Coast Guard Combat Victory on (and under) the North Atlantic On 17 April 1943, the U.S.S. Spencer, C.G., one of the Coast Guard's largest cutters of the time, was escorting Convoy HX-233 across the North Atlantic to the United Kingdom. While steaming ahead of the convoy the cutter's sonarman detected the submerged U-175 as the submarine maneuvered to attack a large tanker within the convoy. Spencer immediately dropped depth charges on the target. The charges bracketed the U-boat perfectly and exploded all around the submarine's hull, damaging it severely and forcing the Germans to surface. The Spencer, her sister cutter Duane, and many of the merchant ships in the convoy then opened fire on the U-175 as soon as the U-boat's conning tower broke the ocean's surface. The German crew then attempted to abandon their U-boat despite the heavy fire--the Allies could not know that the U-boatmen had no intention of manning their deck guns. The U-boat's commanding officer was killed in the initial hail of gunfire but ultimately 41 Germans abandoned ship and were rescued safely. There were two professional combat photographers on board the cutters, Jack January aboard Spencer and Bob Gates aboard Duane, and they captured the action on film, giving posterity a close-up view of combat against one of Hitler's U-boats during the height of the Battle of the Atlantic. Our thanks to the veterans of Spencer, Duane, U-175 and Win Haskell for their assistance in identifying many of the individuals in the following photographs. Mr. Haskell, who served as a crewman on board the SS G. Harrison Smith, wrote a detailed history of U-175 and Convoy HX-233. -

johnbr, Nov 5, 2011
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