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100 years after sinking, wreck of German U-boat SM U-111 has been found

In the United States, wreck searchers have found the wreck of the German submarine SM U-111, which sank off the coast of Virginia in 1922. A group of technical divers and wreck finders found the wreck of the German submarine SM U-111. Erik A. Petkovic and Rusty Cassway located the vessel on September 5, 2022
Published: October 4, 2022 - 09:00
Updated: July 23, 2023 - 01:21
100 years after sinking, wreck of German U-boat SM U-111 has been found

In the United States, wreck searchers have found the wreck of the German submarine SM U-111, which sank off the coast of Virginia in 1922.

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A group of technical divers and wreck finders found the wreck of the German submarine SM U-111. Erik A. Petkovic and Rusty Cassway located the vessel on September 5, 2022 at a depth of 120 meters. It is noteworthy that they accomplished this equal to 100 years after the sinking (August 31, 1922).

German submarine SM U-111

The Americans conducted the search from aboard the R/V Explorer using a remotely operated ROV. This was due, among other things, to the fact that US NAVY information suggested that the wreck rests much deeper than 120 meters. The entire expedition was supported and covered by National Geographic.

The German submarine SM U-111 entered service in 1917 and was part of the Imperial German Navy’s fleet. It was then diverted to duty in the Atlantic Ocean. As part of its patrols during World War I, it sank three Allied merchant ships.

The second life of the submarine SM U-111

After the war ended and Germany surrendered, the submarine SM U-111, like many others, surrendered to the Royal Navy. The British then sent the units to Harwich, England, where they scrapped most of them. SM U-111 was lucky and was among the ships preserved for technical analysis.

The U-boat was then included in a group of six German submarines that the British sent to the US. The plan was for SM U-111 to visit more ports as a tourist attraction. Next, the vessel was to be examined from a structural point of view (German diesel engines were involved), and finally the Americans planned to sink it.

SM U-111 set off on a voyage across the Atlantic with a 32-member American crew. The story of this 12-day voyage is material for a separate story (and maybe a movie?). However, it is worth mentioning that only the training and heroism of the individual crew members, made it possible to reach the destination. Along the way, the Americans had to face a series of adversities and sabotage prepared by the German crew. As a result of the trap set, the ship almost sank and only the quick reaction of one of the sailors saved the vessel from flooding.

How did the submarine SM U-111 eventually sink? In June 1921, while being towed to a location to be used as an aerial bombardment target, the ship began to take on water. As a result of these events, it sank about three miles off the coast of Cape Henry, Virginia. Interestingly, at this point it was so shallow that the ship’s stern protruded above the waterline. Eventually SM U-111 went down (for good) on August 31, 1922, when hatches were opened and the ship USS Falcon fired a depth charge alongside.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons


Without a doubt, the area around England’s Dover is famous for the shipwrecks sunk there. One of those worth exploring is without a doubt the Mindoro shipwreck. You can read more about it in Stefan Panis’ article, which we published in the 20th issue. DIVERS24 quarterly! The digital version of the magazine is available free of charge, while you can purchase the printed version in our online store.

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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