EDITOR'S NOTE: The story behind the U-505, a German submarine housed at the Museum of Science and Industry is a series of victories, miracles, timing and good luck. Many of us who grew up in Chicago and Northwest Indiana toured the submarine with our schools and families ---- millions of people visited the submarine, which is one-of-a-kind in the world, during the 50 years it sat just outside the walls of MSI ---- and heard the basic story again and again from the tour guides who led us through. Thanks to the help and support of MSI Public Relations Manager Beth Boston and the Director of Collections and Chief Curator at MSI Kathleen McCarthy, a group of editors, photographers, web producers and reporters from Times Media were able to go on the U-505 tour again last week. As one of our editors said, “You learn something new every time you go.”
For the benefit of anyone who has only lived in the area a short time or may not have gone to grammar school here, a timeline, with some help from the U-505: The Final Journey by James E. Wise Jr.
On June 4, 1944, French and American ships took the German U-505 by surprise. The submarine surfaced and fought back. Within twelve minutes a special hunter-killer group was launched on the orders of then Captain Daniel Gallery. (Gallery, who grew up in Chicago and graduated from St. Ignatius High School, was born on July 10, 1901. He would eventually become a Rear Admiral and command the Naval Air Reserve Training center headquartered in Glenview, Illinois. Gallery died in 1977.) Gallery wanted to take the ship and hoped that the crew would abandon ship without submerging.
Within minutes the German crew left and the Allied destroyers ceased firing. Two American boarding parties reached the U-505 and began looking for booby traps, demolition charges that may have been set, and hatches and valves they could secure and close as the boat was already filling with water. At the same time, they gathered papers, code books, enigma machines and anything that might contain intelligence material.
The American crews worked all afternoon and into the night to stabilize the boat and set up a tow cord. The U-505 was declared seaworthy by the evening of June 8, 1944. During the uneventful tow to Bermuda Captain Gallery impressed upon the 3000 sailors under his command that the capture of the submarine and its crew must remain a secret. (The prisoners were scattered around numerous POW camps in the U.S. and kept isolated.)
The story of the U-505 was first told publicly in America on May 16, 1945, nine days after the Germans surrendered.