Wednesday, July 24, 2013
In World Wars I and II, German U-boats hunted and destroyed ships off the Outer Banks. This was "Torpedo Alley," where Germans enjoyed their "Great American Turkey Shoot." From January through July 1942, German U-boats sank 397 ships filled with food, supplies, and oil in U.S. Atlantic waters and killed 5,000 people--a majority of whom were civilians and merchant marines. The U.S. concentrated initial naval efforts in the Pacific. Only one ship was sent to patrol the United States' southeast coast. To protect American lives and vital supplies bound for England, Churchill sent a flotilla of anti-submarine craft to patrol Atlantic shipping lanes. One particular ship, the H.M.T. Bedfordshire*, was torpedoed by a U-boat 40 miles off Cape Lookout on May 11, 1942. All hands were lost. The bodies of four sailors washed ashore on Ocracoke. Donating their services and land for this British Cemetery, the people of Ocracoke took care of the dead. This plot of land has been forever ceded to England and is maintained by the Ocracoke Coast Guard. A ceremony honoring these men, with representatives of the British Royal Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard, is held at the location each year in May.