In 1944, The U.S. Navy Captured Its First Enemy Warship In 122 Years

Warfare History Network

Key point: A Nazi submarine was captured fully intact.

“Frenchy to Blue Jay—I have a possible sound contact,” squawked from USS Guadalcanal’s bridge intercom at 1110 hours. It meant that “Frenchy,” codename for the Destroyer Escort USS Chatelain, had located something during a sonar sweep.

But Captain Daniel V. Gallery, commander of the escort carrier Guadalcanal (BlueJay) was not going to get excited, at least not yet. The sound contact could be a whale, a layer of cold water, or any number of other things. On the other hand, a “possible” was always treated like the real thing until found out to be otherwise.

“Left full rudder,” Captain Gallery ordered. “Engines ahead full speed.” He also sent two other destroyer escorts (DE) in to assist Chatelain, put two of Guadalcanal’s Grumman F4F Wildcat fighters over the sound contact, and “got the hell out of there at top speed.” Gallery knew that an aircraft carrier, even a small escort carrier, would only be in the way if the contact turned out to be a U-boat. “A carrier smack on the scene of a sound contact is like an old lady in the middle of a bar room brawl!” he once remarked. “She’d better move fast and leave room for the boys who have work to do.”

Captain Gallery knew about these things from experience. On his last cruise, Gallery and his hunter-killer group had sunk two U-boats, U-68 and U-515, within the space of 12 hours. He was well versed on how German submarine commanders behaved. This trip had begun on May 15, 1944, when Gallery departed Norfolk, Virginia, aboard Guadalcanal with five destroyer escorts: Chatelain, Pillsbury, Pope, Flaherty, and Jenks. His orders were to take his U-boat hunting group, officially known as Task Group 22.3, out into the Atlantic to look for more enemy submarines.

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