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Saving U-505

Boarding the Enemy

While the USS Chatelain and the USS Jenks picked up survivors, the USS Pillsbury sent its whaleboat to the U-505, where Lieutenant (junior grade) Albert L. David led a nine-man boarding party onto the sub. Despite the probability of the sub sinking or blowing up at any minute, and not knowing what form of resistance they might meet below, David and his men climbed down the hatch.

A quick examination proved the U-505 was deserted (except for one dead German sailor on deck, the only fatality of the capture). The boarders then set about disconnecting scuttle charges, closing valves and bundling up charts, codebooks and papers as quickly as possible.

The Dangers Within

U-boats were full of top-secret information and technology that Germany hoped would never fall into Allied hands. U-boat captains were under strict orders to scuttle (sink) their own subs if they were in danger of capture.

Sea Strainer

The U-505 sailors attempted to scuttle their boat by flooding it. They opened a pipe, called a sea strainer, which caused water to rush into the boat. By the time the boarding party arrived, the sub's stern was submerged and the ocean waterline almost reached the top of the conning tower. When Motor Machinist's Mate 1st Class Zenon Lukosius came aboard, he saw water pouring in through the sea strainer, immediately searched for the strainer cover and re-secured it.

Scuttle Charges

Before abandoning the U-505, the German crew was also trained to set the timers on numerous scuttle charges, or time bombs, located throughout the sub. The boarding and salvage parties quickly yanked the wires on the charges they discovered. If just one of the devices had detonated, it could have sent the U-boat and the American sailors to the bottom.

The Boarding Party

Once the Germans had abandoned the U-505, Task Group 22.3 dropped whaleboats into the water with crews trained in boarding and salvage procedures. Some of the crews rescued the surviving German sailors from the sea. One whaleboat from the USS Pillsbury pulled up alongside the damaged sub.

The crew's mission: to board the U-boat, overpower any remaining German sailors and take control of the submarine. It was an incredibly dangerous operation. The U-boat was going in circles, she was flooding with seawater and was most likely rigged with explosive charges intended to prevent her capture.

The Nine-Member Boarding Party

  • Albert L. David, Lieutenant, Junior Grade, U.S.N.
  • Chester A. Mocarski, Gunner's Mate, First Class, U.S.N.
  • Wayne M. Pickels, Boatswain's Mate, Second Class, U.S.N.
  • Arthur W. Knispel, Torpedoman, Third Class, U.S.N.R.
  • George W. Jacobson, Chief Motor Machinist's Mate, U.S.N.
  • Zenon B. Lukosius, Motor Machinist's Mate, First Class, U.S.N.
  • William R. Riendeau, Electrician's Mate, Third Class, U.S.N.
  • Stanley E. Wdowiak, Radioman, Third Class, U.S.N.R.
  • Gordon F. Hohne, Signalman, Third Class, U.S.N.R.
About this photo...

The photo above has an interesting history. The photo was supposed to depict only the members of the boarding party, but Chief Commissary Steward Lee Roy Lisk was mistakenly included. When the mistake was discovered much later, the U.S. Navy removed Lisk from the photo and shifted the three men on the right toward the middle. The altered photo was made public on May 16, 1945 with a press release announcing for the first time the capture of the U-505. Unfortunately, the Navy's retouched photo did not include Lt. Albert David. To show the entire nine-person boarding party, the Museum added Lt. David to a photo in the exhibit.