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Thursday, August 6, 2009

German U-Boat in Lake Michigan Waters

This week it was reported that Russian military submarines are patrolling the coast of the Eastern United States in international waters. The incident has raised eyebrows, but most analysts cough it up to the Russian's flexing their muscles and checking U.S. surveillance capabilities.

This isn't the first nor the last time a foreign nation's sub has been near or in our waters.

A view of the German U-boat, UC-97, courtesy of the Eastland Disaster Historical Society.

Immediately following the end of World War I, the United States was still in the process of paying off its war debt. The United States Navy expressed an interest in acquiring several surrendered German submarines for display purposes in conjunction with a Victory Bond drive. Early in 1919, UC-97 and five other German U-boats were allotted to the United States by the British Government.

UC-97 was commissioned by the German Imperial Navy on September 3, 1918. The Chicago Tribune reported on August 17, 1919 that the sub was credited with sinking seven merchant ships, although other sources note that this class of submarine (UC III) conducted no war patrols and sank no ships. It was surrendered to the United States in November 1918.

"A German Sea Serpent With Its Fangs Pulled," Chicago Tribune, August 17, 1919.

Once the sub cleared the locks and entered the Great Lakes, it began a series of visits to American ports on Lakes Ontario, Erie, Huron, and Michigan. Though scheduled to visit Lake Superior ports as well, the voyage had to be cut short due to wear on the engines.

In August 1919, the U-boat started back down the coast of Lake Michigan toward Chicago, making a stop in Waukegan.

This series of photos was taken of the U-boat docked in the Waukegan Harbor, and being inspected by the local citizenry. (LCDM 93.40.1 Photo album)

This photo of the submarine appears to have been taken from inside a truck or automobile.

On June 7, 1921, the U-boat was sunk as a target by the USS Wilmette on Lake Michigan 20 nautical miles off the coast of Highland Park.

Ironically, the USS Wilmette was originally built as the SS Eastland of the infamous Eastland Disaster. In 1915, the SS Eastland--a Great Lakes day passenger and transportation ship--turned over after pulling away from her berth on the Chicago River, drowning 812 people out of over 2,500 passengers - the greatest single loss of life in Great Lakes nautical history.

In 1917, the U.S. Navy purchased the salvaged hull, cut it down in height and rebuilt it into the training vessel USS Wilmette, which served until it was scrapped in 1948. Prior to using the UC-97 for target practice, she was stripped of all armaments, propulsion and navigational equipment.

The German U-boat's wreckage was located in 1992 by A&T Recovery, but its location has not been released to the public.


Shawn Ford said...

My great great grandmother and cousin Augusta Wiese and Elizabeth Rakow died on the Eastland. My grandfather George Ford was stationed on the USS Wilmette for training during WW1.

Ron Harper said...

Speaking of uboats...After a brief weekend in South Haven, Michigan there are stories that in World War II two uboats came into the Great Lakes. Surviviors of the USCG Escanaba indicate their ship was cut in two by a torpedo. Is there any evidence to support this finding and any other evidence of uboats patrolling the Great Lakes during World War II?

Anonymous said...

Sure, if you can explain to us how U-boats would get through navigation locks or run the rapids undetected.

tom carney said...

Suppose some German skipper, adept at his trade, managed to find a pathway into Lake Ontario. This is not to suggest a secret waterway; I suggest a secret series of procedures. One of the things that happened at the end of both wars was a reluctance on the part of the German Navy to scuttle their ships in deep water. They had the temerity to tell the British that they might need these same ships for the next war.
If Germany had found a viable secret marine route up the St. Lawrence and into Lake Ontario, and the route was not discovered, why tell anyone about it? They might need it again sometime.

Anonymous said...

Story in the World News Daily is a HOAX

Diana Dretske said...

Thank you for checking on the credibility of the World News Daily article.

Anonymous said...

I am a 66 year old retired US Navy Chief who's first ship was a WW II fleet class submarine. I, since I was 10 years old have been fascinated with U Boats. According to my sources there was no UX type U Boats. The hull number 971 belonged to a type VIIC
U Boat. There was no U 1200 type. U 1200 was a type VIIC U boat. The picture shows what might have been a type XXI U boat, but I have reservations as it looks to long and there is no decking. The length may be a trick of the angle of the photo.
An experimental boat would not be used on a patrol mission as they have too many problems. That's why they're experimental.
An experimental boat up the St Lawrence? I think not.

Diana Dretske said...

To avoid further confusion, I have deleted the post with the link to the "Sub Found in Lake Ontario." It was a hoax article. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone tell me why there would be a flat, non-symmetrical rock embedded in the shore of Lake Michigan in north eastern Wisconsin (in Door County) that has U6 1915
chiseled into it? 1915 is during WWI. U6 is a class of submarine. Does anyone
know about this rock? Who 'inscribed' it and for what purpose?

U6 1915 said...

I saw the same rock near Cave Point in 2012 and took a picture of it. I am wondering the same.