On April 20, 1944, U-1105, a modified Type VII-C German submarine, built at the Nordseewerke Shipyard at Emden, Germany, was launched to begin its brief and dramatic wartime career.
Formally commissioned into the Kriegsmarine on June 3, 1944, U-1105 was one of fewer than ten submarines produced during the war outfitted with an experimental synthetic skin designed to counter Allied sonar devices. The submarine’s commander was a 25-year-old lieutenant named Hans-Joachim Schwarz.
In the spring of 1945, U-1105, nicknamed Black Panther for the black rubber coating, was deemed ready for its first and only patrol.
In March of 1945 the submarine sailed from Wilhelmshaven for Kiel. It took on provisions, fuel, and ammunition and torpedoes, and in early April sailed from Kiel to Norway to conduct final testing and crew training before setting out on patrol. From the south coast of Norway, U-1105 set a course for the west coast of Ireland, eluding Allied air patrols, sub chasers equipped with ASDIC, and at least one large English minefield along the way.
U-1105’s mission was to patrol along the Allied convoy routes in the vicinity of Black Rock, Ireland. On the morning of April 27, 1945, the sub detected a patrol of three British destroyers. At a range of 2000 meters the submarine fired two acoustic torpedoes then dove to 100 meters to escape a counterattack. The accuracy of the two torpedoes struck the HMS Redmill, a 1300 ton TE Captain Class frigate, disabling the stern and killing 32 men. The U-1105 managed to sink to a remarkable 570 feet and remained undetected by the Allied search that ensued.
Seven days later, Schwarz received word that the war was over. The U-1105 was ordered to an Allied base in northern Scotland where it surrendered. The British later turned the submarine over to the United States Navy for study and experimentation in the U.S.
After preliminary testing the U-1105 was fatally damaged on September 19, 1949 and was sunk in 90 feet of water in the Potomac River at Piney Point by a Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal team.
In June of 1985, the U-1105 was “rediscovered” by a team of sports divers from Virginia. In 1992-93, with support from the St. Clement’s Island-Potomac River Museum, the Maryland Historical Trust, and Sea Colony Aqua Sports, the site became the subject of an archeological survey expedition. Supported by financial assistance from the Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management Program, and a cooperative agreement between the Navy and the State of Maryland, the wreck was designated as Maryland’s first historic shipwreck preserve in November 1994. The Preserve is intended to promote the preservation of historic shipwreck sites while making them accessible to the general public.
For information and specifications regarding recreational diving on the U-1105, please contact the Maryland State Underwater Archaeologist at 410-514-7662 or the St. Clement’s Museum - 301-769-2222.