In the third such announcement this month, maritime searchers believe they have found a sunken relic of the German WWII war machine. This time it was off the Atlantic coast of the United States. According to the AP report, the vessel identified as German U-550, was located about 70 miles off the Massachusetts shore south of Nantucket by a privately-funded exploration group headed by New Jersey lawyer Joe Manzaani.
Manzaani’s 7-man group, that also consisted of sonar operator Garry Kozak, Steve Gatto, Tom Packer, Brad Sheard, Eric Takakjian and Anthony Tedsechi, was in the midst of their second expedition this year. Some members of the group had been searching for this submarine for more than 20 years. The discovery happened on the second of two exhausting days of continuing to comb a 100 square mile of ocean, a process they’d started on the last trip.
According to Manzaani, only the nose of the sunken U-boat was visible on the first pass, but the entirety of the 252-food ship was made clear by the sonar on the second pass. Kozak said that the crew began to ask if they had found their prize, but then celebrated without a word from him.
Confirmation of the find was made with a couple of quick dives to the wreck. The crew had to rush the dives in order to beat incoming inclement weather which could’ve led to dangerous conditions. Photos taken on the dives confirmed that the crew had found the ship that had eluded some of the searchers for more than two decades.
The crew was using side-scan sonar, a technology that was in part developed in the wake of World War II by a German scientist brought to the U.S. after the war. Dr. Julius Hagemann worked at the U.S. Navy Mine Defense Laboratory from 1947 until he died in 1964. He was credited with patents for his side-scan sonar work. His work was kept classified until the 1980s when it was made publicaly accessible. A side-scan sonar device is typically mounted on the bottom of a boat or dragged behind a boat and sends out a conical pulse of sonar to create a reading of debris or objects on the ocean floor as well as the general archeology of the area. According to Manaani, they were running a “mow-the-lawn” pattern as they canvassed the ocean’s bottom for signs of the lost ship.
The U-550 was sunk almost 70 years ago on April 16, 1944. The submarine had torpedoed the tanker ship SS Pan Pennsylvania as it lagged behind its England-bound convoy with its 140,000 barrels of gasoline. After being damaged by depth charges the U.S. escort ship USS Joyce, the U-550 had to surface and fired on the Americans with its deck-mounted gun. The USS Gundy returned fire and rammed the sub. The Germans scuttled the vessel and abandoned ship after an escape was foiled by more depth charges dropped by a third escort, the USS Peterson. The U-550 was built by German shipbuilder Deutsche Werft and went into service on July 28, 1943. It had a cruising speed of up to 19 knots. It was armed with a deck-mounted artillery cannon as well as a total of 6 torpedo tubes. The U-Boat operated with a crew of 48 to 56 sailors.
The discovery of the U-550 comes just two weeks after searchers in the Baltic Sea used sonar to find a large “UFO-shaped” object on the sea’s bottom believed to be the remains of a Nazi anti-submarine defense installation, the largest of its kind found to date. The ghost of the Nazi war effort also made news two days ago in a river in Labrador, Newfoundland. A group also using side-scan sonar located the vessel some 60 miles inland on the bottom of the Churchill River. According to Georg Juergens, the deputy head of mission for the German Embassy in Ottawa, the location of this vessel would be unusual for a German submarine, but that there was U-boat activity in the Newfoundland area. He said as many as 12 WWII U-Boats are still unaccounted for. “We must brace ourselves for surprises,” Juergens said in a CBC News interview, but stressed that the submarine has yet to be positively identified.