Chicago - U 505

The German submarine U-505 began construction in June 1940, launched in may 1941 and after a period of training it was commissioned in February 1942. The U-505 was part of the 2nd submarine flotilla, based in Lorient on the French Atlantic coast. Between February 1942 and June 1944, the U-505 was dispatched on 11 patrols in the Atlantic and the U-505’s main task was to attack convoys with supplies and war material on their way to Britain. The purpose of this was to starve Britain out and force it into negotiations or even surrender. During these eleven patrols, the U-505 sank 11 ships with a tonnage of about 45 000 tons. During the fourth patrol, the U-505 was severely damaged by enemy aircraft, but managed, despite reduced capacity, to return to Lorient.

On June 4, 1944, during the 12th patrol, U-505 was discovered by the Americans in the waters close to the Cap Verde islands on the west coast of Africa. U-505 had been hunted for several days and attacked by sinking bombs and was finally forced to the surface. All of the German crew left the submarine and were captured by the Americans. When the submarine was boarded it was abandoned, with the exception of one dead crew member. By their swift action, the Americans managed to prevent the submarine from sinking and could therefore be captured largely intact. The U-505 was then towed across the Atlantic to Bermuda, where it was examined by the U.S. Navy. Its fate was kept secret for so long that relatives of the crew of the U-505 were informed that they were probably killed. Only in 1947 did they return home to Germany and the U-505 ended up at the Museum of Science and industry in Chicago where it can be visited.

Current status: Preserved with museum (1997).

Address: 5700 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60637.

Get there: Commuter train to 55th, 56th or 57th Street.

My comment:

When I visited the museum in August 1997, U-505 was on display outside. There it had been since the mid-fifties and it was apparent that 40 years of weather and wind began to take its toll. Inside the museum there was a smaller exhibition with both objects and information about U-505. In order to prevent the U-505 from decay and disappear as a historical object, funds were collected and in 2004 U-505 moved indoors. In connection with this, some parts of U-505 were returned which until then had been elsewhere. In connection with U-505 there is also a museum dedicated to the submarine and its crew. The U-505 is one of four German submarines from World War II that can be visited.

Follow up in books: Blair, Clay: Hitler’s U-Boat War: The Hunted: 1942-1945 (1996).