Along the Cape Henlopen coast the threat of invasion put the United States military on guard as vessels plied the ocean protecting the shoreline from invasion or shipping vital supplies and materiel to and from civilian and military depots.
According to naval historian Bill Manthorpe, one World War II event, the sinking of a destroyer by a German U-boat off Cape Henlopen in February, 1942, set the stage for heightened vigilance along Delaware’s shores by the U.S. Navy and all American armed forces.
Manthorpe will tell the story of that wartime vigilance when he presents “Submarines at the Cape...Friend and Foe” at the Friday, Oct. 18 program of The Lewes Historical Society. The presentation begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Lewes Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall, Kings Highway, Lewes.
Manthorpe has had a deep interest in naval activities both from the U.S. Navy perspective and from intelligence he has researched of enemy activities. He says. “U. S. Navy submarines have been active off the Cape Henlopen coast since 1900 when the Navy’s first commissioned submarine, USS Holland, anchored there until the nuclear submarine USS Philadelphia passed in 1996. I will also recount the accidental sinking of the USS S-5 in 1920 which the Navy has called one of the great tales of submarine rescue at sea.”
His talk will also detail German submarine operations off the cape during both World War I and II. He explains that one of the historic highlights of enemy submarine activity off the Cape was the sinking of the USS Jacob Jones by a German U-578 off Cape Henlopen on Feb. 28, 1942. “It was the first American warship to be sunk by an enemy attack after Pearl Harbor.”
His presentation will use historical photos and documents to illustrate the intense level of submarine activity along the Cape and Atlantic coast. He will provide information on a sunken WW II German U-boat that was discovered in 1991 by scuba divers 65 miles off the coast of Point Pleasant, N.J. He will discuss how two American warships, one manned entirely by the U.S. Coast Guard and the other by the U.S. Navy, led the attack resulting in its sinking.
Manthorpe, a former naval intelligence officer, also served as a senior civilian executive in the office of the Chief of Naval Operations. He retired as the deputy director of Naval Intelligence. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1955, he taught graduate programs at Johns Hopkins University, the National War College and at the Joint Military Intelligence College. Since relocating full-time to Rehoboth Beach he has been researching and writing about all phases of naval history along the Delaware coast.
The program is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served following the presentation. For more information go to hwww.historiclewes.org.