Submarine U-352 left St. Nazaire on 7 April 1942 and sailed across the Atlantic to the coast of the north-eastern United States. There on 9 May 1942, she was sunk by depth charges from the U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Icarus, south of Morehead City, North Carolina .Fifteen of the crew were lost, but 33 survived, and spent the remainder of the war as prisoners.
German submarine U-352 was a Type VIIC U-boat of Nazi Germany’s Kriegsmarine during World War II. The submarine was laid down on 11 March 1940 at the Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft yard at Flensburg, launched on 7 May 1941, and commissioned on 28 August 1941 under the command of Kapitänleutnant Hellmut Rathke. She was part of the 3rd U-boat Flotilla, and was ready for front-line service by 1 January 1942.
The U-352’s story starts in May 1941 when the German military built the first of the Type VIIC U-boats with more fuel capacity and torpedoes than its predecessor. Commanded by Capt. Kellmut Rathke, the U-352’s 45 man crew prepared in October 1941 to set sail for the waters of the Atlantic. After several months of drills, testing, and exercises, the U-352 was deemed action ready and set sail. Almost immediately the crew spotted a convoy and prepared to take action when it was realized they had been spotted. The U-352 barely survived the barrage of depth charges and continued on towards American waters. Less than 5 months later, the U-352 would be sitting on the bottom of the Atlantic
May 9th, 1942 marked the last sunrise the ship would witness; the boat had moved into the Cape Lookout area looking for convoys. That morning a silhouette on the horizon marked the sight the crew had been searching for- a merchant ship. Capt. Rathke prepared his ship to attack and fired a single torpedo and then was shook with dismay when he realized the ship was not a merchant vessel but was the Coast Guard Cutter Icarus. The torpedo missed its target and the Icarus began an attack of depth charges. The U-352 was quickly crippled in the first wave of charges and the order to abandon ship was given. Many of the crew were killed in the initial attack and the sub’s engines were disabled, leaving Rathke no choice but to order the remainder of his crew to surface the boat and abandon ship. Five minutes later, after bursting to the surface, the U-352 found her final resting place below about 26 miles from the inlet. Several members of the crew were picked up by the Coast Guard: 4 wounded men were treated and 30 other crew members were brought aboard the Icarus.
The U-352 remained lost to the Atlantic until 1975. Claude Hull, a history fanatic, had infected several friends, including George Purifoy, with the desire to locate the U-352. Claude, George and numerous other divers spent countless days running grid patterns with inaccurate navigation aids hoping to get lucky. During their search for the U-352, they discovered the USS Schurz; although the divers were unable to return to the location of the site for over 10 years. With the development of the Loran-C navigation aids, George Purifoy, Rod Gross and Dale McClough set out for another day of hunting with a rough set of coordinates given to them by Claude.
U-352 lies in about 115 feet (35 m) of water, and sits at a 45-degree list to starboard. The wreck scatter is within a 100-m radius of location above on a sand bottom. This wreck has become an artificial reef that is heavily populated with Hemanthias vivanus. It is a popular scuba diving spot for advanced divers. A replica of the wreck is on display at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.
Heinz Karl Richter, a Maschinengefreiter (equivalent of a Fireman 3rd Class) who survived the sinking, was found living in Canada and was interviewed for Discovery Channel’s special coverage of U-352. He said that Captain Rathke was obsessed with receiving a Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross medal for sinking 100,000 tonnes-worth of enemy ships. Richter said that the captain’s obsession eventually led to recklessness, ultimately resulting in the boat’s sinking. Richter also said he was the last man out of the U-boat before it sank; those still on board were already dead, or perished in the boat as it sank.
POW survivors from U-352 eating lunch in June 1942
According to documents from the Naval Department, the following are survivors of the sinking:
|Name||Rank||U.S. Navy equivalent|
|Bernard, Oskar||Leutnant z. S. (Sonderführer)||Ensign|
|Kammerer, Ernst||Fähnrich z. S.||Midshipman|
|Richter, Helmut H.||Bootsmaat||Coxswain|
|Kruger, Kurt||Funkmaat||Radioman 3 cl.|
|Sorg, Ludwig||Funkmaat||Radioman 3 cl.|
|Brand, August Michael||Maschinenmaat||Fireman 1 cl.|
|Reussel, Gerd||Maschinenmaat||Fireman 1 cl.|
|Schwarzenberger, Heinz||Maschinenmaat||Fireman 1 cl.|
|Thönnissen, Kurt H.||Maschinenmaat||Fireman 1 cl.|
|Wesche, Martin Wilhelm||Maschinenmaat||Fireman 1 cl.|
|Wessoly, Lothar||Maschinenmaat||Fireman 1 cl.|
|Rusch, Gerhard||Maschinenobergefreiter||Fireman 2 cl.|
|Stengel, Otto||Maschinenobergefreiter||Fireman 2 cl.|
|Minzker, Johann||Maschinengefreiter||Fireman 3 cl.|
|Richter, Heinz Karl||Maschinengefreiter||Fireman 3 cl.|
|Twirdy, Heinrich||Maschinengefreiter||Fireman 3 cl.|
|Heinze, Hans||Matrosengefreiter||Seaman 2 cl.|
|Henschke, Otto||Matrosengefreiter||Seaman 2 cl.|
|Hering, Gerhard||Matrosengefreiter||Seaman 2 cl.|
|Herrschaft, Edgar||Matrosengefreiter||Seaman 2 cl.|
|Kominek, Franz||Matrosengefreiter||Seaman 2 cl.|
|Mattiz, Hans||Funkgefreiter||Seaman 2 cl.|
|Pickel, Erhard||Matrosengefreiter||Seaman 2 cl.|
|Richter, Gerhard||Maschinengefreiter||Seaman 2 cl.|
|Thiele, Rudolf||Mechanikergefreiter||Seaman 2 cl.|
|Link, Wilhelm||Matrose||Apprentice Seaman|
|Staron, Edmund||Matrose||Apprentice Seaman|
- “The Type VIIC U-boat U-352“. uboat.net. Retrieved 1 June 2010.
- “War Patrols by German U-boat U-352“. uboat.net. Retrieved 1 June 2010.
- “Patrol of U-boat U-352 from 20 Jan 1942 to 26 Feb 1942″. uboat.net. Retrieved 1 June 2010.
- “Patrol of U-boat U-352 from 7 Apr 1942 to 9 May 1942″. uboat.net. Retrieved 1 June 2010.