2002 U-117 Photos I

All images on this page 2002 by Christina Young.

The U-117 was a mine-laying Imperial German submarine and was one of the most successful U-boats to operate in American waters during World War I.  Her more notable kills include such popular northeast wrecks such as the Sommerstadt (by torpedo - also known as the "Virginia Wreck"), the Chaparra (by mine), and the San Saba (by mine).  At the end of the war, she was turned over to the United States as part of the war spoils that Germany had to give up in accordance with the Treaty of Versailles.  In 1921 she was designated for use in air power tests under the direction of Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell, the Assistant Chief of the Air Service of the United States Army.  On June 21, 1921, she was sent to the bottom by 12 bombs from U.S. Navy Curtiss F-5Ls in 230 feet of water off the Virginia Capes (approximately 70 miles northeast of Virginia Beach).

Information on specific WWI U-boats is a bit hard to find.  I found some very interesting background on the U-117's campaign of destruction off the U.S. east coast in the out-of-print book German Subs in Yankee Waters: First World War, by Henry J. James ( 1940, Gotham House).  See Chapter 6, "The Cruise of the U-117".  Interestingly, the book's final chapter is ominously titled, "It Can Happen Again"!  (see copyright date above)

The following pictures (all images from video) are from the voyage of the Miss Lindsey out of Virginia Beach, Virginia, to the U-117 on Saturday, June 22, 2002.

This is a picture of a Curtiss F-5L, a kind of "flying boat" biplane used by the U.S. Navy after WWI, and the type that sent the U-117 to the bottom.
Rick Atkins, JT Barker and Jackie Smith joke around while we're waiting for the front to pass before leaving the dock.  We were supposed to go to the WWI German light cruiser Frankfurt on this trip, but the wind delayed our departure from 11 pm to 4 am, diverting us to the U-117 which is a shorter voyage.
A large deck gun on the bow of the U-117.
These are my dive buddies for this trip, Charlie Johnson (top) and Jackie Smith (bottom), both on BMR500 closed-circuit rebreathers.
Swimming towards the bow.  The hatches are closed on the U-117.  As this U-boat is almost completely intact, it would be very interesting to break them open and explore the interior.
Jackie and Charlie swim along the port side towards the bow.
A large net covers the bow.
Jackie examines the net held up by ball floats.
A clam dredge that was lost on the wreck.
Swimming towards the conning tower from the bow. 
A nice picture of the conning tower.  Note the ball float from an old net snagged on it.
This is a live torpedo laying in the sand next to the hull.  If you dive this wreck, please don't touch this!  During WWI some U-boats carried extra torpedoes secured on the top of the outer hull, a practice that died out due to safety concerns.  Billy Mitchell's guys probably left it there to make the tests as realistic as possible.

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