Capt. Recalls Nazi WWII Sub Hidden In Bermuda

April 6, 2014

capt kane usaDocuments about a captured submarine that was secretly hidden in Bermuda during WWII were donated to the National Cryptologic Museum in Maryland, providing more information about the once secret operation.

The Museum is affiliated with the National Security Agency [NSA], and is the first public museum in the U.S. Intelligence community.

NSA retiree Robert LaPalme donated material from his uncle, USN Capt Richard Kane [pictured left], who served as the Air Operations Officer on the ship that captured and towed the German submarine U-505 to Bermuda.

Capt Kane’s original 9-page typed letter was written in 1983 and sent to a U-505 historian. Excerpts from his letter are available for reading here on the Museum’s website [PDF].

The German U-505 submarine was captured by the U.S. Navy in 1944, marking the first time an American Navy vessel had captured an enemy vessel at sea since 1815. One man was killed and three were wounded in the operation.

After being captured, the submarine was towed some 2,000 miles into Bermuda. The German crew, 58 of them, were also brought to Bermuda and held here for several weeks before been transported to a POW camp in Louisiana.

Information gleaned from the captured sub provided valuable intelligence about German naval equipment and codes, and the Americans wanted to avoid revealing the capture so the German wouldn’t be alerted and change their codes.

The German sub shortly after being captured in 1944

745px-U505_bez_tekstu

Since they deemed it so important to keep the U-505 capture a secret, the POWs were isolated from other prisoners, and the U.S. Navy confiscated all letters they attempted to send out.

The Americans did not inform the International Red Cross of their capture, and the men’s families in Germany were told they were missing and presumed dead.

The captured cipher materials on the U-505 included an Enigma machine, weather codebooks, short signal codebooks, the special coordinate code used to designate precise operating areas for German submarines and more.

The material helped the Allies locate and sink additional Nazi subs and steer Allied ship convoys away from known submarine locations.

In the letter obtained by the Museum, Capt. Kane said he was “pleasantly surprised” that after dropping off the sub in Bermuda they headed to Norfolk as he was “sure they would make us camp out at some small port in South America due to the top secret classification pinned on the capture.”

Capt. Kane also wrote that the “Germans thought the sub had been lost for many months” so they had a “tremendous intelligence gold mine for that length of time.”

The sub is taken in tow after being captured in 1944

U-505 sub taken in tow after being captured in 1944

Admiral Daniel Gallery — who was captain of the US ship that captured the sub — once said, “In the 69 months that the war lasted, the Allies sank 781 U-boats. In the 10 months after U-505 was captured, we sank 290.

“Many things combined to boost the monthly sinking rate toward the end of the war. The code book from the U-505 was one of them.”

Mr. Gallery said, “Returning to the U.S. with the U-boat in tow, I knew that the 3,000 young sailors in the task group were all bursting with the best story of their lives. En route to Bermuda we explained to them why they couldn’t tell it – to anybody.

“I am very proud of the fact that my boys did keep their mouths shut. At the end of the war, the records of the German Navy carried the U-505 as ‘lost at sea,’ like hundreds of other U-boats”

German Hans Goebeler was on board the sub when it was captured and in a 1997 interview with World War II magazine said, “We were picked up by destroyers and brought to the carrier, where they locked us in a cage just below the flight deck.

“The heat from the carrier’s engines was so terrible that we lost 20 or 30 pounds during those weeks from sweating. They brought us to the Bermudas [sic] for about six weeks, where we gained some weight and began looking human again.”

U.S. Navy archive footage of the capture

The sub remained hidden in Bermuda for many months, with its capture remaining a secret from the world, and in 1945, the US Navy revealed the story of the capture of U-505 for the very first time, and the sub was moved from Bermuda to Philadelphia.

The U-505 prisoners remained in the POW camp in Louisiana until the end of the war, while the  U-505 submarine survives today, and is on display at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. More than half a million visitors tour the sub each year, and learn the story of her capture and the secrets revealed with it.

An exhibit telling the remarkable story of the capture of the German U-505 and the subsequent decision to hide it on the island is the subject of a display at the Bermuda National Museum in Dockyard.

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Comments (5)

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  1. Will says:

    During the last part of the footage showing the sub in BDA where was that footage taken from? and where was it towed into?

  2. nuffin but the truth says:

    Many will think of the Movie “U571″

    suggest people read this:-
    http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq97-1.htm

  3. cybercop says:

    The USA and the free world owes Bermuda “Big Time”! When are we going to cash in?