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Wreck of German U-Boat Discovered Off North Carolina

"Most people associate the Battle of the Atlantic with the cold, icy waters of the North Atlantic," says David Alberg of the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA). "But few people realize how close the war actually came to America’s shores."

On Tuesday, NOAA announced that the wreck of a German U-boat had been found just 30 miles off the North Carolina coast. The U-576, pictured above traversing rough seas, was found 240 yards from the wreck of the Bluefields, an American freighter which was part of a convoy it encountered on July 15, 1942.

Crew members on board the U-576 light-heartedly pose for a photo. All 45 people aboard the U-boat were killed after it was hit by patrol aircraft and ships in the convoy KS-520, which had set sail from Lynnhaven Roads, Va., en route to Key West, Fla.

Members of the U-576's crew gather around the U-boat's conning tower. Its torpedoes hit three ships in the Allied convoy, sinking one of them, the Bluefields, in minutes. The skirmish resulted in four Allied casualties.

The U-576's watch crew in the conning tower. The U-boat was deployed five times on patrols in the Arctic, North Sea and the Atlantic between September 1941 and July 1942.

Captain-Lietuenant Hans-Dieter Heinicke, commander of the U-576.

The U-576 coming into the French port of Saint Nazaire, where Germany constructed a base for its U-boats during the battle for control of the Atlantic.

The crew of the U-576.

A sonar image of the area where the wrecks of U-576, left, and Bluefields were found. A team of maritime archaeologists set out to search for the underwater battlefield in 2011. Remote sensing equipment identified a number of objects on the seafloor, and then sonar imaging was used to survey the sites of interest more closely. The two wrecks were found around 690 and 750 feet deep.

A sonar image of the wreck of Bluefields. Although technically a merchant vessel, the freighter was requisitioned by the United States Shipping board and served in a critical capacity during both World War I and World War II. Its crew escaped with minor injuries.

A sonar image shows the wreck of the U-576.

Crew members of the U-576 gather for an informal photo on board the submarine.

Germany's foreign ministry said in a statement to the NOAA that the wreck of the U-boat and the bodies of its 45 crew "should, if possible, remain at their site and location to allow the dead to rest in peace."