USS Icarus sinks U-352

USCGC Icarus arrives at the Charleston Navy Yard 10 May, 1942, the day after after sinking U-352.

U Boat U-352 was not as lucky as U-333. The 165 foot US Coast Guard Cutter Icarus got her with an accurate depth charge attack which damaged onboard machinery, probably her electronics, so badly that she was forced to surface. The after action report gives a good summary of the events:

Report of action of 9 May, 1942…

ATTACK NO. 1 [Time: 1629]

Contact was lost at 180 yards and at a calculated interval thereafter, a pattern of 5 depth charges was laid. This consisted of a diamond with 1 charge in the center. (one charge was dropped from the rack, followed by 2 from the “Y” gun, one from the rack, and later another from the rack.) It was later learned that this attack destroyed the submarine’s periscope and killed the Conning-Officer. The course was reversed.

ATTACK NO. 2

The submarine was still moving to the west. The course was changed to lead the apparent track and at 1645 a “Y” pattern was laid by dropping one charge from the rack followed by 2 from the “Y” gun. Large air bubbles were observed coming to the surface.

It was later learned that the submarine attempted to surface after this attack but the Engineering Officer had been killed and the “machinery” had been disabled. It is believed that this reference to the performance of the “machinery” did not apply to the propulsion machinery as noises were heard later. It probably referred to the diving mechanism. The course was again reversed.

ATTACK NO. 3

One charge was dropped on the spot where the bubbles were seen.

ATTACK NO. 4

The course was again reversed and at 1708, one charge was dropped to the right of the bubbles. It was later learned that this attack blew the submarine to the surface and the ascent was so rapid that members of the crew complained of pains in the head for a considerable period thereafter.

At 1709 the submarine surfaced, down by the stern. The ICARUS immediately opened fire with those machine-guns which were bearing and then turned to the right to head for the submarine. The 3” gun and all other machine-guns opened fire as they could be brought to bear. The first round from the 3” gun was short but ricocheted through the conning tower. The next round from the 3” gun was over and thereafter, all shots were either hits or close misses.

14 rounds of 3” 23 caliber, common projectile, bursting charge of TET & Black Powder were expended, and including the ricochet, 7 hits were observed to have been made. At 1711 the submarine crew was observed to be abandoning ship.

At 1714 the submarine sank and firing was ceased. The submarine sank at Latitude 34012.5’ North, and Longitude 76035’ West. The ICARUS continued to circle the spot, depth of water at scene being 19 fathoms.

ATTACK NO. 5

A further contact was made, propellers heard, and a large air bubble similar to that made by a submarine surfacing was observed. One charge was dropped on this contact and no further sounds were heard.

The ICARUS continued circling and at 1750 stopped and picked up 33 prisoners of war including 4 wounded, one of which had lost his left leg and died at 2250; another had lost his left arm. The other two were only slightly injured.

See the original report at U-Boat archive.

The crew of U-352 had been in St Nazaire when the British launched their Commando raid which put the port out of action for large ships. Interrogation of the prisoners might have provided valuable intelligence on the results of the raid. However, after a copy book attack the US Navy and Coast Guard still had some lessons to learn in the handling of prisoners. The U-Boat officers were allowed to exercise control over their men even after they landed. As consequence they retained their discipline and were tight lipped when interrogated – one man even admitted that he thought he would be shot after the war if he told them anything.

Kapitänleutnant Rathke marches his men from Icarus to the mess hall at the Charleston Navy Yard.During the arrival, and subsequent processing, the Boat's commanding officer Kapitänleutnant Hellmut Rathke and his officers were allowed to exercise direct control over the crew.

The crew is fed as a unit - there was no separation by ranks during the rescue and processing of POWs from U-352

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