The Elusive Wolf: Hunting Nazi Subs

Bradley Sheard knows a thing or two about out-of-commish submarines. For our Water Issue, we reached out to Brad to share some of the highlights from his story on the discovery of the infamous U-550, which you can enjoy at no cost, below.

For, the entire story of this remarkable sunken part of history and the team that dedicated decades to find the treasure, check out “The Discovery of U-550: The Elusive Wolf.”

The U-550: Resurfacing Underwater

The date was July 23, 2012—68 years, three months and eight days since the German U-550 submarine was sunk off the American coast during the Second World War. Though she never resurfaced, the history behind her most certainly did.

What Lies Beneath

World War II showcased a different landscape on the waters of the North East. Large U.S. naval vessels patrolled the area while beneath the surface, Nazi German subs stalked some of the biggest shipping tankers coming out of New York City. One of the more notable and elusive submarines was the colossal 251-foot German U-550 submarine—which makes it even harder to believe that it almost disappeared.

Torpedo Fired

On April 16, 1944, 100 miles south of Nantucket, the submerged German vessel took aim at the Pan Pennsylvania, one of the largest tankers in the world at the time. Having successfully torpedoed and sank the massive shipping tanker, the U-550 sub quickly took cover underneath the oversized sunken hall. Three U.S. Naval destroyers, USS Joyce, USS Gandy and USS Peterson, arrived on the scene with evidence of a Nazi sub having attacked the Pan Pennsylvania, but there was no sign of the U-550. At all.

Underwater Revenge

The U.S naval ships patiently played a dangerous waiting game with the U-550 sub. But the 26-year old German captain blinked first, exposing their position while attempting to flee from underneath the hull of the sunken Pan Pennsylvania. The USS Peterson successfully neutralized the German sub with a series of 13 targeted depth charges, sending the U-550 to a final, yet unknown resting place on the ocean floor.

Back on the Radar

On July 23, 2012, veteran wreck divers who had dreamed of finding and exploring this particular vessel for years finally located the U-550 sub while searching on their aptly named boat, Tenacious. The discovery ignited a ripple effect from historians to survivors of the battle from both sides with an outpouring of questions and a renewed interest in the submarine that never saw daylight again.

Words + photos as featured in Whalebone’s eighth issue, the Water Issue. Thanks Brad!