Dead Coastguardsman on USS Menges (DE-320)

At 0037 on May 3, 1944, a small radar surface target appeared on the scope about six miles from USS Menges (DE-320) on convoy duty in the Mediterranean. A plane also appeared. Visual identification by the Menges' gun crews indicated that it was a Junkers JU-88 medium bomber. The convoy went to general quarters. At 0112 Hours the surface target disappeared from the radar screen. Up to this time it had not been positively identified as a submarine. Menges had a sound contact on the port beam at 1,500 yards and at 0118 a torpedo hit her stern. The explosion was followed two minutes later by several heavy explosions shaking the ship. The torpedo was not heard by the sound man and was probably a new, circling, turbine-propelled type of acoustic torpedo. The force of the explosion demolished the stern of the ship aft of number 3 gun. Many casualties were caused by the depth charge racks, depth charges and other objects being blown from the stern high in the air forward, one man being killed by a washing machine which had been secured below decks aft. One depth charge rack, with 12 charges, landed on a 40mm gun, bending the barrels almost double and ripping the gun from its foundations. Depth charges crushed the officer and men on the torpedo tubes but did not explode. Torpedoes were jarred partially out of their tubes and at least one had a hot run. Total casualties were two officers and 29 men killed or missing, and 13 men requiring hospitalization. At 0247 USS Pride (DE-323) located the underwater enemy, later determined to be the U-371, by sound gear. After 26 hours of coordinated depth charge attacks and "hold-down" tactics by French and American vessels, the submarine was finally scuttled by its crew, but not until it had torpedoed the French destroyer escort FNS Senagalese. To scuttle the sub, the crew put it in motion, heading for water deep enough to prevent salvage and all hands apparently abandoned it successfully. 46 were taken prisoner and probably four escaped by swimming ashore. By dawn on 3 May 1944, a tug arrived on the scene and towed the disabled Menges to Bougie, Algeria, where the dead and wounded were landed. From there she was towed to Algiers for minor repairs and then to Oran, where the damaged part of the ship was cut off, leaving two-thirds of the original ship. She was then towed in a convoy toward the United States. At the New York Navy Yard, 95 feet of the stern of the USS Holder (DE-401), which had been torpedoed amidships by an aerial torpedo, was welded onto the reminder of the Menges. This was the first known case of a large section of a battle damaged ship being welded to another battle damaged ship to make a complete ship.
Caption Written By: 
Jason McDonald
Archival Identifier: 
National Archives
Date Photographed: 
Wednesday, May 3, 1944
Bejaia Province