The Sinking of the U.S.S. Eagle PE-56, Silent Victim of the U-853

“The Greatest, Recently Solved Mystery in New England’s Naval & Maritime History”

by Paul Lawton, Esquire
The Sinking of the U.S.S. Eagle PE-56 by Paul Lawton
This is the story of the mysterious loss of a small U.S. Navy warship operating in the perceived safety of New England waters in the closing days of World War II. The U.S.S. Eagle PE-56, an aged sub-chaser, exploded and sank off the coast of Portland, Maine in April of 1945 resulting in the Navy determination that she was lost due to an accidental boiler explosion, with the loss forty-nine Officers and enlisted crewmen. Following the end of the war that incident faded into history for 56 years until a chance encounter between family friends started an investigation that changed naval history and made national headlines. Though the loss of the PE-56 was witnessed by military installations on land and several ships at sea, repeated searches for the elusive remains of the ship were unsuccessful. It appeared as though the PE-56 had simply vanished from the bottom of the Atlantic, leading to one of the most enduring mysteries in New England’s nautical ad maritime history.After two decades of searching, the wreck was finally discovered, almost 75 years after her loss, though her long lost wreck finally revealed conclusive, forensic evidence that she was, in fact, sunk by the German U-boat U-853. The “Gray Ghost of the Atlantic Coast” had finally spoken from the grave, proving once and for all that her Officers and enlisted crewmen were true war heroes who died in combat.

About the Author

Paul Lawton is an attorney, shipwreck diver and Naval & Maritime Historian who resides on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. A graduate of Stonehill College and New England School of Law, he has been honored by having been conferred with membership in the Phi Alpha Theta International Honors Society, in recognition of conspicuous attainments and scholarship in the field of History. He assisted U.S. Naval Historical Center in the 1990s on some of the last, post war Battle Assessments of open cases involving questionable ship and aircraft losses during World Wars I and II. In 2001 he was successful in having the Secretary of the Navy overturn the official cause of the loss of the U.S. Navy sub-chaser U.S.S. Eagle PE-56, from and accidental boiler explosion, to having been sunk in a torpedo attack by the German U-boat U-853 on 23 April 1945. That precedent-setting correction of naval history resulted in the issuance of 51 Purple Heart Medals, 49 posthumously, to the men killed and injured in the sinking. Lawton has led, or been a member of numerous deep sea expeditions searching for, diving on, and surveying dozens of shipwrecks, his research has been the subject of several books, and his work had been chronicled in such publications as National Geographic, Boston, Down East and Sea Classics magazines, and The New York Times. As testament to his authority in the areas of submarine warfare and naval weapons systems, several of Lawton’s research manuscripts have been translated and are kept in the permanent collections of several German libraries and museums, including the State Library of Württemberg in Stuttgart, and the Deutsches U-boot-Museum at Cuxhaven-Altenbruch. Lawton’s research has also been the subject of a number of History Channel, PBS, and Smithsonian Channel documentaries including History Undercover, Deep Sea Detectives and History Detectives series broadcasts.

The author is available for public appearances and talks. Please email him at:

Product Details

Softcover, 6×9, 134 pages, 24 historic illustrations
ISBN: 978-1-938394-37-9
Order Online: Amazon

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