Mainland Attacks – East Coast

German sub, U-215, underwater

German sub, U-215, underwater

The photograph above is the German U-boat U-215, first discovered in July 2004 off of Nova Scotia, Canada’s southern coast. This boat was credited with sinking the USS ‘Alexander Macomb.’ From 1939 until V-E Day, Canada’s Atlantic coast ports were extremely important to the resupply effort for the United Kingdom and later for the combined Allied offensive. There were frequent attacks by the German U-boats on the departing ships, especially after the United States entered the war. The submarines started battling along the east coast and the gulf from early 1942 through to the end of the shipping season of 1944. The American coast was an easy target for the enemy U-boats after Germany declared war on the U.S. Until the blackouts were enforced in May 1942, shipping vessels were silhouetted against such major towns as Atlantic City. This caused 348 ships to be sunk from February to May; with the loss of only two U-boats. Many attribute this to Admiral Ernest King who was adverse to the British recommendation of using convoys, also because the U.S. Navy did not have enough escort vessels for the job. British and Canadian warships were transferred to the American east coast. 8 April 1942, German U-boat, U-123, commanded by Lt. Commander Reinhard Hardegen, spotted the oil tanker “Oklahoma” silhouetted against a blazing shore off St. Simons Island, GA. His torpedo ran hot and true. He also later hit the “Brunswick”, sank the Esso “Baton Rouge” and one more the following morning.

Cabot Tower, Canada

Cabot Tower, Canada

There were five significant attacks on Newfoundland in 1942 alone. 3 March, U-587 fired three torpedoes; one hit Fort Amherst and two more hit the cliffs of Signal Hillbelow Cabot Tower. Later, U-boats attacked four iron ore carriers at Wabana on Bell Island. Several ships were torpedoed within sight of U.S. cities like New York and Boston. Civilians were able to watch the battles between those ships. 5 May 1945, the German U-boat U-853 attacked and sank the collier ‘Black Point’ off the coast of Newport, Rhode Island. The U.S. Navy dropped depth charges where they believed the submarine was and the following day they spotted an oil slick and debris in the area. The site has since become a popular dive site 130 feet deep off Block Island, Rhode Island. Another wreck discovered and identified as U-869 was found off New Jersey in 1997.

Gun at Fort Amburst

Gun at Fort Amhurst

In Florida, the Civil Air Patrol had a Piper Cub patrolling at a low altitude along the Palm Beach coast (as many other cities had) and on one occasion, the 55-year-old pilot swooped down for a closer look at something he felt was unusual and he was fired on – it was a German submarine. The plane received enough damage to force him to return to the airfield. This is probably the only American plane downed by enemy fire in the continental U.S. history.

The Black Point

The Black Point, sunk by U-853

Miami, Florida, for some reason, was not required to comply with the block-out rules and the lights could be seen for miles out to sea. The German U-boats used them to sink the freighters within sight of shore.   As air cover and convoys were introduced, the activity in the Atlantic subsided and the U-boats moved into the Gulf of Mexico.  In this body of water, the Germans concentrated on the oil tankers leaving Texas and Louisiana.  During 1942 and 1943, there were twenty known U-boats in this area which are credited with sinking 56 ships, such as the ‘Virginia,’ a 10,731 ton Turbine tanker on 12 May ’42, at the mouth of the Mississippi River by U-507.  This event caused 26 crewmen casualties and 14 survived.  Again, once defensive measures were finally introduced, ships sunk decreased and U-boats sunk increased.  The U-166 lies in 5,000 feet of water about one mile from her last victim, the SS ‘Robert E. Lee,’ sunk by depth charges from her naval escort. There were actual landings by German U-boats, but that information brings us to our next category of – spies and sabotage.  For a more complete listing  for the ships check:  http://uboat.net/allies/merchants/1635.html

An updated story sent in by Argus, finally vindicates a heroic Captain ___

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/12/141217-german-u-boat-u-166-gulf-mexico-archaeology-history/

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Farewell Salutes –

Gone but not forgotten

Gone but not forgotten

Thurman Richard Hicks – Parkesburg, W. VA. & Greenacres, FL; U.S. Army Carl Vincent Hoffman – Cincinnati, Ohio & Boynton Bch., FL.; USMC John Gutjahr – No. Bergen, NJ; U.S. Army David C. McDonald – Brooklyn, NY & Lake Worth, FL; U.S. Navy in WWII and Korean War; 20 years with FDNY Sheldon Krubiner – Lawrence, NY & Boynton Bch., FL.; U.S. Navy WWII William Anthony Wilder – Detroit, MI & Jupiter, FL.; U.S. Army corporal in Korean War Vernon Lee Kaiser – Evansville, Ill. & Inverness, Fl; Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army Ranger, Korean and Vietnam Wars Hurant “Tavy” Tavetian – Ohio, N.Y. and Fla.; U.S. Navy WWII Irving V. Gerstein – NYC, NY & Palm Beach, FL; Captain in U.S. Army Air Corps, WWII Pacific Theater #####################################################################################

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on July 1, 2013, in WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 78 Comments.

  1. Very well researched and informative posts.

    Like

  2. Thanks for your accurate reporting. I think if people had known how close the enemy was back in the 1940’s, they would have panicked. Always look forward to your next report!

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    • Thanks, Bev. In some cases, people on the coasts did panic somewhat – like in Calif. where they were afraid of their own long time neighbors. But all in all, the situation remained calm.

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  3. As ever, an interesting and well-researched article :). I’m currently reading Chester Wilmot’s “The Struggle for Europe”, originally published in 1952, and although its primary focus is on the D-Day landings and the events following, there are several pages on the ‘Battle of the Atlantic’ and the often devastating effects of U-boat attacks on trans-Atlantic convoys during the Second World War. Incidentally, U-boats were equally effective at times during the First World War; my own maternal great-grandfather was a Stoker who died aboard the Royal Navy battle cruiser HMS Aboukir, when it was sunk in the North Sea, along with two other Royal Navy battle cruisers, the Hogue and the Cressy, in the space of an hour by a lone German U-boat on the morning of September 22nd, 1914, with the loss of nearly 1500 lives. Alan Coles’ 1979 book ‘Three before breakfast’ gives an account of this extraordinary event.

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  4. Did you hear about the U-boat believed to have been found 62 miles up river in Labrador, Canada? This story is from one year ago.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/story/2012/07/25/nl-u-boat-labrador-discovery-725.html

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  5. How do you know all this stuff?

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  6. I am very impressed with your blog, and how enlightening it is. I had not realized how close the Germans had come to the American east coast. It makes me appreciate the freedoms that we enjoy for all those who sacrificed their lives to keep us safe and able to enjoy Independence Day today. Thank you for writing all your articles!

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  7. I knew that there were some Uboats along the Atlantic coast, but was surprised how many attacks there were.

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  8. We’re absolutely thrilled with your blog and the skill, facts and effort that goes into every post! Great job!
    Greetings to you from North Norfolk, UK
    Dina

    Like

    • Thanks. I hope there is enough here to interest you, being that it is mainly about the Pacific War. When I go back into WWII, I’ll have more on the British colonies in the Pacific.

      Like

  9. I am really impressed of your historical knowledge and your archive with all those pictures. Thank you for sharing.
    Greetings from Cley next the Sea
    Klausbernd

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    • Thank you so much for the praise. I must say, I always find your site a pleasure to go to; a lot of work goes into those posts. Greetings back from South Florida

      Like

  10. As ever, a most interesting post. I am fascinated at the amount of info you pack into each one.

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    • Thanks. I try to keep the posts short and sweet, but still contain the info. I find the photos help make that possible.

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      • Well you are a master at this craft, to be sure. Fine posts that are so interesting. I love history. I am an antique enthusiast and coin collector, too. And other stuff. I always look at the item of antiquity with curiosity about when, where, and whom it belonged and the periods of historical significance that would’ve coincided with the item’s use or invention.

        Like

  11. Carol Schlaepfer

    On another note, I am very curious, having grown up on the East coast, why this information is “nres to me”…?? I have an uncle, Robert Schlaepfer in the Army during that time and never heard one story..???

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    • Back then they weren’t looking for the glory or looking for a story and be the first on the internet with it; information like this could cause a panic and undue trouble for scaled-down police forces.

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  12. Carol Schlaepfer

    I remember the blackouts in Broad Channel at that time. I was only 3 1/2 when that started, but remember it well.

    What surprizes me, is the power of the Germans off the Canadian and American coast. Seems like we were ill prepared..????

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    • I would say so, we had been isolationists for so long, I don’t think it ever occurred to them the Germans would cross the Atlantic to fight here. At least I can’t find any mention that they did. Being an island, Broad Channel would have been totally dark during a blackout, it must have been frightening for a 3 1/2 yr. old.

      Like

  13. Pierre Lagacé

    Fascinating comments from your readers…
    You must be proud of this history lesson.
    You have captivated your students…

    Like

    • I’ve never thought of myself as a teacher, I just don’t mind telling people what I have learned – the rest is gravy that I’m thrilled about.

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      • Pierre Lagacé

        I was a teacher for 34 years so I can tell you are a good teacher. Teaching is not telling people what to learn but to use what they are taught to move further in life… How many readers do you think are scrambling to look for more information about all who have been teaching us since September 2012?

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        • Thanks for the compliment, Pierre. My education was mainly in science, but thanks to Smitty, I always had an interest in history – we had so many discussions at the dining room table, great memories.

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  14. Interesting story on U-853. I wonder if they never received the order that the war was over, or if the Captain just decided to disregard the order. Guess we’ll never know.

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  15. Spies and sabotage! Right up BTP’s Avenue. 🙂
    This is another great post!

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  16. Amazing. Like I said before, I had no idea it was ever so close to home….

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  17. As a CAP member for the last dozen or so years, I have heard a lot of the WWII CAP stories, most of which involved dropping “bombs”. This is the first I’d heard of a CAP aircraft taking fire. Interesting!

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    • I found that little item in a library book I had out when I was researching for one of the guest posts I did for Judy at Greatest Generation Lessons. I saved the info for this section, just wish I could have located the pilot’s name.

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  18. Very informative. Thank you, gpcox, for your diligent research.

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  19. I love reading this well-presented research. I grew up hearing and believing how blessed we were that WWII was never brought to our shores. While it is true we were not invaded, and didn’t have to fight major battles on our continent, this shows me the reality was not quite as simple as I believed as a child. God bless those who were sacrificed, and those who kept us safe.

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  20. I’ve seen documentaries where veteran German submariners were interviewed about their experiences patrolling New York harbor.

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  21. Brian M Murray

    Good post! I remember a place near where I grew up in Jacksonville Beach FL that had a sign monument regarding how a uboat party landed there during WWII. The locals found out and ganged up on them driving them back out into the ocean and their boat and left.

    Like

  22. Most people have never been properly taught about this portion of War War II history. Thanks for the expansion.

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  23. A fascinating subject covered so well; Thanks for educating us.

    Like

  24. I am really quite dumbfounded by this information; that the war came so close to the East Coast.

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  25. Pierre Lagacé

    A reblogué ceci sur Lest We Forget and commented:
    Another great post

    Like

  26. Pierre Lagacé

    I told you I was going to like it.
    I am reblogging it on Lest We Forget.

    Like

  27. Pierre Lagacé

    Just by reading the title I know I will like this post.

    Like

  28. Your blogs are really bril lessons in history. Thanks a lot.
    Klausbernd

    Like

  29. Fascinating history — thanks for sharing. How odd that Miami did not have to comply with the rules. Obviously poor judgment on someone’s part.

    Like

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