German submarine U-85 (1941)

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For other ships of the same name, see German submarine U-85.
Career (Nazi Germany)
Name: U-85
Ordered: 9 June 1938
Builder: Flender Werke, Lübeck
Yard number: 281
Laid down: 18 December 1939
Launched: 10 April 1941
Commissioned: 7 June 1941
Fate: Sunk by USS Roper, 14 April 1942
General characteristics
Class and type: Type VIIB U-boat
Displacement: 753 t (741 long tons) surfaced
857 t (843 long tons) submerged[1]
Length: 66.5 m (218 ftin) (o/a)
48.8 m (160 ft 1 in) (pressure hull)[1]
Beam: 6.2 m (20 ft 4 in)
4.7 m (15 ft 5 in) (pressure hull)[1]
Draught: 4.74 m (15 ft 7 in)[1]
Propulsion: 2 × supercharged MAN, 6 cylinder, 4-stroke M6V 40/46 diesel engines totalling 2,800–3,200 PS (2,800–3,200 shp; 2,100–2,400 kW). Max rpm: 470-490 surfaced
2 × BBC GG UB 720/8-276 electric motors with 750 PS (740 shp; 550 kW) for 295 rpm submerged[2]
Speed: 17.9 knots (33.2 km/h; 20.6 mph) surfaced
8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph)[1]
Range: 9,700 nmi (18,000 km; 11,200 mi) at 10 knots surfaced
90 nmi (170 km; 100 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph) submerged[1]
Test depth: 220 m (720 ft)
Crush depth: 230–250 m (750–820 ft)
Complement: 4 officers, 40–56 enlisted
Service record
Part of: 3rd U-boat Flotilla
(7 June 1941–14 April 1942)
Commanders: Oblt.z.S. Eberhard Greger
(7 June 1941–14 April 1942)
Operations: Four:
1st patrol:
28 August–18 September 1941
2nd patrol:
16 October–27 November 1941
3rd patrol:
8 January–23 February 1942
4th patrol:
21 March–14 April 1942
Victories: Three commercial ships sunk (15,060 GRT)

German submarine U-85 was a Type VIIB U-boat of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine during World War II.

She was laid down at the Flender Werke in Lübeck on 18 December 1939 as yard number 281. Launched on 10 April 1941, she was commissioned on 7 June and assigned to the 3rd U-boat Flotilla under the command of Oberleutnant zur See Eberhard Greger.

U-85 conducted four war patrols with the flotilla, and sank three ships, totalling 15,060 gross register tons (GRT). She was sunk in April 1942 by the US destroyer, the USS Roper.

Operational career[edit]

1st patrol[edit]

U-85 departed Trondheim in Norway on 28 August 1941 for her first patrol. She sank the Thistleglen on 10 September northeast of Cape Farewell (Greenland).

She docked at St. Nazaire on the French Atlantic coast on 18 September.

2nd patrol[edit]

U-85‍ '​s second patrol started and finished in Lorient, but was unremarkable.

3rd patrol[edit]

On her third foray, she sank the Empire Fusilier southeast of St. Johns, Newfoundland, after a seven hour chase, on 9 February 1942. Nine crew members were lost.

4th patrol and loss[edit]

Having left St. Nazaire on 21 March 1942, the u-boat probably sank the Chr. Knudson on 10 April. U-85 was herself sunk with all hands on 14 April off the United States coast near Cape Hatteras by gunfire from the US destroyer USS Roper. She was the first German U-boat loss of "Operation Drumbeat" (Paukenschlag), Germany's U-boat offensive off the eastern seaboard of the United States in 1942.


U-85 took part in four wolfpacks, namely.

  • Markgraf (1–11 September 1941)
  • Schlagetot (20 October – 1 November 1941)
  • Raubritter (1–17 November 1941)
  • Störtebecker (17–22 November 1941)


U-85 was operating within visual distance of Bodie Island Light at midnight on 13 April 1942 when Roper detected the submarine on British Type 286 radar at a range of 2,700 yards (2,500 m). The boat attempted to run south on the surface and fired her stern torpedo at Roper when the range closed to 700 yards. Roper evaded the torpedo and U-85 turned sharply to starboard when the range closed to 300 yards. Roper illuminated the U-boat with her searchlight and observed men on deck near the gun whose firing arc had just been cleared by the course change. Roper raked U-85 with machine gun fire and scored a hit with a 3"/50 caliber gun. She then dropped a pattern of 11 depth charges where U-85 had disappeared beneath the surface.[3]

29 sailors from U-85 were buried at Hampton National Cemetery

Numerous men were observed in the water, but no rescue attempt was made until daylight. By then, there were no survivors among the 29 bodies floating in life jackets. Some of the bodies were wearing civilian clothes, carrying wallets with United States currency and identification cards.[4] The bodies were fingerprinted, photographed and buried in a night-time military ceremony at the Hampton National Cemetery. U-85 lies in less than 100 ft (30 m) of water; the United States Navy briefly attempted to salvage her.[3] More recent investigation by sport divers has raised questions about Navy reports on the wreck.[5]


The hatch of U-85 is on display in the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum; the submarine herself still serves as an attraction for divers.[6] The Labrador current influences the site and visibility can be low.[7] The majority of the debris lies within a 100 metres (330 ft) radius of the wreck.[7]

The Enigma machine was recovered from the wreck by private divers (Jim Bunch, Roger & Rich Hunting) and in 2003 the German government agreed to allow the machine to be displayed at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, in Hatteras, North Carolina.[8]

Summary of raiding career[edit]

Date Ship[9] Nationality Tonnage Fate
10 September 1941 Thistleglen  United Kingdom 4,748 Sunk
9 February 1942 Empire Fusilier  United Kingdom 5,408 Sunk
10 April 1942 Chr. Knudsen  Norway 4,904 Sunk


  1. ^ a b c d e f Gröner 1990, p. 71.
  2. ^ Gröner 1990, p. 74.
  3. ^ a b Rouse, Parke, Jr., "Under the Cloak of Night", United States Naval Institute Proceedings, June 1982, pp. 74–75
  4. ^ Rouse suggests U-85 had been preparing to launch a raft of spies when discovered by Roper.
  5. ^ Blair, Clay, Jr. Hitler's U-Boat War: The Hunters 1939–1942 Random House (1996) p.543
  6. ^ "Wreck of the U-85". 
  7. ^ a b Hoyt, JC (2009). "2008 Battle of the Atlantic Survey Methodology". In: Pollock NW, ed. Diving for Science 2009. Proceedings of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences 28th Symposium. Dauphin Island, AL: AAUS; 2009. Retrieved 2013-03-11. 
  8. ^ Miles Hadley, Naval Historical Center. Home Found for "Enigmatic" WW II U-boat Relic. 5 April 2003.
  9. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "Ships hit by U-85". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 2009-08-28. 


  • Busch, Rainer; Röll, Hans-Joachim (1999). Deutsche U-Boot-Verluste von September 1939 bis Mai 1945. Der U-Boot-Krieg (in German) IV (Hamburg, Berlin, Bonn: Mittler). ISBN 3-8132-0514-2. 
  • Bishop, Chris (2006). Kriegsmarine U-Boats, 1939–45. London: Amber Books. ISBN 978-1-904687-96-2. *Hickam, Homer "Torpedo Junction" Naval Institute Press
  • Gröner, Erich (1985). U-Boote, Hilfskreuzer, Minenschiffe, Netzleger, Sperrbrecher. Die deutschen Kriegsschiffe 18151945 (in German) III (Koblenz: Bernard & Graefe). ISBN 3-7637-4802-4. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 35°55′N 75°13′W / 35.917°N 75.217°W / 35.917; -75.217