Borie crew on board Card during the memorial service after the battle.
Borie’s Last Battle
On 1 November 1943, operating in heavy seas, Borie faced U-405 on the surface, apparently unable to submerge. In action lasting just over an hour, Borie sank the sub but sustained damage that led to her own abandonment. Here we capture the action in photos, an addendum to Borie’s own action report, the first-person account of shipmate Bob Maher and a list of personnel from the last battle.

On 30 October 1943, Task Group 21.14, a hunter-killer group commanded by Capt. Arnold J. Isbell, commanding officer, USS Card (CVE 11) was returning to the United States from Casablanca. When the group was at a position north of the Azores, a report was received to the effect that a group of U-boats was probably in their general area, possibly a “milch-kuhe” (milk cow) fueling and provisioning other boats. A patrolling TBF sighted a surfaced submarine, then lost contact.

Another sighting was reported at 1600 hours the next day: this time, two submarines on the surface. Borie was ordered ahead to try to develop the contact. At 2010, she made radar contact and pressed an attack, firing star shells, then dropping depth charges. She had reason to suspect a kill. The weather was bad and getting worse—15-foot seas, strong winds and poor visibility.

At 0200 on 1 November, Borie got another radar contact and charged in for an attack. At a range of about 2000 yards, the radar pip disappeared but sonar gained contact and LCdr. Hutchins attacked, leaving a float light in the center of his depth charge pattern. Almost immediately, a conning tower was sighted rising near the float: U-405.

Coming about for another attack, Borie’s 24-inch bridge searchlight picked up the target and she commenced 4-inch and 20mm fire. She attempted to ram but at the moment of contact, a wave lifted her bow and dropped it on the U-boat’s foredeck where it lodged, locking the the two ships together. While the U-405 crew tried man its deck gun and Borie’s crew tried to prevent them from reaching it with small arms fire, a 4-inch shell casing and even a sheath knife, the action of the seas began to open seams in Borie’s hull forward and flood her forward engine room.

After 10–15 minutes, the two ships finally separated and the running fight resumed. The submarine’s turning circle was smaller than Borie’s and its skipper, Korvettenkapitän Rolf-Heinrich Hopmann, did a masterful job of maneuvering his badly-damaged boat. Borie, herself in bad shape, fired torpedoes without result and later, with the ships on parallel courses at K-gun range, fired three depth charges set at 30 feet. Finally, a 4-inch shell struck the U-boat’s starboard diesel exhaust, stopping it dead in the water.

As it sank slowly by the stern, U-405’s crew fired Very stars and commenced abandoning ship into rubber rafts. As Borie manuevered to approach the men in the water, however, a lookout reported a torpedo passing down her port side, leaving Capt. Hutchins no choice but to evade and hope that another U-boat in the area could rescue the German crew. They were never picked up.

Without auxiliary power, her speed limited to 10 knots and her position unknown to her task force, Borie got off one radio transmission, which Card fortunately received. TBFs searched and found her in the fog; Goff and Barry then arrived, but could not immediately take off her crew in 20-foot seas. At dusk, fearing she would sink in the dark LCdr. Hutchins ordered “abandon ship.” Three officers and 27 men were lost in the effort.

At dawn on the 2nd, Borie was still afloat. In the still-heavy seas, Barry and Goff could not sink her with torpedoes or 4-inch fire, so Card’s TBFs sent her under.

Source: Dickey, A Family Saga.