German World War II U-Boat Found off North Carolina Coast

The wreckage of a German U-Boat sunk during World War II has been found off the coast of North Carolina, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported on Tuesday.

U-576, a 67-meter-long VIIC-type submarine constructed in 1940, sank with all 45 crew members on board in July of 1942 during an attack launched against a US merchant ship convoy bound for Florida. Its final resting place, some 30 miles east of Cape Hatteras, is now a war grave, meaning the wreckage has protected site status under international law.

The submarine is also a mere 240 yards away from one of its victims, the merchant freighter Bluefields, which sank as a result of U-576 commander Kapitanleutnant Hans-Dieter Heinicke’s actions.

The discovery is of historical precedence as it illustrates both the close proximity of combat as well as the immensity and scope of US military operations during World War II. Many people are unfamiliar with the role the US Coast Guard and Merchant Marine played during the war, and the thought of an enemy submarine patrolling commercial shipping lanes in waters very close to a popular vacation destination for locals is something Americans are not used to.

“Most people associate the Battle of the Atlantic with the cold, icy waters of the North Atlantic,” David Alberg, a superintendent at NOAA’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary said. “But few people realize how close the war actually came to America’s shores. As we learn more about the underwater battlefield, Bluefields and U-576 will provide additional insight into a relatively little-known chapter in American history.”​

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