SHIP NOTES: (Sources: Gentile, Wynn Vol .2)
Name: U-701 Type: Submarine (VII-C)
Built: Stulcken Sohn, Hamburg Keel Laid: 5/13/1940
Date Sunk: 7/7/42 Cause: Aerial depth-charged
Size (ft.): 218 x 20 x 15 Tonnage: 1070 displacement tons fully loaded
Propulsion: Two diesel engines/two electric motors Location N34°xxx'/W75° xxxx'

Constructed between 1938-1944, the VIIC boats were slightly larger internally than their predecessor, the type VIIB and also had a slightly improved surface range. (9700 nautical miles to 9400 nautical miles, at 10 knots, combined diesel/electric drive) Their maximum surface speed was 17-17.7 knots and their maximum submerged speed was 7.6 knots. The type VIIC carried 14 torpedoes (4 in forward tubes, 8 in forward torpedo compartment, 1 in aft torpedo tube and 1 aft torpedo compartment). The orginal VIIC design included a 88mm deck gun mounted forward of conning tower. Effective against surface vessels in the early years of the war, this gun was removed from new and older boats after 1942 due to the increased danger of enemy air attack. The boat was designed to carry 60 men (4 officers and 56 enlisted men) The type VIIC was by far the most common of the World War II German u-boats with 660 boats built.

SHIP HISTORY: (Sources: Wynn, Gannon, Gentile, Hickham, Hoyt)
Commander: KL. Horst Degen [July, 1941 to July 7, 1942]
Group: 3rd U-Flotille, Kiel/La Pallice
Patrols: 4/Ships Sunk: 9 sunk; 4 damaged
Baron Erskine (sister ship Baron Napier shown here) was the U-701's first victim (24)

Patrol 1:
— left Kiel, Germany; Four days later, the U-701 suffered a tragedy when one of its watch officers, Lieutenant Weinitshcke, was washed overboard and lost. On 1/6/42, NW of Rockall, Scotland, it came across a straggler from convoy SC-62, the British freighter, Baron Erskine carrying phospates from Tampa, Florida to Scotland, via Nova Scotia. A torpedo from the U-701 sent the ship to the bottom with the loss of its entire complement of 40 crewman. For the remainder of this patrol, the U-701 patrolled the Newfoundland Bank area but had no further successes. She returned to St. Nazaire, France on 2/9/1942.

Patrol 2:
— left St. Nasaire for operations in the north Atlantic. The U-701 was assigned a patrol area west of the Faroes and Hebrides Islands. On March 6, S of Iceland, it torpedoed the fishing trawler Nyggjaberg with a loss of its entire crew of 21. On March 7, the U-701claimed another sinking SE of Iceland, but no records can confirm the kill. The next day, she scored again, this time confirmed, sinking the armed trawler, the HMS Notts County SE of Iceland. The U-701 followed that up with another trawler, the HMS Stella Capella, on March 11, again with no survivors. For the remainder of this patrol, the U-701 was grouped with the U-135, U-553, and U-569 to wait for a group of British naval vessels just west of the Shetland and Faroe Islands. The group waited two weeks with no sightings or further successes. The U-701 returned to Brest, France on April 1, 1942.

Patrol 3:
— left Brest, France and arrived in Lorient, France on 5/20/1942 for refueling.

Patrol 4:
— left Lorient, France for operation in US waters. During its Atlantic passage, the U-701 had several interesting encounters. It exchanged signals with a 3 masted fishing barkentine on its way to fishing grounds off Grand Banks. The Gazela Primeiro was flying the neutral flag of Portugal was left to go on its way. The Gazela is now moored off of Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, PA and is the largest of the tall ships still in existence. The u-boat reported another "protected" ship encounter when it chased the Swedish liner Drottningholm traveling under diplomatic immunity. The Drottningholm in its earlier incarnation as the Virginian was one of the first steam turbine liners built and had several crossing speed records. She also played minor roles in two great maritime tragedies — the sinking of the Titanic and the Empress of Ireland.

On 6/12/42, the U-701 was off the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, Virginia were it laid 15 TMB shallow water mines at the entrance to the Bay. Three days later as an allied convoy entered the Bay, the Esso Augusta and Robert C. Tuttle struck the mines. The destroyer Bainbridge (DD-246) thought the ships were under torpedo attack and proceeded to drop 8 depth charges, which ended up exploding more mines. The armed trawler HMS Kingston Ceylonite was escorting the convoy into the bay and struck another mine and was completely destroyed with the loss of its entire crew. The Tuttle was beached and later salvaged and the Augusta reached port with assistance. On 6/17/42, the Santore, in an outbound convoy, struck a remaining U-701 mine and went to the bottom.

While its minefield was claiming victims, the KL Degen and the U-701 were making their way towards Cape Hatteras, NC. On 6/16, she made a two torpedo attack on a freighter but missed. She came across the samll armed trawler YP-389. Deeming it not worthy of a torpedo, Degen sank the vessel with his 88mm deck gun. This was one of the last recorded gun attacks made by a u-boat as increased air cover had made the practice extremely risky. [Note: In August 2009, a NOAA survey expedition discovered the wreckage of the YP-389 some 20 miles off shore in 300 feet of water. (article 1)(article 2)] On 6/26, the U-701 torpedoed but did not sink the Norwegian freighter MV Tamesis. The freighter captain ran the his damaged ship aground in shallow water. It was later towed to port for repair and month later made it to New York.

USS St. Augustine in May, 1943 (6)

One day later (6/27), the U-701 torpedoed and damaged the tanker British Freedom. Before it could finish the tanker off, the u-boat was attacked by the auxillary armed yacht, USS St. Augustine which dropped 5 depth charges. The depth charges damaged the conning towr gauges, electric motors and air-circulators. The U-701 crew was able to repair all but the air-circulators. These later proved its undoing. The tanker made to Norfolk, VA for repairs.

At noon on 6/28, approximately 16 ENE of the Diamond Shoals Light Buoy, Degen had brought the U-701 to the surface trying to get relief from the bad air and heat that had built up inside of ship during the night. He noticed a large smoke smudge on the horizon. The vessel proved to be the u-boat captains dream. It was the tanker SS William Rockefeller one of the largest tankers [14,054 tons] in the world at that time. It was carrying over 136,000 barrels of bunker "C" fuel oil and heading to New York. The U-701 fired a single torpedo which struck the tanker amidships on the port side. The ship quickly became a raging inferno. Before U-701 could confirm the tanker's doom, the air escort, a USCG J2F-5 dropped 4 depth cannisters and the USCG Cutter CGC-470 followed up with 7 depth charges. Shaken but not further damaged, the U-701 escaped to later pick up the burning tanker 12 hours later. A second torpedo sent the tanker to the bottom.

The U-701 sunk the SS William Rockefeller off of Cape Hatteras
The next several days brought increased pressure and frustration to Degen and the U-701. Constant air patrols forced the u-boat to spend day light on the ocean bottom until darkness brought protection from the searching enemy planes. The worsening state of air-circulators and the warm Gulf Stream waters made extended time underwater aboard the U-701 almost unbearable as air stagnated, CO2 built-up, the heat increased, and the crew became sick and lethargic. At the point of desperation and to have his crew rejuvenated for the nights action, Degen brought the U-701 to the surface on July 7th at approximatley 3:00 pm to ventilate his poisoned boat. The U-701 was preparing to return to its underwater refuge when it was spotted by a patrolling Army A-29 Hudson aircraft. The plane was piloted by Lt. HJ Kane who knew exactly what to do. Coming out of the clouds, he was on the u-boat before he was spotted by its lookouts. The A-29 dropped 3 depth charges as the U-701 was trying to make its emergency dive. The first fell short, but numbers two and three hit the u-boat just aft of the conning tower and cracked its pressure hull.
Lockheed Hudson A-29 (left) and K-8 Navy Airship (right) [26,6]
With water filling his boat, Degen immediately saw that the wound was fatal and ordered abandon ship. The U-701 made it part way to the surface but then immediately sank to the bottom. 17 crew members, including Degen, escaped to the surface. The Hudson A-29 circled sinking sub and dropped a life raft and vests to the survivors which quickly were carried away by the Gulf Stream current. Hopes that they would be recovered quickly faded as night came. The survivors drifted for 2 days getting weaker or dying with each passing hour. Finally, on 7/9, seven survivors were spotted by a patrolling airship north of the Wimble Shoals light. The airship lowered a raft, blankets and supplies to the now desparate men. That afternoon, the u-boat crew and their captain were picked up by a Coast Guard floatplane and taken to Norfolk, VA.
The U-701 as she likely appeared approximately one month
after sinking off of Cape Hatteras
The U-701 would soon be almost completely covered by the shifting sands of Diamond Shoals

Diving Depths: 115 ft.
Visibility: Generally very good; range 50 to 100+ ft.
Current: moderate to undiveable
Summer Temperature: high 70s to lo 80s
Points of Interest: intact u-boat; 88mm deck gun
Fish/Animal Life: Because of the limited exposure of the wreck, there is not large quantities of marine life on the wreck; The bottom fish seem to be predominately tautog and black sea bass - all more indicative of the cooler waters north of Diamond Shoals. The time I dived the wreck, there were large groups of amberjack and 4 sandtiger sharks cruising the wreck. I did see an ocean sunfish (Mola mola) while doing my deco hang on the wreck.

One of the sharks serving as sentry to the U-701
88mm deck gun mounted on the bow
Conning tower
The U-701 as she likely appeared approximately one month
after sinking off of Cape Hatteras
The U-701 lies on its keel with a 45 degree list to the starboard side. As a result, the port side is the "high" side of the wreck. The U-701 sits in an area of the shoals that has moving "sand waves" and it appears from past reports that the wreck was in a period of "maximum" exposure when I visited the wreck in August 2004. The conning tower, the 88mm deck gun and the extreme stern are exposed as well as the port side middle saddle tank areas surrounding the conning tower. Given the nature of the sand movement, I suspect that the conning tower and deck gun are the only parts the remain consistently exposed. This area of the shoals is know for its hard and often undiveable currents. These often make the site of the U-701 undiveable and also difficult to anchor. Currents aside, the wreck is intact and relatively small and thus easy to navigate. Depending on how much is exposed, the wreck offers little "relief" and more than 4-5 divers would be a "crowd". The lack of consistent relief and exposed hard surface also limits the amount of marine life the wreck attracts.

The location of the U-701 has been the subject of intense interest over the years. It caught the attention of Uwe Lovas in the 1980's and Lovas had sufficient time, resources, intelligence and energy to have his multi-year search finally rewarded in 1989. The location was protected by Lovas and during the past 15 years, it had only been dived by members of his team. The few underwater pictures that existed of the wreck were made by members of Lovas' group. Of course, knowledge that ithe U-701 had indeed been found only served to heighten the mystery and drive others to continue the search for the wreck. It was only a matter of time before an unfortunate, but serendipitous net "hang", perhaps with help from Hurricane Isabel, resulted in the U-701's location being discovered. Dockside scuttlebutt about the latest "search efforts" contains offers of money in exchange for numbers as well as other, not as "subtle", methods to secure the location of the U-701. In the end, some money changed hands and favors were given and the location quickly spread beyond Lovas' close circle of friends. The location so closely guarded all these years was suddenly not so "secret" any longer.

This happened in early 2004. And even though the location has just become "less secret" over the last 6 months, and inspite of the efforts made to protect the u-boat, [article 2, article 3 reprint], it was immediately obvious on the dive that I made that the members of the wreck "looting" community have already made their mark on the U-701. The defacing and dredging had begun. Some selfish, short-sighted jack ass(es) has already cut the DF loop antenna and the sky/air periscope from the conning tower, dredged the sand from within the conning tower to get to the instruments located there, and have cut items from the 88mm deck gun including the arm/body supports, sights, etc. You have to wonder what is next? It would not shock me to see the recovery of human remains and auctioning them on ebay. I suspect we may see a replay of the turmoil involving the U-352 in the 1970-80s, when the US Navy, German government and a US Senator got involved to "close" the wreck because of the activities of the wreck "looting" community. In the intervening years, we have apparently learned neither respect nor from that experience. It is very sad. [Follow-up article on U-701 defacing]

Conning Tower lists to the starboard side
The wreck site can be experience strong currents as noted by the divers bubbles moving sideways instead of vertically
"Sunk Sub" rescue buoy cannister forward of the gun on the portside
Areas of actual and possible defacing
are labeled
Conning tower, once filled with sand, has been dredged to cut out "artifacts"
circa 2009: The conning tower hatch has been taken off and the conning tower appears to be filled back up with sand
Rear, port view of conning tower showing diesel air and boat air inlet masts
High pressure air flask - stern
Looking toward bow - KDB - rotating hyrdophone device marked Looking foward from behind the conning tower
Attack periscope Looking forward from stern - note sand level
Currently, the stern is exposed
Looking down the deck to the stern - reserve toropedo storage area in foreground? Port side rudder and blade of
portside propeller (circled)

Unless specifically noted, all photos, text and content Copyright © 2005 by Paul M. Hudy

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