! Thank you for posting them. Really enjoyed seeing them.
LOVE your tours!! You post such great photos! I’m from the Deep South & grew up exploring the Battleship USS Mobile & the Submarine USS Drum. I’d love to compare the ones I’ve seen to these (in person)! Thanks again for the excellent Virtual Tours!
Can you believe how tiny is was in there? We loved our tour at the MSI!
Cool blog and pictures,Sarah! Glad you enjoyed your tour!
Thanks for sharing! World War II is one of my areas of interest!
Wow! Thanks for sharing the second part of this U boat tour . The pictures and story are amazing! You must have enjoyed taking a tour of the actual boat itself . Thanks again for taking us on this journey through the history and locations of When Tides Turn.
I am so impressed by the whole operation. The planning, coordination of efforts, the adaptation of skills from one area to another, the courage and can-do energy, and only one casualty! The press release is riveting! I was amazed that at the time, most participants were new to the job… and at the inclusion of participants’ home addresses in the press release! Every one of them deserved to be honored and their bravery remembered.
I love all the history you share with us. Thank you.
After reading your books, and also knowing how deadly U boats were in the war, its kind of amazing to see that the interior is normal. Seeing the bunks, stools, and books makes it seem more of a normal boat then a scary, sneaky sub.
Sarah, thank you for this fascinating post! I love the photos. My grandfather was on a submarine in the Navy.
I love how you make history come alive in your stories!
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading through all of these blog posts. The capture of the U-boat was especially interesting. I love seeing the pictures of it.
My late husband often talked about his Navy days. When he was tired, he’d talk about, “racking out.” He folded his clothing in the most space-saving way. I liked going through these pictures even though he was on a ship and not a U-boat.
Whoa, those pictures are amazing! So neat that you can take tours of them, soo!
I’ve never read a lot about submarine warfare during WWII . . . how many German subs did the U.S. Navy sink during the duration?