The U-166 lies at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico off the state of Louisiana in about 6,650 feet of water, mostly covered in silt. The exact location isn't disclosed in order to preserve the remains, but the rough location of the wreck has been provided by NOAA. The conning tower, conning tower details and deck gun are visible above the silt, covered in colorful anenomies and marine growth. Despite such the U-Boat is almost perfectly preserved from the day it sank. The bow section including the bow planes is several hundred feet away from the main section, the damage from the day she sank more than noticeable. The wrecksite is a protected military grave site as all 55 crewmembers were killed when the submarine was sunk. U-166 lies two miles away from her victim, the Robert E. Lee.
~ GPS Shipwreck Location ~
Latitude: 28° 41' 33.3852" N Longitude: -88° 42' 1.6596" W
(U-805, a Type IXC class U-Boat the same as U-166.)
U-166 was a Type IXC U-Boat constructed by Seebeckwerft A.G. in Wesermünde, Germany (now Bremerhaven) in 1941 and was commissioned into the Kriegsmarine in 1942. U-166's first patrol was around the coast of the United Kingdom. In early 1942, Admiral Karl Dönitz and German dictator Adolf Hitler approved military action known as Operation Drumbeat against the United States which had just joined the war months earlier. Operation Drumbeat entailed U-Boats would patrol the American coastlines and would sink all merchant ships in sight. Her second patrol was to the Gulf of Mexico. American military forces were ill-prepared and unable to counter the U-Boat threat, whereas the British had prior experience earlier in the war and had previously broken the Enigma codes. German U-Boats were able to sink hundreds of American ships without much consequence. Furthermore, German U-Boat crews found it easy to navigate the coastlines of the United States at night, due to American cities refusing to exercise the same blackout routines Canadian and British cities were already enforcing.
After success on the American east coast, A handful of Type IXC U-Boats including U-166. On June 17, 1942, U-166 left Lorient, France on what would be her final patrol. On July 30, 1942, U-166 caught the Eastern Steamship Lines' passenger steamship Robert E. Lee inbound to New Orleans under escort by USS PC-566. The U-166 fired a torpedo and sunk the Robert E. Lee killing 25 people. Immediately, PC-566 went on the offensive and fired depth charges by order of Lieutenant Commander Herbert Claudius at the U-166. The U-166 crash dove in an attempt to escape, but a single depth charge landed on the submarine's deck. The depth charge detonated in turn detonating the submarine's torpedoes, blowing off the bow of U-166, flooding and sinking her immediately. Despite the victory, the United States Navy refused to credit Claudius for the sinking of U-166 until the early 21st Century when Dr. Robert Ballard and an accompanying dive team. Claudius posthumously recieved the Legion of Meritt for his actions.
The U-166 was seen as a local legend and enigma to those living on the gulf coast, as she was the only German submarine lost in the Gulf of Mexico. Charles Christ of Houma, Louisiana spent most of his life searching for U-166 where a Grumman Albatross had reported sinking a U-Boat during World War II. The US Navy had wrongfully credited the Albatross for sinking U-166 when in reality it had only damaged U-171 as revealed by subsequent investigations. Christ had been looking in the wrong position for decades. U-166 was instead found in 2001 next to the wreck of the Robert E. Lee by an oil pipleline survey team. While having not discovered the U-Boat himself, Christ was brought in by the exploration team and helped to identify the wreck of U-166.