The official credit given for this sinking is incorrect; see narrative below for details; the following chart lists the information listed in the official (and incorrect) sinking credit issued to the Allied warships USS Fowler and the French L'Indiscret.
Date of Action: 28 February 1945
USCG Units Involved: Escort group commanded by a Coast Guard officer, CDR Ralph R. Curry, on board USS Knoxville.
Location: 34.03N x 08.13W
Credit by U.S. Navy? USS Fowler and French submarine chaser L'Indiscret, units of the hunter-killer group, received credit for the sinking--it is listed here because these vessels were from a escort group commanded by a Coast Guard officer, CDR Ralph R. Curry, who flew his flag from the frigate USS Knoxville.
Enemy Warship's Commanding Officer: Kapitšnleutnant Hellmut Neuerburg
Enemy Casualties: 56 killed in action; all hands lost
USCG Casualties: None
Misc: U-869 was not in the reported area of the attack and could not have been sunk by Fowler and L'Indiscret. The Navy instead recently gave credit to the USS Howard D. Crow and the USS Koiner for sinking the U-869 (see below for details).
Two vessels of a Coast Guard-commanded escort group, the USS Fowler and the French L'Indiscret, escorting convoy GUS-74, reported attacking a sonar contact with magnetic depth charges on 28 February 1945. This attack brought up oil but no debris. The US Navy's Antisubmarine Assessment Committee reviewed captured German records after the war. These records indicated that the U-869 was reported lost in this area during the time of the attack by Fowler and L'Indiscret. The Committee therefore credited both warships with the destruction of the U-869.
As has since been determined, the U-869 had been ordered, after first setting out to patrol the waters off New York, to change her patrol area to that off Gibraltar. Although they never received confirmation from the U-869 that she indeed received the order to change her patrol area, the German naval command nevertheless assumed that U-869 had received those orders and had changed course to patrol that area as ordered. They listed her as being lost in the area of the attack reported by the two Allied warships and it would seem that the Committee assumed that the evidence was strong enough to credit a confirmed "kill" to both warships.
A number of such suppositions were made after the war and many of these credited kills were based only on what little information the Allies had on German U-boat positions. The nature of anti-submarine combat was such that without direct evidence, in the form of prisoners, debris, or the like, the Allies could only assume that an attack on a submerged U-boat was successful. In this case, as in many others, the Allies were incorrect.
In 1991 a dive team led by John Chatterton, along with Richie Kohler, and John Yurga, among others, discovered the wreck of a U-boat off the coast of New Jersey. After six years of diligent research, diving and exploring the wreck, which lay in over 200 feet of water, they determined that the submarine was in fact the U-869. It would seem that the U-869 never received the order to change her patrol area from the waters off New York and had proceeded as originally directed--to the coast of the United States. Also, as per orders, she launched a torpedo at some unidentified Allied vessel. The divers hypothesized that the torpedo went into a circular run, returning to strike and detonate on the U-boat's hull, and sending it to the bottom.
Independent researcher Harold Moyers, however, determined that the USS Howard D. Crow, manned by an all-Coast Guard crew, and the USS Koiner, manned by an all-Navy crew, on the night of 11 February 1945, attacked a submerged target near where the divers found the wreck of the U-869. The destroyer escorts were part of the escort for Convoy CU-58 which was traversing the area that the U-869 would have been if she had not received the order to change her area of patrol, which Chatterton and the others had proven was the case. While patrolling along the fringe of the convoy, the Crow obtained a strong sonar contact and attacked the submerged object by launching her hedgehogs. One of the charges detonated on the object and the Crow continued to attack seven times with standard depth charges, as oil and air bubbles reached the surface. The Koiner soon joined her in attacking the object, which was by now stationary on the bottom. Koiner made three additional attacks on the target before both warships broke off to return to escorting the vulnerable merchant ships of CU-58. Disappointingly, without any concrete evidence that their target was a U-boat, the attack was originally classified as probably "non-sub." But the U.S. Navy has since revised that conclusion. Due to Moyers' convincing research, the Crow and Koiner have now been given credit by the Navy for sinking the U-869 on the night of 11 February 1945.
Click here for Mr. Moyers' narrative regarding this attack.
Click here for the revised official history of the Howard D. Crow.