Just Before D-Day,
A U-Boat Shark Hunt

While the greatest invasion force in history prepared for D-Day, US Navy sub hunters tracked down a U-boat. Their prize would become a permanent piece of WWII history.

By Kristen Carmen

As General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s massive air and amphibious invasion force prepared to launch its great assault across the English Channel into Nazi-occupied France, another battle raged: the fight to rid the Atlantic of its deadliest predator, the German U-boat. Just two days before D-Day, a US Navy patrol made history by capturing one of these German subs off West Africa’s coast.
That sub—U-505—turned out to be the only U-boat captured by the Allies during World War II. Today, she is a permanent feature at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, which is this year marking the 70th anniversary of her capture.
In 1943 the US Navy organized Hunter-Killer Task Groups to help stop the U-boats from shredding Allied supply convoys. In mid-May 1944, Captain Daniel V. Gallery, Jr.’s Task Group 22.3 (TG 22.3) was sent to the waters around the Canary Islands, off Africa’s northwest coast. The group consisted of the escort carrier USS Guadalcanal (CVE-60) backed by five destroyers.
Bound for refueling at Casablanca on the morning of June 4, TG 22.3 picked up a U-boat on sonar. A burst of anti-sub mortar rounds from a Hedgehog battery, depth charges, and fire from two Guadalcanal F4F Wildcat fighters brought U-505 to the surface.
Lieutenant Albert L. David led a nine-man boarding party that—despite the dangers of the sub sinking or blowing up—climbed down blindly into the sub. U-boat captains were under order to scuttle their subs rather than allow them to be captured. So, before hastily abandoning ship, the German crew opened a sea-strainer and set time-delay explosives to flood and sink the craft. The Allied boarding party quickly closed the sea-strainer and defused the explosives. U-505 then began a secret journey to Bermuda for study by the US Navy.
About a year later on May 4, 1945, the German Naval Command ordered all U-boats to cease combat. At war’s end, the US Navy planned to use the captured U-505 for target practice, but Captain Gallery, a Chicagoan, instead succeeded in rescuing the U-505. The sub finally came to rest at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry on September 25, 1954, 10 years after her capture.

Kristen Carmen of Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, is America in WWII magazine’s spring 2014 editorial intern. To get more articles like this one, subscribe to America in WWII magazine.

Photos, from top:
• A boarding party of sailors from the USS Guadalcanal (CVE-60) works with lines and boat hooks to take the captured U-505 under tow. US NAVY
• Captain Daniel V. Gallery, Jr. (left), commander of Task Group 22.3, and Lieutenant Albert L. David aboard the USS Guadalcanal (CVE-60) in 1944. When the Guadalcanal captured the U-505 in June 1944, David led the boarding party. US NAVY
• The intact U-505, surrounded by related exhibits, is on display at the Museum of Science and Industry Chicago. MUSEUM OF SCIENCE + INDUSTRY CHICAGO