Smithsonian Channel will reveal the exclusive story of the discovery of the “Holy Grail” of missing World War II warships, the USS Eagle 56. The new three-part series, HUNT FOR EAGLE 56, will follow the Nomad Exploration Team – a group of New England wreck divers who made the discovery – as they unearth cryptic clues 200 feet below the ocean’s surface off the coast of Maine. The revelation confirms that Eagle 56 is the last U.S. Navy warship sunk by a German submarine off the U.S. East Coast during WWII. HUNT FOR EAGLE 56 will premiere on Smithsonian Channel on Sunday, September 22 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
HUNT FOR EAGLE 56 features moving interviews with relatives of Eagle 56 sailors and never-before-seen accounts from survivors. Eagle 56 Seaman First Class James Cunningham will be posthumously awarded a Purple Heart for his service at a ceremony this Saturday, July 27 at NOSC Memphis in Millington, Tennessee. The Purple Heart will be presented by Rear Admiral Hughes, Navy Personnel Command (2-star) to Cunningham’s sister, Clara Cunningham Osborn, who will be accepting this honor on her late brother’s behalf.
“Through the tireless efforts of a dedicated expedition team, HUNT FOR EAGLE 56 unveils the truth about this tragedy,” said David Royle, Chief Programming Officer, Smithsonian Networks. “For decades, divers have been searching for this wreck. Our series will take viewers on a journey of history-changing discoveries that will finally set the record straight on a long-standing wartime mystery.”
Each hour-long episode follows the expedition team of citizen-historians and divers in their search for the warship in a challenging underwater terrain. Their remarkable discovery of wreckage – a ship’s bow, sprawling debris and eyewitness accounts – should enable them to piece together the evidence in order to end the 74-year-old lingering mystery. After more than seven decades, the U.S. Navy finally has definitive proof and physical evidence discovered by the divers that Eagle 56 was a tragedy of war and didn’t sink due to a boiler room explosion.
The search team heads to Germany’s National U-boat Archive on a deep and dangerous dive away from the wreck, where team members discover ground zero, enabling them to conclude a torpedo attack was likely. The team presents their findings to the U.S. Navy for final judgement and determines that Eagle 56 was indeed sunk by a German U-boat, killing 49 of the 62 crew members on board. After decades of uncertainty, the families of the sailors can finally find peace and vindication.
HUNT FOR EAGLE 56 is produced by Lone Wolf Media for Smithsonian Networks. Kirk Wolfinger serves as executive producer. Tim Evans and David Royle serve as executive producers for Smithsonian Channel.