U-Boats Active Off N.C. Coast in Both World Wars

On June 5, 1918, attacks by German U-boats began off the North Carolina coast. The raids were the first against the state by a foreign government since the War of 1812, and the initial assault lasted for four days. During that time one German submarine, U-151, sank four Allied ships.

Two other German ships launched attacks off the Outer Banks during World War I. U-140 claimed four more ships, including the Diamond Shoals lightship, which sank in early August. U-117 arrived off the North Carolina coast a few weeks later and laid mines north of Cape Hatteras that would result in the sinking of the British steamship Mirlo. It sank another ship before returning home. The submarine raids finally ended when an armistice was signed in November 1918.

The damage done during World War I would ultimately prove minor compared to that done during World War II. Attacks began off North Carolina’s shores almost immediately after the America’s entry into the conflict in December 1941 and continued at intense levels until the U.S. Navy began to strengthen antisubmarine defenses in the summer of 1942.

During World War II, more than 80 ships were sunk or damaged off North Carolina’s coast.

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