CHICAGO (WLS) -- On June 4, 1944, U.S. troops boarded and captured the U-505 Nazi submarine, which they managed to keep a secret until the war ended. By convincing Germany that the U-505 had been sunk, not stolen, American intelligence was able to gather vital intelligence that helped shift the momentum of the war.
75 years later, veterans and families gathered at the Museum of Science and Industry for a bi-annual anniversary and to recognize U-505 Day, newly designated by Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
"In this exact moment 75 years ago off the West African coast, the allied forces were set on a path that would help turn the tide of World War II," said Bill Kurtis, whose narration serves as the voice of the German U-boat exhibit.
The Museum of Science and Industry has been home to the submarine since 1954. Kathleen McCarthy, the museum's director of collections and head curator, described the compelling story behind the capture.
"(The U.S. military) knew, if word got out that it had been captured, that the German's would know they had it. They would change all the codes." said McCarthy. "So they had to tell thousands of soldiers to be absolutely silent on the matter. And they managed to do it."
Soldiers received two letters with the same instructions for silence. The first was an official notice from U.S. military officials. The second was brasher. Written by Captain Dan Gallery, a native Chicagoan, the latter was signed off with a memorable note: "Keep your bowels open and your mouths shut."
Last year, the final remaining veterans from the capture died. For submarine veterans who volunteer as docents at the permanent exhibit, that made the anniversary feel different than past years.
"This was kinda bitter sweet, though. They've had reunions every two years and this is the first time there are no survivors left," said submarine veteran Edward Bransford.
Fellow veterans Ray Sharer and Jim Daniels served together on the USS Andrew Jackson. Their lifelong friendship led them to volunteer together at the submarine exhibit.
"It's fitting to honor the people that captured the U-505," said Sharer. "Even though they can't be here to do it... it's fitting that we keep doing this and honor their memory."
Museum of Science and Industry celebrates 75 years since capture of U-505 submarine in WWII
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