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A German U-Boat has been spotted 30 miles off the coast of North Carolina - 72 years after it sank during a Nazi mission.

Wreckage of the submerged U-576 submarine was discovered by sonar near Ocracoke on August 24, seven years after the search began.

The vessel went down during a battle off the Outer Banks on 15 July, 1942, during the Second World War.

It is believed the 44 sailors who were on board at the time are entombed inside.

Video footage shows the U-Boat resting on its side on the ocean floor.
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It lies below an area where Third Reich sailors destroyed merchant ships and caused chaos on trade routes, eight months after the United States entered the war.

They killed hundreds of people in the process.

The wooden decking has rotted away after more than half a century under water.

But the hull, gun deck and the hatches leading to where the bodies likely lie are still visible.
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NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, along with the University of North Carolina’s Coastal Studies Institute and the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, had been looking for the sub since 2009 in the area where the battle had taken place.

With the help of sonar and other devices, it was found in August 2014.

One of the merchant ships it sank in the battle had been found nearby the year before.

Joe Hoyt, a NOAA Maritime Archaeologist, told the Washington Post: 'It’s sort of unreal. 'I knew the story, [but] the moment that we get in there and it comes out of the gloom at you . . . it was humbling. It’s all there, just as it went down in 1942. One of the things we’re looking for is what happened to the crew.

'Did they try to get out the escape hatches? Did the ship flood catastrophically? Were they on the seabed for some period of time, disabled with air still in the sub?

Merchant vessels often came under attack, and though the official count of wartime casualties is not known, the merchant marines suffered thousands of losses.

The merchant tanker Bluefields, flying the Nicaraguan flag, was part of a 24-ship convoy with air cover on its way south from Virginia to Florida on July 14, 1942.

U-576 was at the time limping back to port in Germany, having sustained damage during a month of unsuccessfully hunting Allied shipping vessels along the American coast.

The German sub, commanded by Kapitanleutnant Hans-Dieter Heinicke, engaged the convoy, singling out the Bluefields.
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'In spite of his damaged ship, Heinicke decided to attack at all costs,' a document held by the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary reads. 'However, at 4:00 pm just before he could fire his torpedoes, one of the Coast Guard cutters picked up a sonar contact.'

The Coast Guard escorts dropped a series of three depth charges, soon followed by five more.

Determined to strike against the convoy, Heinicke fired four torpedoes that sunk the Bluefields and damaged two other ships.
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Kingfisher floatplanes escorting the convoy zeroed in on the sub, hitting it with depth charges, while the Unicoi merchant ship swung around its deck gun and fired. Both vessels sank, but a grisly end awaited the crew of U-576, as all 45 sailors died aboard the doomed sub.

The wreck of U-576 will remain under the sovereign ownership of Germany, in accordance with US policy.

'It is international custom to view the wreckage of land, sea, and air vehicles assumed or presumed to hold the remains of fallen sailors as war graves,' read a statement from the German Foreign Office.

'As such, they are under special protection and should, if possible, remain at their site and location to allow the dead to rest in peace.'

Source: dailymail.com