Ship ClassType IX-class Submarine
BuilderAktien-Gesellschaft Weser, Bremen, Germany
Laid Down5 Apr 1943
Launched5 Oct 1943
Commissioned26 Jan 1944
Sunk11 Feb 1945
Displacement1,120 tons standard; 1,232 tons submerged
Length252 feet
Beam23 feet
Draft15 feet
MachineryTwo MAN M9V40/46 supercharged 9-cyl diesel engines (4,400hp), two SSW GU345/34 double-acting electric motors (1,000hp)
Speed19 knots
Range25,620nm at 10 knots surfaced, 117nm at 4 knots submerged
Armament4x533mm forward torpedo tubes, 2x533mm aft torpedo tubes, 22 torpedoes, 1x105mm/45 Utof gun
Submerged Speed7.3 knots


ww2dbaseU-869 was a German Type IXC submarine of the IXC/40 subtype. She was commissioned in 1944 with Kapitänleutnant Hellmut Neuerburg in command. She embarked on her first and only war patrol in Dec 1944 with the orders to attack Allied shipping off the American coast southeast of New York City, New York, United States. Because Neuerburg had taken the submarine around a longer route to get into the Atlantic Ocean (taken the longer route north of Iceland rather than the more direct, but also more heavily patrolled, southern route), German submarine control decided to re-route her to waters off Gibraltar to give her a longer patrol time. It was assumed that U-869 received the new order, but she apparently did not. On 28 Feb 1945, American destroyer escort USS Fowler and French submarine chaser L'Indiscret attacked a German submarine west of Rabat, French Morocco; although the Allied crews did not observe any definite evidence, ultimately the attack was regarded as a probable sinking, since to the post-war US Navy analysts, this was the only explanation for U-869's disappearance. It was not until many years later, however, it was discovered that Neuerburg had continued on to North America. In 1991, Bill Nagle learned of a possible wreck off the coast of New Jersey, United States, and took his diving boat Seeker to the site on 2 Sep 1991, where diver John Chatterton found, but was unable to identify, U-869. The depth of the wreck (73 meters or 240 feet) made the wreck site extremely dangerous; three divers, Steve Feldman, Chris Rouse, Chris Rouse, Jr., were killed in the early 1990s while diving it. It was not until 31 Aug 1997 when the team could conclude the identity after the discovery of a spare parts box from the electric motor room of the wreck which bore identification; Chatterton was the diver who retrieved the spare parts box (nearly dying in the process), assisted by Richard "Richie" Kohler who had dove the submarine with him for the past few years. Later analysis hypothesized U-869 was either a victim of one of her own torpedoes whose acoustic-seeking device might have locked on to the mother ship unintentionally, or she was sunk by destroyer escorts USS Howard D. Crow and USS Koiner. United States Navy officially subscribes to the latter theory and credited the sinking to the two destroyer escorts.

Robert Kurson, Shadow Divers

Last Major Revision: Dec 2011

U-869 Operational Timeline

25 Aug 1941 German Navy issued the order to build the future submarine U-869.
5 Apr 1943 The keel of submarine U-869 was laid down.
5 Oct 1943 Submarine U-869 was launched.
26 Jan 1944 U-869 was commissioned into service with Kapit√§nleutnant Hellmut Neuerburg in command. She was assigned to the German Navy 4th Submarine Flotilla for training.
30 Aug 1944 While at port at Stettin, Germany, submarine U-869 lost one crew member to British bombing when several bombs hit the barracks where the crew was bunked.
30 Nov 1944 U-869 was detached from the German Navy 4th Submarine Flotilla.
1 Dec 1944 U-869 was assigned to the German Navy 33rd Submarine Flotilla.
8 Dec 1944 U-869 departed Norway for the Atlantic Ocean for her first and only war patrol.
29 Dec 1944 U-869 received the order to head to American waters southeast of New York City, New York, United States.
30 Dec 1944 German submarine control requested a passage report from U-869, which did not respond.
1 Jan 1945 German submarine control requested a position report from U-869 which was operating in the Atlantic Ocean; the crew did not respond.
3 Jan 1945 German submarine control expressed "considerable anxiety" over the fate of U-869, which had not responded to requests for report for the past four to five days. Meanwhile, around the same time, the Americans had intercepted enough German radio messages to deduce that a German submarine was heading toward New York City, New York, United States and began to assemble a hunter-killer group to intercept it.
6 Jan 1945 U-869 reported in to German submarine control, revealing its location to be 600 miles southwest of Iceland to both her German comrades as well as to American eavesdroppers.
17 Jan 1945 US Navy intelligence estimated that the German submarine sailing for New York City waters off the east coast of the United States, U-869, would arrive in early Feb 1945.
11 Feb 1945 On or around this date, German submarine U-869 was sunk off New Jersey, United States.
28 Feb 1945 U-869 was attacked by American destroyer escort USS Fowler and French submarine chaser L'Indiscret off Rabat, French Morocco. Although the attack was unsuccessful, the Allies recorded it as a probably sinking.
2 Sep 1991 American diver John Chatterton discovered the wreck of German submarine U-869 off of New Jersey, United States under 73 meters of water. He and fellow divers on the expedition was unable to identify the submarine, however.
1 Jun 1997 Diver Richard Kohler cleared the obstructions which blocked the way into the electric motor room of the wreck of German submarine U-869.
17 Aug 1997 John Chatterton, Richard Kohler, and other divers made a trial dive in preparation for the dangerous entry into the electric motor room of the wreck of U-869.
24 Aug 1997 John Chatterton dove the wreck of U-869 and penetrated into the electric motor room; he was briefly trapped by a fallen steel beam but was lucky enough to push off the steel beam and escape death.
31 Aug 1997 Off New Jersey, United States, John Chatterton dove the wreck of U-869 and sledgehammered away an oxygen tank (risking explosion) in order to retrieve a spare parts box in the electric motor room, which he handed to fellow diver Richie Kohler waiting outside the room. On his way out, he was entangled in loose wires and nearly ran out of air while trying to free himself. Meanwhile, on the surface, fellow divers already began to examine the spare parts box, finding a tag that conclusively identified the submarine, debunking the previous hypothesis that U-869 had been sunk off Gibraltar.

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Judy Hamilton says:
19 Sep 2020 06:00:40 PM

I have read Shadow Divers and am almost mesmerized with this subject, especially the U 869

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