U-166 [Original credit for this sinking was incorrect]
Date of Action: 1 August 1942
USCG Units Involved: Grumman J4F-1 Widgeon, V-212
Sinking/Capture/Assist? Sinking [Originally credited to Coast Guard J4F-1 V-212 by USN as a confirmed sinking.]
Location: 28.37N x 90.45W
Credit by U.S. Navy? Yes
Enemy Warship's Commanding Officer: Oberleutnant zur See Hans-Gunther Kuhlmann
Enemy Casualties: 52 killed in action, all hands lost
USCG Casualties: None
Misc: The U-boat's sinking was not correctly credited
On 1 August 1942, a Coast Guard J4F Widgeon amphibious aircraft, USCG Number V212, piloted by Chief Aviation Pilot Henry Clark White, Coast Guard Aviator No. 115, along with crewman RM1c George Henderson Boggs, Jr., were patrolling about 100 miles south of the air base at Houma, Louisiana, at an altitude of 1,500 feet. They spotted a U-boat cruising on the surface and immediately dove on the target. The U-boat crash dived as the J4F closed. At 250 feet, White released a single depth charge, the only weapon he had on his aircraft, slightly ahead of the swirling water left by the now submerged submarine. The depth charge exploded and soon White and Boggs discerned a growing oil slick on the surface of the Gulf. They then returned to their air base and reported their attack.
After the war, the Navy examined captured German naval records and confirmed that the U-166 was reported lost in the area. That loss coincided with the J4F attack and the Navy therefore gave credit to White and Boggs for destroying the U-166. Each man was also decorated: White was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Boggs was awarded the Air Medal.
In 2001, the U-166 was discovered near the wreck of the SS Robert E. Lee, a vessel attacked and sunk by the U-166 on 30 July 1942 about 45 miles south of the Mississippi River Delta and well away from White's reported position when he attacked a U-boat. The Lee's escort, USS PC-566, reported attacking a U-boat after the patrol craft's crew sighted a periscope minutes after the Lee was torpedoed. After dropping depth charges near where the crew had seen the periscope, they reported spotting an oil slick. The commanding officer of the PC-566 modestly claimed that they had damaged the attacking U-boat in his report of the action.
The Navy, however, did not give them credit for what turned out to be a successful sinking. Indeed, the Navy's Anti-Submarine Warfare Assessment Committee admonished the crew for a poorly executed attack! The wreckage of a U-boat, recently discovered by a British Petroleum/Shell contractor, was near the wreck of the Lee, in fact only one mile away. The U.S. Navy therefore erred in not giving credit for the destruction of the U-166 to the USS PC-566 and her crew!
In numerous bottom searches of the area of the reported attack by the USCG J4F Widgeon, no wreckage of any kind has been found. Interestingly, another U-boat, the U-171, reported coming under attack by an Allied aircraft on 1 August 1942 in the area of that White reported attacking a U-boat. So it would now seem that White and Boggs probably attacked the U-171, which survived the Coast Guard aviators' attack.
Press accounts to date misidentify the PC-566 as being the Lee's "Coast Guard escort," when in fact she was a commissioned US Navy warship with a US Navy crew. Our congratulations to the crew of the USS PC-566 for their efforts that day.