According to Andrew Jenkins, a scuba diver writing in Padi Blog, diving on a WWII wreck helps us connect to our heritage and gain insight into our past. He says that when our favorite diving environments host a piece of history, it’s our duty as a scuba diver to honor this gift and that check out these WWII wreck dives, and help keep history alive.
Andrew Jenkins tells us what are his 3 favourite shipwrecks:
The SS Thistlegorm shipwreck located in the Red Sea is a well known diving site. It was even documented in Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s book The Living Sea. The Times named the SS Thistlegorm as one of the top ten wreck diving sites in the world. She was a British armed Merchant Navy Ship built in 1940 in Sunderland (England) and she was sunk on 6 October 1941, near Ras Muhammad, in the Red Sea.
On her last voyage from Glasgow (Scotland) to Alexandria (Egypt) she was full of cargo to help Allied forces in North Africa Campaign and the Egyptian Railways. Some of the artifacts included Bedford trucks, Bren Gun Carrier armoured vehicles, Norton 16H and BSA motorcycles, Bren guns, cases of ammunition, and rifles as well as radio equipment, Wellington boots, aircraft parts, railway wagons and two LMS Stanier Class 8F steam locomotives.
The crew of the SS Thistlegorm was supplemented by 9 naval personnel to man the machine gun (4 inch) and the anti-aircraft gun (3 inch). Two Heinkel He-111 aircraft (German Luftwaffe) were dispatched from Crete and they dropped two bombs on the SS Thistlegorm.
The USAT Liberty shipwreck located in Tulamben, Bali (Indonesia) is one of the most popular dive sites off Bali. Warm waters and an easy entry make this a great dive for any experience level. USS Liberty was launched in 1918 in Kearny (New Jersey – USA) and it was sunk on 11 January 1942 in Bali.
Her armament was a machine gun (6 inch) and an anti-aircraft gun (3 inch). On her last voyage, her was en route from Australia to the Philippines with a cargo of railway parts and rubber. On 11 January, USS Liberty was torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-166. She was towed by US and Dutch destroyer. She was taking too much water and so was beached. Its cargo and fittings could be salvaged.
The U-85 German U-boat in the “Graveyard of the Atlantic”, a maritime museum that focuses on the maritime history and shipwrecks of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, reminds us German submarines trolled US waters. The submarine herself still serves as an attraction for divers. Advanced divers will want a full wetsuit on this chilly dive. The U-85 is probably the most accessible German U-boat to dive. The boat ride to the site and the lower visibility are worth it because you’ll be able to log that you saw the first enemy submarine sunk by a US Navy warship in WWII.
The U-85 was operating within visual distance of Bodie Island Light at midnight on 13 April 1942, when USS Roper, an US destroyer, detected the submarine on radar. The boat fired her stern torpedo at Roper which this evaded. USS Roper illuminated the U-boat with her searchlight, raked U-85 with machine gun fire and scored a hit with a 3"/50 caliber gun. She then dropped a pattern of 11 depth charges. The U-85 was the first German U-boat to be engaged and sunk off the coast of the United States during WWII.
The Enigma machine was illegally recovered from the wreck, which is a war grave, by private divers and in 2003 the German government agreed to allow the machine to be displayed at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum.