From May to October of 1918, long range Imperial German submarines hunted off the coast of North America from Halifax, Nova Scotia all the way down to the busy waters off places like Beaufort, North Carolina. In the latter half of 1917 and into the spring of 1918, the same u-boats had hunted in the waters off West Africa, Gibraltar, and Spain. They caused havoc, headlines, and headaches for the Allies. American newspapers ran front page stories with ALL CAPS titles declaring the u-kreuzers’ latest exploits right off US shores. In the end six u-boats had made the epic journey to attack North America from their German ports. At the time it seemed the most important story in the world to the Americans and Canadians who lived it.
Then it was promptly forgotten…
From 1942 to 1945, the submarines of Nazi Germany made the same journey to North American waters by the dozens and sank millions of tons of shipping while they were at it. American, Canadian, Caribbean, and South American eyes were turned to the much more potent menace of the faster, more maneuverable, and deadlier u-boats of the Third Reich. Despite the carnage of the Second World War right off their shores even the exploits of Germany’s second attempt at long range submarine warfare were somewhat forgotten by the countries they had attacked only a few decades later. Books are still written about the struggle from that second war despite the general lack of memory about those battles fought within sight of those familiar beaches.
The second campaign eclipsed the first, and the U-156 and her sisters were forgotten for a time, until now. The story of the German pioneers who crossed an ocean in a craft prone to breakdown and failure and the brave Allied defenders, code-breakers, and spies they faced is a story that can now be given its full due after nearly a century in the shadows.
Photo is from an original German postcard owned by the author and depicts a Deutschland class u-kreuzer