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From 1942 to 1943, German U-boats sank more than 600 merchant ships off the U.S. East Coast. According to writer and Florida-during-World War II historian Eliot Kleinberg, 16 ships were sunk during the war off Florida between Cocoa Beach and Boca Raton.
The Florida maritime incident during the war that claimed the most lives, however, did not involve a U-boat.
Eighty-eight of 116 crewmen perished when two tankers collided off Jupiter Inlet October 20, 1943. The ships were running in opposite directions off Jupiter’s coastal bulge with lights out under war conditions. The Gulf Belle, emptied of cargo, and the Gulfland, heavy with a shipment of high octane fuel, ran into each other without warning; collision was followed by a fiery explosion seen from land.
The Coast Guard Temporary Reserve, with its flotilla of cabin cruisers and fishing boats, responded to the emergency and saved 28 from both ships. A small dog was rescued from one of the tankers where it was thought to have been in the engine room. The GulfBelle was towed into port where bodies of the crew were removed. The Gulfland burned for weeks in Hobe Sound and then sank.
For more on U boats, see: http://janesbits.blogspot.com/2011/07/florida-history-german-u-boats-find.html
Palm Beach Post, Oct. 24, 1943, p. 1.
Palm Beach Post, Apr. 23, 1944, p. 13
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