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HORST DEGEN was born 11 September 1913 in Munster/Westphalia and he was in the Naval Class 1933. His one and only U-Boat command was U-701, but he was successful with that boat, sinking some half a dozen ships. Admiral Karl Dönitz called his "the Gallant Degen".
During one patrol in American waters, he laid mines off the Norfolk Naval Base and sank and/or damaged some ships. This was the only U-Boat laid mine barrage in U.S. waters to have any effect on shipping.
While off Cape Hatteras, a Lockheed HUDSON bomber of the 396 Squadron USAAF flown by HARRY KANE (346-+-1988) spotted the submarine and attacked. Degen gave a harsh look to the lazy lookout that failed to see the approaching bomber, then dived. The stern was still sticking out of the water when the bombs fell, blowing a huge hole in the after section and sending the boat to the bottom immediately. After the boat settled on the bottom and filled with water almost to the ceiling, DEGEN Popped the conning tower hatch and he with several men, were blown to the surface. A total of 17 men made it out of the boat.
The US Navy immediately began a search, but for some reason, they failed to reckon with the 2 ½ knot northerly current of the Gulf Stream and even though DEGEN and his men could see the USN ships looking for them, they were far to the south - and the men continued to drift northward. One by one, the men succumbed to the cold and fatigue, and just slipped beneath the waves. Two men decided not to wait for a rescue, and set out swimming toward the coast some thirty miles distant. DEGEN tried to dissuade them, but they went anyway and were never seen again.
Then, after two days in the water with only lifebelts, they heard a blimp overhead. It was piloted by GEORGE MIDDLETON (347-1988), and liferafts were dropped to the men with some food and water.
It wasn't long and a PBY CATALINA landed near the men and ordered them to swim to the plane. The U-Boatmen were not going to swim themselves into captivity, and so they yelled that the plane must come to them. An American Navy crewman sitting on the wing calmly unwrapped a candy bar and sat back to enjoy it. The U-Boatmen took the hint and swam to the outstretched arms of the USN corpsmen, who hauled them aboard.
"What about that man?" the CATALINA pilot yelled, pointing at a German who had let
go and who was now face down in the water. It was the Skipper, HORST DEGEN, who
had just run out of strength and who was about to drown. The men quickly swam back
to him, turned him over and pulled him back to the CATALINA.
Of the seventeen men who made it out of U-701 on the bottom, only seven survived.
Captain DEGEN was very helpful to Sharkhunters, giving us many photographs and a great deal of information about the his final patrol - how and where the boat was lost, and he gave us an audiotape interview.
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