26 October 2008

Chucktown subs

Well I lived in CHarleston for a year and a half, I never saw anything about this.

World War II artifacts slowly rusting away
Barriers to German submarines were strung across mouth of harbor, creeks
By Bo Petersen (Contact)
The Post and Courier
Monday, September 29, 2008

Tube worms and rust eat away at the last pieces of one of the eerier secrets of the Lowcountry estuaries — anti-submarine nets.
The nets were strung across the mouth of Charleston Harbor and deeper inlet streams during World War II. For years after, boaters on waters like Conch Creek behind Sullivan's Island would duck under the top cable and glimpse a horror in the gleaming waves.
"For a kid that thing was bigger than life and scary as the devil. It was a very imposing thing, very big spikes, very big cables all the way across," said David Richardson, a Fort Moultrie boat captain who rode the creek as a small child. He remembers five or six cables suspended across with four-prong spikes bolted to them.
Today, only remnants are there, a few crumbling pilings, maybe the rust line of a cable along the bottom, in places like Conch or Coburg creeks. But the memory is so ingrained that oystermen who work the beds near Conch will refer to "the submarine net" as a landmark.
"It's an interesting but largely unknown story of World War II, a major operation that a lot of people don't know about," said Scott Bassett, of the Naval Weapons Station in Goose Creek.
The nets were strung up and down the East Coast across strategic harbor entrances like Charleston, with its Navy base, as protection from smaller German submarines. The threat was real. Several German U-boats were spotted off the coast, and at least one was sunk by a destroyer.
Deeper harbors were mined. In shallower harbors like Charleston, the nets were considered enough to stop the relatively slow, weakly powered U-boats. Tugs were dispatched from Fort Moultrie to pull the large harbor nets back so Allied ships or submarines could pass.
But in the Lowcountry, waterways snake in and out between bigger harbors and the sea. Creeks like Conch were deeper then and used to anchor schooners waiting for the tide to come into Charleston. So smaller nets were run across them.
At the end of the war, the military was tasked with scrapping the nets. But servicemen were being demobilized, along with the rest of the country.
"There were not a lot of people left to remove them," Bassett said. "My guess is that there was tons of stuff left all over the place."
Reach Bo Petersen at 745-5852 or bpetersen@ postandcourier. com.

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