WWII German U-Boat Wreck Found, Sheds Light On Bloody Battle of the Atlantic

The discovery of World War II German U-boat off the coast of North Carolina isn’t your average sunken-ship discovery.The shipwreck is quite the find for historians. NOAA scientist Joe Hoyt tells CNN that the WWII U-boat was found 30 miles off Cape Hatteras on an “important battle site,” the Battle of the Atlantic.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced on Tuesday that the sub U-576 was found less than 300 yards from an American merchant tanker Bluefields that was reportedly part of a 24-ship U.S. convoy that was headed to Florida back in 1942.

“This is not just the discovery of a single shipwreck. We have discovered an important battle site that is part of the Battle of the Atlantic. These two ships rest only a few hundred yards apart and together help us interpret and share their forgotten stories.”

The Washington Post states that finding the wreck of German U-boat and the sunken U.S. merchant tanker Bluefields is “a rare snapshot of a little known chapter of World War II.”

Monitor National Marine Sanctuary‘s documents show that the German sub was damaged and heading back to Germany when it encountered the U.S. convoy on July 14, 1942. The sub’s skipper, 29-year-old Hans-Dieter Heinicke decided to engage in battle despite his damaged boat and it ended up costing him his life, along with his crew.

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After sinking one ship and damaging at least two others, the World War II German U-boat was attacked and sank with all 45 crew members on board. There were no casualties on Bluefields, with the Washington Post reporting that all of its crew made it safely to shore.

“The discovery of these two vessels, which met their end in a pivotal naval skirmish in 1942, sheds new light on a bloody yet little-known chapter in American history: the Battle of the Atlantic.”

NOAA reports that two of their research vessels participated in a five-year search for the wrecks that were finally located in August of this year. The site of the sunken U-boat wreck and the American merchant ship are now considered a war grave. Read more about the search and see more photos of the wreckage site on NOAA.gov.

[Images: NOAA Twitter]