Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Florida History: German U-Boats find targets off South Florida in WWII

Type VII same as U-564
By Jane Feehan       

For more Fort Lauderdale and Miami history, see

German U-Boats were not an uncommon sight off Florida's coast during World War II. Residents were required to turn off lights, pull shades closed or to partially tape car headlights to lower odds of being targeted by the enemy.

For the same reason, Allied ships sailed the Atlantic with a blackout policy. For protection they traveled in convoys as did British steam tanker Eclipse (9,767 tons). The tanker separated from its convoy in the Bahamas May 3, 1942 to continue to Port Arthur, Texas. The next day, in broad daylight, German U-Boat 564 (Type VII sub) sighted the tanker off Florida’s coast between Boynton Beach and Fort Lauderdale and torpedoed it, killing two. The stern of the Eclipse settled in shallow waters but the ship was salvageable and was later towed to Port Everglades.

What’s interesting about this incident is crew members reported the torpedo coming from between the tanker and land; the Eclipse was only a mile and a half to two miles from the coast, well within U.S. territorial waters.

Considering the record of U-Boat 564 - 18 ships sunk, one war ship sunk and four damaged – the Eclipse fared well. Considering the proximity of enemy ships to the coast, South Floridians fared even better.

Temporarily repaired, the Eclipse was towed to Mobile for more maintenance and re-entered service December, 1942. U-564 was sunk by British aircraft June 14, 1943.
Weidling, Philip and Burghard, August. Checkered Sunshine. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1966.

Tags: Florida in WWII, Fort Lauderdale history, South Florida during WWII, U-boats off Florida coast, German U-Boats

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