USS Eagle 56 was a United States Navy World War I-era patrol boat that remained in service through World War II. On 23 April 1945, while towing targets for US Navy bomber exercises off the coast of Maine, Eagle 56 was sunk by the German submarine U-853. Only 13 of the 67 crew survived. The loss was classified as a boiler explosion until 2001 when historical evidence convinced the US Navy to reclassify the sinking as a combat loss due to enemy action.
Eagle 56 was one of 60 Eagle-class patrol craft built by Henry Ford late in World War I as submarine chasers, none of which saw action. Unpopular due to their poor sea handling, only eight remained in service at the time of World War II. Eagle 56 was patrolling off the Delaware Capes in January 1942. Eagle 56 remained almost constantly at sea during the Second Happy Time of the Battle of the Atlantic, during which Axis submarines attacked merchant shipping along the east coast of North America. When her depth charges were expended, a small ship from Cape May, New Jersey would bring out a new supply. Eagle 56 rescued survivors of Jacob Jones off Cape May in February. Eagle 56 was damaged by collision with the submerged wreck of Gypsum Prince while rescuing survivors from the British freighter which had collided with the British tanker Voco on 4 March at the entrance to Delaware Bay. Eagle 56 was repaired using parts from another Eagle boat, and then assigned to the Key West sonar school in May 1942.
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