April 8

World War II: German U-Boat Attacks

April 8, 1942 - St. Simons Island

The Nazis brought World War II to Georgia, when a German U-boat sank three ships off the coast in 1942.

The state seemed an unlikely target; it had a short coastline, shallow waters, and numerous military bases nearby. But it also had prime targets that were poorly protected. Antisubmarine patrols were uncoordinated, and many coastal communities ignored blackout orders.

In 1942, prowling the waters off St. Simons island in a U-123, German Lt. Commander Reinhard Hardegen spotted the oil tanker Oklahoma silhouetted against the glowing shore off St. Simons Island. His torpedo ran hot and true. The blast sank the ship and shattered windows in Brunswick. He also sank the Esso Baton Rouge and a third ship the next morning before moving south. Twenty-three crewmen were killed, and Georgians panicked as rumors spread of Germans landing on the coast.

The U.S. Navy adopted the British convoy system and Allied ships in Georgia waters had around-the-clock protection after the German U-boat attacks off St. Simons on April 8, 1942, Today in Georgia History.