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Photo courtesy Ellen Fulcher Cloud Collection

U-boats in WW2

The United States involvement in World War II started on December 7, 1941, and by January 18, 1942, the island people suddenly became aware of the war when they were thrust into it by the sinking of the tanker Allan Jackson, 60 miles off Cape Hatteras. Allied ships were lost due to German U-boats during March and April at the rate of about one per day along the Outer Banks in the graveyard of the Atlantic. The local people could hear explosions and see the flames from the burning ships.

The Diamond Shoals, sometimes called Torpedo Junction, was an ideal shooting gallery for the German U-boats to take out unprotected Allied and American merchant vessels carrying supplies and tankers moving oil and gasoline. The ships passing here were usually not in a convoy and were easy prey for the waiting German U-boats as they tried to go further offshore around the Diamond Shoals and the Navy mine field. Those U. S. Navy vessels remaining after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor were preoccupied with protecting and moving convoys of ships carrying supplies and arms overseas in both the Atlantic and Pacific to support the war effort on both fronts.

The people of Ocracoke and the Outer Banks certainly had fears that the Germans would come ashore, but with their normal Ocracoke and Banker attitude they were willing to accept whatever might happen. Residents were told to black out any light that would escape through their windows at night, and many used dark green window shades. Military security was established on the island, they kept the people off the beach, especially at night and never told the public what was going on. The local people were able to continue fishing and using their fish and hunting camps on the north end of the island.


Story by Earl O'Neal