MUSEUM OF SCIENCE AND INDUSTRY — The Museum of Science and Industry will soon open a temporary exhibit as part of its commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the capture of the U-505 submarine.
The German sub was captured by the U.S. Navy on June 4, 1944, during World War II. Just two years earlier, the U-boat sank eight Allied ships in the Atlantic.
When the Navy captured it, it was “the first capture of a foreign man-of-war in battle on the high seas” by the U.S. Navy since 1815, according to a book about the capture.
The museum’s new exhibit, “U-505 Submarine: 75 Stories,” will include sailors’ personal journals and belongings, photos taken during the war and pop culture items.
Seventy-five “rarely-seen” artifacts and photographs will help tell the U-505’s story. The commemoration is set for June 4, one of the museum’s free days this summer. A ceremony will start around 11:10 a.m. when U-505 capture efforts started 75 years earlier.
The sub capture was led by Capt. Daniel V. Gallery, who commanded Hunter-Killer Task Group 22.3, one of the groups formed to target German subs.
With the help of antisubmarine intelligence in Washington, Gallery searched for a U-boat “known to be prowling off the coast of West Africa,” according to the U-505 exhibit. His idea of capturing, rather than sinking, it came from a previous attack, according to his book about the capture.
Task Group 22.3, with five light destroyer escorts and one small aircraft carrier escort, tried to find the sub. Gallery said they would get close, but then the submarine would slip away.
“It was a game of hide and seek, you know,” Gallery said in a Museum of Science and Industry video.
After Gallery called off the search and started to head for fuel, one of the destroyer escorts reported possible contact with the U-boat at around 11:10 a.m. June 4, according to the museum.
“Frenchy to Bluejay — I have a possible sound contact!” Gallery heard, according to his book.
Task-Group 22.3 went on to fire hedgehog explosives and then depth charges, and the submarine surfaced.
Three destroyer escorts and fighter planes fired at the sub upon its surfacing, though Gallery ordered only antipersonnel ammunition be used so no major holes would be blown in the hull, according to an exhibit placard. Holes torn by bullets in the minutes of gunfire after surfacing can still be seen on the submarine at MSI.
German sailors began to abandon ship and attempted to scuttle, or sink, the U-505. U-boats were loaded with German intelligence and technology, and in addition to captains having orders to sink their subs if in danger of capture, sailors were trained to set time bombs to go off, according to the museum.
Some task group crews rescued the German sailors abandoning ship, and a boarding party headed toward the sub to try and save it. It could blow up or sink at any moment. In an oral history aspect of the U-505 exhibit, Motor Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Zenon Lukosius, a boarding party member who helped keep the U-505 from sinking, recalled German sailors asking to be saved.
“We’re going after the submarine,” he said he told them.
The task group pulled intelligence from the U-505. Even if the sub was lost, they would have something to show for their efforts, Gallery said in his book.
“The attack had jammed the U-505’s rudder, the sub was out of control and the German crew had jumped into the water. Waves washed over the sub’s deck as it slowly began to sink. The Americans didn’t know how long the sub would stay afloat – or if it was boobytrapped inside. Undaunted, a volunteer boarding party of nine men from the U.S.S. Pillsbury – only one of whom had been in a submarine before – tumbled down the hatch. Water was pouring in from a sea strainer that had been opened by the fleeing Germans who had attempted to sink the vessel. Thinking quickly – under incredible pressure – Engineer’s Mate Zenon Lukosius searched for theMuseum of Science And Industry
scuttle valve and finding it, was able to secure the U-505.
After the group was able to keep the submarine from sinking, it was towed to Bermuda so the Navy could study it. There, analysts cataloged more than 1,200 “secret German Navy items,” including two Enigma code machines. The capture of the U-505 was announced after Germany surrendered.
“The U-505 was more than a trophy of war,” according to the Museum of Science and Industry. “Its seizure was critical in helping the Allies understand German technology and codes. More immediately, by studying the U-boat, the Allies were able to better defend their ships at sea.”
The submarine has been at the Museum of Science and Industry since 1954. Gallery campaigned for it to come to Chicago and serve as a memorial instead of being scrapped or even sunk.
It was towed through the St. Lawrence Seaway to Lake Michigan. After it crossed Lake Shore Drive, it became a permanent exhibit, standing proudly outside the museum. The submarine was dedicated Sept. 25, 1954. It became a National Historic Landmark in 1989.
After decades outside, the U-505 was lowered into its current indoor exhibit in 2004. The museum has acted as a “gathering place for the members of the boarding party to come together and reflect on the historic happenings of the day,” museum spokesperson Amy Patti said. MSI was also the setting of a reunion between Gallery and Harald Lange, the skipper of the U-505.
Patti said the 75th anniversary is the first major milestone to be marked since all members of the boarding party have died.
She said the MSI will honor their bravery and that of all others who fought in the war. Tickets for the free June 4 tours of the U-505 will be available to reserve online and onsite beginning May 28. The tour will showcase recently-finished areas of conservation work in the submarine, and the new exhibit runs through May 2020.