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On 5 May 1944, U.S.S. BLOCK ISLAND of Task Group 21.11 obtained a strong radar contact at 2222 GCT while on anti-submarine search at approximately 16.46 N. – 32.29 W. A destroyer escort of the Task Group, U.S.S. BUCKLEY, was detached to investigate the contact assisted by planes from the carrier.  No contact was made, however, until 6 May at 0330 GCT when a TBM1-C, adapted for all night patrol operations by removal of all armament, obtained a radar contact and shortly thereafter sighted U-66 fully surfaced. A killer group was dispatched from the carrier and the TBM1-C homed BUCKLEY, then about 20 miles distant, to the U-boat.  

The planes arrived on the scene only after BUCKLEY and the U-boat had closed and were thus unable to take part in the engagement. Upon receiving the report of the sighting by the TBM1C, BUCKLEY increased speed to flank, maintaining this speed for 45 minutes while being homed by the plane to the spot where the U-boat was still surfaced.  BUCKLEY obtained radar contact on U-66 at 0345 at 14,000 yards.  Flank speed was maintained and the BUCKLEY closed the submarine up the path of the moon. The U-boat came into full view silhouetted against the moon at 4,000 yards range. Maintaining flank speed, course was so altered as to bring the submarine dead ahead.  Just after this alteration of course a torpedo wake was reported starboard of BUCKLEY.  At 0419 the U-boat opened fire with machine gun.     BUCKLEY commenced firing at 0420, range 2,100 yards.

The very first salvo from 3-inch guns scored a direct hit on the submarine’s forecastle just forward of the conning tower.  Prisoners from U-66 stated that this salvo knocked out their deck gun.  Thereupon the commanding officer of U-66 gave the order to abandon ship.  This order apparently was not carried out immediately for machine gun fire was still directed against the onrushing BUCKLEY.  At 0422 BUCKLEY ceased fire momentarily. A torpedo wake was reported on the starboard bow and the rudder was put over right full.  With the submarine again directly up-moon, fire was resumed by BUCKLEY at 0422.  Hits from 20-mm. shells were observed on the U-boat’s conning tower. After which all fire from the submarine ceased, except for intermittent short bursts.  Although the U-boat continued to maneuver at about 18 knots, range was closed rapidly.  Further gunfire from BUCKLEY caused a fire to break out on the U-boat’s bridge, burning with increasing intensity until snuffed out by a direct 3-inch hit.

At 0428 BUCKLEY rammed U-66 riding up on the forecastle of the U-boat and staying there.  Personnel from U-66 clambered up onto BUCKLEY’S forecastle with their hands raised.  Several of these men were killed by small arms before it was realized they were surrendering.  Hand-to-hand engagements took place but fortunately BUCKLEY’S only casualty was a man who bruised his fist knocking one of the enemy over the side. At 0430 BUCKLEY backed off to avoid being boarded by too many of the enemy.  U-66 drew ahead rapidly to port maintaining a speed of about 18 knots. Intense fire from BUCKLEY raked the U-boat as range was once more closed at flank speed. At 0435 the U-boat, still making 18 knots, veered sharply towards BUCKLEY.  Attempts were made to steer clear but BUCKLEY was struck a glancing blow and the U-boat rode under the forward engine room.  This caused U-66 to roll over to an angle of 600 while she slowly drew off with her bow under BUCKLEY on the starboard side.  

USS Buckley in drydock at the Boston Navy Yard - Her bow bent from ramming U-66    

By 0436 the U-boat was clear of BUCKLEY. Still making about 15 knots she then disappeared under the surface with the conning tower and forward hatches open and fire blazing from them. At 0439 underwater explosions were heard and U-66 was finally destroyed in position 17.17 N. – 32.29 W. During the next three hours BUCKLEY picked up 36 survivors, including four officers. Interrogation of prisoners from U-66 revealed further that a message concerning the attack and abandoning of U-66 was sent to Control and acknowledged by the latter.

By express permission of Capt. Jerry Mason USN Ret.




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