German Uboat WW1

Exclusive: Wreck of fabled WWI German U-boat found off Virginia

U-111 is the last known enemy submarine wreck from WWI in waters off the eastern seaboard—and never should have been found.

A stereo card image of surrendered German submarines moored at the British port of Harwich at the end of World War I. President Wilson ordered six of the vessels be brought to the U.S. as a public attraction to raise money for Victory Bonds, as well as for closer study of the enemy’s superior undersea technology. 
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

This past Labor Day, as beachgoers up and down the eastern seaboard of the U.S. enjoyed a sunny holiday at the shore, Erik Petkovic was in the darkened cabin of R/V Explorer some 40 miles off the Virginia coast. Peering into a video monitor linked to a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) some 400 feet below, he suddenly exclaimed, “That’s it! There it is!”

The object that caused his excitement was the wreckage of SM U-111, the last World War I-era German submarine to be discovered in U.S. waters. The sleek tube of riveted iron had been part of the Unterseeboot (U-boat) fleet that struck terror in Allied sailors.

After the war an American crew brought the captured submarine across the Atlantic in a daring solo voyage that required navigating the icy waters where R.M.S. Titanic had sunk seven years earlier. “It’s one of those remarkable lost tales of survival,” Petkovic said.

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