SINKING OF U 550
USS JOYCE DE 317, USS PETERSON DE 152 and USS GANDY DE 764
April 16 1944
Location of event: 40.09N x 69.44W
Enemy casualties: 44 killed in action; 12 survivors
The U-550, a Type IX C-40 U-boat under the command of Kapitänleutnant Klaus Hänert, departed on her first patrol on 6 February 1944. She sailed from Kiel for the North
Atlantic and conducted weather reporting duties before sailing for Newfoundland and later the northeast coast of the United States. On 16 April, south of Nantucket Island, she located convoy CU-21, bound for Great Britain from New York. The tanker SS Pan Pennsylvania, one of the largest tankers in the
world, was unwisely straggling behind the convoy and the
U-550 torpedoed her. The tanker quickly caught fire and began to sink. As the tanker settled, the submerged U-boat sailed underneath her in an
effort to hide from the inevitable counteract by the convoy's escorts.
Convoy CU-21 was escorted by Escort Division 22, consisting of Coast Guard-manned destroyer escorts reinforced by one Navy DE, the USS Gandy, which took the place of the
USS Leopold, which had been lost in action the previous month. The escort division's flagship, USS Joyce and the USS Peterson rescued the
tanker's surviving crew, and then the Joyce detected the U-boat on sonar as the Germans attempted to escape after hiding beneath the sinking tanker. The U-550's
engineering officer later said, "We waited for your ship to leave; soon we could hear nothing so we thought the escort vessels had gone; but as soon as we started to move-- bang!" The Joyce delivered a depth-charge pattern that bracketed the submerged submarine. The depth charges were so well placed, a German
reported, that one actually bounced off the U-boat's deck before it exploded.
The attack severely damaged the U-550 and forced the Germans to surface, where they manned and began firing their deck guns. The Joyce, Peterson, and a Navy destroyer
escort, the USS Gandy, returned their fire. The Gandy then rammed it abaft the conning tower, and the Peterson dropped two depth charges which
exploded near the U-boat's hull. Realizing they were defeated, the U-boat's crew prepared scuttling charges and abandoned their submarine. The Joyce rescued 13 of the
U-550's crew, one of whom later died from wounds received during the firefight. The remainder of the U-boatmen went down with their submarine.
Information courtesy of
USCG web site