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Das Boot has Georgia connection

The U-505 before restoration The U-505 before restoration

June 9, 2005

Bainbridge- The U-505 Nazi submarine is the centerpiece of a new exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

As far away as that is, it hits close to home for a professor at Bainbridge College. Doctor John Vanzo co-wrote the book Steel Boat, Iron Hearts, with one of U-505's crewman.

The U-505 is an intimidating sight to this day, despite being the first enemy ship the United States Navy captured on the high seas since the war of 1812. "It was actually captured off the coast of West Africa in 1944," says Vanzo.

The German submarine was depth charged by an aircraft carrier task force. Vanzo remembers "He served on board her during her last patrol, when he pulled the plug to try to scuttle his beloved boat and prevent its capture by the Americans."

The beginning of the end of a taxing assignment for Goebler and his crewmates. "The boat was extremely cramped," he said.

Living aboard the U-505 was anything but comfortable. "You have small, narrow bunks piled three on top of the other. The bunks were always being occupied by one crewman or another, extremely crowded."

"Weeks upon weeks of quiet sailing trying to avoid detection, and then moments of sheer terror and excitement, as they went into action as they tried to sink enemy boats or evade destruction."

U-505 did evade destruction- narrowly. Americans salvaged the boat before it sank, saving it, and the valuable cargo inside. "It was kept Top Secret because of the useful intelligence they gained from the code books and the Enigma code machine that they captured on board the boat," said Vanzo.

Now, U-505 patrols the Museum of Science and History in Chicago, "An amazing historical experience." A $35 million display opened just last week.

"They preserved the boat, it's in perfect immaculate condition, like the day it came off the shipyards. Except for the battle damage it suffered during the capture."

And for the display's grand opening, the sailors who brought the boat to the America stood side by side with the ones who commanded it. "All animosity is gone. They all realized they were just young kids doing what they considered their patriotic duty," says Vanzo.

A true testament to the peace that can be made through war's most infamous moments.

Amazingly, only one German sailor was killed during the attack on the U-505 , although several others were hurt. The sailor who was killed was hit by heavy machine-gun fire.


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