On August the 24th of this year, seven years after the original search had begun, the wreckage of the German submarine U-576 was found a mere thirty miles off of the coast of North Carolina, 72 years after it was sunk.
Wreckage of the submerged U-576 submarine was discovered by sonar near Ocracoke on August 24, seven years after the search began.
U-576 was at the time limping back to port in Germany, having sustained damage during a month of unsuccessfully hunting Allied shipping vessels along the American coast.
The U-boat, U-576, had been dispatched to the American coast to hunt Allied cargo ships.
Captained by Hans-Dieter Heinicke, it had been damaged during its months of activity in the Atlantic. And the submarine was limping home to Germany when, on July 15, 1942, it spotted a convoy of 24 ships. Among them was the Bluefields, a merchant tanker flying the Nicaraguan flag, and headed from Virginia to Florida.
However, at 4pm, just before he could fire his torpedoes, one of the Coast Guard cutters picked up a sonar contact.
Three depth charges were dropped immediately, followed by five more.
Heinicke fired four torpedoes, sinking the Bluefields – whose crew all survived – and damaging two more ships.
But his submarine sank, taking with it all 45 people on board. The fact that the crew embers are still aboard the wreckage of the ship does leave a lot of unanswered questions.
U-576 had a young crew. No one was older than 29, according to a crew list provided by NOAA. Seaman Egon Gablick was 18. Heinz Beckers, Kurt Bauer, Willi Steuer and Erwin Schlussler were 19.
It’s sort of unreal,
said Joe Hoyt, NOAA maritime archaeologist and the chief investigator on the project.
One of the things that is interesting is what happened to the crew. Did they try to get out the escape hatches? Did the ship flood catastrophically? Were they on the seabed for some period of time, disabled with air still in the sub?
According to U.S. policy, the U-576 sub is technically considered to be under the ownership of Germany, because it is international custom to view the wreckage of land, sea, and air vehicles that are presumed to hold the remains of fallen soldiers or sailors as war graves.
Now we are very curious to find what really happened to the boat. What do you think about this story?