Home History The mysterious story of the sinking of the Nazi submarine U-869

The mysterious story of the sinking of the Nazi submarine U-869

by Tatiana Sandlewood
Nazi submarine U-869

It is the summer of 1991, and daring, pioneering, and some might even say foolhardy wreck diver and ship’s Captain Bill Nagle has been hearing rumors of a mysterious, unidentified World War Two era wreck located somewhere off the coast of the Jersey Shore. The wreck is said to be located off the coast of the Jersey Shore.

Local fishermen, ship captains, and even weekend sailors have seen what they think is a Nazi shipwreck not too far from Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey.

Local boaters in New Jersey have started calling the mysterious wreck, which many people think could be a German U-boat or submarine, the U-Who?

No German or American record has ever been found of a U-boat being sunk so close to Point Pleasant Beach on purpose or by accident during the Second World War, despite the best efforts of researchers inside and outside of academic institutions.

In the summer of 1991, Bill Nagle and an experienced wreck diver named John Chatterton went on a trip to find out for sure if there was a mysterious sunken Nazi U-boat called the U-Who?

Despite the fact that Nagle and Chatterton, who were both based out of Brielle, New Jersey, had both heard reports about World War Two wreckage at the bottom of the ocean someplace nearby, neither of them were persuaded that their voyage would be successful.

In point of fact, many of Captain Nagle’s friends and acquaintances have reported that he was pretty certain that if there was an unknown wreck from the World War Two era off the coast of Point Pleasant, then it was probably nothing more than one of the countless decommissioned ships that the United States Navy intentionally sank to promote the development of marine life along the development of the American coastline.

But Bill Nagle, who had already built a name for himself as a courageous wreck diver, said, “What the hell?” and chose to go for it anyway, despite his doubts. He had never been one to back down from a challenge, and he already had a reputation for being a fearless wreck diver.

And sure enough, on September 2, 1991, Nagle and Chatterton, along with a team of divers and experts, discovered the remains of a Nazi submarine approximately 60 miles off the coast of Point Pleasant, New Jersey.

In the final report he wrote about the discovery, which was not finished until nearly seven years later in 1998, diver John Chatterton stated that the team had decided to investigate the site because it had “originally been suggested to Captain Nagle by a local fishing boat captain who was curious about the site he had been fishing at for years.” It was relatively unknown and had never been visited by divers.

When Chatterton, Nagle, and the other divers descended to the wreck, they found the remains of a submarine lying at the bottom of the ocean at a depth of around 77 feet. Chatterton and Nagle were among the divers who made the discovery.

The corpses of the German submariners, whose bodies had been trapped inside the wreck for such a long time, were found to be in tact, along with everything else that had been on board the ship. But the outside of the wreck had no markings that could be used to figure out what kind of German U-boat the divers had found off the coast of New Jersey.

The members of Nagle, Chatterton, and their team persisted in referring to the site as the wreck of the U-Who?

And they looked for clues about the identity of the submarine in the bones of the Nazi sailors who were still on board. At the time of its discovery, the closest known Nazi U-boat to have been sunk off the coast of Point Pleasant, New Jersey, was said to have gone down to the bottom of the Atlantic, a full one hundred and fifty miles away from where Nagle and Chatterton had made their discovery. In other words, the location where Nagle and Chatterton found the U-boat was a full 150 miles away from where the closest known U-boat had been sunk.

Researchers were hampered not only by the fact that there was no known historical record of a German U-boat having gone down in the area where Nagle and Chatterton had made their discovery, but also by the fact that the wreck site was both extremely deep and extremely unstable, making it, to this day, one of the most dangerous wreck sites to dive at in the continental United States. This discovery was made by Nagle and Chatterton in the area where Nagle and Chatterton had made their discovery.

In point of fact, three divers have lost their lives while exploring the wreck of the German mystery U-boat off the coast of Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey, in the thirty plus years since Nagle and Chatterton first made their discovery. Because of this, all maritime authorities say that no one, no matter how experienced or skilled they are, should even try to dive the wreck.

Tragically, Bill Nagle would pass away just two years after making the initial discovery of the crash. He was just forty-one years old when he passed away in 1993 as a result of the difficulties that stemmed from alcoholism.

John Chatterton and a group of other skilled divers would keep diving the wreck regularly for almost six years, trying to figure out what kind of Nazi U-boat it was that was off the coast of New Jersey.

On August 31, 1997, the dive crew that was led by Chatterton finally made the discovery that they had been working toward for so long.

On that day, John Chatterton and another diver named Richie Kohler discovered three ID badges for the ship, each measuring one inch in length, dangling from toolboxes that were situated in the electric motor room of the submarine. In addition, not long before they found the ID tags, the dive crew came across a butter knife with the name HORENBURG carved into the handle of the knife. This knife was located just next to the ID tags.

The remains of the Nazi submarine U-869 were found off the coast of Point Pleasant, New Jersey. Chatterton and Kohler were able to figure out that these were the shipwreck’s remains.

In 1944, Nazi Germany was the nation that initially put U-869 into service. The combat patrol that the U-869 was assigned to began on February 11, 1945. On February 28, 1945, or a little more than two weeks after leaving her home port in Germany, the U-869, along with 56 members of her crew, all but one survivor, would go down to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean about sixty miles off the coast of Point Pleasant Beach. There, she would remain, unreported by anyone, until being rediscovered by the team led by Nagle and Chatterton nearly fifty years later, in 1991. This was the year that she was rediscovered.

The only person to survive the sinking of the U-869 was a radio officer called Herbert Guschewski. This is a particularly ironic turn of events. Guschewski was hospitalized with illness and left behind when the U-869 was sent out on a war mission in February of 1945.

Ironically, Guschewski was never sure what had happened to the other crewmen until April of 1999, when he happened to see a documentary about the discovery of the wreck of U-869 on PBS. The documentary was about the discovery of the wreck of U-869, which was ironic given that there was no official report on what ever happened to U-869 from either the Nazis or the allies. Following the airing of this program, Guschewski got in touch with the show’s producer and claimed that he was the sole survivor of the U-869 crew.

Herbert Guschewski
Herbert Guschewski, 1944. Photo Credit : PBS

Two American destroyers were known to be in the area at the time the German submarine U-869 was sunk, approximately sixty miles off the coast of New Jersey. The German submarine was sunk by two American destroyers, according to a report made by the US Coast Guard. The report was made after looking at evidence from the wreck and listening to the stories of veterans.

The official report states that officers and sailors aboard the two American destroyers used depth charges to attack the submarine. However, due to the fact that the attack took place in the middle of the night on February 28, 1945, and that there were no visible signs that the U-boats had been destroyed, the captains of both ships forgot to file a report about engaging a Nazi U-boat that night. The official report states that officers and sailors aboard the two American destroyers used depth charges to attack the submarine.

For their part, Nagle, Chatterton, Kohler, and almost all of the divers who were involved in the discovery of the wreck of U-869 are of the opinion that the Coast Guard’s theory is complete bunk, and they assert that for even one American naval vessel to engage an enemy sub regardless of the result and to not file a report of some type would be a grave breach of military protocol, let alone two. They believe that the Coast Guard’s theory is a complete fabrication.

The dive team that found the final resting place of U-869 is of the opinion that the submarine was destroyed when two of its own torpedoes accidentally exploded in their tubes while the Nazi U-boat was attempting to sink the two destroyers that were already mentioned in the report from the Coast Guard. This is the opinion of the dive team that made the discovery.

U-869 blew itself up and sank to a watery grave off the Jersey Shore, where it would remain with all hands onboard until its rediscovery nearly fifty years later by Nagle, Chatterton, and their team. Divers say that friendly fire caused U-869 to sink, and since there were no other German ships or submarines in the area at the time, U-869 blew up and sank into the water off the Jersey Shore.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter whether the U-869 was sunk by an accident or by depth charges fired by a destroyer belonging to the United States Navy; it doesn’t make much of a difference either way. What does matter is that one of the final mysteries of World War Two, the whereabouts of the German U-boat U-869, was solved by a team of courageous and daring divers only a scant sixty miles or so from the beach at Point Pleasant, New Jersey.

One can only guess what other historical mysteries might be sleeping under the water off the Jersey Shore, waiting to be found.

Source : Wikipedia

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