THE COAST GUARD IS THE CONVOY’S BODY GUARD: It’s guns manned and its decks laden with depth charges, a Coast Guard combat cutter helps to safeguard a long line of merchant ships (on the Horizon carrying supplies for the Battle of Germany. These Coast Guard fighters played a major role in breaking the Nazi submarine menace in 1942 and 1943. Now they continue to keep the ship lanes to Europe free of enemy intruders.
COAST GUARD CUTTER SINKS SUB: Target of the Nazi U-Boat — These ships in the convoy being shielded by the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter SPENCER steam past the warship just before the latter detects the underseas [sic] raider and swings into action. The U-Boat, endeavoring to break into the center of the convoy, was sunk.
COAST GUARD CUTTER SINKS SUB: Sailors aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter SPENCER watch a K-Gun go into action following detection of a submarine below [the] surface. This is the opening round of a battle in which the sub is blown to the surface, where it is engaged by Coast Guardsmen protecting a large Atlantic convoy.
COAST GUARD CUTTER SINKS SUB: Coast Guardsmen on the deck of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter SPENCER watch the explosion of a depth charge which blasted a Nazi U-Boat’s hope of breaking into the center of a large convoy. The depth charge tossed from the 327-foot cutter blew the submarine to the surface, where it was engaged by Coast Guardsmen. Ships of the convoy may be seen in the background.
Heaved up from below by the force of a depth charge, the Nazi U-Boat breaks surface as the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter SPENCER, guns ablaze, bears down on it, full speed ahead.
RM 3/c Julius Petrella was killed by shrapnel from a boat davit that had been hit by friendly fire, probably from one of the guns manned by the Naval Armed Guard on board nearby merchant vessels. Ironically shrapnel from that hit to the davit also holed the Spencer’s powered monomoy lifeboat. As such the cutter’s boarding team had to launch the pulling lifeboat and that, of course, slowed their attempt to board the U-boat. That delay probably saved the lives of at least two of the boarding team members.
The Spencer crewman in the dark coat administering aid to RM 3/c Petrella is Pharmacist’s Mate 1/c Daniel Jack Horton.
OFF TO RESCUE THEIR BEATEN FOES: A pulling boat leaves the side of a Coast Guard combat cutter to rescue Nazi seamen struggling in the mid-Atlantic after their U-Boat had been blasted to the bottom by the cutter’s depth charges. Two Coast Guard cutters brought 41 German survivors to a Scottish port.
Effect of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter SPENCER’S fire are visible in this closeup shot of the U-Boat, taken as the battle raged. The Nazi standing by the stanchion amidships disappeared a moment after this picture was taken by a Coast Guard photographer. The U-Boat had been trying to sneak into the center of the convoy.”
Description: The “Nazi” mentioned in the above caption was probably in fact a member of the Coast Guard boarding team–one of the first Americans to board an enemy man-of-war underway at sea since the War of 1812.
COAST GUARD CUTTER SINKS SUB: More than a score of Nazis, who a short time before had been ready to deny life to others, struggle in the water to preserve their own lives following sinking of their U-Boat by the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter SPENCER. They were picked up by the SPENCER, one of whose gunners is shown in the right foreground, and the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter DUANE, shown in the distance.
OUT OF THE SEA AND OUT OF THE WAR: Frightened Nazis, who a short time before had attempted to ambush an Allied convoy in the North Atlantic, clamber up the life nets of a Coast Guard combat cutter after the sinking of their U-boat by another Coast Guard combat cutter. The fight knocked out of them, they mumbled, ‘Wasserbombs terrible, terrible.’ The ‘wasserbombd’ [sic] were the depth charges that blew the sub to the surface, shattered its steel and sent it into the last dive to the ocean floor.
NAZI PRISONERS FARE WELL ON COAST GUARD CUTTER: Earlier that day these German seamen were at their stations aboard a U-boat which was sneaking toward an Allied convoy in the mid-Atlantic. A Coast Guard combat cutter spotted the marauder, plastered it with depth charges and sent it diving to sea bottom. Picked up by Coast Guardsmen, the 41 survivors sat down to a dinner of corn beef and cabbage.
As the convoy sails on in the background, Coast Guardsmen Julius T. Petrella, 21, Radioman, of Brooklyn, N.Y., is buried in the North Atlantic after being killed in action. His ship, the Coast Guard Combat Cutter SPENCER, contacted a U-Boat, forced it to the surface with depth charges, then shelled it with her deck guns. Commander Harold S. Berdine of the Coast Guard, commanding officer of the cutter, reads the ceremony, as Captain Paul R. Heineman, right center foreground, commodore of the convoy, and all crew stand at attention.
On 11 April 1943, Spencer departed St. John’s in company with Task Unit 24.1.3 consisting, in addition, of Duane, two British and two Canadian escorts, and rendezvoused with the 56-ship east-bound convoy HX-233, relieving the local escort on the 12th. One straggler was reported. The convoy proceeded due east to avoid submarines reported south of Greenland and Iceland. On the 13th one escort was 25 miles to the north with four stragglers. They joined next day as did another Canadian escort. On the 15th the submarine report indicated that the convoy may have been sighted by U-boats. On the 16th Spencer dropped depth charge and delivered a mousetrap attack on a sound contact, firing eight more rounds of mousetrap ammunition on another contact an hour later. On the 17th SS Fort Rampart was reported torpedoed and Spencer screened the Canadian escort during rescue operations. At 0646 she established a contact and dropped a pattern of 10 charges and half an hour later fired mousetraps on another contact. Subsequent contacts were non-sub or lost and Spencer rejoined the convoy. At 1050 she had a sound contact and dropped 11 charges and on reestablishing it dropped 11 more. At 1117 she regained it and fired mousetraps.
At 1138 a submarine [U-175] surfaced to conning tower depth at 2,500 yards, drawing slowly right, still underway but apparently damaged. At 1140 Spencer commenced firing all guns and observed many hits on the conning tower and at its base. The crew of the submarine was observed to be abandoning ship via the conning tower. The Duane, in the immediate vicinity, assisted, firing all batteries, while merchant vessels in rear columns of the convoy opened fire on the submarine, some projectiles passing it and landing close to and on Spencer. At 1145 Spencer ceased firing and maneuvered in the vicinity of the disabled submarine. The after davit of Spencer’s No. 1 boat had been damaged by a projectile and the superstructure had been damaged by shrapnel–all of the damage was caused by friendly fire as the gunners on board many of the nearby merchant ships failed to clear Spencer while firing at the surfaced U-boat. Twenty five of Spencer’s men were injured, one dying of his wounds [RM 3/c Julius Petrella].
At 1215 Spencer lowered her No. 2 boat with a submarine boarding party. At 1220 the sub began sinking and sank stern first at 1227. At 1238 Spencer began picking up survivors alongside. The submarine boarding party returned at 1255, having boarded the submarine momentarily prior to it sinking. Three Germans were observed to be dead in the conning tower. One German officer and 18 men were rescued by Spencer and 22 by Duane.
From the United States Coast Guard – History of the Cutter USCGC Spencer