Four Rhode Island Coast Guardsmen took part in the first Nazi submarine surrender

DE 387 Destroyer Escort
WDE 487 Coast Guard Destroyer Escort
DER 387 Destroyer Escort Radar Picket

Four Rhode Island Coast Guardsmen
took part in Nazi surrender
Retyped for clarity on November 6, 1999 by Joseph Betters
Received from John Johnson at the 1999 Vance Reunion.

From an unknow newspaper article.

State Man on Prize Crew for Surrendered U-Boat
Three Others on U~Boat Off Azores When U-873 Gave Up; Was Brought to Portsmouth

Four Rhode Island Coast Guardsmen took part in the first Nazi submarine surrender to U. S. forces after VE-Day, when their crew on a destroyer escort accepted custody of the U-873, which gave up off the Azores on May 11.

A Providence Coast Guardsman, Oscar N. Whelpley, BM 2c, of 157 Public Street, was one of the 21 members of a prize crew which sailed the surrendered sub 1600 miles from the Azores to Portsmouth, N. H., through five and a half days of heavy weather

. The other three Rhode Islanders who were on the Coast Guard destroyer escort to which the U-873 surrendered are Edward C. Carpenter, CM1c, 82 Spring Street, East Greenwich: Joseph A. Montour, McMM 2c, 204 Anthony Street, East Providence, and Philip Steinman, yeoman 3c, 177 Wallace Street, Providence. New Bedford, Mass., was represented on the crew by Manuel A. Oliveira, St.M 2c.

Three Coastguard vessels were convoying ships to the Mediterranean when the U-873, a 1700-ton sub, surfaced and surrendered to Comdr. Christopher C. Knapp New London, Conn., in charge of the task group.

Captain Ended Life

"There was never any question as to who was now the U-boat Kapitan," said Commander Knapp after he went aboard and took over the sub from Kapitanleutnant Fritz Steinhoff, the Nazi skipper. Steinhoff was co-operative enough at sea, but when he was placed in prison at Boston later, he broke his glasses and used a shard of glass to slash his wrists, dying soon after.

Confidential papers and the sub's log had been jettisoned before the sub surrendered, Knapp found. Weapons and automatic sights also were gone. but the Coastguardmen found some hand grenades packed away among the food stores.

"The sub was filthy," according to Lt. C. J. Schmidt of Richmond, Va., in charge of the prize crew. The only food aboard was in cans, from Norway.

Like a Delicatessen

"It was like living in a delicatessen," said Schmidt. "The crew soon became tired of pickled tongue and spent the last three days aboard the sub eating canned tuna, strawberries and cherries.

"We found the sub carried 15 torpedoes, six of which had been expended. They had three ready to fire, with a torpedo party standing by.

"The sub was carrying 59 men and eight officers, many of whom were wearing the, Iron Cross. The men had very high rates and all but one man had had previous sub duty.

"At first the U-boat crew claimed no one aboard spoke English. After a few days at sea it developed that all but one man could speak enough English to be understood.

Asked About Roosevelt

"When they finally broke down and started talking. the Nazis asked about President Roosevelt. They said they didn't know he had died. They believed Hitler was dead and that Goering had suffered a nervous breakdown. They had been at sea 42 days."

When the prize crew was put aboard the U-873, they made sure the Nazi crew would not try to scuttle their ship with the U. S. men on the boat. They ran a chain from the conning tower hatch to the interior of the ship, so the hatch couldn't be closed. Then they locked the ballast tanks and kept some members of the Nazi crew on deck at all times.

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