The Battle of Point Judith – The sinking of U-853.

America’s involvement in the Second World War was only towards the end; however, by then Germany was almost defeated and orders were given to all naval ships and submarines to return home. Not all ships received the message, as one U-853 submarine was sunken by the American off the coast of Rhode Island.

The U-853 submarine was sunk the day before the end of World War II (in what became known as the Battle of Point Judith) with Germany’s defeat back in Europe. Some members from the group that brought down the U-853 submarine are alive and can relate the story. Kenneth Homberger (a marine on board the USS Atherton) recalls how they got the U-853 submarine’s bearings and were able to sink the submarine by midnight. It was May 5th 1945 when a couple of submarines were spotted en route to the Boston Shore. At the time, the U-853 was carrying 55 German crew- members, who all died onboard.

Today, roughly seven miles off Rhode Island (where the wrecked U-853 submarine remains submerged) the spot is a popular diving ground for divers. Although popular, the spot can be quite hazardous for divers that are unacquainted with small underwater spaces. In the 1950s and 1960s there emerged rumours that the U-853 was carrying treasures which were at the time being smuggled out when the submarine was sunk. For people like Bill Palmer, who are well-accomplished divers this provided an opportunity for exploration. He was able to dive down into the wreckage and collect artefacts (such as pistols, watches and the soldier’s uniforms) that he now proudly displays in the basement of his home.

As for those 55 German soldiers who perished on that day (some whose bodies will forever remain underwater), the wreckage is a reminder of the devastations a war has, not only through the   victims it claims but also on everyone left behind to pick up the pieces. Some of the submarines’ components (the propellers) were removed, and now sit displayed at the Naval War College warehouse, the Chron reports.

The annual Veterans Day (an official American holiday) which commemorates people that served in the army, a small service is help for those 55 U-853 crews 54 of whom remain submerged. A diver, 1960 brought up one crew member from the wreckage who was then buried with military honours.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE