Divers find German U-boat off US coast | News | DW | 28.07.2012
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Divers find German U-boat off US coast

Divers have found a World War II-era German U-boat off the coast of Nantucket, Massachusetts, some 70 years after it sank.

A privately funded group organized by lawyer Joe Mazraani found the U-550 on Monday in the crew’s second attempt in two years to find the historic vessel. Some of the crew have been searching for the submarine for two decades.

They found the vessel through the use of side-scan sonar in deep water about 70 miles (113 kilometers) south of Nantucket. They towed a side-scan vessel in a pattern underwater and found the wreck after covering 100 square-mile area.

Sonar operator Garry Kozak said he spotted the 252-foot (76.8-meter) submarine during the second exhaustive day of searching. He said the team asked him if they had found it and then erupted in cheers without a word from him.

"They could see it with the grin [on my face] and the look in my eyes," Kozak explained.

Steeped in history

The submarine was sunk on April 16, 1944. It torpedoed the gasoline tanker SS Pan Pennsylvania, which had lagged behind its protective convoy as it set off for Great Britain filled with barrels of gasoline.

Turret of U-550 visible above water level

The U-boat is one of several found off the US coast

The U-boat slipped under the doomed tanker to hide, but one of the tanker's three escorts, the USS Joyce, heard it on sonar, and severely damaged it by dropping depth charges.

The other two escorts then bombarded the submarine, forcing the crew to first surface and then abandon the submarine. Before doing so, they set off explosions to sink it, and its exact whereabouts had remained a mystery between then and now.

The U-550 was the only sunken German U-boat in the Massachusetts area.

On Monday, divers photographed the wreck, where they plan to return for further exploration.

Mazraani said the next step will be to contact any sailors or their families from the escort vessels, the tanker and the U-boat to share the news and photos. Another trip to the site is coming, he said, adding the investigation has just started.

"The history behind it all is really what drives us," Mazraani said.

tm/ai (AP, dpa)