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75 facts for 75 years

75 Facts About the U-505

Capture/War

There were 14 demolition charges onboard the U-505 in the event of a capture, but the charges were never set by the crew.

Yet only 13 demolition charges were found when the U-505 was boarded. It wasn't until weeks after its capture that the last demolition charge was finally found.

The U-505 capture yielded approximately 900 pounds of codebooks and documents, as well as two Enigma machines, making it the largest intelligence seizure in the Battle of the Atlantic. This information saved the U.S. Navy code-breaking team an estimated 13,000 computer hours and greatly aided their decoding work during the rest of the war.

Winston Churchill says, in Their Finest Hour, "The only thing that really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril...."

A submarine torpedo is a miniature version of the boat itself.

Large batteries supplied electrical power for the boat's motors and electrically operated equipment so the boat could operate quietly while submerged. Normal battery charging time was approximately seven hours, and charging was usually done at night while the boat was running on the surface. The U-505 had not been refitted with a snorkel, so it could not charge batteries when submerged.

The U-505's first skipper's name, Loewe, means "lion" in German. He painted a lion emblem on his conning tower.

Germans used a lot of phosphorescent paint that glows in the dark for a period of time after being exposed to light. This was especially critical in a sub if all the lights went out and the crew needed to continue to work in emergency situations.

The USS Guadalcanal was known as a "baby flattop."

Captain Harald Lange was severely injured during the capture, and his leg was amputated shortly thereafter.

The U-505 was towed to Bermuda and studied under secrecy, painted to look like an American sub and renamed the USS Nemo so as not to alert German intelligence that she had been captured.

Following the end of the war, the U.S., Britain, France and the Soviet Union divided the remaining 153 U-boats among themselves to assess their capabilities.

Split between U.S., Britain, France and the Soviet Union, it was stipulated that the reaming 153 U-boats would be scrapped or sunk within two years.

The Germans commissioned nearly 1,200 U-boats during the war, but only 859 were deployed for operational patrols.

Three hundred and twenty-one U-boats attacked, damaged or sank Allied ships.

All members of Guadalcanal Task Group 22.3 received the Medal of Honor, but other awards presented for the capture include the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

After Bermuda, POWs were sent first north to Norfolk, VA before being sent by rail to Ruston, Louisiana. The camp still exists today as a museum.

The U-505 was considered one of the unluckiest U-boats during the war. The first captain had to cut a patrol short because of appendicitis. Under the command of a new captain, subsequent patrols were shortened because of mysterious equipment malfunctions—some apparently a result of sabotage. The second captain became an object of contempt throughout the U-boat community—he would commit suicide during a bomb and depth charge attack.

An excerpt of a memo given to each crewman of Task Group 22.3 that reported aboard the Guadalcanal: "The motto of this ship will be 'Can Do,' meaning that we will take any tough job that is given to us and run away with it. The tougher the job, the better we'll like it." - Captain Daniel Gallery

The Guadalcanal was commissioned on September 25, 1943 at Vancouver, Washington.

Harald Lange may have been personally selected to command the U-505, whose crew had been traumatized by a series of morale-shattering events. In his short time aboard, his calm and steady demeanor gained the respect and loyalty of the crew.

The U-505 was at sea for 81 days and traveled 7,977 miles before its capture.

The capture took less than 30 minutes.

In a statement from Harald Lange recounting the capture, he explained "When I sat in the pipe boat [individual life raft] I could see my boat for the last time. Some of my men were still aboard her, throwing more pipe boats into the water. I ordered the men around me to give three cheers for our sinking boat."

Before the German crew abandoned the U-505, they tried to scuttle the ship by opening a six-inch strainer in the Control Room, and water began rushing in. Zenon Lukosius of the Pillsbury boarding party found the cover and dogged it back in place, helping save the boat.

On May 16, 1945, nine days after the surrender of Germany, the story of the capture of the U-505 was revealed to the American public.

In 1942, the U-boats sank 1,150 Allied ships, sending thousands of men to their deaths and 7.8 million tons of vital war supplies to the bottom of the Atlantic.

The Hunter-Killer Task Group 22.3 consisted of the aircraft carrier USS Guadalcanal, five destroyer escorts and more than 800 men.