Anniversary Exhibit On Sub Hidden In Bermuda

August 11, 2019 | 0 Comments

It’s been 75 years since a German U-boat was captured by the US Navy and then towed 2000 miles to Bermuda, where the submarine remained secretly berthed until the end of World War Two.

And Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, where the U-505 has been an exhibit since 1954, has just opened a year-long show to commemorate the anniversary of what has been described as “the first capture of a foreign man-of-war in battle on the high seas” by the US Navy since 1815

The museum’s new exhibit, “U-505 Submarine: 75 Stories,” include the personal journals and other mementoes of US sailors involved in the capture, photos taken of the U-boat in Bermuda and other rare artifacts.

Ocean-going tug USS Abnaki towing U-505 to Bermuda, June 7, 1944

Captured U-505 Bermuda Aug 2019 (1)

The German submarine, which had sunk eight Allied ships in the Atlantic, was captured by the US Navy’s Hunter-Killer Task Group 22.3 off the coast of West Africa on June 4, 1944.

Made up of five light destroyer escorts and one small aircraft carrier escort, it was the idea of the anti-submarine task group’s commander, Captain Daniel V. Gallery, to attempt to capture rather than sink the U-505. He was aware that German submarines carried cipher books, Enigma coding and decoding machine and other secret materials which would allow the Allies to break the top secret codes U-boats used to communicate with their bases in Germany and Nazi-occupied France.

After the task group forced the U-505 to surface using depth charges, a boarding party quickly stormed the submarine and prevented German sailors from scuttling the submarine.

The 251-foot U-505 on display at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry

U-505 Submarine @ the Museum of Science+Industry Chicago

The submarine was towed to Bermuda so the Navy could study it, investigators catalogued dozens of “secret German Navy items” found aboard the U-505. Taken to Port Royal and camouflaged as the non-existent USS Nemo, the submarine was kept under heavy guard until the end of World War Two.

The crew was held incommunicado on the island and later in the US without access to the International Red Cross until the Nazi surrender in 1945. The subterfuge was designed to persuade German authorities the U-505 had been sunk so they would not change codes used by submarines patrolling the Atlantic.

“The U-505 was more than a trophy of war,” according to the Museum of Science and Industry. “Its seizure was critical in helping the Allies understand German technology and codes.”

Eventually taken to the Portsmouth Navy Yard in Maine, the US Navy initially decided to use the U-505 as a target for gunnery and torpedo practice. Instead the US Navy top-brass decided to donate the submarine to the Chicago museum.

Historical footage showing the submarine being towed to Bermuda in the 1940s:

After city residents $250,000 for transporting and installing the U-boat, US Coast Guard tugs and cutters towed the boat through the Great Lakes to Chicago.

The museum dedicated the submarine in 1954 as a permanent exhibit and a war memorial to all of the sailors who lost their lives in World War Two’s 1939-1945 Battle of the Atlantic, which saw unrestricted U-boat warfare against Allied military and civilian shipping..

The Museum of Science and Industry’s special “U-505 Submarine: 75 Stories” opened in June and will run until May, 2020.

There is also an exhibit in the National Museum of Bermuda’s US Navy Room at Commissioner’s House chronicling the story of the U-505′s capture and its concealment in Bermuda while Allied strategists and codebreakers took advantage of the captured Enigma machines and codebooks.

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