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Divers Off Maine Find US Ship Sunk by German Sub

49 sailors on the USS Eagle PE-56 went down with the ship in 1945
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 19, 2019 8:09 AM CDT
This undated photo provided by the Navy shows an Eagle class patrol boat built during World War I. It is similar to the USS Eagle PE-56, which exploded and sank off Cape Elizabeth, Maine, on April 23,...   (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, File)
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(Newser) – They finally found the Eagle 56—a war grave off the coast of Maine. Divers discovered the wreckage of the USS Eagle PE-56, which was sunk by a German sub in the final weeks of World War II, reports the New York Times. Forty-nine of the 62 people aboard were killed in the blast on April 23, 1945. The Navy initially blamed the sinking on a boiler explosion and didn't formally change that conclusion until 2001, thanks to the research of naval historian Paul Lawton, per the AP. Video from the discovery, to be aired in an upcoming documentary on the Smithsonian Channel, show that both of the ship's boilers are intact. The ship's hull is broken in two and sits in water about 300 feet deep some five miles from Maine's coast, in an area beyond the reach of recreational divers.

"When we found her initially and found subsequent pieces later on, we were just in absolute awe and there was an incredible amount of respect for the sailors who are still entombed with the Eagle 56," Ryan King, one of the divers, tells CNN. The Eagle 56 was the last American ship to be sunk by a German sub in the war. A couple of weeks later, the sub now blamed for the attack was itself sunk off the coast of Rhode Island. When the Eagle 56 went down, it had been towing a practice target to be used by bombers stationed nearby. The 13 survivors were pulled from the water by a Navy destroyer, and Lawton interviewed three of them decades later as part of his research. (Read more discoveries stories.)

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