Capture of U-505
A First Person Account
By Frank P. DeNardo
Former Signalman 2/C aboard the USS Chatelain
On June 4, 1944, off French West Africa, DE Division 4, operating
as a hunter killer group with the USS Guadalcanal CVE-60, a baby
flattop, with Air Squadron 22.3 aboard. While cruising along, I
noticed the love flag go up on the carrier, so as required , I
notified the Capt. (Knox) and he ordered full left rudder. As we
came about, the soundman hollered contact 200 yards ahead, 1000
yards from the carrier. It had slipped under and behind the USS
Jenks . The Captain picked up the radio phone and told the carrier
to scatter, we made a hedge hog attack on the sub. Then we noticed
she had fired a torpedo at the carrier. We immediately altered
course to intercept the torpedo with our ship, to save the carrier.
I remember watching the torpedo come at our port side, and nothing
happened. I rushed to starboard and watched it go by. It was set
for the carrier and not us.
The rest of the division had gotten away in time to avoid it. We
immediately resumed our attack on the submarine with depth charges.
We must have injured her with hedge hogs because she didn't seem to
have control. The charges finished the damage to her rudder because
she began to circle and we circled outside of her circles, waiting
for her to come up. When she finally broke surface, the Captain
ordered small arms only, nothing bigger than 20mm. This we did to
keep the Germans off their guns. The Germans began to dive
overboard, abandoning their sub.
At this time, the USS Chatelain Captain ordered the whale boat to
the gunnels. He then ordered me to take a set of signal flags and a
Thompson submachine gun and get in the whale boat, to board the
sub. After I got in the boat, he yelled "Away Boarders" and we
dropped to the water and raced to the sub. I jumped aboard and
checked the conning tower. As I turned away from the conning tower,
one of the guys in the whale boat told me our ship was signaling
me. I threw up my flag and got the following message, "Stand by,
real boarding party is on it's way." I looked to my right and saw a
whale boat racing toward us from the other ships that had returned.
When the other whale boat got to the sub, they entered and left
their signalman in the conning tower. I told him to go below and
get me the decoding machine, which he did. I then told him to get
me all the charts that he could find. He made two trips.
I placed everything under the canvas cabin in our whale boat. I
told the coxswain (Gilmore) to head for the carrier. On the way I
sent a semaphore message for the carrier to lower the basket. They
told us to come under the island and they lowered the basket, into
which I placed the decoder and the charts. They hauled them up. We
could not return to the USS Chatelain because they had picked up a
whale boat, from the carrier, that had capsized. After the USS
Pillsbury got the subs diving plans in it's engine room while
trying to tie it along side, Captain Gallery ordered us to take the
tow rope attached to the cable and get it to the sub. We got it
there and the line was left in the water after the cable was
attached to the sub. That line wrapped around the shaft of our
whale boat engine, and we stalled. I went under the whale boat with
a knife and began cutting the line away. The second time I came up
for air, the coxswain told me the carrier was signaling us. I
handed him the knife and he went under to finish cutting the line.
I signaled the carrier to send their message. It was "Are you in
trouble." The answer was "not now, will be on our way shortly". The
coxswain got back in the boat, the engineer (Donzella) kicked the
engine over and we headed for the carrier to be hauled up. As I got
out of the boat, some Lt. Commander on the carrier gave me a big
hug and said "Bravest thing I ever saw". All I could say was "can
we get some dry clothes?" They gave us clothes and shoes. I turned
my Thompson machine gun into the armory.
A message came over the carrier intercom, "Will the USS Chatelain
Signalman report to the sail locker"? When I got there, the sail
maker asked me to help him make a German Man of War Flag, which we
did, because they couldn't find the one on the sub. After that job,
I was sent to the Master of Arms shack where the German prisoners
were locked up. The Master of Arms was a guy called 'Ski'
(Leon Bednarczyk ). After we talked a few minutes, he said "Take a
look in the cell and tell me if you see anyone that looks Polish in
there". (I had told him I grew up with the Polish people.) After
awhile I said "the one against the wall could be one". His answer
was "that's the same one I picked". I told him to speak to him in
Polish and sure enough, he was. Ski gave me his gun while he opened
the cell and told the Polish guy to come out. We took him into the
Master of Arms shack and questioned him. I told him to call the
skipper and tell him what we had. Gallery asked who was in the
Master of Arms shack with him. He said, "DeNardo of the Chatelain".
He told Ski to leave his weapon with me and to bring the Polish guy
up to the wardroom. About an hour later Ski came back alone and
told me the Polish guy told Capt. Gallery he could start the pumps
on the sub and told him where the acoustic torpedoes were. Capt.
Gallery told the Polish guy that if he did that, he (Gallery) would
see to it that he got the best education possible.
We then rendezvoused with the cargo tanker Kennebec and the fleet
tug Abnaki and got refueled and supplied. Later, the USS Chatelain
came along side the carrier and the breeches buoy was setup. I got
my Thompson sub-machine gun out of the armory, got in the breeches
buoy and came across to the USS Chatelain . It sure felt good.
When we got into New York, after leaving the sub in Bermuda, I was
given my second class signalman rating and transferred to Miami,
Florida, where I was put on shore patrol. The next time I saw the
USS Chatelain was in Miami. I reported for duty one morning at the
police station and saw a list of prisoners in jail. I went up to
check them out and sure enough... there were about fifteen from the
USS Chatelain. I went to the patrol officer and asked that they be
released to me and that I would take them back to their ship. He
agreed and gave me transportation. I took them to pier 2, mustered
them with the officer of the deck, took the paperwork into
Commander Knox, had a cup of coffee with him, and left.
I want to add this about the flag:
The story of the flags is that after the capture of the U-505 at
sea, the boarding parties could not find the German Flag that was
aboard. The sail maker on the Carrier and I made a German flag from
the dimensions that were in the book of National Flags. The flag we
made is the flag that was flown on the sub under the American flag.
Max Allen, the sail maker at the Denver Reunion, told me that
having found the German Flag on the sub, it was sent to the Naval
Academy where it is today. The flag we made went to the Smithsonian
Institute. As far as we know, that's the only flags with the
Capture. Any others are questionable.
Information courtesy of Frank P. DeNardo.
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Frank P. DeNardo
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