National Press Club

Marine archaeologist addresses NPC American Legion Post 20

March 29, 2018 | By Ken Dalecki |

Marine Archaeologist Tane Casserley gives presentation at the National Press Club American Legion Post 20 meeting on March 28.

Marine Archaeologist Tane Casserley gives presentation at the National Press Club American Legion Post 20 meeting on March 28.

Photo/Image: Rex Stucky

Marine Archaeologist Tane Casserley of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of National Maritime Sanctuaries (ONMS) dove into the history of World War II German U-boat operations off the Atlantic Coast at a luncheon meeting of the National Press Club's American Legion Post 20 on March 28 at the Club.

Casserley, whose explorations have taken him to wrecks as deep as 260 feet, focused on the 90 merchant ships, anti-submarine trawlers and four German submarines sunk during World War II along the wreck-rich North Carolina coast.

Many wrecks are being discovered and mapped using new technology, Casserley said.

Casserley's Club presentation came 75 years after the monthly toll from U-boat attacks reached their zenith: 108 ships sunk (585,404 tons) and 23 ships damaged (155,615 tons) in March, 1943. Henceforth, Allied losses to U-boats steadily declined due to new anti-submarine technology, the convoy system and attacks by aircraft.

Describing marine sanctuaries as "America's underwater national parks," Casserley said ONMS is in the process of writing regulations to extend protection against salvage and treasure hunting beyond military vessels to include merchant ships sunk during the war. Such ships are currently susceptible to souvenir hunters and salvage operators. Nearly four out of 100 U.S. Merchant Mariners were killed during World War II, a higher rate than any branch of the U.S. military.

The Monitor National Marine Sanctuary was created in 1975 as the nation's first national marine sanctuary. Today, Casserley's Newport News-based office oversees a network of underwater parks encompassing more than 170,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters from American Samoa to the Florida Keys. Casserley urged those interested in the sanctuary program to visit ONMS's website.

At least two Club members have done dives on U-boats: William Watson off Connecticut and Thomas Young off North Carolina.

Post 20 Commander Jim Noone announced that Post member James M. D’Angelo, founder of the International Midway Memorial Foundation, plans to discuss his book Victory at Midway at the Post's next meeting on May 31. The speaker portions of Post 20 meetings are open to all Club members.