Date of Action: 6 May 1945
USCG Units Involved: USS Knoxville; the flagship of the hunter killer group
Sinking/Capture/Assist? USS Moberly.
Location: 41.13N x 71.27W
Credit by U.S. Navy? Credited for an assisted sinking with USS Atherton
Enemy Warship's Commanding Officer: Kapitänleutnant Helmut Frömsdorf
Enemy Casualties: 55 killed in action; all hands lost
USCG Casualties: None
In early 1945, the U-853, a Type IX C/40 U-boat, was ordered to patrol the waters off the northeast coast of the U.S. along with six other U-boats to harass coastal shipping in an operation code-named "Seewolf." She departed on 23 February 1945 under the command of Oberleutnant zur See Helmut Frömsdorf. U-853 apparently had little success during the intervening weeks before attacking and sinking the patrol boat USS Eagle 56 on 23 April 1945 off Portland, Maine. On 30 April Adolf Hitler committed suicide and the former head of Germany's U-boat fleet, Gross Admiral Karl Dönitz, became the Third Reich's second führer. On 4 May he ordered, by radio, all of his U-boats, especially the 49 still on patrol at sea, to cease hostilities.
The U-853, by this time patrolling off of Rhode Island, probably did not receive Dönitz's order or, less likely, deliberately chose to ignore it. The following day, 5 May 1945, the U-boat located, tracked, and torpedoed the steamer S.S. Black Point off Narragansett Bay. The Black Point sank, taking 11 of her crew with her. A passing vessel sighted the U-853 and reported to the authorities. With the sinking of the Black Point and the U-boat sighting in hand, the Navy quickly organized an ad-hoc "hunter-killer" group from readily available escorts. These were the destroyer USS Ericsson, destroyer escorts Atherton and the Amick, with the commanding officer of Ericsson taking overall command. The Coast Guard-manned frigate Moberly was also assigned to the group.
Moberly arrived in the area of the Black Point's sinking first, and the two destroyer escorts arrived soon thereafter. The Moberly's commanding officer, LCDR Leslie B. Tollaksen, USCG, took tactical command. The three warships then formed a patrol line abreast and began searching out to sea. The Atherton made a sound contact five miles east of Grove Point, Block Island and attacked with hedgehogs. After the third attack, the Atherton lost contact with the target. Three hours later, with each escort following a prescribed search pattern, the Atherton once again obtained a sonar contact. Once again she attacked, and this time the U-853 was hit. Oil began seeping to the surface while the Moberly also began attacking. Debris rose to the surface, including a German naval officers' hat and a piece of a chart table, indicating that the U-boat was severely damaged or destroyed. The Ericsson soon arrived in the area and each warship took turns attacking the now cornered U-853 throughout the night and into the morning of 5 May. Divers later confirmed the kill.
"Scratch another U-boat."; no date; CG Photo No. 2451; photographer unknown.
Crewman paint an "authorized" U-boat silhouette aboard Moberly for receiving credit for the destruction of the U-853.