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 World War II German U-Boat Documents, Manuals, Diaries
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World War II
German U-Boat Documents, Manuals, Diaries


375 pages of documents and their translations captured from German Unterseeboot 505 (U-505), copied from material held at the United States Navy Department Library, archived on CD-ROM.

The disc contains 200 pages of images of documents, from and covering German U-boats and 175 pages of English translations of the German language documents.

On 4 June 1944, a hunter-killer group of the United States Navy captured the German submarine U-505. When United States Navy Task Group 22.3 (TG 22.3) captured the U-505, it was the first time a U.S. Navy vessel had captured an enemy at sea since 1815, when the USS Peacock seized the HMS Nautilus during the War of 1812. The action took place in the Atlantic Ocean, in Latitude 21-30N, Longitude 19-20W, about 150 miles off the coast of Rio De Oro, Africa. The American force was commanded by Captain Daniel V. Gallery, and was comprised of the escort Carrier Guadalcanal (CVE-60) and five escort vessels under Commander Frederick S. Hall: Pillsbury (DE-133) Pope (DE-134), Flaherty (DE-135), Chatelain (DE-149), and Jenks (DE-665).

Alerted by American cryptanalysts, who, along with the British, had been decrypting the German naval code, the Guadalcanal task group knew U-boats were operating off the African coast near Cape Verde. They did not know the precise location, however, because the exact coordinates (latitude and longitude) in the messages were encoded separately before being enciphered for transmission. By adding this regional information together with high-frequency direction finding fixes (HF/DF), which tracked U-boats by radio transmissions, and air and surface reconnaissance, the Allies could narrow down a U-boat's location to a small area. The Guadalcanal task group intended to use all these methods to find and capture the next U-boat they encountered through the use of trained boarding parties.

The task group sailed from Norfolk, Virginia, on 15 May 1944 for an anti-submarine patrol near the Canary Islands. For two weeks they searched unsuccessfully, even steaming as far south as Freetown, Sierra Leone, in a vain effort to locate a U-boat. On Sunday, 4 June 1944, with fuel running low, the warships reluctantly turned north and headed for Casablanca. Ironically, not ten minutes later, at 1109 that morning, USS Chatelain (DE-149), Lieutenant Commander Dudley S. Knox, USNR, made sonar contact on an object just 800 yards away on her starboard bow. Guadalcanal immediately swung clear at top speed, desperately trying to avoid getting in the way, as Chatelain and the other escorts closed the position.

In the minutes required to identify the contact definitely as a submarine, however, Chatelain closed too rapidly and could not attack, as her depth charges would not sink fast enough to intercept the U-boat. The escort held her fire instead, opened range and setup a deliberate attack with her "hedgehog" (ahead-thrown depth charges which explode on contact only) battery. Regaining sonar contact after a momentary loss due to the short range, Chatelain passed beyond the submarine and swung around toward it to make a second attack with depth charges.

As the ship heeled over in her tight turn, one of two General Motors FM-2 "Wildcat" fighter planes launched overhead by the Guadalcanal, sighted the submerged U-boat and dived on it, firing into the water to mark the submarine's position. Chatelain steadied up on her sound bearing and moved in for the kill. A full pattern of depth charges set for a shallow target splashed into the water around the U-boat. As their detonations threw geysers of spray into the air, a large oil slick spread on the water; the fighter plane overhead radioed "You struck oil! Sub is surfacing!" Just six and one-half minutes after Chatelain's first attack, U-505 broke the surface with its rudder jammed, lights and electrical machinery out, and water coming in.

As the submarine broached only 700 yards from the Chatelain, the escort opened fire with all automatic weapons that would bear and sweep the U-boat's decks. Pillsbury, Lieutenant George W. Casselman, USNR, and Jenks, Lieutenant Commander Julius F. Way, farther away, and the two "Wildcats" overhead all joined the shooting and added to the intense barrage. Wounded in the torrent of fire and believing that his submarine had been mortally damaged by Chatelain's depth charges, the commanding officer of U-505 quickly ordered his crew to abandon ship. So quickly was this command obeyed, that scuttling measures were left incomplete and the submarine's engines continued to run.

The jammed rudder caused the partially-submerged U-505 to circle to the right at a speed near seven knots. Seeing the U-boat turning toward him, the commanding officer of Chatelain ordered a single torpedo fired at the submarine in order to forestall what appeared to be a similar attack on him. The torpedo passed ahead of U-505, which by now appeared to be completely abandoned. About two minutes later, the escort division commander ordered cease fire and called on Pillsbury's boarding party.

While Chatelain and Jenks picked up survivors, Pillsbury sent its motor whaleboat to the circling submarine where Lieutenant (junior grade) Albert L. David, USN, led the eight-man party on board. Despite the probability of U-505 sinking or blowing up at any minute and not knowing what form of resistance they might meet below, David and his men clambered up the conning tower and then down the hatches into the boat itself. After a quick examination proved the U-boat was completely deserted (except for one dead man on deck - the only fatality of the action), the boarders set about bundling up charts, code books, and papers, disconnecting demolition charges, closing valves, and plugging leaks. By the time the flood of water had been stopped, the U-boat was low in the water and down by the stern.

Meanwhile, Pillsbury twice went alongside the turning submarine to put over tow lines and each time the escort's side was pierced by the U-boats' bow plane. Finally, with three compartments flooded, the Pillsbury was forced to haul clear to attend to her own damage. The boarding party was then reinforced by a party from the Guadalcanal. Led by Commander Earl Trosino, USNR, the carrier's men completed temporary salvage measures, and took a towline from the Guadalcanal. The salvage crew was later joined by Commander Colby G. Rucker, who arrived with the seaplane tender Humbolt (AVP-21).

In an ingenious solution to the heavy flooding, the salvage crew disconnected the boat's diesels from her motors. This allowed the propellers to turn the shafts while under tow. After setting the main switches to charge the batteries, Guadalcanal towed the U-boat at high speed, turning the electric motors, which recharged the boat's batteries. With power restored, the salvage crew could use the U-boat's own pumps and air compressors to finish pumping out seawater and bring her up to full surface trim.

After three days of towing, Guadalcanal was relieved of her burden by the fleet tug Abnaki (ATF-96). Arriving with the tug was the tanker Kennebec (AO-36), sent to provide much-needed fuel to the hunter-killer group. On Monday, 19 June 1944, U-505 was brought into Port Royal Bay, Bermuda, after a tow of 1,700 miles.

Fifty-eight prisoners had been taken from the water during the action. One man had been killed and three (the commanding officer, executive officer, and one enlisted man of the U-boat) wounded.  The crew members of the U-505 were interned in a special isolated prison camp near Ruston, Louisiana. The taking of the U-boat and the codebooks meant giving the seizure top secret status. The POW's were kept from other POWs and their capture was kept secret. Their status was not reported to the Red Cross.  The German Navy assumed the ship was lost and reported the deaths of the crewmembers to their families.

For his part in saving the abandoned submarine, Lieutenant (jg) David was awarded the Medal of Honor; Torpedoman's Mate Third Class A. Knispel and Radioman Second Class S. E. Wdowiak, each received the Navy Cross; and Commander Trosino received the Legion of Merit. The task group itself was awarded the Presidential Unit citation, in part because of the unique and difficult feat of boarding and capturing an enemy warship on the high-seas, something the U.S. Navy had not accomplished since the 19th-century.

More significantly, however, was the capture of codebooks on U-505. The capture of codebooks on U-505 allowed Allied cryptanalysts to break the special "coordinate" code in enciphered German messages and determine more precise locations for U-boat operating areas. In addition to directing hunter-killer task groups to these locations, these coordinates enabled Allied convoy commanders to route shipping away from known U-boat locations, greatly inhibiting the effectiveness of German submarine patrols. The material captured from U-505 arrived at Bletchley Park on 20 June 1944. In addition to the coordinate code, captured were the regular and Offizier settings for June 1944, the current short weather codebook, and the short signal codebook and bigram tables due to come into effect in July and August respectively.

The U-505 is a German World War II type IXC submarine built by Deutsche Werft in Hamburg, Germany, in 1940. She was commissioned into the German Navy on August 26, 1941, and served on various wartime patrols until her capture by the American Navy on June 4, 1944.

The type IXC submarine was powered by diesel electric engines and designed for oceanic cruising ranges. Although larger than the much employed type VII sub marine, the type IXC was not a better sea boat and in any heavy sea the conning tower was usually drenched. On long missions the interior was packed heavily with provisions and crew spaces remained as cramped as in smaller German sub marines. Although U-505 is a pre-snorkel submarine, later versions of this type were fitted with the air-breathing snorkel to enable them to operate their diesels underwater.

Her keel was laid down June 12, 1940, by Deutsche Werft AG of Hamburg. She was launched on 25 May 1941, and commissioned on 26 August 1941, with Kapitänleutnant Axel-Olaf Loewe in command. On 6 September 1942, Loewe was relieved by Kptlt. Peter Zschech. On 24 October 1943, Oberleutnant zur See Paul Meyer found himself in command for about two weeks until he was relieved on 8 November by Oblt. Harald Lange. Lange commanded the boat until its capture on 4 June 1944.

U-505 conducted twelve patrols, sinking eight ships totaling of 44,962 tons, three American, two British, and one each Norwegian, Netherlands, and Colombian.

As the U.S. Navy was far more interested in the advanced engineering design of fast underwater U-boats, such as the streamlined German Type XXI and XXIII submarines,  rather than the familiar fleet-boat types illustrated by the U-505, the captured submarine was investigated by Navy intelligence and engineering officers during 1945 and then promptly slated for disposal. The intention was to use the hulk for gunnery and torpedo target practice.

In 1946, however, Father John Gallery learned of this plan from his brother (then Admiral Daniel Gallery) and called the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) President Lenox Lohr to see if MSI would have an interest in saving U-505. The museum, established by Chicago businessman Julius Rosenwald as a center for "industrial enlightenment" and public science education. The people of Chicago raised $250,000 to help prepare the boat for the tow and installation at the museum. In September 1954, U-505 was donated to Chicago at no cost to the U.S. Government. On September 25, 1954 U-505 was dedicated as a war memorial and as a permanent exhibit. In 1989, the U-505, as the only Type IX-C boat still in existence, was designated a National Historic Landmark.



DOCUMENTS ON THE DISC INCLUDE:

GOTTFRIED FISCHER U-505 DIARY

The author of this document is most likely Oberfunkmaat (Signalman First Class) Gottfried Fischer, the only U-505 sailor killed during the battle leading to the capture of the submarine. This identification is based upon an entry of 7 May 1944, in which the author refers to himself as the leading radio man (see diary page 10). At that time, the leading radio man aboard U-505 was Fischer. Identification of the probable author was made by Dave Kohnen who is the U-505 Exhibit Developer at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, Illinois.

The diary gives accounts of life onboard a German U-boat. Entries include personal data, listing of crew members, information about the food aboard, living conditions, and thoughts about family in Germany.  The diary includes a chronological personal narrative from the end of March to Sunday, 4 June 1944. One entry mentions the heat on the boat, "30 April 1944 The heat is so unbearable that I'm not really in the mood to write anything. I avoid all unnecessary movement within the boat."



GUIDE FOR U-BOAT OFFICERS CONCERNING NEW U-BOAT ORDERS FOR THE FRONTLINE

A 32-page manual covering German submarine crew training during construction, outfitting, and commissioning of U-boats, captured on the U-505. Topics covered include: U-boats, New Construction Orders, Equipping, Commissioning, UAC [U-boat Acceptance Commission] - Test Run, U-Training Flotilla, Tactical Front Training Flotilla, and Communications Intelligence Groups.



GERMAN SUBMARINE U-505 RADIO DOCUMENTS

These documents are from a folder captured on German submarine U-505. The folder contains loosely arranged, typed documents, concerning radio frequencies and radio equipment used by the German Navy (Kriegsmarine). The documents are marked with the letters FT in pencil, which means, Funken-Telegraphie, Wireless Telegraphy, or WT (radio). Many of the documents are on small strips and pieces of paper originally attached to the folder. The documents cover operations from 8 January 1944 to 18 February 1944.



GERMAN SUBMARINE ENGINEERING DIAIRIES

57 pages of German Submarine Engineering Diaries from other U-boats. Since these reports were captured on the U-505, presumably they were reproduced and distributed among submarines in the U-boat flotilla. Experiences and lessons learned by individual submarines would thus be shared among vessels in the flotilla.

Diaries include:

The War Diary of U-138 from 8 October 1940 to 14 November 1940. During this patrol, the U-138 was commanded by Wolfgang Luth, one of the most successful and highly decorated U-boat commanders of the war.

Engineering Section War Diary reports from U-106, covering the period 21 0ctober 1941 to 29 July 1942, when the submarine was commanded by Captain Lieutenant Hermann Rasch. At that time, U-106, like U-505, was based at the German Navy Yard Lorient, France, and was part of the 2nd U-boat Flotilla, composed of approximately 91 submarines.

Engineering Section War Diary reports from German Submarine U-107, covering 24 January 1941 to 26 May 1943.



U-505 RED NOTEBOOK

A notebook probably maintained by a Maschinenobergefreiter (Germany Navy machinist). Contains notations about provisions, ship bearings, pneumonia prescriptions, a poem, and
hangman games.



WEHRMACHT GERMAN ARMED FORCES REPORTS

14 excerperts from Wehrmacht [German Armed Forces] Reports Captured on U-505, dating from April 7 to April 30, 1944. The excerpts give brief Wehrmacht accounts of events of the war.



MISCELLANEOUS DOCUMENTS

List of orders for commanders returning to port. A chart depicting the course of movement during an attack by the submarine and an opposing vessel. A list of other German submarines and their respective commanders and radio men. Some of the boats have been marked as obviously lost at sea. A letter found onboard the U-505 reflecting on the meaning of the Iron Cross. On the backside, it bears a postal address from Seebad Ahlbeck, a coastal resort town on the German Baltic Coat.

U-5051
 

PAGE FROM GOTTFRIED FISCHER U-505 DIARY

Page 6 - 14th day It is fourteen days today that we departed from the base. Throughout the entire period we have seen neither the sky nor the sun. The days go by slowly. We have finally crossed the dangerous area of maximum air threat - the Bay of Biscay. Hence was our transit: we hardly had time to breathe some fresh air and charge our batteries, and down below we went again. For the past 3 days we have been experiencing rough seas, sea state 3-6, high swell and wind. The crockery is flying all around the inside of the boat, and an escape breathing apparatus



 

 

U-5052
 

WEHRMACHT GERMAN ARMED FORCES REPORT FROM 28 APRIL 1944

Twenty-one enemy aircraft were destroyed in the skies of the Western areas last night. German fast-patrol boat groups sunk three ships with 9.100 tons on the morning of the 28th off the coast of Southern England. Torpedoes were launched against one destroyer and another vessel of 200 tons which must be assumed sunk. In the aftermath of a meeting with the Führer [Adolf Hitler], the Duce [Benito Mussolini] visited one of the newly formed Italian divisions. Under German supervision, these divisions will be equipped taking into account the most recent experiences. In the far North, several strong artillery advancements by the enemy were thrown back with high losses for the Soviets.
 




 

U-5053 

 

COVER GUIDE FOR U-BOAT OFFICERS CONCERNING NEW U-BOAT ORDERS FOR THE FRONTLINE


DWF 505 Entered in
In the [?] Register of Publications
Under serial number 200
Construction Training U-Boats
Germania Yard, Hamburg

Secret

Guide for U-Boat Officers Concerning New U-Boat Orders for the Frontline.

Contents:
A. U-boats, New Construction Orders, Equipping, Commissioning.
B. UAC [U-boat Acceptance Commission] - Test Run.
C. U-Training Flotilla.
D. Tactical Front Training Flotilla.
E. Communications Intelligence Groups




 

U-5054 

 

PAGE FROM GERMAN SUBMARINE U-107 ENGINEERING SECTION DIARY OPERATIONS FROM 24 JANUARY TO 1 MARCH 1941

-3-

-278-

Additionally A 12.: 6 February. While heading into an underwater attack, the
fixed eye level periscope was locked into the cruise at surface position by an
oil leak of 65 ATU [Pressure above Atmospheric]. Cause unknown. With the
increasing oil leak the periscope continued to maneuver. Investigation at the
yard is essential.

Additionally A 13.: 6 February. Steering switch for the observation periscope
cut. The fatigued return stage spring was replaced, the switch was cleaned. Time
2 hours.

Additionally A 14.: All of the onboard valves were blown at the yard during
repairs, so as to maintain them leak free from the beginning of the job, so that
the blowing connections are always under pressure during each individual dive.

Additionally A 15.: 20 February. The pressure at stage 3 of the Electric
Compressor climbed to 60 ATU [Pressure above Atmospheric]. Further obstructions
were removed from the pressure valves at stage 4. After replacement work the
compressor operated normally.

Additionally A 16.: On 24 February. Following a surface attack on a steamer, the
coup de grace should be given while submerged. During the dive the boat listed
inexplicably to the stern. Trimming with air pumps forward was not desirable,
with "all hands forward" [order for the crew to rush to the bow of the boat] the
listing towards the stern passed. After breaking the surface, it was established
that the trim switch was loosened from the trim controls following a break in
the spindle security plate. From this point on the switch was set in the lower
position (to trim from bow to stern). On course for a night attack, the order
should be issued for trim water to be shifted to no 3 bow, for flooding in a
stern tube and flooding in a bow tube, altogether over 1000 liters were shifted
to trim the bow, a great amount, due to the break down of the trim control. The
stern was trimmed. By greater attention to the trim control, the correct
external trim setting was made with respect to the trim switch, and with
knowledge of the correct trim timing. Removal of the obstruction took 45 minutes.

B.)
a.: First diesel- mate 3 weeks inactive due to respiratory infection,
otherwise nothing to report.
b.: 1. Port engine running uneasily since the last yard time, especially
at the lower rpm's (n = 160. 20). Oscillation measurement required.
2. The reduction of the receiving time for the radio receiver
installed by the Yard at Wilhelmshaven proved it could stand the test. Steam
production no longer occurs. Assuming no leaning in the boat occurs, a radio
message will not be sent, but leaning should be avoidable through flooding in
the diving cells 2 and 3.
3. The sound damping in the negative buoyancy air tanks is very good.
Available diving depth T = 60 meters.

c.) See installment.

The Chief Engineer
Signed: Engler
Lt.Cdr. (Eng.)


 

 

The disc contains a text transcript of all recognizable text embedded into the graphic image of each page of each document, creating a searchable finding aid.

Archival copy on CD-ROM
Price $12.95
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PC/MAC
 
WWII