April 1943 – Coast Guard rescues men from destroyed Nazi U-Boat

This next photograph from the John Baker’s Warbook is the only one that I have found reproduced anywhere else as it is officially USCG photo 1591. This  The photo is of Nazi soldiers being helped aboard a Coast Guard cutter ship after their U-Boat (U-175) was destroyed in a battle. This photograph was taken aboard the USS Spencer by Jack January on April 17, 1943. The event took place in the North Atlantic while on a convoy mission (HX-233) from the United States to the United Kingdom.

April 1943 - Coast Guard rescues men from destroyed Nazi U-Boat

The official recount of the battle is as follows:

At 1110 Duane was ordered to take station ahead as Spencer was dropping back through the convoy following a contact on which she had already dropped two patterns of depth charges.  Five minutes later the Spencer ordered Duane to close her and take over the contact.  The Duane began a search on the indicated location and thirty minutes later a 740-ton German U-boat surfaced about 2,700 yards from the Duane.  A minute later Spencer opened fire and Duane went ahead at full speed toward the submarine and after clearing her line of fire so as not to hit Spencer also opened fire.  The submarine was now at right angles to the line of fire and several hits were obtained, one nicely centered on the submarine’s conning tower.  Seven minutes later, as men on deck were seen jumping overboard, Duane ceased fire.

The conning tower was smoking liberally and the submarine was moving ahead slowly, circling to the right.  The Duane maneuvered to pick up survivors and by 1158 had picked up nine German enlisted men and one officer.  Then she screened Spencer while that cutter sent a boat to the submarine.  Twenty five minutes later the submarine, later ascertained to be the U-175, sank stern first.  The Duane lowered a boat and picked up eleven more German enlisted men and one more officer.  Four of the prisoners received medical attention.  On the 20th Duane moored at North Gourock, Scotland, and delivered all prisoners to the custody of the British authorities and then proceeded to Londonderry arriving on 22 April 1943.

Although my grandfather had told me about this event numerous times, the part that he recounted the most was what happened shortly after the Nazi’s were brought aboard —they were given ice cream. He said that in all his years aboard the USS Duane, he was never given ice cream. Even further – John Baker was a medic and he was obligated to treat them. Despite the fact that the cutter ships were firing weapons at these men moments earlier, he now had to give them medical attention as they ate ice cream infront of him.

Many more pictures and recounts can be seen at the official Coast Guard gallery page dedicated to the event.

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