___                                                                                                                                                               ___
  We Captured a Submarine...  
          American sailors had not captured an enemy vessel on the high seas since the war of 1812. The last time the US Navy had boarded and captured a foreign enemy Man-Of-War in battle on the high seas had been back in 1815 when the U.S. Sloop PEACOCK, boarded and captured H.M.S. (His Majesty’s Ship) BRIG NAUTILUS in the Strait of Sunda, East Indies.  
          Our Task Force Group 22.3 consisted of the Escort Carrier USS GUADALCANAL (CVE-60), and five swift, and deadly Destroyer Escorts --the USS PILLSBURY (DE-133), USS POPE (DE-134), USS FLAHERTY (DE-135, USS JENKS (DE-665) and USS CHATELAIN (DE-149). They were on the prowl to hunt German submarines in the Atlantic.  
          We expected to cross the equator heading south, but were ordered north. The morning of June 4, 1944 only one word is contained in one of the crew members’ diary - "SUB". Almost 3,000 members of the Task Group were sworn to silence not to breathe a word about what happened on that eventful day, until the end of the war.  
          At about 11 a.m. the Task Force was cruising off the northwest coast of Africa and planes from the carrier were returning from a morning search. When they were close enough for landing, the Guadalcanal hoisted up the flag signal to change course, head into the wind, and prepare to land aircraft. The carrier gave a full left rudder and the DEs had to assume positions as before to guard the carrier. As the Destroyer Escort Chatelain was coming around at flank speed, she got a good contact on a submarine. They notified the commander of the aircraft carrier. The commander then informed the ship to investigate the contact and also had a few of his incoming planes assist in the search.  
          The Chatelain evaluated the contact as a submarine and fired its "hedgehogs"(ahead-thrown depth charges which explode on contact only) battery. She missed. After another run, they plastered the area with a full pattern of depth charges set for sixty feet. That did it! They hit their target as the charges exploded around the sub. The excitement aboard the ship was almost indescribable knowing that the submarine had been hit with the depth charges and was on her way to the surface. All hands were manning their battle stations, the Combat Information Center was shouting information to the bridge and sound men were yelling range and bearing of the sub as the sub kept rising slowly toward the ocean surface.  
          This sub didn't come flying out of the water like the previous subs that had been sunk. She came up conning tower first. We could see the emblem of the German submarine U-505. The Chatelain threw everything at the sub. The noise of the 3-inch 50s, the twin 40s, 20mm and 50 caliber guns were deafening, and the ship shook with each round that was fired. Not knowing how much damage the submarine had suffered, they felt sure the Germans would come out shooting if given a chance, so the gunnery officer ordered a torpedo fired at the sub. The torpedo missed, and our Captain called "cease fire".  
          For several minutes everyone spoke in whispers, not knowing what to expect as the sub lay still, facing the Chatelain beam to beam. Seconds seemed like hours. Finally the U-505 came to life. All watched as she began to turn very slowly, with her bow starting to point in the direction of the USS Chatelain. Her starboard side was exposed to the sub and those on the Chatelain felt the end was near for them. Why the Chatelain didn't ram it, or why she didn't turn to point her bow to the sub so as to make a smaller target, no one will ever know. Guess somebody upstairs really liked them. The bow of the U-505 circled slowly, and at long last it finally passed the bow of the Chatelain. They all sighed in relief as they noticed that the depth charge attack had jammed the sub's rudder. The USS Pillsbury and USS Jenks were firing from a distance and those on the USS Chatelain were afraid they would be hit by the fire. After a cease fire by all ships, rescue operations began.  
          The hatches opened and the Germans came running out and plunged into the water. The USS Chatelain picked up 38 of the enemy including the skipper of the submarine. The captain and other officers in the conning tower had been wounded. The crew was glad it was over for them and that they were still alive. The Americans finished plucking the rest of the German submariners from the sea. Only one had been killed in the attack. One of the German seamen pointed to the open torpedo door in the bow of the sub and said they had fired a torpedo at the carrier just as the depth charges exploded and knocked it off course.  
          Meanwhile, a nine-member boarding party from the USS Pillsbury boarded the submarine. It took several attempts to stop the flooding and a search was made for explosives. Boarding an enemy submarine blasted to the surface could mean shooting it out with her crew in extremely close, badly lit quarters, and there was the danger the crew had set demolition charges or taken other scuttling actions. Many mortally wounded U-boats were known to have sunk or blown up within minutes of disgorging their crew on the surface. Working frantically, they searched for demolition charges, resealed an eight-inch valve that the Germans had opened to scuttle the sub. The USS Pillsbury pulled along side of the U-505 with the intention of tying up and hauling her home, but the sub's port bow flipper cut a hole in the DE's side. The USS Pillsbury gave up on that idea and left to plug up the hole.  
          The U-505 was stabilized and taken in tow by the USS Guadalcanal. Orders were to tow the sub to Bermuda. Three days later the Navy tugboat USS ABNAKI (AFT-96) took over the towing and delivered the submarine to Bermuda.  
          For their action in the Atlantic, the Task Group was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, along with individual awards of a Medal of Honor, Legion of Merit, two Navy Crosses and nine Silver Stars. Later, the U-505 went off on a war bond tour of Eastern port cities and finally berthed in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, destined for the scrap pile. A group of Chicago citizens and business firms appealed to the Navy for permission to turn her into a war memorial. Thousands of Americans annually visit famous war memorials such as the Saratoga, Gettysburg and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. More than one million visitors have now seen the newest United States "battle monument" - a captured German submarine on display at the Chicago Museum of Science & Industry.  
          On June 4, 1994, to participate in the World War II Commemorative Community Program, sailors who were assigned to these ships gathered at the Chicago Museum of Science & Industry in a memorial to the 55,000 Americans who went down with their ships in the battles of the Atlantic.  
     
  ...Joe T. Villanella,. RdM2/C, USS Chatelain  
     
 

Dan Gallery's Article