U-505 – Chicago, Illinois - Atlas Obscura


The unluckiest U-boat in the entire German fleet is now on display in a Chicago museum. 


One of only four remaining U-boats in the world, the U-505 was as feared as any of its fellow submarines in service during World War II, but it also holds the ignominious distinction of being the first ship to have been captured by Allied forces in over a century at the time of its capture, which was simply the capstone on a career of surprisingly embarrassing distinction.

The Nazi boat was first sent out to sea in 1941 joining the ranks of its fellow U-boats as the scourge of the seas during WWII. The U-505 served 12 different patrols, and managed to bring down eight enemy boats in her career, but the ship also had its fair share of bad luck. Returning from her fourth patrol, the submarine was bombed by a British aircraft and only managed to slink back to port after weeks of repairs, earning it the title of “most heavily damaged U-boat to return to port.” During a later patrol mission, having endured years of ridicule due to constant equipment failures and resistance sabotage, the longtime commander of the vessel shot himself in the head while addressing his crew during a stressful depth charge attack that had finally pushed him too far. This is the only recorded incident of a commanding officer taking his own life while in charge of a fighting warship. All of this occurring before the capture of the U-505 that marked the first naval vessel to be successfully commandeered by American forces since the War of 1812. Were it not for the suicide and Nazis the ship’s tale could pass for a Mchale’s Navy script. 

Once the U-505 was captured it was secretly towed to Bermuda and placed in U.S. custody, in which it remains today. The entire submarine, left intact, is now a museum ship located in the Museum of Science and Industry Chicago. Visitors can take tours of the ship’s interior or simply marvel at its size from the ground level, but either way, guests should try not to catch any of the ship’s bad luck.  

Know Before You Go

The general U-505 exhibit is included in your MSI entry. A 30 minute tour of the interior of the submarine is an add'l fee ($12, or $10 prepaid online). Allow at least 30 minutes before your tour to enjoy the general exhibit.

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