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U-53 Survivor photographs

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U-53 Survivor photographs


Naval War College (U.S.). Naval Historical Collection


Photographs of survivors of the U-53 German submarine attack on the morning of October 8, 1916. The day before, October 7, 1916, the U-53 captain, Kapitanleutnant Hans Rose anchored his ship off Goat Island and made a cordial visit to the U.S. Naval Station in Newport, RI including touring the Naval War College.

The war in Europe was two years old when Rose arrived in Newport harbor. Lieutenant Rose met with Commander, Destroyer Force, Atlantic, Admiral Albert Gleaves and Naval War College President Rear Admiral Austin Knight for a cordial chat.  

A number of U.S. sailors, including Admiral Gleaves and his wife and daughter, boarded and toured the U-53 including the Aide to Commandant, Naval District and Lieutenant Bristol of the Commander Destroyer Force's Staff. These men, and Commander H.B. Price, commander of the USS Melville were given, by all accounts, a very candid tour of the U-53 from stem to stern where they discussed the U-Boat's voyage to Newport, engine design and armament. It was noted that many of the submarine's officers and crew spoke English.

The next day, Lieutenant Rose took the U-53 out to international waters and proceeded to sink five ships flying European flags off Nantucket. According to some reports, Rose knew which ships to look out for based on newspaper reports he picked up while ashore in Newport.

After each attack, Rose did his best to ensure the safety of passengers and crew on ships he sank. He and his crew often towed lifeboats and provided food and water until rescue ships arrived. The photographs here are of the survivors of the torpedo attacks. It is interesting to note that not a single survivor's hair or clothes are damages in any way and at least one survivor still has her luggage.

After the war, Admiral William S. Sims, U.S. Navy, and President, Naval War College commented on Hans Rose, "We acquired a certain respect for Hans because he was a brave mane who would take chances which most of his compatriots would avoid, and above all because he played his desperate game with a certain decency."

The German government awarded Rose one of the highest military awards, the Orden Pour le Mérite, for repeated and continual gallantry in battle as commander of the U-53.

After the war, Rose retired from the Navy and became a German industrial businessman. Rose returned to active duty during World War II; in 1940, he commanded a U-boat training unit. He died in Germany in 1969 at the age of 84.

To learn more, read Hans Rose's autobiographical account of his trip to Newport with the U-53 published in 1926: https://www.unz.org/Pub/LivingAge-1926nov15-00327




  • World War, 1914-1918--Naval operations--Submarine
  • World War, 1914-1918--Naval operations, German




8 Photographs. Converted to PDF for display.


MSC-0039, Box 25


In the public domain.