Becka Lynn Pittard

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Protection from U-boats
Becka Lynn Pittard

Many do not know that part of World War II was fought off the coast of North Carolina. Even today, there are many people that believe that the United States is immune from attacks by foreign navies. The people of North Carolina learned something different during World War II. The coastal people of North Carolina came to realize that in a World War no place is safe from the horrors of war.

The Germans called the U-boat campaign off the North Carolina Coast "Operation Drumbeat." The only people to believe that the East Coast of the United States was vulnerable were the Germans themselves. Admiral Donitz, the German Commander, recognized that the East Coast was vulnerable. He knew that if he could send U-boats to the American East Coast the German submarines would cause great damage to the America War effort. The German Commanders approved of his plan, but thankfully for the Americans he could send only half of the U-boats that he originally planned to.

At the start of the World War II many people did not realize that U-boats had the range to reach the North Carolina Coast. People living on the coast of North Carolina did not take many of the precautions that people in other war zones did. For instance, coastal cities and towns did not turn off lights. This allowed U-boats to navigate more easily as well as helped them to see ships at night more easily. The U-boat attacks put North Carolina on the front lines of the war. Their lives were altered by these events. They became suspicious of strangers and were constantly on the lookout for spies. Children could not swim in the ocean because there was so much oil in the water. Many who lived on the Outer Banks of North Carolina during the war were startled by the sounds of the war so close to home. People would be awakened to the sounds of glass shattering and furniture shaking when a ship was torpedoed off the coast. All of these events altered the lives of those who lived along the coast of North Carolina.

The American Navy was also caught off guard by the U-boat attacks off the coast. Unlike in the North Atlantic, ships did not travel in conveys off the East Coast of the United States. This left them vulnerable to attack. German U-boats sent important supplies and war materials to the bottom of the Atlantic. There were so many ships sank that the area off the North Carolina cost was called 'Torpedo Junction". By July of 1942 the U-boats were being beaten back. But the cost of the U-boat campaign was immense. More than 80 ships were sunk.

The pictures that I selected show the damage caused by German U-boats. They demonstrate the terrible damage that resulted from U-boat attacks as well as the Navy's efforts to stop the U-boat attacks off our coast. You can also see the terror on the faces of the men who had lost their ship. The pictures I have selected reveal the true horror of the U-boat war off the North Carolina Coast.