The Depot

The Navy Cross: Five Facts About This Prestigious Medal

The Navy Cross was established by an act of Congress on February 4, 1919 and is presented to “any person who, while in the naval service of the United States, since the sixth day of April, nineteen hundred and seventeen, has distinguished, or who shall hereafter distinguish, himself by extraordinary heroism or distinguished service in the line of his profession, such heroism or service not being sufficient to justify the award of a medal of honor or a distinguished service medal.”

On August 7, 1942, Congress limited the Navy Cross to combat-only recognition and elevated its status to just below the Medal of Honor.  It is the second highest award for valor presented to members of the Navy.

Here are five facts you should know about the Navy’s second highest award for valor, the Navy Cross.

1. The Navy Cross was called the Distinguished Service Cross
James Earle Fraser is credited as the primary designer of the Distinguished Service Cross, as the Navy Cross was originally called. Fraser was also the designer of the World War I Victory Medal.

Variations have marked the evolution of the Navy Cross from 1919 to the present. The original medal was a three-part construction: the cross itself and the front and back medallions, which were struck separately and subsequently soldered together. Since World War II, however, the Navy Cross has been struck in one piece.

Today, the Navy Cross shows a sailing ship on waves surrounded by laurel leaves and berries on four corners. The flip side of the Navy Cross has crossed anchors and the letters “USN.” It hangs on a blue ribbon with a white stripe down the middle.

2. The Navy Cross was created to recognize sailors in World War I
As previously mentioned, the Navy Cross was created just a few months after the end of World War I. Up to that time, the Medal of Honor was the only medal awarded for valor.

In February 1919, the Navy, through Congress, established both the Navy Cross and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal to properly recognize the actions of those who served in World War I.



3. The Navy Cross was earned by a mess attendant
On December 7, 1941, Doris Miller, an African American mess attendant serving aboard the USS West Virginia, earned the Navy Cross for valor during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He was the first black sailor to earn the award.

On the morning of the Pearl Harbor attacks, Miller was tending to his duties below deck when the ship’s alarm sounded. Miller went to his battle station, only to discover the area destroyed. In response, he ran to the ship’s deck and as the ship continued to come under fire, Miller carried several sailors to safety, including the ship’s captain.

Witnessing the attack, Miller decided to man a .50-caliber anti-aircraft machine gun on the deck of the West Virginia. He manned the gun until it ran out of ammunition, downing at least two Japanese planes and hitting several more.

It should be noted that Miller was never trained on the weapon and because he was black, he was limited to kitchen and waiter-type duties by the Navy. Miller was killed in the Battle of Makin two years later while aboard the Liscome Bay.

His Navy Cross citation reads: “For distinguished devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and disregard for his own personal safety during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941. While at the side of his Captain on the bridge, Miller, despite enemy strafing and bombing and in the face of a serious fire, assisted in moving his Captain, who had been mortally wounded, to a place of greater safety, and later manned and operated a machine gun directed at enemy Japanese attacking aircraft until ordered to leave the bridge.”

4. The Navy Cross is hard earned
The Navy Cross may be awarded to any member of the U.S. Armed Forces while serving with the Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard (when a part of the Department of the Navy) who distinguishes themselves in action by extraordinary heroism not justifying an award of the Medal of Honor. The action must take place under one of three circumstances:

  • In combat action while engaged against an enemy of the United States; or,
  • In combat action while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or,
  • In combat action while serving with friendly foreign forces, who are engaged in armed conflict in which the United States is not a belligerent party.

The act(s) to be commended must be performed in the presence of great danger, or at great personal risk, and must be performed in such a manner as to render the individual's action(s) highly conspicuous among others of equal grade, rate, experience, or position of responsibility. An accumulation of minor acts of heroism does not justify an award of the Navy Cross.



5. The Navy Cross has been awarded 41 times since 9/11
Publicly, the U.S. Department of Defense recognizes that the Navy Cross has been earned by 41 individuals for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the number is likely higher given the covert nature of special operations.

Some of those special operations eventually became well known when they were shared in books written by Marcus Luttrell, a former Navy SEAL who fought in Afghanistan. Luttrell is also a Navy Cross recipient and his book was made into a movie, Lone Survivor, starring Mark Wahlberg.

Aubrey McDade, pictured second from left in the above picture, rescued three wounded Marines during a firefight in Iraq in 2004. Two Marines survived and McDade was presented the Navy Cross while he was a drill instructor in 2007.

The Navy Cross has been around for more than 100 years. It has been presented to thousands of recipients and sadly, many of them, did not survive and received the award posthumously. But the award stands as proof that all recipients earned the Navy Cross by highly conspicuous heroism while engaged against an enemy.

Navy Medal Of Honor: 5 Things You Didn't Know

Within the military ranks it is common knowledge that the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award presented for gallantry in combat, has three variants. The type of medal that an individual receives is based on the recipient’s branch of service. The U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy all have versions of the Medal of Honor. U.S. Marines and Coast Guardsmen receive the Navy Medal of Honor, also known as the Navy and Marine Corps Medal of Honor, and in the event that a U.S. Space Force Guardian earns the Medal of Honor, for now, they would receive the Air Force version.

The Navy Medal of Honor has some unique history that separates it from the other branches, so we thought it would be great to share the top five things you might not know about the Navy Medal of Honor.

1. The Navy Medal of Honor was the first
The Navy Medal of Honor is our country’s oldest continuously awarded decoration. Some might argue that the oldest and first U.S. medal would be the Purple Heart, originally named the Badge of Military Merit and created by George Washington in 1782. But the Badge of Military Merit was awarded only to a handful of Army soldiers and then it became dormant for more than 150 years before Gen. Douglas MacArthur created the Purple Heart Medal based on the Badge of Military Merit.

The Navy Medal of Honor, like the Purple Heart, has changed in its appearance, but since it was created for American sailors with a huge push from Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles on December 21, 1861, it has been steadily awarded making the Navy Medal of Honor the oldest continuously awarded decoration.

The Navy Medal of Honor was also the first Medal of Honor created for the U.S. military; even before the Army’s which was created about seven months later in 1862. The U.S. Air Force formally adopted their variant in 1965. The Navy Medal of Honor was the nation’s first medal to recognize valor.

2. It has its own day
The Navy Medal of Honor and its sister service variants are recognized each year on March 25. According to the Navy’s history office, in 1990, “President George H. W. Bush signed into law the designation of March 25 as National Medal of Honor Day” because public awareness of the medal had declined in recent years and the U.S. Congress hoped Medal of Honor Day would restore the decoration to its rightful place in American culture and society.

March 25 is now set aside to honor the Medal of Honor and its recipients of all branches and not just the Navy Medal of Honor.

3. There were 2 types of the Navy Medal of Honor
As the United States entered World War II, the Navy was issuing two Medals of Honor. According to the U.S. Navy history office, “One was the traditional medal, based on the 1860s design, for gallantry in line of one’s profession, not necessarily in combat. The other was the ‘Tiffany Cross,’ so called because Tiffany and Company of New York City had designed it, for gallantry in combat. The Navy retired the Tiffany Cross in the 1940s and eventually ceased bestowing Medals of Honor for noncombat heroism.”

However, prior to the 1940s, the Navy awarded the Navy Medal of Honor with a generosity that ultimately diminished the prestige of the decoration. Fifteen medals were presented to Sailors and Marines who “took” a series of halfheartedly defended forts on the east coast of Korea in 1871. Some sailors received the Navy Medal of Honor for actions outside of combat, like battling hurricanes.

According to the U.S. Navy, even when medals came to sailors as a result of their actions in combat, those actions were not often as spectacular as those of today's recipients of the Navy Medal of Honor. While the sailors deserved recognition, the problem was that the Navy Medal of Honor was at that time the only decoration the Navy could offer, so it had to apply to a broad range of sacrifices made in combat and otherwise.

It was during the World War I era the Navy Medal of Honor became what it is known today: the highest honor for heroism in combat. Not long after WWI, Congress enacted clarifications placing special emphasis on the Navy Medal of Honor as a decoration for heroism in combat. The act, passed in February 1919, read: “…the President of the United States be, and is hereby, authorized to present, in the name of Congress, a medal of honor to any person who, while in the naval service of the United States, shall, in action involving actual conflict with the enemy, distinguish himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty and without detriment to the mission of his command or the command to which attached.”

The law helped raise the bar considerably for the Navy Medal of Honor while also authorizing the creation of other medals to honor sailors whose sacrifices did not quite qualify for the highest award.

4. 34 Stars not 50
The Navy Medal of Honor is a five-pointed star with a circle on the front of the medal. The circle has a 34-star border that surrounds Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom and war.

The 34 stars on the Navy Medal of Honor represent the 34 states of the United States that were a part of the union when the Civil War began. This includes the 11 confederate states. Given the Navy Medal of Honor was established during the Civil War, this makes sense.



5. Hidden meaning in the medal
According to the U.S. Navy’s Naval History and Heritage Command, the central motif of the Navy Medal of Honor “…is an allegory in which Columbia, in the form of the goddess Minerva uses the shield of the republic to put down the figure of Discord, plainly a reference to the unfolding split in our nation.”

The nation was in a civil war and the creators of the award wanted to show meaning and substance that illustrated the importance of the medal. On top of Minerva’s helmet is a perched owl, which represents wisdom. The man next to Minerva holds snakes in his hand, representing discord. The insignia is commonly referred to as “Minerva repulsing discord.”

On the ribbon of the award are 13 stars representing the original colonies.

(Editor's note: This article was compiled using articles written and published by the Naval History and Heritage Command.)

U.S. Navy Caps: Wear Your Personalized Cap with Pride

Serving in the U.S. Navy is a unique experience. Not many people on earth can say that they lived on a ship for several months of the year, for several years. Even fewer can say that they traveled all over the world on a ship.

For those reasons, being a Navy veteran is unique and Navy veterans can show their service pride by wearing US Navy caps. And just like in the Navy, there is a wide array of US Navy caps to choose from with just about every ship you can imagine available.

If you don’t have a particularly favorite ship, or maybe you spent the bulk of your Navy time on land, you can order US Navy caps with no mention of ships. However, if you’re like most former or current sailors, you will definitely have a favorite ship and you can order US Navy caps with your favorite ship on them.

When you order US Navy caps remember to get your name and rating stitched onto your cap for that special touch. Professional US Navy caps should include the ship’s name and hull number as a nice touch.

If you’re in the market for US Navy caps remember that USAMM can nicely customize one for you and get it to you pretty quickly just in time for Veterans Day or that special military event. Planning a reunion or thinking about hosting your shipmates? It is easy to order US Navy caps for all the sailors or former sailors in your life.

US Navy caps can also be used to commemorate service. Whether you are purchasing US Navy caps for yourself, or purchasing US Navy caps for someone else, these US Navy caps add to any Navy memorabilia collection. They can easily be included in any display at home or office.

US Navy caps allow you to show your service pride and they are really easy to order using USAMM’s US Navy caps builder technology.

If you’ve been putting off owning US Navy caps, buy one, give it a try. You won’t regret it.

Boot Camp Graduation Gifts: Five Ideas For Their Special Day

Boot camp, basic combat training, BMT; the entry level training that all new military recruits endure when they join the U.S. Armed Forces is referred to differently depending on the branch of service, but everyone joining the U.S. military must endure the rite of passage and attend some type of basic training.

Basic training for every branch of service is different and varies in difficulty, but when its over all participants are happy about their accomplishment and a great way to show them that you’re proud of their achievement is to purchase boot camp graduation gifts. If you do not have a lot of military experience or you’re unsure of what to buy, let us help you with our short list of ideas for boot camp graduation gifts.

Subscriptions
Subscriptions used to be hard to manage, but thanks to technology, anyone can read, watch and play games from their personal devices.

Subscriptions make great boot camp graduation gifts because hard copy magazines are fading into history and most, if not all, magazines are available in a digital format with a subscription. If your newly minted Soldier, Airman, Marine, Sailor, or Guardian isn’t really into periodicals, then maybe a subscription to a popular streaming channel might be a great gift. If the new service member in your life is a gamer, there are plenty of membership subscriptions that will satisfy their gaming fixes and also make great boot camp graduation gifts.

Gift Cards
Gift cards make great boot camp graduation gifts because they give the recipient complete freedom to purchase what they want. Gift cards can be used in a variety of ways to shop for uniform items, including ribbon racks, or service pride items, but rest assured, you can’t go wrong with gift cards as boot camp graduation gifts, especially when you can send them virtually via e-mail or drop them in the mail as a traditional plastic card.

Books
If the basic trainee graduate in your life loves to read, then good boot camp graduation gifts are books. If the graduates have reading devices, you can simply digitally purchase a book for them and they are sent a link to download their book. You can also buy them a credit on a particular e-book platform and they can download a book of their choice if you don’t want to be deal with shipping something.

If your young troop knows where they are headed after graduation, then consider hard copy books and even audio books for them to listen to. These formats make great boot camp graduation gifts for those who are book fans.

Military Gifts
Some great boot camp graduation gifts are things like shadow boxes, coin racks, and flag cases. Even though graduates are new to the military, these are great boot camp graduation gifts because they can keep them ready and use them once they start receiving awards, coins or other tokens of military service. They will own a way a showcase their tokens. These are always awesome boot camp graduation gifts.

Service Pride
Things like hoodies, t-shirts, and hats all make great boot camp graduation gifts. It’s a nice way for that special basic trainee in your life to show their pride while keeping warm and looking sharp.

Whatever boot camp graduation gifts you decide to buy, shopping and shipping early is always smart to ensure your trainee knows you are thinking about them as they complete their training.

Gifts For Navy Sailors: The Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide

The holidays are closing in fast and if you have a sailor in your life, you might be looking for gifts for Navy sailors that will show them how much you care about them and show them the pride you have in their service.  

The key to buying great gifts for Navy sailors is to truly think about who they are and what they like. If that still doesn’t do the trick to help you find great gifts for Navy sailors in your life, then try this short list and be sure to take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday specials.

Subscriptions
Subscriptions used to be hard to manage, but thanks to technology, anyone can read, watch and play from their personal devices.

Subscriptions are great gifts for Navy sailors because hard copy magazines are fading into history and most, if not all, magazines are available in a digital format with a subscription. If your sailor isn’t really into periodicals, then maybe a subscription to a popular streaming channel might be a great gift. If the sailor in your life is a gamer, there are plenty of membership subscriptions that will satisfy their gaming fix.

Gift Cards
Gift cards make great gifts for Navy sailors because they give the recipient complete freedom to purchase what they want. Gift cards can be used in a variety of ways to shop for Navy uniform items, including ribbon racks, or service pride items, but rest assured, you can’t go wrong with gift cards as gifts for Navy sailors, especially when you can send them virtually via e-mail or mail them as a traditional plastic card.

Navy Pride
Navy hoodies, t-shirts, and hats all make great gifts for Navy sailors. It’s a nice way for that special sailor in your life to show their pride while keeping warm and looking sharp. Customized hats take a step up and allow them to show their ship pride.

Books
If the sailor in your life loves to read, then great gifts for Navy sailors are books. If they have reading devices, you can simply purchase a book for them and they are sent a link to download their book. You can also buy them a credit on a particular e-book platform and they can download a book of their choice if you don’t want to be bothered with shipping something to a sailor who is underway.

If your sailor is on shore duty, then consider hard copy books and even audio books for them to listen to as they work out or drive to work. Either format makes great gifts for Navy sailors who are book fans.

Military Gifts
If you’re shopping for a seasoned salt in your life, then odds are great that your sailor’s career has allowed them to collect a lot of coins, awards and trinkets from their many years of service. Items like shadow boxes, coin racks, Navy plaques, and flag cases are wonderful gifts for Navy sailors who have amassed items that reflect their military service. Your sailor might be so busy that they’ve likely not had the time to organize those items in a way that they can be properly showcased.

These are awesome gifts for Navy sailors or Navy veterans with a few years of service under their belt.

Whatever gifts for Navy sailors you decide to buy, shopping and shipping early is always smart to ensure your seafaring loved one knows you are thinking about them during the holidays. Remember, take advantage of those Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales to not only get a great gift, but to save your hard-earned cash.

Military Doctor Benefits: Are They Worth It?

All branches of the military, with the exception of the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Space Force, have military doctor billets. Being a military doctor can be rewarding because a military doctor doesn’t just serve the country, he or she also serves their patients. And in some cases, like flight surgeons, they can also be aviators on flight status (not necessarily pilots), a nice perk for those who can get the rating.

There are multiple paths to becoming a military doctor, but we will focus this post on the two more popular methods of becoming a military doctor.

To become a military doctor in the U.S. armed forces, there are two primary avenues: the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) or the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP).

USUHS
The USUHS, in Bethesda, Maryland, is sometimes referred to as America’s Medical School. It opened its doors in 1972 as a way to create more military doctors. Applicants accepted to the USUHS are placed on active-duty and their education is paid for by the U.S. government. Think of it as a service academy for the military doctor. Applicants can serve as commissioned officers in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and U.S. Public Health Service as a military doctor. Attendees of USUHS, though not military doctors, are considered military officers and must wear their uniforms to class and they are on active duty for the duration of medical school.

Prior to starting at USUHS, candidates are required to attend an officer orientation program to help them transition into military service. Once completed, they can begin their military doctor training. It’s important to note that once a student enters USUHS, they are commissioned as second lieutenants or ensigns, depending on branch choice. They earn O-1 pay while in school for the duration. They are also entitled to full military benefits like medical care, housing allowance and 30 days paid vacation.

Graduates of USUHS are required to serve a seven-year active-duty service commitment as a military doctor. They are then promoted to the rank of captain or the grade of O-3 upon attaining status as a military doctor. Applicants choosing to serve in the U.S. Public Health Service assume a ten-year active-duty obligation.

HPSP
The branches have their scholarship programs located at HPSP Air Force, HPSP Navy and HPSP Army online. All of these are great ways to become a military doctor, but it is important to note that the HPSP is a scholarship program that enables candidates to attend the medical school of their choice. A candidate’s medical school tuition is paid for by the U.S. government and they receive a monthly stipend as they train to be a military doctor.

In HPSP, the military service portion is different as candidates are commissioned as an officer in the IRR (Individual Ready Reserve) as opposed to USUHS where a candidate starts serving and wearing a uniform when they report to the school. In both cases, it leads to a person becoming a military doctor.

As an HPSP participant, your medical training is similar to civilians. Candidates attend medical schools of their choice on their way to becoming a military doctor and there are no military uniforms worn. However, scholars are required to attend officer training and one 45-day training session for each year they receive scholarship funds. Uniforms are required during training periods. Similar to USUHS, candidates must attend an officer orientation in their first two years. During the periods of officer orientation training and the 45-day training sessions, students are paid as O-1s.

Upon completion of their medical school training, candidates are given a $20,000 signing bonus for joining the Army, Navy or Air Force and they incur a one-year service obligation for every year they received scholarship funds. So, four years of medical school would require for years of service as a military doctor. Once you enter active duty, you become a captain or an O-3 in grade.

Marines vs Navy: Which Military Branch is Better?

Marines vs Navy: Which Military Branch is Better?

If you’re reading this, odds are you likely typed into an internet search engine something like “Marines vs Navy” or “Marines vs Navy: Which military branch is better?” The answer to this question is very subjective in nature.

The U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps are very unique branches of service and while they both involve maritime service and both are separate branches of the military, they are both a part of the Department of the Navy. Naturally, those who have served in the Corps and those who have served in the Navy will have differing opinions as to which branch is better in the Marines vs Navy argument.

The truth is, there is no right answer in a Marines vs Navy comparison. If you’re considering joining the Navy or Marine Corps, you should do your homework to determine which branch is best for you. That means understanding what you want to get out of military service and sitting down with recruiters to see which branch of service, Marines vs Navy, has the most to offer you and your personal goals. Asking a search engine to give you comparisons like Marines vs Navy won’t be productive and besides, do you really want to get advice from marketing writers who don’t know anything about you, the Navy or the Marine Corps?

That said, here is the Depot Blog’s top five differences, Marines vs Navy.

1. Basic Training
The Navy’s recruit training lasts about seven weeks and the Marine Corps lasts 13 weeks. It is widely known that the Marine Corps boot camp is one of the most physically, emotionally and spiritually challenging experiences a person can endure so if you’re the type of person who likes a challenge, the Marines have ample to offer, but the Navy is no slouch and offers plenty of rigorous training for their recruits and beyond. Heard of the Navy SEALs? The bottom line is, when it comes to training, which to choose, Marines vs Navy, depends on what an individual wants.

2. Duty
There is another key difference when comparing Marines vs Navy. Sailors, for the most part, spend time aboard ships. In fact, most sailors will spend a few years deploying on cruises to various parts of the world, depending on their missions and occupational skills, but they will also rotate and perform shore duty which stabilizes them on land for a few years.

Similarly, Marines can spend a lot of time aboard a Navy vessel. Much depends on their occupational specialty. However, like the Navy, the Marines can also be stabilized and perform their share of duty on land.

Both branches face a considerable amount of time deployed, but some might argue that duty in the Marine Corps is harder because the Marines have infantry and they tend to be the first responders of the American military. Again, much depends on what an individual wants. Someone who wants to be in the infantry will likely find sea duty deployed aboard a ship mundane and likewise, a seafaring sailor might find service in the infantry unappealing.

When it comes to comparing duty, Marines vs Navy, it’s really a toss-up based on what the individual wants.

3. Size Matters?
There are about 347,000 sailors in the U.S. Navy. By comparison, there are 186,000 in the Marine Corps. Marines vs Navy, there really isn’t much of a comparison, but just because the Navy is much larger than the Marine Corps does not necessarily mean that the Navy is a better place than the Marine Corps.

Now, it should be noted that a larger pool of people, like in the Navy, means that there are more opportunities for promotions and advancement, but that also means that there is more competition. Similarly, in the Marines, the pool of competition maybe smaller, but there are also fewer opportunities to promote. Some can argue that attaining the grade of E-9 in the Marines is a far greater achievement than earning E-9 in the Navy, but once again, this is subjective based on an individual’s personal and professional goals.

Leading an infantry battalion as a Marine Corps E-9 requires different skills than leading a nuclear submarine as a Navy E-9.

4. Culture
The Marine Corps has long prided itself on being an organization that is known as “The Few, The Proud.” The Navy uses “Forged by the Sea.” Both are very reflective of the cultures in each service branch, but once again, in this Marine vs Navy matchup, much depends on what you want to do with your life.

Not doubt, the Marine Corps is smaller and has some of the toughest training in the world of any military. Many Marine Corps veterans feel that earning their Eagle, Globe and Anchor was the hardest thing they’ve ever done and service in the Marine Corps was equally as hard for a branch that trains as it fights.

Along those lines, sea duty in the Navy requires a high level of commitment and fortitude. Sailors also endure long hours, months at sea and isolation from their families. It is hard to argue Marines vs Navy because once again, it is subjective. Some might consider being a part of a smaller, aggressive land and sea force a better cultural fit where others might consider being a part of a naval armada more suitable to their liking.

5. Uniforms
Informal surveys of military personnel, and even civilians, seems to show that the Marine Corps uniform has a place near and dear in the hearts of everyone. The dress blues from the Corps are easily recognizable (even to civilians) and they are a fan favorite, including other branches of service. They look sharp and while we would like to give some credit to those awesome Navy duds, the truth is that it is pretty hard to compete against those sharp-looking Marine Corps dress blues. The Corps wins here.

But let’s be honest, if you’re joining a branch of service because of their uniforms, then you likely have a lot of other questions you should be answering for yourself. If you are comparing the Marines vs Navy and trying to make up your mind about which branch to join based on the uniform that they wear, then you should likely revisit your motives for joining the Marines or the Navy. A uniform shouldn’t be the reason why you join a particular branch.

Think about your goals, your future plans and what branch of service can best serve you and which branch you can best serve. Marines vs Navy shouldn’t be on your mind. Think about what you want and who you are and the rest will take care of itself.

The Capture of U-505 Lives On

In May 1944 a U.S. Navy hunter-killer task force sailed from Norfolk, Virginia across the Atlantic to the Canary Islands to conduct anti-submarine patrols. For weeks the group searched with no luck; the German subs were elusive. Their goal was to find Nazi subs, but not to sink them, but rather, to capture one.

Then two days before the D-Day landings, the historic, but little-known task force (Task Force 22.3), running low on fuel, decided to turn and head towards Casablanca after another unsuccessful patrol. Ten minutes later, the USS Chatelain (DE-149) made sonar contact on an object 800 yards on the starboard bow.

The Chatelain closed in quickly on the target, in fact, it closed too quickly and it could not attack the target because depth-charges would not be able to sink fast enough to hit the sub. Instead, the destroyer attacked using “hedgehogs” which were battery-operated charges that explode on contact and are thrown ahead of the ship. After one pass, the Chatelain turned around and made another pass over the sub for a second attack. 

As the Chatelain engaged, Wildcat planes launched from the USS Guadalcanal (CVE-60), the task force’s flag ship, spotted the submerged sub from the air and fired into the water to mark the sub’s position for the attacking ships. The Chatelain adjusted her attack and set shallow depth charges around the U-boat’s location. After several detonations, an oil slick surfaced less than seven minutes after the sub had first been engaged. 

“You struck oil! Sub is surfacing!” a pilot said over the radio. 

When the sub surfaced, the USS Jenks and Pillsbury, along with the Wildcats in the air, all commenced firing upon the sub. The U-boat’s captain, Oberleutnant zur see (Lieutenant) Harald Lange, believing his boat was sinking, ordered his crew to abandon ship and to scuttle the vessel. He was also wounded in the American attack. 

The German crew was in such a rush to abandon ship, that they only partially scuttled the boat and left the engines running at about seven knots. With a damaged rudder, the German U-boat circled. After a few minutes, the USS Pillsbury ordered the task force to cease fire and they called away the Pillsbury’s boarding party, an order that had not been given in the U.S. Navy since the War of 1812. 

On June 4, 1944, Task Force 22.3 captured the German Type IXC submarine U-505 about 150 miles off the coast of Africa. It was the first time since the 19th Century that the Navy had captured a foreign warship. 

The Navy task group was commanded by Capt. Daniel V. Gallery, on the Guadalcanal, and was comprised of the escort carrier and five destroyer escorts: Pillsbury (DE-133), Pope (DE-134), Flaherty (DE-135), Chatelain (DE-149), and Jenks (DE-665). 

The U-505 crew was pulled from boats and boarded the Chatelain and Jenks. As the U-505 crew was being picked up, the sub was boarded by a boarding party of sailors from the Pillsbury which was led by Lieutenant Junior Grade Albert L. David. The boarding party closed scuttling valves and disarmed scuttling charges. David was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. He and the boarding party came aboard the U-505 and worked feverishly, not knowing when the U-boat would explode and what enemy resistance they would face. They did this as the U-boat flooded with water. Torpedoman's Mate Third Class Arthur Knispel and Radioman Second Class Stanley Wdowiak, each received the Navy Cross. The entire task force was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. 

 

Once the U-boat was made seaworthy and secured after three days of incessant work, Nazi submarine U-505 was taken into tow and the sub was transported to Bermuda, a journey that took approximately two weeks.

Fifty-eight Nazi prisoners were captured and they were held in secret as prisoners of war in Louisiana. They were presumed dead at sea by their families in Germany. Only one German crewman was killed during the American attack and three were wounded (the commanding officer, the executive officer and an enlisted sailor).

The significance of capturing U-505 was enormous. The boat had massive intelligence value. Aboard the sub were Nazi classified documents, code books, an Enigma cipher machine, and communications equipment. If the Germans believed that their sub had been captured and not lost at sea, the codebreaking efforts of the U.S. military would have been negated. The Navy kept the capture a secret and prevented the Nazi crew from writing loved ones. 

The seized codes not only enabled hunter-killer groups to find and engage other Nazi subs, but they also helped naval convoy commanders to route shipping away from known U-boat waters.  

By 1945, the Navy had gleaned as much engineering and intelligence information as it could from U-505, and the boat was slated to become a target for torpedo target practice. The task force commander’s brother, Father John Gallery, learned of the boat’s planned fate and called the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) to see if they would be interested in exhibiting the sub since the museum was a center for industrial education. The Gallery brothers, natives of Chicago, had been looking for a place to house the sub.

Chicagoans raised $250,000 to tow the boat and prepare a site for it at MSI. In 1954 the U.S. government donated the sub to MSI and it was made a war memorial and a permanent exhibit after being towed more than 3,000 miles through the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes. 

Today, U-505 resides at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. The boat has been restored and it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989. It is one of only two Type IXC U-boats still in existence. Although it has been restored, some of the battle damage remains and visitors to the MSI can easily see the large holes left by the American guns and aircraft. Visitors can also peak inside the sub and see its inside. 

Steve Alvarez is the author of Selling War A Critical Look at the Military's PR Machine published by Potomac Books. Color photos by Steve Alvarez. Black and white photos courtesy U.S. Navy history office.