U-52, a typical Type VIIB boat
|Ordered:||9 June 1938|
|Builder:||Flender Werke, Lübeck|
|Laid down:||18 December 1939|
|Launched:||10 April 1941|
|Commissioned:||7 June 1941|
|Fate:||Sunk by USS Roper, 14 April 1942|
|Class and type:||Type VIIB U-boat|
|Draught:||4.74 m (15 ft 7 in)|
|Complement:||4 officers, 40–56 enlisted|
|Sensors and |
|Victories:||Three commercial ships sunk (15,060 GRT)|
|Nearest city||Nags Head, North Carolina|
|MPS||World War II Shipwrecks along the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico MPS|
|NRHP reference #||15000805|
|Added to NRHP||12 November 2015|
She was laid down at the Flender Werke in Lübeck on 18 December 1939 as yard number 281. Launched on 10 April 1941, she was commissioned on 7 June and assigned to the 3rd U-boat Flotilla under the command of Oberleutnant zur See Eberhard Greger.
German Type VIIB submarines were preceded by the shorter Type VIIA submarines. U-85 had a displacement of 753 tonnes (741 long tons) when at the surface and 857 tonnes (843 long tons) while submerged. She had a total length of 66.50 m (218 ft 2 in), a pressure hull length of 48.80 m (160 ft 1 in), a beam of 6.20 m (20 ft 4 in), a height of 9.50 m (31 ft 2 in), and a draught of 4.74 m (15 ft 7 in). The submarine was powered by two MAN M 6 V 40/46 four-stroke, six-cylinder supercharged diesel engines producing a total of 2,800 to 3,200 metric horsepower (2,060 to 2,350 kW; 2,760 to 3,160 shp) for use while surfaced, two BBC GG UB 720/8 double-acting electric motors producing a total of 750 metric horsepower (550 kW; 740 shp) for use while submerged. She had two shafts and two 1.23 m (4 ft) propellers. The boat was capable of operating at depths of up to 230 metres (750 ft).
The submarine had a maximum surface speed of 17.9 knots (33.2 km/h; 20.6 mph) and a maximum submerged speed of 8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph). When submerged, the boat could operate for 90 nautical miles (170 km; 100 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph); when surfaced, she could travel 8,700 nautical miles (16,100 km; 10,000 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). U-85 was fitted with five 53.3 cm (21 in) torpedo tubes (four fitted at the bow and one at the stern), fourteen torpedoes, one 8.8 cm (3.46 in) SK C/35 naval gun, 220 rounds, and one 2 cm (0.79 in) anti-aircraft gun The boat had a complement of between forty-four and sixty.
She docked at St. Nazaire on the French Atlantic coast on 18 September.
U-85's second patrol started and finished in Lorient, but was unremarkable.
4th patrol and loss
Having left St. Nazaire on 21 March 1942, U-85 sank the Swedish freighter Christina Knudsen off the coast of New Jersey on 10 April. U-85 was herself sunk with all hands on 14 April off the United States coast near Cape Hatteras by gunfire from the US destroyer USS Roper. She was the first German U-boat loss of "Operation Drumbeat" (Paukenschlag), Germany's U-boat offensive off the eastern seaboard of the United States in 1942.
U-85 took part in four wolfpacks, namely.
- Markgraf (1–11 September 1941)
- Schlagetot (20 October – 1 November 1941)
- Raubritter (1–17 November 1941)
- Störtebecker (17–22 November 1941)
U-85 was operating within visual distance of Bodie Island Light at midnight on 13 April 1942 when Roper detected the submarine on British Type 286 radar at a range of 2,700 yards (2,500 m). The boat attempted to run south on the surface and fired her stern torpedo at Roper when the range closed to 700 yards. Roper evaded the torpedo and U-85 turned sharply to starboard when the range closed to 300 yards. Roper illuminated the U-boat with her searchlight and observed men on deck near the gun whose firing arc had just been cleared by the course change. Roper raked U-85 with machine gun fire and scored a hit with a 3"/50 caliber gun. She then dropped a pattern of 11 depth charges where U-85 had disappeared beneath the surface.
Numerous men were observed in the water, but no rescue attempt was made until daylight. By then, there were no survivors among the 29 bodies floating in life jackets. Some of the bodies were wearing civilian clothes, carrying wallets with United States currency and identification cards. The bodies were fingerprinted, photographed and buried in a night-time military ceremony at the Hampton National Cemetery. U-85 lies in less than 100 ft (30 m) of water; the United States Navy briefly attempted to salvage her. More recent investigation by sport divers has raised questions about Navy reports on the wreck.
The hatch of U-85 is on display in the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum; the submarine herself still serves as an attraction for divers. The Labrador current influences the site and visibility can be low. The majority of the debris lies within a 100 metres (330 ft) radius of the wreck. The wreck site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2015.
The Enigma machine was recovered from the wreck by private divers (Jim Bunch, Roger & Rich Hunting) and in 2003 the German government agreed to allow the machine to be displayed at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, in Hatteras, North Carolina.
Summary of raiding history
|10 September 1941||Thistleglen||United Kingdom||4,748||Sunk|
|9 February 1942||Empire Fusilier||United Kingdom||5,408||Sunk|
|10 April 1942||Chr. Knudsen||Norway||4,904||Sunk|
|Total Tonnage Sunk =||15,060|
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- U-85 Memorial Page with Crew members' birth dates and places
- Uboat Archive – U-85
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "The Type VIIB boat U-85". German U-boats of WWII - uboat.net. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
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