The History and Discovery of a Lost U-Boat
Skinner, Richard W.
2002, Historic Military Press
Paperback, 32 pages, 34 b&w photos, several illustrations and diagrams
This is a short but interesting and well-presented history of one of the many U-boats lost during the Second World War. U-297 was one of the unlucky ones: lost on her first patrol (on December 6th, 1944), before it had made any attacks on Allied ships, having no successes to its credit – and no survivors from its sinking.
Richard Skinner tells the short tale of the construction and training of the U-297 during the mid-war years of 1943 & 1944. Because of a collision in training, U-297 took longer than most to get through the preparation period and took longer than most to begin its first war patrol – but then the luck ran out. By coincidence, U-297 was outbound to the Atlantic, just north of Scotland, when nearby another U-boat, U-775, sank a British warship HMS Bullen. While U-775 ultimately escaped the counter attacks, U-297 was detected snorkeling along by a Sunderland flying boat drawn to the scene of the other U-boat’s attack. U-297 was probably not aware that it had been seen, but the snorkel left a wake that attracted the plane and one or more of the six depth charges dropped killed U-297 and sent it to the bottom with all hands.
But the story doesn’t end there. Skinner takes us forward to March of 2002 when two divers, Kevin Heath and Ian Trumpess, discovered and identified U-297 lying 280 feet below the surface. The rest of this short book describes the dive on the boat, a description of its current condition, and some informed speculation about exactly how it was damaged and sunk in December of 1944. The various visible elements of the wreck are matched against historical information and the identification of U-297 is proven. This section of the book is well illustrated with photographs from the dive video taken of the U-297.
It is very important to note that Heath and Trumpess took nothing from U-297 and respected this sunken U-boat as the war grave that it is. Their slogan was “take only pictures, leave only bubbles.” When so many stories of the discovery of sunken warships go straight to a cataloging the items taken and the searches inside the hull for more loot, notwithstanding the long-dead sailors last resting place, it is encouraging to read of a much more measured and respectful treatment of U-297 by these two divers. One page of the book is a memorial listing of names of the crew that was lost with U-297.
As stated, this is a short book covering a small piece of a long war. But it is well researched and presented in an interesting and engaging manner. It is a combination of war history, diving story, and memorial to lost sailors that is both fascinating and quietly respectful of a warship and its warriors, lost in sudden violence, and only recently discovered.
Review written by Marshall D. Clark, Sacramento CA.
Published on 7 Nov 2002.
This title is highly recommended.
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