The U-352 is a 218 foot long Type VII C German U-Boat that lies in 115 feet of water 26 miles southeast of Beaufort Inlet. It usually takes about an hour and forty-five minutes to reach this dive site after leaving the inlet. The conning tower rises to 90 feet and the main part of the U-352 is at 100 feet. The bow is cracked so the forward torpedo tubes are exposed, partially from the initial depth charging and partially from the effects of time. The U-352 rests on its starboard side at a 45-degree angle. The outer hull has deteriorated away in some places, but the supporting ribs are still in place and the inner pressure hull is still intact.
During the summer, the water temperature ranges from the upper 70's to the low 80's. Visibility averages 60 feet but can get up over a 100 feet. There are usually schools of amberjack swimming around the U-352. There is a southern stingray that stays near the U-352 that has a wingspan of six feet that swims by on occasion as divers are exploring the U-352. There can be moderate currents on the U-352, so it is best to swim into them on the first part of the dive and let the current bring you back to the anchor line. The inside of the U-352 is filled with silt, which can easily reduce a diver's visibility to zero. Only penetration-trained wreck divers should attempt penetration. There is plenty to see on the outside of the U-352.
The U-352 was the first U-Boat to be sunk by the U.S. Coast Guard in World War II. On May 9, 1942, the U-352 was searching for a target to sink. In all of the previous attempts, the U-352 had failed to sink any Allied ships. Kaptian-leutnant Hellmut Rathke saw the mast of a ship through his periscope and prepared to sink that ship. What he thought was a slow moving unprotected freighter turned out to be the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Icarus. Rathke fired a torpedo at the Icarus, but the torpedo failed to find its target and exploded on the sea floor. When Rathke raised his periscope above the water to see the burning remains of a freighter, he only sight was that of the Icarus surrounded by brown seawater from the detonated torpedo. Rathke immediately dove the U-352 to the bottom, but since he was in shallow water, the bottom was only 115 feet. His first thought was to get behind the stern of the Icarus and wait to attack, but decided to hide in the brown sea of the torpedo impact.
Lieutenant Jester and the Icarus began its hunt for the U-352. The Icarus came about and began searching for the U-352 using its sonar. After they had passed over the U-352 and lost contact, they dropped five depth charges into the muddy water. One of the depth charges detonated above the deck gun, two by the conning tower, one over the engine room and the fifth one passed fifty feet behind the stern. The glass in all of the gauges in the conning tower and control room were shattered by the detonations. The U-352 lost all power except for the dim red emergency lights. Both electric engines were inoperable and Rathke thought if he played dead, the Icarus would leave and he could repair his wounded U-352. What he didn't know was that the depth charges had knocked a large amount of sheet metal from the conning tower and that the deck gun was now resting on the seafloor. This reduction in weight actually caused to U-352 to drift through the water with its bow up and stern dragging in the sand.
The Icarus could tell that the U-352 was still moving and as long as it was moving, it presented a threat. The Icarus dropped three more depth charges, the first one striking the bow and ruptured its buoyancy tank, while the other two feel to the side. Bubbles from the buoyancy tank provided a target for the next single depth charge dropped. The detonation caused more water to leak into the U-352, but the pressure hull held. The next single depth charge missed its target, but came close enough that Rathke ordered his U-352 to the surface.
As the U-352 broke the surface, the crew of the Icarus started firing their machine guns at the escaping Germans. Lt. Jester knew the deck gun was able to sink his ship and wasn't going to allow anyone to reach the deck gun. No one realized was that the deck gun had been blown off by the depth charges. Three shots were fired from the three-inch gun, the first hit in front of the conning tower and ricocheted through it, the second went behind the conning tower, and the third impacted dead center. The crew jumped into the water as the Icarus continued to strafe the water. The Icarus left the area without picking up the Germans to guard against another U-352 in the area. U-Boats were known to hunt in groups called Wolfpacks. After sending numerous messages requesting a decision about picking up the survivors, the Icarus received the authority to pick them up and returned to pick up the survivors. Returning to the site, 33 crewmembers had escaped from the sinking U-352 and 13 went down with the U-352. One of the rescued crewmembers later died aboard the Icarus from injuries.
The exact location of the U-352 remained unknown until 1975 when George Purifoy rediscovered the location, a mile and a quarter away from the location the U.S. Navy had reported. In 1978, the deck gun was recovered by George Purify and in 1979, Dave Bluett recovered the 1,500 pound port propeller.