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Saturday, October 19, 1991 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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World War Ii German U-Boat Found Off N.J. Coast

Newhouse News Service

POINT PLEASANT, N.J. - Divers say they have found a substantially intact World War II German U-boat - complete with live torpedoes - in the Atlantic Ocean 65 miles off Point Pleasant.

Lying upright in 230 feet of water, the sub's port side at the control room appears to have taken a direct hit and the conning tower rests nearby, partly buried in sand.

It was located on Labor Day by Bill Nagle, 39, of Point Pleasant, captain of the Seeker, a charter specializing in deep-wreck dives. Nagle was scouting suspected locations of sunken vessels when the Nazi hulk was discovered.

"After being on it for five minutes, I was like, holy smokes, this is a submarine," said John Chatterton, 40, of Millburn, the first crew member to reach the U-boat. "This was the dive of a lifetime."

During one of two subsequent expeditions, Chatterton groped his way inside the 251-foot sub and recovered two dishes, each marked with the Nazi eagle and swastika.

So far, the identity of the sub has eluded the underwater explorers. Also, no remains of the 48-member crew have been found, but all the U-boat's hatches are open, suggesting a possible emergency escape.

Henry Keatts, co-author of "Dive into History: U-boats," is convinced of the authenticity of the find.

"They have definitely found a German U-boat," Keatts said. "The mystery is how it ended up where it is today."

"All the crews' quarters were done in oak to help reduce noise and act as a thermal insulator," Chatterton said. "That's all collapsed and laying on top of all else that's there. You could be swimming over real, real pertinent stuff, but you have to get down and dig into the bottom to find it."

The wreckage of six U-boats has been found off the East Coast.

In addition, 12 U-boats were confiscated after Germany's surrender in May 1945 and were either used as target practice or sold for scrap.

"None is supposed to be in this area," Keatts said, adding that torpedo practice sinkings were not conducted until after the removal of live munitions, Keatts noted.

Chatterton said anti-submarine warfare was so hit-or-miss in the early years of the war that depth charges were frequently fired at already sunken ships on the basis of a sonar reading. Perhaps the sub had already sunk when it was hit, he speculated.

Keatts, a professor of biology and oceanography at Suffolk Community College on Long Island, said the subs were responsible for at least nine of the 30 sinkings of vessels just off the New Jersey-New York coasts.

"Even in World War I, six U-boats came over and sank over 100,000 tons in East Coast waters, but most people aren't aware of it," he said.

"We're hoping someone who was a crewman on a destroyer, say, will remember that they got a U-boat off New Jersey," Chatterton said. "Sinking a U-boat was a big deal, and certainly the anti-submarine forces involved would have wanted to take credit for this kind of thing. Somebody has got to know something."

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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