EASY BOATS, Schnellboot in the US Navy

PrinzEugen.com Schnellboot Archive


EASY BOATS
Schnellboote in the US Navy

By Chip Marshall






Forward

The US Navy Bureau of Ships called them Easy Boats. The word Easy comes from the phonetic for the letter E, as in E-boat. Technically, that may not be correct, but that is what the Allied forces called them. I first learned of the US Navy's involvement with the German built Schnellboot reading Norman Friedman's encyclopedic book Small Combatants. In the listing of PT boats was a footnote about three S-boats that had been retained for evaluation and given Small Boat designations. And while doing some research at the PT Boats Inc. library, I found a picture of an S-boat at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in the background of a PT squadron commissioning ceremony.

With heightened interest, I researched the subject at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland and on the internet. What follows is by no means complete and is loaded with gaps. For now it is a catalog of pictures and information that has been found and offered up for comment and suggestion. This article will be updated as more information is obtained. All the information in this report is backed up with some sort of official documentation. Note that the documents may not be totally correct. The vast majority of the official information can be found at the National Archives. What little other information there is comes from books, other official sources and other files at the National Archives.

I can be contacted at bgmarshall@aol.comor via the webmaster of this site. Please feel free to contact me with any questions, requests for clarifications, to point out errors or anything else on your mind regarding the subject at hand. Also, if any one has any information, including rumors and hearsay and especially pictures, please feel free to pass it along too. Every little bit helps and may lead to larger finds. The following is what I have found:

Introduction

During the course of World War Two, the Allied Powers put a lot of effort into technical intelligence against Nazi Germany. As the allies captured territory formerly held by the Nazis, equipment and information was captured and turned over to technical experts for study. The original priority was how to counteract any threat posed by that particular equipment. But not far behind was the need to find out if the enemy had an idea or concept that could be incorporated into the allied arsenal. Bits and pieces of information on the Schnellboot became available to the intelligence agencies of the Allied Powers.

This information was gathered to determine the effectiveness of this weapons system and inform those responsible for countering the attacks. In 1943, the U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Intelligence took what information was available and published a restricted distribution pamphlet describing the known and suspected characteristics of the Kriegsmarine's vessels, including the Schnellboot.

Immediately after the war, the war booty of Schnellboot was divided amongst the three major powers, the United States, Soviet Union and the United Kingdom. The United States gave a number of boats to the rebuilding navies of Denmark and Norway. Four S-boats were retained by the US Navy in Europe to patrol the Weser River. The upcoming invasion of Japan was still a reality and the arsenal of democracy needed everything it could muster. The occupying forces were left with what was needed to control captured territory and keep the Russians in check.

In February, 1945, an unidentified scuttled Schnellboot was found and raised in the harbor at LeHavre, France. Eventually, the boat was made somewhat seaworthy and taken to the New York Navy Yard before the end of the war in Europe. At least five S-boats were taken to the United States for study. Four operational S-boats (S-116, S-218, S-228 and S-704) were taken to the United States after the hostilities ended and the needs of our less fortunate allies determined. The US Navy service careers of the first three boats are fairly well documented, but S-704 has surfaced only in pictures and one short memo. By 1948, all the S-boats in the United States had been broken up or sold off. Only S-116 surfaced later in Europe involved in the black world of intelligence and eventually incorporated into the new German navy.


E Boat Hulk CEE #6527

In the middle of February, 1945, the U.S. Navy started an underwater survey at the eastern end of the Basin Maree in France's Le Havre harbor. The mission was to determine the amount of wreckage that had to be removed to refloat a large dry dock. On the north side of the sunken dry dock, divers discovered a German Schnellboot with an armed torpedo in the portside tube. The area was secured by armed guards to prevent any attempts by the enemy at preventing the salvage of the craft. It took three days to make the torpedo safe and secure so the hull could be refloated. On March 10, the boat was afloat and alongside the salvage dock. First, the torpedo was removed. Then the engines and hull were steam cleaned and a rust preventative applied for preservation. The missing torpedo tube and pilothouse were found in the sunken dry dock. These items were salvaged and installed by shipfitters to complete the appearance. On April 6, 1945, the Schnellboot was secured for sea and towed across the English Channel to Dartmouth. The salvage report also indicates the presence of ten scuttling charges at various locations in the hull.

The Commander of US Naval Forces, Europe reported the boat afloat and ready for inspection at Dartmouth on April 19, 1945. At the time, the boat was suffering from lack of repairs after being refloated and damage incurred during the tow. The COMNAVFOREUR report is an excellent technical description of the craft and the below deck spaces available to inspection. Eventually, the boat was placed on a marine railway in Plymouth, England and pulled out of the water for a thorough inspection. No hull number was ever identified with the captured boat. For administrative purposes, the US Navy assigned her the number CEE #6527. CEE stands for Captured Enemy Equipment.

Back in Washington, DC, the US Navy's Bureau of Ships was deciding what to do with this find. Up until the end of the European war, this was the only intact Schnellboot they had gotten their hands on. After a lot of debate, the decision was made to ship the captured Schnellboot to the New York Navy Yard in Brooklyn, New York USA. The Bureau of Ships was very specific that no repairs be made by Allied forces so the vessel as originally built could be studied. They also wanted as many spares as could be gathered shipped with the boat. The thought was to have the MTB Repair Training Unit at Melville, Rhode Island place the boat in operating condition once the original studies were complete. By the end of May, the boat was in New York and up on the ways for study. Technicians quickly determined that the engines were badly damaged and unfit for testing. A request was made for four engines in good condition to be shipped to the New York Navy Yard. By this time, the European war was over and two Schnellboot (S-218 and S-225) in operational condition were selected by the US Navy to be sent to New York for study and operation.

Hulk CEE #6527 was fully autopsied. Measurements were obtained to create the drawings necessary to duplicate the hull and mechanical design. Parts that could be used to keep the other Schnellboot operational were removed. Six inch long samples of wood from every part of the hull and structure were taken to be analyzed by the Forest Product Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin. On November 29, 1945, the Bureau of Ships requested permission of the Chief of Naval Operations to strip the boat of anything useful and scrap the hulk by sinking or burning. Permission was granted on December 26, 1945 and the scrapping was reported to be complete on May 15, 1946.


S-116

Schnellboot S-116 was captured by the US Army in Europe and brought back to the continental United States on the Belgian owned Liberty ship Belgian Tenacity. The US Army Chief of Transportation offered S-116 to the Navy for testing. The Navy accepted and S-116 was loaned for testing on the condition that any information generated would be made available to the US Army's Transportation Corps and that the boat be returned to the US Army on completion of testing. During the operational testing of S-218, an open invitation was extended to the US Army. S-116 was brought to Fort Monroe, Virginia near the US Navy's sprawling bases at Norfolk in early November, 1945. She was assigned US Navy Small Boat number C-105179 and placed in service under the Commandant of Third Naval District.

The US Navy Bureau of Ships directed that S-116, when in operating condition, proceed to New York Navy Yard to join S-218 and S-225 or tests. Norfolk Navy Yard intended to ferry S-116 to New York with a crew made up of civilian machinists, a civilian electrician familiar with the vessel and seaman from the Fifth Naval District's tugboats. A TCS radio was temporarily installed and the trip was to be made during daylight hours only. The Chief of Naval Operations' office directed, if practical, that the trip be completed via the Intercoastal Waterway at a speed not exceeding 15 knots. Sailing date was scheduled for November 26, 1945. The departure was put off one day because some additional machinery adjustments were found necessary. Records indicate S-116 made the trip to New York Navy Yard, but not how.

In New York, all three of the operational Schnellboots were inspected. Because of a funds shortage, only S-218 was selected for the operational tests. S-116 and S-225 were used for back up, if necessary, and parts. S-116 remained at the New York Navy Yard for the remainder of her life with the US Navy. On December 10, 1947, the Bureau of Ships asked the President of the US Army's Transportation Corps Board in New York what they wanted to do with S-116 now that testing had been completed. On December 23, 1947, after consulting with the US Army Chief of Transportation, it was agreed to transfer S-116 to the US Navy "as is" for disposal without cost to either party. The US Navy proceeded with the administrative process of having the vessel declared excess to needs. On March 19, 1948, S116/C-105179 was officially declared surplus by the Chief of Naval Operations and authorized its disposal. On July 23, 1948, a representative of the New York Navy Yard's Commandant reported to the Chief of Naval Operations that "German E Boat #S-116 sold and removed from naval custody this date."

In 1955, the commanding officer of Bremerhaven Naval Advanced Base included in his report to the Commander, US Naval Forces Europe the inactive status of S-116. In the early 1950s, the US Navy and the Royal Navy put together clandestine maritime units using former Schnellboot and British designed Vosper MTBs. The Royal Navy operation was called the Fishery Protection Service and used two former Schnellboot manned by German crews flying the British naval ensign to land agents and shadow Communist naval movements. The US Navy used German nationals from their Labor Service Unit B in Bremerhaven to man one German MTB (S-116) and two British designed Vosper MTBs (administratively known as PT 75 and PT 76). The unit was disbanded on the formation of the new West German Navy. The Vospers MTBs were sold off and S-116 was apparently turned over to the new West German Navy. Apparently, S-116 was broken up in 1962.


S-218

In late 1945, S-218 arrived at New York Navy Yard with S-225. Her skipper was Captain (rank or title?) Carson. Assigned to Commandant of the Third Naval District and placed in service as US Navy Small Boat C-105180, S-218 was destined to be the most active of the four Schnellboot at the New York Navy Yard. All work making S-116 and S-225 operational was suspended on March 29, 1946.

Funding for the testing was limited. So, after S-218 was determined to be in the best material condition, the effort to make one boat fully operational was concentrated on her. The "team" to make S-218 operational and ready for testing consisted of the Bureau of Ships (agenda for the trials), David Taylor Model Basin (testing equipment needed to measure equipment performance), the New York Navy Yard (making the actual boat operational and supplying the appropriate manpower) and Philadelphia Naval Shipyard (equipment repair and fabrication). Communications were made with the European forces for sources of spare parts, replacement engines and anything else they could lay their hands on. Measurements were taken of the prop shafts to fit torsion meters and determining what equipment would have to be relocated to fit the new gear in place. It was determined that the propellers on the three boats were not all the same, so decisions had to be made regarding repair or reconfiguration. April 29, 1946 was the date set to start trials. That date was pushed back to May 13, 1946 because of various technical problems. Then, on May 10 while on preliminary runs for the trials, S-218 struck an underwater object, making it necessary to remove all three propellers for repairs. The trail date was postponed indefinitely.

While the boat was being repaired, the test trials curriculum was modified to more closely resemble that required of the US Navy PT boats. Bureau of Ships and the David Taylor Model Basin were always asking technical questions about the Schnellboots. In June, 1946, the Director of the David Taylor Model Basin wrote the Bureau of Ships concerned with the depth of water in the test area near New York Navy Yard in Long Island Sound and the effect that would have on the tests. On June 19, 1946, the New York Navy Yard set a trials date of July 12, 1946 and those too were missed because of technical problems. Eventually, on July 24, 1946, the Acting Chief of the Bureau of Ships wrote the Commander of the New York Navy Yard stating that little or no effort had been made to properly check the main engines, to put them in satisfactory operating condition or to operate the vessel until a few days before trial. He understood that there had been cutbacks with the resultant problems but those conditions required better management. With the knowledge that progress was being made, he asked for a firm date on which the trails could be held. On June 25, 1946, the New York Navy Yard asked that Eugene Fitzpatrick at the Annapolis Naval Engineering Experiment Station be sent to New York to assist the with the problems. The Bureau of Ships concurred because "without him it is doubtful that NY will be able to get the engines in shape for satisfactory trials." Instead, W. G. Bush was sent to report on July 1, 1946.

One problem was the assumption of interchangeability between various model engines. The other problem was the total lack of metric tools available at the yard. Post repairs trials were set for July 18 and July 23 or 24, 1946. Finally, able to run the engines up to full power, the observation was made that the bottom needed to be cleaned and some minor repairs to the heat exchangers, exhaust and water jackets. A full power trial was scheduled for July 31, 1946. The deck log of PT-620 for July 31, 1946 shows her running tests with a German E-boat off of New York harbor. On August 2, 1946, the New York Navy Yard messaged the Bureau of Ships that, pending the replacement of a water pump, the vessel could be considered ready for official trials. The commander of the New York Navy Yard, Rear Admiral F. E. Haeberle USN personally messaged the Bureau of Ships outlining the problems the yard had to date and that the subject vessel was ready for official trials at the convenience of the Board of Inspection and Survey and the Bureau of Ships.

An official date for the Standardization and Fuel Economy Trials off Fox Point, Long Island, New York was scheduled for August 12, 1946. Two representatives of the Army Transportation Corps were invited to attend. Some adjustments were made to the test range to replace markers and monuments removed since the end of the war. On August 12, during the trials with the attendees on board, the center engine was shut down due to abnormal pounding. Once back at the yard, the engine was torn down and an all-nighter was pulled to see what happened. The tear down revealed a "major derangement had occurred which would postpone the operation of the vessel for approximately three weeks." In a letter to the commander of the New York Navy Yard, the Chief of Bureau of Ships stated that no more work on the project would continue until the Bureau had reached a decision. With the cost of engine replacements and other repairs, it was decided to wait until early 1947 when the testing of the same engines at the Annapolis Naval Engineering Experiment Station had been completed and the results of the tests known. The Chief asked that whatever data gathered be forwarded to the Board of Inspection and Survey and that the vessel be removed from the water, stored ashore and that temporary preservation measures be undertaken. He finished by saying that if the trials continue, they would probably be shortened and revised. The Chief of Naval Operations was informed of the problems on September 24, 1946.

For the next month, the Naval On April 15, 1947, the Bureau of Ships requested the Chief of Naval Operations to approve to reassignment of the S-218 and the testing to the Annapolis Naval Engineering Experiment Station. This was approved on April 23, 1947 and the ownership of S-218 was transferred to the Commandant of the Servern River Naval Command and she was towed by Navy tug to Annapolis sometime in early May, 1947. The Naval Engineering Experiment Station was given the authority to overhaul the main and auxiliary engines and to request the spare engines and parts in storage at the New York Navy Yard. On June 25, 1947, the Naval Engineering Experiment Station reported the status of the repairs and an estimate that overhauling operations would be completed in mid-September. An estimated trial date was set for September 15, 1947 with run-in trials and training for the crew two weeks in advance of that date. On August 25, 1947, the Director of the Naval Engineering Experiment Station messaged the Bureau of Ships that S-218 would be ready for trials as scheduled or any day thereafter. Someone at the Bureau of Ships thought that the propellers might be a problem and asked the Station to look into the matter. The station responded on August 28, 1947 by requesting to remove three propellers and send them to Philadelphia Naval Shipyard for pitch check, necessary repair and dynamic balancing. A new trial agenda was set up by making all low speed tests early in the trials so some data could be obtained if anything went wrong at high speeds. October 6th and 7th were set for the trial dates. There are gaps in the records at this time, but the next available event is an engine casualty on October 9, 1947. The Station estimated the engine could be repaired and trails conducted by November 4, 1947. The trial date was reset for November 12, 1947 off Kent Island, Maryland in the Chesapeake Bay.

The Commandant of the Severn River Naval Command was informed by the Director of the Naval Engineering Experiment Station on November 24, 1947 that all tests had been completed and the Station wanted to know what to do with the boat. The Chief of Naval Operations approved disposing of S-218. Sometime in January, 1948, S-218 was towed by Navy tug to Norfolk and turned over to the Norfolk Naval Station for disposal. On January 28, 1948, the Norfolk Naval Shipyard requested stripping instructions for S-218. The Bureau of Ships responded by saying that nothing was needed by the Bureau. The Norfolk Naval Shipyard estimated that the stripping of S-218 would be completed on February 24, 1948. On May 25, 1948, the Chief of Naval Operations gave permission to the Commandant of the Third Naval District to deliver S-218 to a private purchaser. A representative of Captain Rod Pickard of 845 Biscayne Boulevard in Miami, Florida took possession of S-218 on July 12, 1948 at 1400 hours.


S-225

S-225 arrived at New York Navy Yard with S-218 in late 1945. She was placed in service as US Navy Small Boat C-105181 and assigned to the Commandant of the Third Naval District. Because of a funding shortage and better material condition, S-218 was selected for testing. S-225 was to serve as a backup boat and spare parts source with S-116. S-225 never left the New York Navy Yard operational area. On April 12, 1948, the Bureau of Ships was informed by the Commander of the New York Navy Yard that S-225 was no longer required and could be declared surplus "in accordance with existing instructions." The Chief of Naval Operations authorized the sale of S-225 on May 25, 1948. S-225 was sold and removed from naval custody on September 1, 1948.


S-706

In February, 1947, S-706 showed up at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, DC. She had been towed there by a US Navy tug from Philadelphia. For a limited time, she was made available to parties with a "legitimate technical interest." According to Navy records, she "had little water in the bilges when last inspected by Bureau personnel" and the "engines and auxiliaries appeared to be unimpaired and reasonably clean." Other than two pictures of S-706 at the Washington Navy Yard pier, no other record of her presence in the United States.


Afterwards

In May, 1947, W.H. McClain, the Design Superintendent at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, wrote the Commander of the New York Navy Yard requesting drawings of the body plan, displacement and other curves of the Schnellboot hull. That information and the research from the David Taylor Model Basin was used to design the hull of the US Navy's PT 812 launched in 1951.

The hull was basically that of a Schnellboot, but did not have the "Effect" rudder arrangement of the German designed vessel. In December, 1949, the New York Navy Yard asked the Bureau of Ships what they wanted to do with all the spare parts for the Schnellboot still in storage at the Navy Yard. I could not find a record of response. Possibly, the parts were sent to Bremerhaven NAB for use on S-116. All of the information gathered from the testing of the German built Schnellboot was made available to a variety of interested agencies.


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