The first German U-boat to be sank by the U.S. Coast Guard in WWII came
May 9, 1942 at around 5:17 PM.
The commander of the German U-boat U-352 Kapitanleutnant Hellmut Rathke
had first spotted the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Icarus at approximately 4:15
PM. At 4:30 that May afternoon the Icarus was violently shaken as a German
torpedo missed the ship and exploded on the sea floor. When the commander
of the U-352 surfaced, he expected to find the ship burning in flames and
taking on water, instead what he found was Lieutenant Commander Maurice
Jester, commander of the Icarus steaming toward him preparing for battle.
Rathke immediately ordered his sub to dive. As the Icarus passed overhead
it laid a diamond pattern of five depth charges, four out of the five
charges landed close enough to damage the German sub, the explosions
violently shook the Coast Guard vessel as well. The Icarus passed over
head again dropping three more depth charges into the water. One of those
charges directly hit the sub and ruptured one of the buoyancy tanks sending
bubbles to the surface. The Icarus, seeing the bubbles launched one more
depth charge from where the bubbles came, again a direct hit. The German
commander knew he must surface. At 5:09 the U-352 broke the surface.
When Kapitanleutnant Rathke opened the sub's hatch he was greeted with
a wall of .30 cal and .50 cal machine gun fire from the deck of the Icarus.
The Germans eventually got out just before the sub sank, and were still
under heavy machine gun fire from the American's as they floated in the
water. The Icarus dropped one more depth charge on the enemy sub for good
measure. The German survivors were later picked up and taken to Charleston,
South Carolina, 14 of their German shipmates did not live to make that
Today the U-352 rests intact in 115 feet of water 30 miles southeast of
Beaufort inlet. The German sub is probably the most visited of North
Carolina's wrecks, thousands of divers from around the world have been on
the wreck since it was discovered in 1975. The water temperature on the
wreck usually ranges from the upper 70's to the mid 80's in the summer.
Visibility averages about 50 feet, but bouts of 70-100 feet are not
uncommon during summer months. On days when the ocean is calm as glass,
divers have been able to jump in the water and see the wreck from the
surface. The wreck provides a home to many fish including flounders,
groupers, sea bass, sheepshead, and spadefish. There is also an occasional
sea turtle, and some eels poking their heads out of holes on the wreck.
Divers owe it to themselves to visit this valuable piece of American
and German history.