German submarine U-85 (1941)

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For other ships with the same name, see German submarine U-85.
Type VIIB boat U-52
U-52, a typical Type VIIB boat
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
  • 753 t (741 long tons) surfaced
  • 857 t (843 long tons) submerged
  • 66.50 m (218 ftin) o/a
  • 48.80 m (160 ft 1 in) pressure hull
  • 6.20 m (20 ft 4 in) o/a
  • 4.70 m (15 ft 5 in) pressure hull
Draught: 4.74 m (15 ft 7 in)
Installed power:
  • 2,800–3,200 PS (2,100–2,400 kW; 2,800–3,200 bhp) (diesels)
  • 750 PS (550 kW; 740 shp) (electric)
  • 8,700 nmi (16,100 km; 10,000 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) surfaced
  • 90 nmi (170 km; 100 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph) submerged
Test depth:
  • 220 m (720 ft)
  • Crush depth: 230–250 m (750–820 ft)
Complement: 4 officers, 40–56 enlisted
Sensors and
processing systems:
Service record
Part of:
  • Oblt.z.S. Eberhard Greger
  • 7 June 1941 – 14 April 1942
  • 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)
U-85 (submarine) shipwreck and remains
Nearest city Nags Head, North Carolina
MPS World War II Shipwrecks along the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico MPS
NRHP Reference # 15000805
Added to NRHP November 12, 2015

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.


German Type VIIB submarines were preceded by the shorter Type VIIA submarines. U-85 had a displacement of 753 tonnes (741 long tons) when at the surface and 857 tonnes (843 long tons) while submerged.[1] She had a total length of 66.50 m (218 ft 2 in), a pressure hull length of 48.80 m (160 ft 1 in), a beam of 6.20 m (20 ft 4 in), a height of 9.50 m (31 ft 2 in), and a draught of 4.74 m (15 ft 7 in). The submarine was powered by two MAN M 6 V 40/46 four-stroke, six-cylinder supercharged diesel engines producing a total of 2,800 to 3,200 metric horsepower (2,060 to 2,350 kW; 2,760 to 3,160 shp) for use while surfaced, two BBC GG UB 720/8 double-acting electric motors producing a total of 750 metric horsepower (550 kW; 740 shp) for use while submerged. She had two shafts and two 1.23 m (4 ft) propellers. The boat was capable of operating at depths of up to 230 metres (750 ft).[1]

The submarine had a maximum surface speed of 17.9 knots (33.2 km/h; 20.6 mph) and a maximum submerged speed of 8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph).[1] When submerged, the boat could operate for 90 nautical miles (170 km; 100 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph); when surfaced, she could travel 8,700 nautical miles (16,100 km; 10,000 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). U-85 was fitted with five 53.3 cm (21 in) torpedo tubes (four fitted at the bow and one at the stern), fourteen torpedoes, one 8.8 cm (3.46 in) SK C/35 naval gun, 220 rounds, and one 2 cm (0.79 in) anti-aircraft gun The boat had a complement of between forty-four and sixty.[1]

Service history[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.[2]

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.[3] The bodies were fingerprinted, photographed and buried in a night-time military ceremony at the Hampton National Cemetery.[4] U-85 lies in less than 100 ft (30 m) of water; the United States Navy briefly attempted to salvage her.[2] 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 wreck site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2015.

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 history[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 Gröner 1991, pp. 43–44.
  2. ^ a b Rouse, Parke, Jr., "Under the Cloak of Night", United States Naval Institute Proceedings, June 1982, pp. 74–75
  3. ^ Rouse suggests U-85 had been preparing to launch a raft of spies when discovered by Roper.
  4. ^ Larson, Chiles T.A. (January 20, 2015). "U-boats in the Atlantic". Virginia Living. Cape Fear Publishing. Retrieved June 24, 2016. 
  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. ^ Hadley, Miles (5 April 2003). "Home Found for "Enigmatic" WW II U-boat Relic". Naval Historical Center. Archived from the original on 5 September 2012. Retrieved 23 December 2015. 
  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; Jung, Dieter; Maass, Martin (1991). U-boats and Mine Warfare Vessels. German Warships 1815–1945. 2. Translated by Thomas, Keith; Magowan, Rachel. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-593-4. 

External links[edit]

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