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Sinking of U-548
USS Buckley DE 51 and USS Reuben James DE 153
HUK Task Group 22.10
(formerly credited as U-879)

Buckley and Reuben James.  Those two names meant something to veteran destroyermen who remembered Buckley as the DE that won a ramming, slamming U-boat battle in the spring of 1944 and who recalled that a Reuben James was the first US DE to go down from U-boat torpedoes in World War II.

In the spring of 1945 these two DEs were operating in company with DEs USS Scrogins DE 799 and USS Jack W. Wilke DE 800 as units of hunter-killer Task Group 22.10, Commander E. H. Headland, Jr., which had been organized the previous November to hunt U-boats in the North Atlantic.  Buckley had been selected to serve as the group's flagship.

Of Buckley's war duty at this time, the ship's historian wrote: "The first months of 1945 saw... rigorous northern patrols continued.  It is the proud record of the ship and the others associated under her command, that while sinking occurred on several occasions from enemy submarine action, no ship was lost in the area under patrol by the Buckley group."

But a U-boat was lost in that area.

During the third week in April, 1945, TG 22.10, en route from Halifax to New York, was conducting a sweep for an enemy submarine believed to be in the immediate area.  At 0348 in the morning of April 19, Buckley picked up a sonar contact that had all the ear-marks of a submarine.  Buckley left the formation to investigate.  The contact was soon evaluated as "U-boat" and the DEs crew sprang into action.

DE Reuben James was ordered to assist.  DEs Scroggins and Jack W. Wilke were directed to conduct a four-mile box search around the other two, and the sub hunt went into high gear.

About 0420 Reuben James also gained contact and Buckley, stepping up speed to 10 knots, opened the maneuvers, now swung to the right.  AT 550-yard range Buckley had crossed the submarine's bow.  Opening to 1,050 yards (at 0425), the DE commenced her approach.

Buckley gained attack position at 0429, and Lieutenant Crutchfield gave the order for a full hedgehog salvo.  The 24 projectiles described their parabolic flight.  The water rustled and foamed as the barrage sake in.  Ten seconds.  Fifteen seconds.  Twenty. Then explosions had the water boiling like seltzer.

At 0431 there was a "heavy underwater explosion."  At 0434 there was an explosion described by Buckley listeners as "very heavy."  All ships in the group felt the detonation and Sound lost contact with the submarine.  Buckley's searchlights examined the seascape.  Up came a spew of oil and assorted flotsam.

In the pre-dawn gloaming a whaleboat was lowered and the destroyermen pulled across the water to comb the debris.  Pieces of wood, chucks of cork, several pillows and cushions and some dubious anatomical items were fished from the oily sludge.

To doubly certify the U-boat's destruction, Buckley's group remained on the spot throughout the morning.  About 1145, DEs Reuben James, Scroggins and Jack W. Wilke formed a line and searched around the point of attack until evening.  Forty depth charges were dropped.  If the U-boat had been playing dead, the ruse would have been discovered during this all-day maneuver.  By nightfall it was obvious the U-boat had been destroyed.

Buckley's attack was officially analyzed as excellent.  The critique read: "Buckley slowed to 5 knots and waited until contact was gained also by Reuben James before commencing the run on the U-boat.  This was a safe speed to counter the possibility of acoustic torpedoes, and at the same time the U-boat was apparently not alerted, as evidenced by lack of evasive maneuvers."

Buckley undoubtedly made the kill in the first run over the target.


The original post-war assessment by Roscoe notes this was the destruction of U-879.  However, further research by
Axel Niestlé notes the attack actually accounted for the sinking of U-548 at 42°19N/61°45W.

Niestlé states that the sinking of U-548 was credited originally to USS Thomas DE 102, USS Coffman DE 191 and USS Bostwick DE 103, on 30 April 1945 in position 36°34N/74°00W, but this action probably accounted for the sinking of U-879.

Franklin notes, "Recent physical evidence has proved that the submarine was actually U-548, a submarine credited to the action of Coffman and Bostwick on 30 April 1945.  It now appears that the U-boat sunk by Coffman's group was either U-857, formerly credited to the action of Gustafson DE 182 on 7 April 1945, or U-879.


Sources:
Roscoe, Theodore. United States Destroyer Operations in World War II.  Annapolis, MD: United States Naval Institute, 1953, p. 504.
Niestlé, Axel. German U-boat Losses During World War II: Details of Destruction.  Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1998, p. 239.
Franklin, Bruce Hampton.  The Buckley-Class Destroyer Escort.  Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1999, p. 189.

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USS England DE 635 ] Sinking of RO 501 ] Sinking of U 66 ] Sinking of U 233 ] Sinking of U 490 ] Capture of U 505 ] Sinking of U 515 ] Sinking of U 518 ] Sinking of U 546 ] [ Sinking of U 548 ] Sinking of U 550 ] Sinking of U 853 ] Sinking of U 866 ] Sinking U 869 ] Capture of U 873 ] Sinking of U 1062 ]

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