Daily Event for June 4, 2005

June 4, 1944 the U-505 was captured by US Navy ships off the coast of Africa. This was the first enemy ship captured by the U. S. Navy since the war of 1812. The U-505 was a type IXc built by Deutsche Werft AG, Hamburg. Launched on May 29, 1941 and commissioned into the Kriegsmarine on Aug. 26, 1941. The U-505 had four commanders, Axel-Olaf Loewe, Peter Zschech, Paul Meyer and Harold Lange. Peter Zschech committed suicide in the U-505 while being attacked by depth charges Oct. 24, 1943. This is the only known instance of this happening in the entire U-boat fleet. During her 12 patrols the U-505 sank 8 ships for a total of 44,962 tons. The largest being the Norwegian tanker Sydhav at 7,587 tons.

One crewman, Gottfried Fischer, was killed in the attack the other 58 were taken prisoner by the US Navy. Because of the top secret nature of the capture, the POW's were kept separate from all other POW's. The U.S. did not want the Germans to find out that the U-505 had actually been captured. The navy recovered 2 enigma machines and the code books. If the Germans had learned the boat was not sunk they might have changed the codes and lengthened the war. Fortunately it was not until after the war that the information was released. The German navy even sent out letters of condolence to the families of the crew believing she had sunk.

The U-505 is on display in Chicago, Illinois at the Museum of Science and Industry. It has recently been moved into a new indoor facility to preserve it forever. The new exhibit opens tomorrow. I have been fortunate enough to have visited this U-boat several times since I was a kid. The last time I was there was over 10 years ago. It was always a fascinating tour and I recommend it to anyone who can get there.

© 2005 Michael W. Pocock