The NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has discovered the shipwrecks of a German U-Boat and a US Freighter, 30 miles off the coast of North Carolina. These two vessels reveal just how close the Second World War came to American shores over 70 years ago. The area where the boats were found is known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic.
The story of how the ships were sunk is a fascinating one. On the 15th of July 1942 a fleet of 19 merchant ships, the Convoy KS-520, was bringing supplies to Key West, Florida from Norfolk, Virginia. On its way, the convoy was attacked off Cape Hatteras by U-576. In the attack the Nicaraguan-flagged freighter Bluefields sank. Two other ships in the convoy were also severely damaged. In retaliation, the merchant ship Unicoi attacked the U-boat with its deck gun, and the convoy’s air cover finished the job by sinking U-576 with a bomb. Luckily there were no casualties from the Bluefields crew.
Chief scientist for the expedition, Joe Hoyt, stated in the NOAA press release that the recent discovery was not just a couple of shipwrecks, but tells a broader story about the important naval battle between America and Germany. David Alberg, superintendent of NOAA’s Office of Marine Sanctuaries, stated that most people see the battle as just one of many that happened in the Atlantic. The recent discovery should help people realise just how close to America’s shores the war actually came.
The expedition started with a partnership between the NOAA and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in 2008, tasked with looking for vessels lost during World War II off the North Carolina coast. The initial survey took place earlier this year, and the ship’s identities were confirmed in August. The wreck site is a war grave for the crew of U-576 and therefore can’t be excavated. This is because Germany has taken ownership of former Nazi military vessels such as ship or aircraft wreckages.
Even though the German government doesn’t have any interest in reclaiming the remnants of U-576, they ask that the wreckage remains at the site to allow the dead to rest in peace. International law does allow the wreckage to be viewed however, so some analysis is possible. It is believed that there are about 45 German sailors inside the vessel. The two shipwrecks lay approximately 720 feet apart from each other on the Atlantic seabed... (see more at: http://www.newhistorian.com/)