A First Person Account
By Frank P. DeNardo
Former Signalman 2/C aboard the USS Chatelain
On June 4, 1944, off French West Africa, DE Division 4, operating as a hunter killer group with the USS Guadalcanal CVE-60, a baby flattop, with Air Squadron 22.3 aboard.
While cruising along, I noticed the love flag go up on the carrier, so as required , I notified the Capt. (Knox) and he ordered full left rudder. As we came about, the soundman hollered contact 200 yards ahead, 1000 yards from the carrier. It had slipped under and behind the USS Jenks . The Captain picked up the radio phone and told the carrier to scatter, we made a hedge hog attack on the sub. Then we noticed she had fired a
torpedo at the carrier. We immediately altered course to intercept the torpedo with our ship, to save the carrier. I remember watching the torpedo come at our port side
, and nothing happened.Â I rushed to starboard and watched it go by. It was set for the carrier and not us.
The rest of the division had gotten away in time to avoid it. We immediately resumed our
attack on the submarine with depth charges. We must have injured her with hedge hogs because she didn't seem to have control.Â The charges finished the damage to her rudder
because she began to circle and we circled outside of her circles, waiting for her to come up. When she finally broke surface, the Captain ordered small arms only, nothing bigger than
20mm. This we did to keep the Germans off their guns. The Germans began to dive overboard, abandoning their sub.
At this time, theUSS ChatelainCaptain ordered the whale boat to the gunnels.Â He then ordered me to take a set of signal flags and a Thompson submachine gun and get
in the whale boat, to board the sub. After I got in the boat, he yelled "Away Boarders" and we dropped to the water and raced to the sub. I jumped aboard and checked the conning
tower. As I turned away from the conning tower, one of the guys in the whale boat told me our ship was signaling me. I threw up my flag and got the following message, "Stand
by, real boarding party is on it's way." I looked to my right and saw a whale boat racing
toward us from the other ships that had returned. When the other whale boat got to the sub, they entered and left their signalman in the conning tower. I told him to go below and
get me the decoding machine, which he did. I then told him to get me all the charts that he could find. He made two trips.
I placed everything under the canvas cabin in our whale boat. I told the coxswain (Gilmore
) to head for the carrier. On the way I sent a semaphore message for the carrier to lower
the basket. They told us to come under the island and they lowered the basket, into which I placed the decoder and the charts. They hauled them up. We could not return to the USS Chatelain because they had picked up a whale boat, from the carrier, that had capsized
. After the USSPillsbury got the subs diving plans in it's engine room while trying to tie it along side, Captain Gallery ordered us to take the tow rope attached to the cable and get it
to the sub. We got it there and the line was left in the water after the cable was attached to
the sub. That line wrapped around the shaft of our whale boat engine, and we stalled. I went under the whale boat with a knife and began cutting the line away. The second time I
came up for air, the coxswain told me the carrier was signaling us. I handed him the knife
and he went under to finish cutting the line. I signaled the carrier to send their message. It
was "Are you in trouble." The answer was "not now, will be on our way shortly". The coxswain got back in the boat, the engineer (Donzella) kicked the engine over and we headed for the carrier to be hauled up. As I got out of the boat, some Lt. Commander on
the carrier gave me a big hug and said "Bravest thing I ever saw". All I could say was "can
we get some dry clothes?" They gave us clothes and shoes. I turned my Thompson machine gun into the armory.
A message came over the carrier intercom, "Will the USS Chatelain Signalman report to
the sail locker"? When I got there, the sail maker asked me to help him make a German Man of
War Flag, which we did, because they couldn't find the one on the sub. After that job, I was sent to
the Master of Arms shack where the German prisoners were locked up. The Master of Arms was a guy called'Ski' ( Leon Bednarczyk ). After we talked a few minutes, he said "Take a look in the cell and tell
me if you see anyone that looks Polish in there". (I had told him I grew up with the Polish people.) After
awhile I said "the one against the wall could be one". His answer was "that's the same one I picked". I told
him to speak to him in Polish and sure enough, he was. Ski gave me his gun while he opened the cell and told
the Polish guy to come out. We took him into the Master of Arms shack and questioned him. I told him to call the skipper and tell him what we had. Gallery asked who was in the Master of Arms shack with him. He said, "DeNardo of the Chatelain". He told Ski to leave his weapon with me and to bring the Polish guy up to
the wardroom. About an hour later Ski came back alone and told me the Polish guy told Capt. Gallery he could start the pumps on the sub and told him where the acoustic torpedoes were. Capt. Gallery told the Polish guy that if he did that, he(Gallery) would see to it that he got the best education possible.
We then rendezvoused with the cargo tanker Kennebec and the fleet tug Abnakiandgot refueled and supplied. Later, theUSS Chatelain came along side the
carrier and the breeches buoy was setup. I got my Thompson sub-machine gun out of the armory, got in the breeches buoy and came across to the USS Chatelain . It sure felt good.
When we got into New York, after leaving the sub in Bermuda, I was given my
second class signalman rating and transferred to Miami, Florida, where I was put on shore patrol. The next time I saw the USS Chatelainwas in Miami. I reported for
duty one morning at the police station and saw a list of prisoners in jail. I went up to check them out and sure enough... there were about fifteen from the USS Chatelain. I went to the patrol officer and asked that they be released to me and that
I would take them back to their ship. He agreed and gave me transportation. I took them to pier 2, mustered them with the officer of the deck, took the paperwork into Commander Knox, had a cup of coffee with him, and left.
I want to add this about the flag:
The story of the flags is that after the capture of the U-505 at sea, the boarding parties
could not find the German Flag that was aboard. The sail maker on the Carrier and I made a German flag from the dimensions that were in the book of National Flags. The flag we
made is the flag that was flown on the sub under the American flag.
Max Allen, the sail maker at the Denver Reunion, told me that having found the German
Flag on the sub, it was sent to the Naval Academy where it is today. The flag we made went to the Smithsonian Institute. As far as we know, that's the only flags with the
Capture. Any others are questionable.
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Â Frank P. DeNardo
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Last updated July 25, 2004
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