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View Full Version : Patrol Diary of Herbert Altmeier Part 9 (long)



paulhager
11-03-2005, 08:59 PM
11 Sep 1944
I left Cohausz€ office in a state of deepening confusion. I sought out Willi, who I eventually found in pen 2 €" he was just coming off the U-390 carrying a small attaché case when I arrived. Seeing me, his face lit up, €œHerbert!€ He walked over. €œHerbert, my friend,€ dropping the case he hugged me as though reunited with a long-lost brother. €œMy most heartfelt congratulations.€ Willi was far too happy for a man who had just lost his command.

We walked together back to his quarters and, along the way, he talked about his new assignment. The details are very secret €" he doesn€t know them yet €" but he€ll first receive training and then become an instructor for U-boat captains. €œThey€re looking for experienced captains to be instructors,€ he amplified. I became aware as Willi talked that what I saw as a demotion was, from his point of view, exactly the opposite. Moreover, it took him back to Germany €" close to his family. Once I realized this, I easily shared his happiness.

Naturally, Willi has begun organizing a €œparty€ to celebrate our new assignments, my medal, his departure for Germany €¦ perhaps just the fact that we survived another patrol. The party will begin promptly after he turns over the command of the U-390 to me on Friday.

Late afternoon I went back to pen 2 €" this time to find Lippisch. We had a lot to talk about.

Lippisch was standing next to the gangway, arms crossed, watching the welders on the conning tower. I had missed him when I came by earlier but he was there, inside the U-390, hard at work on the internals. €œChief, can I interrupt you for a minute?€ He turned around, €œSure.€ I began to tell him about my promotion and he interrupted, €œI know.€ I hesitated, €œWe need to talk.€ He eyed me for a moment. €œGive me an hour.€ Lippisch, laconic as always.

I returned promptly an hour later. A waterfall of sparks was cascading off the bridge of the U-390 and onto the deck plates. At the top of the waterfall was Lippisch, partially shielding his eyes with welding goggles while instructing one of the welders. I yelled out, €œChief!€ €" the pen echoed like an empty cathedral. Lippisch turned, raised his hand briefly in acknowledgment, and turned back to the welder to give his final directions.

Climbing down from the bridge, he crossed the gangway and approached me at a deliberate pace, tossing the goggles onto a table as he passed. €œI thought we might talk over dinner,€ I said. €œI know a place in walking distance,€ he responded.

Neither of us spoke until we had exited through the main gate. €œI have some questions,€ I began. Silence. €œWhat can you tell me about Captain Braun€s €¦ departure?€
€œNot much.€
€œDid you have anything to do with it?€

Lippisch turned away and spat. €œProbably. But not as much as you seem to think.€ As Lippisch spoke he surveyed the path ahead, looking neither right nor left.

Our conversation seemed to follow a slow cadence, in time with our steps. I would speak and then step-step-step, Lippisch would answer.

€œWould you rather have another assignment? Be under someone else€s command?€
Step-step-step, €œNo.€

€œWe€ve been on two missions together and you€ve never given me any cause to complain about the way you€ve carried out your duties. On the boat, you and I have always worked well together. But €" and I want you to tell me the truth €" haven€t you resented me all along? How I was promoted so rapidly?€
€œI did at first,€ he answered immediately, breaking the rhythm. €œI smelled politics.€ He spat again. €œThere was talk €" a powerful friend pulling strings, things like that.€

Step-step-step and he resumed. €œHerbert, you can€t swim against the tide.€ He had never addressed me by my first name before. €œIf you are patient, the tide always turns €" then you swim.€ From laconic to Delphic. He continued. €œThe €˜wonder-child€ was going to get his chance €" BdU had seen to that. When he €" you €" failed, I€d be ready to move into the position I had earned.€ He paused again. €œTurned out, you were a €˜wonder-child.€ Do I €˜resent€ you now? No.€

I asked him to explain his earlier answer - that he€d €œprobably€ had something to do with Willi losing his captaincy.

€œBraun lost it on his own. In my written and verbal reports, I told nothing but the unvarnished truth.€ A pause. €œHerbert, some day you€ll learn that there is an art to telling the truth.€ Another pause. €œEvery time he didn€t pursue a contact, I drew attention to it. Every time he let you to conduct the difficult attack, I highlighted it. I helped my superiors to see the truth: Braun is too cautious to be a U-boat captain.€ Pause. €œI used that word a lot €" €˜cautious€.€ Pause. €œWhat else to you want to know?€

€œWhere are we going?€

We ended up at a Norwegian establishment not frequented by sailors. Its name translated to €œOle€s Wine Bar.€ Our conversation the rest of the evening centered on the boat and crew. Lippisch said I should replace the men who panicked. €œIt€s not worth trying to fix what€s broken in them.€ That means I need to find two officers instead of one. €œOne of them should be a prospective captain,€ added Lippisch. Why was that, I wanted to know.

€œI learned something on the last patrol. I can handle torpedo attacks €" maybe I even can teach you a few things. Like that convoy attack. Too close €" that€s what the LuT€s are for. Taking long shots.€ Pause. €œBut, I wouldn€t have gotten us away from the destroyers.€ Pause. €œYou€re good in ways I can never be.€ Pause. €œI€ll be your Number One, but my duties shouldn€t change. Get somebody good €" another captain-type €" to back you up.€

Back home now, having written up the day€s events, I remain unsure of what I€ve learned. I thought I was a keen observer of people €" it would appear that I have some heretofore unrecognized deficiencies in that department.

13 Sep 1944
They awarded me the Gold Cross today. It was a much bigger ceremony than for my previous medals but otherwise, the same.

Awards don€t mean a great deal to me. Right after Von Augsburg was injured I removed the badges and haven€t worn them since. This one will go into Yvette€s collection €¦ some day.

15 Sep 1944
Willi turned over command of the U-390 to me today.

The ritual associated with a change of command goes something like this. The crew is assembled, the old Captain says a few words to the crew, the new Captain reports to the old Captain and salutes him, the old Captain returns the salute, they shake hands, the new Captain says a few words to the crew, and then everyone is dismissed. These ceremonies vary in formality €" Willi and I both incline toward less formality.

At noon the men were duly assembled and Willi addressed them. In essence, he said he was honored to have commanded them and that they were lucky to have me as his replacement. He said a few things about his upcoming assignment and wished everyone God speed and good hunting.

Then it was my turn to speak.


Today we say goodbye to the man who has been our Captain through two difficult and dangerous missions, Lieutenant Wilhelm €œWilli€ Braun. Under his command we have struck heavy blows against the enemy and, most importantly, lived to tell about it. Speaking on behalf of all your shipmates in U-390, Willi, it€s been a privilege to serve with you. I hope I can live up to the example you have set!

Comrades! Now the burden of command falls on my shoulders. All captains must bear it, both the ordinary and the great. Have any of you every wondered what makes a great captain? What made Aces like Kretschmer, Lehmann-Willenbrock, and von Stunde great? Was it sinking more than 100,000 tons of enemy shipping? Certainly that was a great achievement. But that€s not what made them great. Do you want to know the answer? I€ll tell you, but it€s a secret so listen close: there are no great captains, there are only great crews!

Shipmates, do you remember when we sank the Bogue? Kreutz? You were on the hydrophone. Barch? Dobber? You men were in the torpedo rooms. Wissman? You were damage control. Mark, Grau €¦ I could read off the whole crew roster here. Every single one of you sank that ship.

You know, they gave me a medal for sinking the Bogue. Here it is €" pretty, don€t you think? Well, they don€t know the secret but we do. So, my first act as Captain of the U-390 will be to have this medal placed in the forward crew quarters above a plaque that will read, €œAwarded to the crew of the U-390 for conspicuous bravery and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty.€

Men, I don€t want to be a great captain €" I want to captain a great crew. And with you, I know I will.

The men cheered. And I meant every word.

The party was at a tavern frequented by the lower ranks. In typical Willi fashion, the whole crew was invited €" fraternization was never a big issue with him. A number of crewmen drank to excess but were reasonably behaved, at least in my presence.

Around 2200 I left. It€s probably best for the Captain to absent himself to give the men a little more €œfreedom.€ My last act before I left was to say goodbye to Willi. We wished each other well and then hugged €" he was taking the 0610 to Oslo in the morning so this was probably the last time we€d ever see each other.

17 Sep 1944
I did some hiking on Saturday, went to Mass today.

Most of my creative efforts when into Yvette€s journal, including a couple of poems I wrote from the top of Haugavarden.

18 Sep 1944
I began looking for replacements today: two seamen and two officers. I found 5 seaman €" all torpedo men €" who are good candidates but I am having trouble finding officers. There are only two available at the moment and neither is ideal. Unfortunately, the supply of officers is limited and this poses a bit of a problem. If I don€t take the officers now, I may lose them and be unable to find anyone else. On the other hand, if I take them now, I may be stuck with them when more officers become available.

My solution: temporize. I€ll interview the seamen tomorrow and wait a few days on the officers.

19 Sep 1944
I settled on Ratzinger and Keller as my new torpedo men. They both have several patrols and seem steady. Their fitness reports are good. I told them to report to Seehofer €" he€ll get them squared away.

The officer problem remains unresolved.

20 Sep 1944
Half of the officer problem was solved today.

Seehofer was having lunch in the officers€ mess and caught sight of a new man. Seehofer introduced himself and found out the new officer was looking for an assignment, so he directed him to me. I€ll have to see that Seehofer is rewarded in some fashion.

The new man found me around 1400 in pen 2, talking with Lippisch. He came over, saluted us, announced that he was Jr. Lieutenant Karl Maria Fassbinder, and that he had heard there was a billet available in U-390 for a First Watch Officer. He presented his file to Lippisch. Lippisch grimaced, accepted the file, and then turned and handed it to me. A look of consternation washed over Fassbinder€s face as Lippisch walked away.

€œSo, Jr. Lieutenant, you want to be our new Watch Officer?€
€œYes, Sir.€ He still didn€t know who I was €" probably he figured I was the XO.
€œCome with me,€ I said and began walking away. As he tagged along I perused his file: age, 22; married, no children; three patrols on U-475, a Type IX. The U-475 made it to Bergen two days ago, badly damaged.

I took Fassbinder to the Target Recognition Training room and set up the tachystoscope for ship recognition, standard speed. He got 20 out of 20. Same result for aircraft. At highest speed, his performance fell precipitously: 15 out of 20 and 13 out of 20, respectively. He was going to have a couple of weeks of drill ahead of him.

After I turned off the tachystoscope and opened the blinds, I walked over to Fassbinder and extended my hand, €œI€m Lieutenant Herbert Altmeier, Captain of the U-390. Welcome aboard.€ He accepted the bit of business I put him through with good humor.

After I explained whom he had to talk to in order to get his transfer processed, I asked him if any of the other officers from the U-475 €" particularly the XO or Weapons Officer €" were looking for new assignments. If so, tell them to come and see me.

21 Sep 1944
Lieutenant Werner Nakszynski found me in my office this morning. He saluted, introduced himself, and presented his file. He was the XO of the U-475. An experienced man: seven patrols €" four on the U-475, three on the U-1146, a Type VII. He was 24, unmarried €" his wife and two children were killed in an air raid.

I asked him to tell me about his recent patrols €" prompting him as I glanced through his file. Once I€d given him leave to speak freely, he expatiated at length on his experiences. I€ll grant that some of this was interesting but it was far in excess of what I needed to hear. I drew him back to specifics. I found him competent and capable, though prolix.

I explained to him that U-390 already had an XO, however, most of his duties were those of the Chief. We needed someone who could €œbackup€ €" to quote Lippisch €" the Captain. Would he be comfortable with this arrangement? He wanted to know what this meant in terms of the chain of command. €œYou€d effectively be my Number Two.€

I could see that he was considering the fact that this was functionally a demotion €" perhaps he should look for other Captains who could use an experienced XO. Finally, he said, €œCaptain, I€d still like to join U-390.€

So, now the crew is set.

22 Sep 1944
This afternoon, Lippisch, as is his wont, rapped twice on the doorframe, walked into my office and plopped down on a chair. €œI have good news €" the three Mark 42€s are here.€

That was good news. Now we could inflict real punishment on enemy aircraft. €œThe FLAK crew will need to drill on the new guns €" would you see to it?€ Lippisch started to answer but I interrupted. €œNever mind €" I€ll supervise this myself.€
€œThat€s good,€ he said, €œbecause I need to make sure they€re properly installed.€

I€ve made arrangements for the FLAK crew to drill all next week, starting on Monday.

25 Sep 1944
I had planned on taking leave this week. There are mountains and glaciers a short trainride away €" I could have done some hiking and sight seeing. However, getting the FLAK gunners trained on the Mark 42€s takes precedence.

I don€t believe I€m turning into Lippisch €" this is a special case. I know more about real life aerial engagements than anyone on base €" perhaps more than anyone in the Kriegsmarine. Beyond that is the fact that the training methods have not advanced over what existed when I was trained. The gunnery range still uses targets towed by Ju-52€s, which are woefully inadequate in preparing the men for actual combat. It€s true that a number of enemy aircraft are fairly slow €" the PBY for example. But, the men should be challenged by high-speed targets so that, when they encounter the real thing, they€ll find it easy.

28 Sep 1944
Seehofer claimed his reward for solving our officer problem this evening. I told him last Friday I€d take him out to dinner €" restaurant of his choice. For someone like Seehofer, who attaches himself to superior officers like a remora to a shark, having my undivided attention for a couple of hours would be heaven.

He surprised me this afternoon by asking if von der Leyen and Inger could tag along €" they would pay their own way, naturally. I had been so busy of late that I had no idea in which act the Seehofer-Inger-von der Leyen Grand Opera was. If nothing else, catching up might prove diverting. Of course they could join us and I€d be happy to pay their way, I said. I didn€t add that it would be unseemly for the Captain to invite his men to dinner and not pay for them.

When I arrived at the Berliner, the three were already seated, with Inger in between. She wore a burgundy evening gown with a scalloped neckline that perfectly accentuated a pearl necklace. Earrings and a bracelet of simple design, but made of gold, completed the ensemble. Inger€s wardrobe and jewelry were too expensive and too elegant for a mere prostitute €" a courtesan maybe or the mistress of a powerful man.

As with the last time we all ate dinner together, her attentions were chiefly bestowed on von der Leyen. If spoken to directly €" her German is passable - Inger could be briefly diverted from the object of her affection. Last time at the Berliner, I attempted to find out a little about her. Early on in the evening I asked her what she did. €œI am teacher,€ was her answer. I asked what she taught. €œMany things. You want lesson?€ Later, once I had been told by Seehofer what she really did for a living, I would understand this was most likely a proposition. Von der Leyen didn€t react then to Inger€s prospect hunting so that€s why I didn€t see it for what it was.

Tonight, Seehofer was the conversationalist, just as before. Von der Leyen and Inger spent the evening making cow eyes at each other and holding hands under the table €" I know, because I saw them when I got up at one point to find my way to the bathroom.

The expected melodrama never materialized. I saw no furtive glances passing between Seehofer and Inger. There were no romantic undercurrents. But there was a deepening mystery. Why was I twice invited to have dinner with this trio? Was Seehofer Inger€s procurer? That might explain the unspoken communication between Seehofer and Inger the last time we sailed. But, if Seehofer was her procurer, why was von der Leyen there since Inger was so obviously his lover?

As the evening progressed I felt increasingly uncomfortable. Something sordid, if not depraved, was going on. I didn€t stay for the performers. As soon as the meal was over, I excused myself on the grounds of a heavy workload and left.

I€m sure I€ve committed several venial sins by allowing myself to get involved with these three. What shall my penance be after I confess this?

2 Oct 1944
I learned today that the U-1197 was ordered to Bergen and is more than a week overdue. Their last message was a day out from St. Nazaire €" since then, nothing. I wonder how many of my old shipmates were aboard.

4 Oct 1944
The weather for our departure, I was told, was typical for Bergen this time of the year: temperature was around 10 €" it would probably warm to 13 or 14 by mid-afternoon. There was a light breeze, skies were clear.

The officers were all gathered on the bridge. Most times, the Captain of a U-boat lets one of his officers €" typically his XO €" take the boat out. I had done it twice under Willi. I turned to Lippisch, €œWould you like to take her out, Number One?€ Pause. €œBegging your pardon, Captain €" I think you should have the honor.€ I appreciated the gesture. €œVery, well. Make all preparations for getting underway.€ I recited the litany. Finally, €œAll ahead, dead slow.€ We nosed out of our berth. The time was 1021. Once we cleared the dock, I ordered ahead slow.

As we sailed out into the harbor I turned the con over to Nakszynski. I walked over to the rear Mark 42 mount and ran my hand along one of the barrels. I saw that Lippisch was watching me. €œWe won€t have to spit at them anymore, eh Number One?€ Lippisich smiled slightly. €œNo, we don€t.€ He spat expertly into Bergen harbor.
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5 Oct 1944
Weather remained good and we ran on the surface the entire day. We were too far from our hunting grounds to necessitate diving for sound checks.
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8 Oct 1944
We reached grid square AE66 today. BdU finally sent us the location of our patrol zone: AL37.

Several days into the patrol, I€m acutely conscious of missing Willi. He was the closest friend I€ve had since college. There were few things we didn€t talk about.

Now that our differences are behind us, I€m probably as close to Lippisch as he allows anyone to get but I€m not sure I€d describe him as a friend.

I€m friendly with all the men, to the extent that command distance allows. Naturally, there is much less distance between me and the officers. I don€t know either Fassbinder or Nakszynski very well. Nakszynski and I share a similar loss but I don€t think that can serve as the basis for friendship.

Perhaps the heaviest burden of command is that, by its nature, it is isolating.

10 Oct 1944
Winds freshened yesterday - ominous clouds darkened the sky today.

I ordered limited radar sweeps €" two 360 sweeps every 15 minutes €" starting at 1400. It bore fruit when Schmidt announced a contact at 1644. Nakszynski had the con, so I let him prosecute the attack €" it was time to see what he could do.

I leaned against the aft bulkhead while von der Leyen provided Nakszynski with a course designed to put him in attack position. A couple more radar checks along the way verified the target€s path. Nakszynski reached the point plotted by von der Leyen and dived the boat. The target, a C2, steamed blithely into the trap €" Nakszynski hit it with the T3 in Tube III at 800 meters.
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Unfortunately, it wasn€t a clean kill. Nakszynski had to hit it with two more T3€s before it would go down.
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He was preparing to use one of the LuT€s to finish it off when I intervened €" we needed to save those for convoy attacks. Unfortunately, it took 10 minutes for each reload of Tube III.

After the C2 had sunk, Nakszynski surfaced and resumed course at standard. Less than 15 minutes later, we had to crash dive to avoid aircraft.
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We surfaced an hour later to recharge batteries and I turned in.

A major storm hit a little before midnight and Nakszynski took the boat down to 50 meters to ride it out.

12 Oct 1944
The storm was still with us when I was awakened at 0450. We were cruising at 50 meters when the SO picked up the sounds of a warship at long range. When I made it to the control room ten minutes later, the SO was tracking 4 contacts, all warships. Based upon past experience, it was probably a hunter-killer group centered on an escort carrier.

Once it became clear that the warships were going to pass out of range we returned to normal cruising.

We surfaced at noon only long enough to recharge batteries and then submerged again around 1300. When we reach 20 meters the SO called out that he had picked up a warship. Within 15 minutes he was tracking four. As before, the contacts were too far out of range for us to engage. My guess is that it was the same hunter-killer group we encountered earlier.

14 Oct 1944
The storm finally subsided late morning. We had reached grid square AL35. Weather was overcast but swells were moderate. Visibility was 2000. We surfaced to reach the patrol zone before day€s end.

We made AL37 at 2000. Shortly thereafter, I retired to my cabin, leaving Lippisch in charge.

I was awakened by Lippisch a little over an hour later. He reported that a few minutes ago, during the current sound check, the SO had detected a warship at long range. Lippisch had turned the boat toward the contact and Nakszynski was in the process of deriving the first course estimate. €œThank you, Number One. I€ll be there in five minutes.€ There was no hurry and I needed to visit the head.

When I entered the control room, Nakszynski told me the contact was definitely closing. €œShould we alert the rest of the crew, sir?€ No, I said, let them sleep until we know what we have.

Five minutes later, the SO called out, €œSecond contact, warship, bearing 005, speed medium.€ A few minutes later and the SO had a third contact €" another warship, speed medium. We had encountered a third hunter-killer within as many days. The question running through my head was, would we have a shot this time?

I ordered ahead standard, maintain current depth €" 25 €" course, due north. The task force appeared to be heading east. €œNumber Two, call battle stations.€

Weather when we submerged was the same it had been most of the day: overcast, winds 10 m/s, moderate waves. Visibility was no more than 2000 meters. Our target was going to be much farther away than that. To take a shot, we€d have to use sonar.

The task force resolved into six ships. €œSO, find me the center ship and start tracking it.€ I had decided that I€d risk pinging the target if it was in torpedo range. I wanted to make sure that when we did, the correct one had been selected. After another minute or so, the SO said, €œI have your target, Captain,€ and he called off bearing and speed.

I ordered stop and all quiet. €œSO, give me range to target. In two minutes, give me another.€ The SO pinged twice €" Alea jacta est. €œTarget 9,950 meters, bearing 40.€
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Precisely two minutes later, two more pings and new range and bearing data was forwarded by the SO. I considered for a moment: course was 84, speed 12. Almost simultaneously, von der Leyen, who had been at the chart table since battle stations was called, echoed my mental solution. €œAhead slow, make your depth 15. Come to 354,€ I ordered. €œSO, begin checking the other contacts.€ If our pings had alerted the escorts, they€d be reacting.

€œCaptain, closest warship, bearing 330, closing, speed fast.€ We€d been spotted. €œContinue sweeping,€ I said to the SO, then turned to Seehofer, €œFlood Tubes I, II and IV. Tubes I and IV, depth 3.0, impact pistol, speed 30. AOB and straight run to follow.€ If we were detected, the target would be turning away. If not, I was going to set up the shot. I ordered dead slow, minimum revs, to hold depth and prevent the target solution from going stale.

Von der Leyen announced, €œCaptain, distance to target at 90 degrees starboard AOB will be 9400 meters.€ I thought a moment €" he was correct. Meanwhile the SO was calling out speed and bearing information on the approaching warship, €œCaptain, nearest warship, medium speed, constant distance, bearing 333.€ It was just running normal search patterns. €œClose outer door, Tube II. Final target data, Tubes I and IV: straight run, 9600; spread angle 1.0; gyro angle 0. Prepare to fire.€ To the SO, €œTrack our main target.€

The SO counted down the target angle. At 338, I fired. €œAhead standard, make your depth 100, come to course 90,€ I wanted to run more or less parallel to the target. The SO reported that the LuT€s were running straight and normal. From Seehofer, €œCaptain, running time, torpedo one, 609 seconds.€ It was going to be a long wait.

At eight minutes, the SO started switching back and forth between the torpedoes and the target, providing bearing data. We listened as the angle between torpedo one and the target diminished. At 10 minutes it became apparent it was passing in front of the target, so he quickly switched to tracking torpedo two. The two sounds were on the same bearing. The SO lost the torpedo sound around the time of projected impact. Torpedo one was still running €" 620, 630 seconds. €œTorpedo beginning ladder run,€ announced the SO. It was swinging around to come at the target from the port side. €œSir, target changing speed, now fast.€ Had something alerted the target, or was this just the start of a routine zig-zag? The SO reported the sounds of torpedo one and the target merging €" then the torpedo passed behind. I knew then it was going to miss. With the target accelerating, the torpedo needed to be going 40 knots to complete its turn and get lined up for a hit €" but at 40 knots, it wouldn€t have reached the target in the first place. But, what had happened to torpedo two?

€œSecure from battled stations, secure from all quiet. Commence torpedo reload,€ I ordered. €œNumber One, you have the con. Mr. Seehofer, relieve Lieutenant Nakszynski in the forward torpedo room. Tell him to report to the control room.€

It was a good stalk but something must have gone wrong. I will consult with Lippisch tomorrow after I get some sleep.

15 Oct 1944
After breakfast, I discussed last night€s abortive attack with Lippisch. Since he was the torpedo expert, what did he think had happened?

Lippisch said there were several possibilities. One: the torpedo could have run out of fuel or air just before reaching the target. However, he had checked both alcohol fuel volumes and compressed air pressures on all the LuT€s before loading so he doubted this was the problem. Two: the torpedo could have suffered a pistol failure. He considered this very unlikely because after all the work done by the Torpedo Department, torpedoes were extremely reliable now. Three: the torpedo could have struck a glancing blow off the rounded part of the target€s stern. A flat angle hit would typically not activate the firing mechanism. This, in his view was the best explanation. He summed it up, €œA couple of meters forward and you€d have had him.€



Throughout the day, we ran periodic radar scans. Early evening detected what proved to be a small merchant. I did the honors.
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About an hour after clearing the area, I ordered the 3 T3€s moved from external storage. Conditions were marginal for making a transfer but we were down to a single Wren in the internal racks and I didn€t want to load it into the empty Tube III. In the event, the transfer took about 50% longer than normal but was completed with no other problems.

17 Oct 1944
Once again, I was awakened in the middle of the night to be told the SO had detected warships. It was 0322 and we were still patrolling in AL37. I groggily made my way to the control room.

Nakszynski reported four warships closing, medium speed, long range. He and von der Leyen were in the process of figuring the course. This must be the same four-ship group we€d encountered twice before, patrolling in the same general area as us.

Von der Leyen yawned audibly as he worked at the chart table. I walked over to see what he€d come up with. The warships were probably at their closest point now and would begin receding if his estimate was correct. The SO called out another bearing and von der Leyen lightly drew another line. He stared intently at the chart as if trying to will it to show something other than what it obviously did. Another update from the SO: €œWarship, bearing 332, medium speed, moving away, long range.€ Von der Leyen threw his precious mechanical pencil across the control room and cursed. I didn€t blame him. There was an escort carrier out there mocking us.
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The weather improved in the morning: light winds, gentle swells, clear skies.

I sent a report to BdU. Within an hour we had a response: proceed at own discretion.

I ordered a course change to due east, cruise along the northern edge of the main west-east convoy route.

18 Oct 1944
At 0720, we received a report of a merchant traveling SE €" its course should permit us to intercept it in a couple of hours.

Reaching the intercept point at 0930, I dived the boat for a sound check. After 15 minutes there was no evidence of our target so I surfaced and sailed at standard along the assumed path €" I ordered Schmidt to activate the radar. At 1019, radar registered a contact at long range. It was considerably off the plotted course.

I ordered full speed and moved to intercept. When the watch made visual contact, after ascertaining our target was a C2, I dived the boat.

In short order, the SO alerted us that there were two merchants, not one.
http://tinypic.com/fay58l.jpg

We tracked them for 15 minutes and developed an excellent solution. I ordered all stop, periscope depth, and waited for the merchants to reach firing position. The target data was entered from von der Leyen€s charts. I€d make a final visual check before firing.

For the attack I€d use the LuT in Tube I on the trailing ship €" type yet to be determined. The C2 in the lead would be hit with a spread consisting of the remaining LuT and the Wren in Tube II. Distance would be a little over 2000 meters for the trailing target.

I raised the attack scope €" Fassbinder was on the observation scope. The trailing ship was another C2. I ordered the running depth on the Tube I LuT to 8.5 €" same as for the other torpedoes.

Since the target data was nearly identical for both ships, I was able to fire on the trailing ship and very quickly switch to shoot the leader. Both LuTs hit their targets €" the trailing ship first and seconds later the leader. Surprisingly the Wren missed.

Both ships were heavily damaged but afloat. I had an easy shot to finish off the leader, which succumbed to a T3.
http://tinypic.com/fay614.jpg

As we prepared to close in on the trailing ship, lying dead in the water, Fassbinder spotted aircraft through the observation scope. I dove to 50, while planes made a number of bombing runs, none close.
http://tinypic.com/fay7i9.jpg

We pinged the surviving ship to get into position for the coup de grace. Rising to periscope depth, Fassbinder and I checked for planes and, finding none, I put the quietus on the C2 with another T3.
http://tinypic.com/fay7w4.jpg

After cruising submerged for an hour, I ordered surface. We had expended most of our torpedoes and fuel was beginning to run low. It was time to set course for home. The four merchants we bagged would bring us some slight consolation for our failures against the hunter-killers.

20 Oct 1944
We€ve passed through the most dangerous part of the return trip. Air attacks are still possible, but increasingly less likely. Weather remains good.

22 Oct 1944
Rain squalls hit as we entered the channel that leads to Byfjord. We reduced speed to slow ahead to negotiate the last 100 kilometers.

Arrived Bergen 2118.
http://tinypic.com/fay81x.jpg

23 Oct 1944
Here is some news I deem worth committing to the diary.

First, U-boat Ace Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock arrived in Bergen five days ago, in command of U-256. I hope to meet him at some point.

Second, U-1197 never arrived and is presumed lost. And U-340, my first boat, has likely suffered the same fate. It is now two weeks overdue.

paulhager
11-03-2005, 08:59 PM
11 Sep 1944
I left Cohausz€ office in a state of deepening confusion. I sought out Willi, who I eventually found in pen 2 €" he was just coming off the U-390 carrying a small attaché case when I arrived. Seeing me, his face lit up, €œHerbert!€ He walked over. €œHerbert, my friend,€ dropping the case he hugged me as though reunited with a long-lost brother. €œMy most heartfelt congratulations.€ Willi was far too happy for a man who had just lost his command.

We walked together back to his quarters and, along the way, he talked about his new assignment. The details are very secret €" he doesn€t know them yet €" but he€ll first receive training and then become an instructor for U-boat captains. €œThey€re looking for experienced captains to be instructors,€ he amplified. I became aware as Willi talked that what I saw as a demotion was, from his point of view, exactly the opposite. Moreover, it took him back to Germany €" close to his family. Once I realized this, I easily shared his happiness.

Naturally, Willi has begun organizing a €œparty€ to celebrate our new assignments, my medal, his departure for Germany €¦ perhaps just the fact that we survived another patrol. The party will begin promptly after he turns over the command of the U-390 to me on Friday.

Late afternoon I went back to pen 2 €" this time to find Lippisch. We had a lot to talk about.

Lippisch was standing next to the gangway, arms crossed, watching the welders on the conning tower. I had missed him when I came by earlier but he was there, inside the U-390, hard at work on the internals. €œChief, can I interrupt you for a minute?€ He turned around, €œSure.€ I began to tell him about my promotion and he interrupted, €œI know.€ I hesitated, €œWe need to talk.€ He eyed me for a moment. €œGive me an hour.€ Lippisch, laconic as always.

I returned promptly an hour later. A waterfall of sparks was cascading off the bridge of the U-390 and onto the deck plates. At the top of the waterfall was Lippisch, partially shielding his eyes with welding goggles while instructing one of the welders. I yelled out, €œChief!€ €" the pen echoed like an empty cathedral. Lippisch turned, raised his hand briefly in acknowledgment, and turned back to the welder to give his final directions.

Climbing down from the bridge, he crossed the gangway and approached me at a deliberate pace, tossing the goggles onto a table as he passed. €œI thought we might talk over dinner,€ I said. €œI know a place in walking distance,€ he responded.

Neither of us spoke until we had exited through the main gate. €œI have some questions,€ I began. Silence. €œWhat can you tell me about Captain Braun€s €¦ departure?€
€œNot much.€
€œDid you have anything to do with it?€

Lippisch turned away and spat. €œProbably. But not as much as you seem to think.€ As Lippisch spoke he surveyed the path ahead, looking neither right nor left.

Our conversation seemed to follow a slow cadence, in time with our steps. I would speak and then step-step-step, Lippisch would answer.

€œWould you rather have another assignment? Be under someone else€s command?€
Step-step-step, €œNo.€

€œWe€ve been on two missions together and you€ve never given me any cause to complain about the way you€ve carried out your duties. On the boat, you and I have always worked well together. But €" and I want you to tell me the truth €" haven€t you resented me all along? How I was promoted so rapidly?€
€œI did at first,€ he answered immediately, breaking the rhythm. €œI smelled politics.€ He spat again. €œThere was talk €" a powerful friend pulling strings, things like that.€

Step-step-step and he resumed. €œHerbert, you can€t swim against the tide.€ He had never addressed me by my first name before. €œIf you are patient, the tide always turns €" then you swim.€ From laconic to Delphic. He continued. €œThe €˜wonder-child€ was going to get his chance €" BdU had seen to that. When he €" you €" failed, I€d be ready to move into the position I had earned.€ He paused again. €œTurned out, you were a €˜wonder-child.€ Do I €˜resent€ you now? No.€

I asked him to explain his earlier answer - that he€d €œprobably€ had something to do with Willi losing his captaincy.

€œBraun lost it on his own. In my written and verbal reports, I told nothing but the unvarnished truth.€ A pause. €œHerbert, some day you€ll learn that there is an art to telling the truth.€ Another pause. €œEvery time he didn€t pursue a contact, I drew attention to it. Every time he let you to conduct the difficult attack, I highlighted it. I helped my superiors to see the truth: Braun is too cautious to be a U-boat captain.€ Pause. €œI used that word a lot €" €˜cautious€.€ Pause. €œWhat else to you want to know?€

€œWhere are we going?€

We ended up at a Norwegian establishment not frequented by sailors. Its name translated to €œOle€s Wine Bar.€ Our conversation the rest of the evening centered on the boat and crew. Lippisch said I should replace the men who panicked. €œIt€s not worth trying to fix what€s broken in them.€ That means I need to find two officers instead of one. €œOne of them should be a prospective captain,€ added Lippisch. Why was that, I wanted to know.

€œI learned something on the last patrol. I can handle torpedo attacks €" maybe I even can teach you a few things. Like that convoy attack. Too close €" that€s what the LuT€s are for. Taking long shots.€ Pause. €œBut, I wouldn€t have gotten us away from the destroyers.€ Pause. €œYou€re good in ways I can never be.€ Pause. €œI€ll be your Number One, but my duties shouldn€t change. Get somebody good €" another captain-type €" to back you up.€

Back home now, having written up the day€s events, I remain unsure of what I€ve learned. I thought I was a keen observer of people €" it would appear that I have some heretofore unrecognized deficiencies in that department.

13 Sep 1944
They awarded me the Gold Cross today. It was a much bigger ceremony than for my previous medals but otherwise, the same.

Awards don€t mean a great deal to me. Right after Von Augsburg was injured I removed the badges and haven€t worn them since. This one will go into Yvette€s collection €¦ some day.

15 Sep 1944
Willi turned over command of the U-390 to me today.

The ritual associated with a change of command goes something like this. The crew is assembled, the old Captain says a few words to the crew, the new Captain reports to the old Captain and salutes him, the old Captain returns the salute, they shake hands, the new Captain says a few words to the crew, and then everyone is dismissed. These ceremonies vary in formality €" Willi and I both incline toward less formality.

At noon the men were duly assembled and Willi addressed them. In essence, he said he was honored to have commanded them and that they were lucky to have me as his replacement. He said a few things about his upcoming assignment and wished everyone God speed and good hunting.

Then it was my turn to speak.
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">
Today we say goodbye to the man who has been our Captain through two difficult and dangerous missions, Lieutenant Wilhelm €œWilli€ Braun. Under his command we have struck heavy blows against the enemy and, most importantly, lived to tell about it. Speaking on behalf of all your shipmates in U-390, Willi, it€s been a privilege to serve with you. I hope I can live up to the example you have set!

Comrades! Now the burden of command falls on my shoulders. All captains must bear it, both the ordinary and the great. Have any of you every wondered what makes a great captain? What made Aces like Kretschmer, Lehmann-Willenbrock, and von Stunde great? Was it sinking more than 100,000 tons of enemy shipping? Certainly that was a great achievement. But that€s not what made them great. Do you want to know the answer? I€ll tell you, but it€s a secret so listen close: there are no great captains, there are only great crews!

Shipmates, do you remember when we sank the Bogue? Kreutz? You were on the hydrophone. Barch? Dobber? You men were in the torpedo rooms. Wissman? You were damage control. Mark, Grau €¦ I could read off the whole crew roster here. Every single one of you sank that ship.

You know, they gave me a medal for sinking the Bogue. Here it is €" pretty, don€t you think? Well, they don€t know the secret but we do. So, my first act as Captain of the U-390 will be to have this medal placed in the forward crew quarters above a plaque that will read, €œAwarded to the crew of the U-390 for conspicuous bravery and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty.€

Men, I don€t want to be a great captain €" I want to captain a great crew. And with you, I know I will.
</div></BLOCKQUOTE>
The men cheered. And I meant every word.

The party was at a tavern frequented by the lower ranks. In typical Willi fashion, the whole crew was invited €" fraternization was never a big issue with him. A number of crewmen drank to excess but were reasonably behaved, at least in my presence.

Around 2200 I left. It€s probably best for the Captain to absent himself to give the men a little more €œfreedom.€ My last act before I left was to say goodbye to Willi. We wished each other well and then hugged €" he was taking the 0610 to Oslo in the morning so this was probably the last time we€d ever see each other.

17 Sep 1944
I did some hiking on Saturday, went to Mass today.

Most of my creative efforts when into Yvette€s journal, including a couple of poems I wrote from the top of Haugavarden.

18 Sep 1944
I began looking for replacements today: two seamen and two officers. I found 5 seaman €" all torpedo men €" who are good candidates but I am having trouble finding officers. There are only two available at the moment and neither is ideal. Unfortunately, the supply of officers is limited and this poses a bit of a problem. If I don€t take the officers now, I may lose them and be unable to find anyone else. On the other hand, if I take them now, I may be stuck with them when more officers become available.

My solution: temporize. I€ll interview the seamen tomorrow and wait a few days on the officers.

19 Sep 1944
I settled on Ratzinger and Keller as my new torpedo men. They both have several patrols and seem steady. Their fitness reports are good. I told them to report to Seehofer €" he€ll get them squared away.

The officer problem remains unresolved.

20 Sep 1944
Half of the officer problem was solved today.

Seehofer was having lunch in the officers€ mess and caught sight of a new man. Seehofer introduced himself and found out the new officer was looking for an assignment, so he directed him to me. I€ll have to see that Seehofer is rewarded in some fashion.

The new man found me around 1400 in pen 2, talking with Lippisch. He came over, saluted us, announced that he was Jr. Lieutenant Karl Maria Fassbinder, and that he had heard there was a billet available in U-390 for a First Watch Officer. He presented his file to Lippisch. Lippisch grimaced, accepted the file, and then turned and handed it to me. A look of consternation washed over Fassbinder€s face as Lippisch walked away.

€œSo, Jr. Lieutenant, you want to be our new Watch Officer?€
€œYes, Sir.€ He still didn€t know who I was €" probably he figured I was the XO.
€œCome with me,€ I said and began walking away. As he tagged along I perused his file: age, 22; married, no children; three patrols on U-475, a Type IX. The U-475 made it to Bergen two days ago, badly damaged.

I took Fassbinder to the Target Recognition Training room and set up the tachystoscope for ship recognition, standard speed. He got 20 out of 20. Same result for aircraft. At highest speed, his performance fell precipitously: 15 out of 20 and 13 out of 20, respectively. He was going to have a couple of weeks of drill ahead of him.

After I turned off the tachystoscope and opened the blinds, I walked over to Fassbinder and extended my hand, €œI€m Lieutenant Herbert Altmeier, Captain of the U-390. Welcome aboard.€ He accepted the bit of business I put him through with good humor.

After I explained whom he had to talk to in order to get his transfer processed, I asked him if any of the other officers from the U-475 €" particularly the XO or Weapons Officer €" were looking for new assignments. If so, tell them to come and see me.

21 Sep 1944
Lieutenant Werner Nakszynski found me in my office this morning. He saluted, introduced himself, and presented his file. He was the XO of the U-475. An experienced man: seven patrols €" four on the U-475, three on the U-1146, a Type VII. He was 24, unmarried €" his wife and two children were killed in an air raid.

I asked him to tell me about his recent patrols €" prompting him as I glanced through his file. Once I€d given him leave to speak freely, he expatiated at length on his experiences. I€ll grant that some of this was interesting but it was far in excess of what I needed to hear. I drew him back to specifics. I found him competent and capable, though prolix.

I explained to him that U-390 already had an XO, however, most of his duties were those of the Chief. We needed someone who could €œbackup€ €" to quote Lippisch €" the Captain. Would he be comfortable with this arrangement? He wanted to know what this meant in terms of the chain of command. €œYou€d effectively be my Number Two.€

I could see that he was considering the fact that this was functionally a demotion €" perhaps he should look for other Captains who could use an experienced XO. Finally, he said, €œCaptain, I€d still like to join U-390.€

So, now the crew is set.

22 Sep 1944
This afternoon, Lippisch, as is his wont, rapped twice on the doorframe, walked into my office and plopped down on a chair. €œI have good news €" the three Mark 42€s are here.€

That was good news. Now we could inflict real punishment on enemy aircraft. €œThe FLAK crew will need to drill on the new guns €" would you see to it?€ Lippisch started to answer but I interrupted. €œNever mind €" I€ll supervise this myself.€
€œThat€s good,€ he said, €œbecause I need to make sure they€re properly installed.€

I€ve made arrangements for the FLAK crew to drill all next week, starting on Monday.

25 Sep 1944
I had planned on taking leave this week. There are mountains and glaciers a short trainride away €" I could have done some hiking and sight seeing. However, getting the FLAK gunners trained on the Mark 42€s takes precedence.

I don€t believe I€m turning into Lippisch €" this is a special case. I know more about real life aerial engagements than anyone on base €" perhaps more than anyone in the Kriegsmarine. Beyond that is the fact that the training methods have not advanced over what existed when I was trained. The gunnery range still uses targets towed by Ju-52€s, which are woefully inadequate in preparing the men for actual combat. It€s true that a number of enemy aircraft are fairly slow €" the PBY for example. But, the men should be challenged by high-speed targets so that, when they encounter the real thing, they€ll find it easy.

28 Sep 1944
Seehofer claimed his reward for solving our officer problem this evening. I told him last Friday I€d take him out to dinner €" restaurant of his choice. For someone like Seehofer, who attaches himself to superior officers like a remora to a shark, having my undivided attention for a couple of hours would be heaven.

He surprised me this afternoon by asking if von der Leyen and Inger could tag along €" they would pay their own way, naturally. I had been so busy of late that I had no idea in which act the Seehofer-Inger-von der Leyen Grand Opera was. If nothing else, catching up might prove diverting. Of course they could join us and I€d be happy to pay their way, I said. I didn€t add that it would be unseemly for the Captain to invite his men to dinner and not pay for them.

When I arrived at the Berliner, the three were already seated, with Inger in between. She wore a burgundy evening gown with a scalloped neckline that perfectly accentuated a pearl necklace. Earrings and a bracelet of simple design, but made of gold, completed the ensemble. Inger€s wardrobe and jewelry were too expensive and too elegant for a mere prostitute €" a courtesan maybe or the mistress of a powerful man.

As with the last time we all ate dinner together, her attentions were chiefly bestowed on von der Leyen. If spoken to directly €" her German is passable - Inger could be briefly diverted from the object of her affection. Last time at the Berliner, I attempted to find out a little about her. Early on in the evening I asked her what she did. €œI am teacher,€ was her answer. I asked what she taught. €œMany things. You want lesson?€ Later, once I had been told by Seehofer what she really did for a living, I would understand this was most likely a proposition. Von der Leyen didn€t react then to Inger€s prospect hunting so that€s why I didn€t see it for what it was.

Tonight, Seehofer was the conversationalist, just as before. Von der Leyen and Inger spent the evening making cow eyes at each other and holding hands under the table €" I know, because I saw them when I got up at one point to find my way to the bathroom.

The expected melodrama never materialized. I saw no furtive glances passing between Seehofer and Inger. There were no romantic undercurrents. But there was a deepening mystery. Why was I twice invited to have dinner with this trio? Was Seehofer Inger€s procurer? That might explain the unspoken communication between Seehofer and Inger the last time we sailed. But, if Seehofer was her procurer, why was von der Leyen there since Inger was so obviously his lover?

As the evening progressed I felt increasingly uncomfortable. Something sordid, if not depraved, was going on. I didn€t stay for the performers. As soon as the meal was over, I excused myself on the grounds of a heavy workload and left.

I€m sure I€ve committed several venial sins by allowing myself to get involved with these three. What shall my penance be after I confess this?

2 Oct 1944
I learned today that the U-1197 was ordered to Bergen and is more than a week overdue. Their last message was a day out from St. Nazaire €" since then, nothing. I wonder how many of my old shipmates were aboard.

4 Oct 1944
The weather for our departure, I was told, was typical for Bergen this time of the year: temperature was around 10 €" it would probably warm to 13 or 14 by mid-afternoon. There was a light breeze, skies were clear.

The officers were all gathered on the bridge. Most times, the Captain of a U-boat lets one of his officers €" typically his XO €" take the boat out. I had done it twice under Willi. I turned to Lippisch, €œWould you like to take her out, Number One?€ Pause. €œBegging your pardon, Captain €" I think you should have the honor.€ I appreciated the gesture. €œVery, well. Make all preparations for getting underway.€ I recited the litany. Finally, €œAll ahead, dead slow.€ We nosed out of our berth. The time was 1021. Once we cleared the dock, I ordered ahead slow.

As we sailed out into the harbor I turned the con over to Nakszynski. I walked over to the rear Mark 42 mount and ran my hand along one of the barrels. I saw that Lippisch was watching me. €œWe won€t have to spit at them anymore, eh Number One?€ Lippisich smiled slightly. €œNo, we don€t.€ He spat expertly into Bergen harbor.
http://tinypic.com/f9hb2x.jpg

5 Oct 1944
Weather remained good and we ran on the surface the entire day. We were too far from our hunting grounds to necessitate diving for sound checks.
http://tinypic.com/faxvsn.jpg

8 Oct 1944
We reached grid square AE66 today. BdU finally sent us the location of our patrol zone: AL37.

Several days into the patrol, I€m acutely conscious of missing Willi. He was the closest friend I€ve had since college. There were few things we didn€t talk about.

Now that our differences are behind us, I€m probably as close to Lippisch as he allows anyone to get but I€m not sure I€d describe him as a friend.

I€m friendly with all the men, to the extent that command distance allows. Naturally, there is much less distance between me and the officers. I don€t know either Fassbinder or Nakszynski very well. Nakszynski and I share a similar loss but I don€t think that can serve as the basis for friendship.

Perhaps the heaviest burden of command is that, by its nature, it is isolating.

10 Oct 1944
Winds freshened yesterday - ominous clouds darkened the sky today.

I ordered limited radar sweeps €" two 360 sweeps every 15 minutes €" starting at 1400. It bore fruit when Schmidt announced a contact at 1644. Nakszynski had the con, so I let him prosecute the attack €" it was time to see what he could do.

I leaned against the aft bulkhead while von der Leyen provided Nakszynski with a course designed to put him in attack position. A couple more radar checks along the way verified the target€s path. Nakszynski reached the point plotted by von der Leyen and dived the boat. The target, a C2, steamed blithely into the trap €" Nakszynski hit it with the T3 in Tube III at 800 meters.
http://tinypic.com/faxyma.jpg

Unfortunately, it wasn€t a clean kill. Nakszynski had to hit it with two more T3€s before it would go down.
http://tinypic.com/fay13c.jpg

He was preparing to use one of the LuT€s to finish it off when I intervened €" we needed to save those for convoy attacks. Unfortunately, it took 10 minutes for each reload of Tube III.

After the C2 had sunk, Nakszynski surfaced and resumed course at standard. Less than 15 minutes later, we had to crash dive to avoid aircraft.
http://tinypic.com/fay16t.jpg

We surfaced an hour later to recharge batteries and I turned in.

A major storm hit a little before midnight and Nakszynski took the boat down to 50 meters to ride it out.

12 Oct 1944
The storm was still with us when I was awakened at 0450. We were cruising at 50 meters when the SO picked up the sounds of a warship at long range. When I made it to the control room ten minutes later, the SO was tracking 4 contacts, all warships. Based upon past experience, it was probably a hunter-killer group centered on an escort carrier.

Once it became clear that the warships were going to pass out of range we returned to normal cruising.

We surfaced at noon only long enough to recharge batteries and then submerged again around 1300. When we reach 20 meters the SO called out that he had picked up a warship. Within 15 minutes he was tracking four. As before, the contacts were too far out of range for us to engage. My guess is that it was the same hunter-killer group we encountered earlier.

14 Oct 1944
The storm finally subsided late morning. We had reached grid square AL35. Weather was overcast but swells were moderate. Visibility was 2000. We surfaced to reach the patrol zone before day€s end.

We made AL37 at 2000. Shortly thereafter, I retired to my cabin, leaving Lippisch in charge.

I was awakened by Lippisch a little over an hour later. He reported that a few minutes ago, during the current sound check, the SO had detected a warship at long range. Lippisch had turned the boat toward the contact and Nakszynski was in the process of deriving the first course estimate. €œThank you, Number One. I€ll be there in five minutes.€ There was no hurry and I needed to visit the head.

When I entered the control room, Nakszynski told me the contact was definitely closing. €œShould we alert the rest of the crew, sir?€ No, I said, let them sleep until we know what we have.

Five minutes later, the SO called out, €œSecond contact, warship, bearing 005, speed medium.€ A few minutes later and the SO had a third contact €" another warship, speed medium. We had encountered a third hunter-killer within as many days. The question running through my head was, would we have a shot this time?

I ordered ahead standard, maintain current depth €" 25 €" course, due north. The task force appeared to be heading east. €œNumber Two, call battle stations.€

Weather when we submerged was the same it had been most of the day: overcast, winds 10 m/s, moderate waves. Visibility was no more than 2000 meters. Our target was going to be much farther away than that. To take a shot, we€d have to use sonar.

The task force resolved into six ships. €œSO, find me the center ship and start tracking it.€ I had decided that I€d risk pinging the target if it was in torpedo range. I wanted to make sure that when we did, the correct one had been selected. After another minute or so, the SO said, €œI have your target, Captain,€ and he called off bearing and speed.

I ordered stop and all quiet. €œSO, give me range to target. In two minutes, give me another.€ The SO pinged twice €" Alea jacta est. €œTarget 9,950 meters, bearing 40.€
http://tinypic.com/fay1pj.jpg

Precisely two minutes later, two more pings and new range and bearing data was forwarded by the SO. I considered for a moment: course was 84, speed 12. Almost simultaneously, von der Leyen, who had been at the chart table since battle stations was called, echoed my mental solution. €œAhead slow, make your depth 15. Come to 354,€ I ordered. €œSO, begin checking the other contacts.€ If our pings had alerted the escorts, they€d be reacting.

€œCaptain, closest warship, bearing 330, closing, speed fast.€ We€d been spotted. €œContinue sweeping,€ I said to the SO, then turned to Seehofer, €œFlood Tubes I, II and IV. Tubes I and IV, depth 3.0, impact pistol, speed 30. AOB and straight run to follow.€ If we were detected, the target would be turning away. If not, I was going to set up the shot. I ordered dead slow, minimum revs, to hold depth and prevent the target solution from going stale.

Von der Leyen announced, €œCaptain, distance to target at 90 degrees starboard AOB will be 9400 meters.€ I thought a moment €" he was correct. Meanwhile the SO was calling out speed and bearing information on the approaching warship, €œCaptain, nearest warship, medium speed, constant distance, bearing 333.€ It was just running normal search patterns. €œClose outer door, Tube II. Final target data, Tubes I and IV: straight run, 9600; spread angle 1.0; gyro angle 0. Prepare to fire.€ To the SO, €œTrack our main target.€

The SO counted down the target angle. At 338, I fired. €œAhead standard, make your depth 100, come to course 90,€ I wanted to run more or less parallel to the target. The SO reported that the LuT€s were running straight and normal. From Seehofer, €œCaptain, running time, torpedo one, 609 seconds.€ It was going to be a long wait.

At eight minutes, the SO started switching back and forth between the torpedoes and the target, providing bearing data. We listened as the angle between torpedo one and the target diminished. At 10 minutes it became apparent it was passing in front of the target, so he quickly switched to tracking torpedo two. The two sounds were on the same bearing. The SO lost the torpedo sound around the time of projected impact. Torpedo one was still running €" 620, 630 seconds. €œTorpedo beginning ladder run,€ announced the SO. It was swinging around to come at the target from the port side. €œSir, target changing speed, now fast.€ Had something alerted the target, or was this just the start of a routine zig-zag? The SO reported the sounds of torpedo one and the target merging €" then the torpedo passed behind. I knew then it was going to miss. With the target accelerating, the torpedo needed to be going 40 knots to complete its turn and get lined up for a hit €" but at 40 knots, it wouldn€t have reached the target in the first place. But, what had happened to torpedo two?

€œSecure from battled stations, secure from all quiet. Commence torpedo reload,€ I ordered. €œNumber One, you have the con. Mr. Seehofer, relieve Lieutenant Nakszynski in the forward torpedo room. Tell him to report to the control room.€

It was a good stalk but something must have gone wrong. I will consult with Lippisch tomorrow after I get some sleep.

15 Oct 1944
After breakfast, I discussed last night€s abortive attack with Lippisch. Since he was the torpedo expert, what did he think had happened?

Lippisch said there were several possibilities. One: the torpedo could have run out of fuel or air just before reaching the target. However, he had checked both alcohol fuel volumes and compressed air pressures on all the LuT€s before loading so he doubted this was the problem. Two: the torpedo could have suffered a pistol failure. He considered this very unlikely because after all the work done by the Torpedo Department, torpedoes were extremely reliable now. Three: the torpedo could have struck a glancing blow off the rounded part of the target€s stern. A flat angle hit would typically not activate the firing mechanism. This, in his view was the best explanation. He summed it up, €œA couple of meters forward and you€d have had him.€



Throughout the day, we ran periodic radar scans. Early evening detected what proved to be a small merchant. I did the honors.
http://tinypic.com/fay2e1.jpg

About an hour after clearing the area, I ordered the 3 T3€s moved from external storage. Conditions were marginal for making a transfer but we were down to a single Wren in the internal racks and I didn€t want to load it into the empty Tube III. In the event, the transfer took about 50% longer than normal but was completed with no other problems.

17 Oct 1944
Once again, I was awakened in the middle of the night to be told the SO had detected warships. It was 0322 and we were still patrolling in AL37. I groggily made my way to the control room.

Nakszynski reported four warships closing, medium speed, long range. He and von der Leyen were in the process of figuring the course. This must be the same four-ship group we€d encountered twice before, patrolling in the same general area as us.

Von der Leyen yawned audibly as he worked at the chart table. I walked over to see what he€d come up with. The warships were probably at their closest point now and would begin receding if his estimate was correct. The SO called out another bearing and von der Leyen lightly drew another line. He stared intently at the chart as if trying to will it to show something other than what it obviously did. Another update from the SO: €œWarship, bearing 332, medium speed, moving away, long range.€ Von der Leyen threw his precious mechanical pencil across the control room and cursed. I didn€t blame him. There was an escort carrier out there mocking us.
http://tinypic.com/fay2zb.jpg

The weather improved in the morning: light winds, gentle swells, clear skies.

I sent a report to BdU. Within an hour we had a response: proceed at own discretion.

I ordered a course change to due east, cruise along the northern edge of the main west-east convoy route.

18 Oct 1944
At 0720, we received a report of a merchant traveling SE €" its course should permit us to intercept it in a couple of hours.

Reaching the intercept point at 0930, I dived the boat for a sound check. After 15 minutes there was no evidence of our target so I surfaced and sailed at standard along the assumed path €" I ordered Schmidt to activate the radar. At 1019, radar registered a contact at long range. It was considerably off the plotted course.

I ordered full speed and moved to intercept. When the watch made visual contact, after ascertaining our target was a C2, I dived the boat.

In short order, the SO alerted us that there were two merchants, not one.
http://tinypic.com/fay58l.jpg

We tracked them for 15 minutes and developed an excellent solution. I ordered all stop, periscope depth, and waited for the merchants to reach firing position. The target data was entered from von der Leyen€s charts. I€d make a final visual check before firing.

For the attack I€d use the LuT in Tube I on the trailing ship €" type yet to be determined. The C2 in the lead would be hit with a spread consisting of the remaining LuT and the Wren in Tube II. Distance would be a little over 2000 meters for the trailing target.

I raised the attack scope €" Fassbinder was on the observation scope. The trailing ship was another C2. I ordered the running depth on the Tube I LuT to 8.5 €" same as for the other torpedoes.

Since the target data was nearly identical for both ships, I was able to fire on the trailing ship and very quickly switch to shoot the leader. Both LuTs hit their targets €" the trailing ship first and seconds later the leader. Surprisingly the Wren missed.

Both ships were heavily damaged but afloat. I had an easy shot to finish off the leader, which succumbed to a T3.
http://tinypic.com/fay614.jpg

As we prepared to close in on the trailing ship, lying dead in the water, Fassbinder spotted aircraft through the observation scope. I dove to 50, while planes made a number of bombing runs, none close.
http://tinypic.com/fay7i9.jpg

We pinged the surviving ship to get into position for the coup de grace. Rising to periscope depth, Fassbinder and I checked for planes and, finding none, I put the quietus on the C2 with another T3.
http://tinypic.com/fay7w4.jpg

After cruising submerged for an hour, I ordered surface. We had expended most of our torpedoes and fuel was beginning to run low. It was time to set course for home. The four merchants we bagged would bring us some slight consolation for our failures against the hunter-killers.

20 Oct 1944
We€ve passed through the most dangerous part of the return trip. Air attacks are still possible, but increasingly less likely. Weather remains good.

22 Oct 1944
Rain squalls hit as we entered the channel that leads to Byfjord. We reduced speed to slow ahead to negotiate the last 100 kilometers.

Arrived Bergen 2118.
http://tinypic.com/fay81x.jpg

23 Oct 1944
Here is some news I deem worth committing to the diary.

First, U-boat Ace Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock arrived in Bergen five days ago, in command of U-256. I hope to meet him at some point.

Second, U-1197 never arrived and is presumed lost. And U-340, my first boat, has likely suffered the same fate. It is now two weeks overdue.

paulhager
11-03-2005, 09:13 PM
ADDENDUM: The sonar attack on the Bogue went largely as I described it. I regret to say that there could have been a couple of great screen shots.

The first would have been at around the time torpedo two€s track showed it hitting the stern area of the Bogue. Actually, it was a good hit €" not far to the stern as Lippisch surmises in the story. I have no clue as to why it didn€t detonate. At the same time, the shot would have shown torpedo one€s track going in front of the bow.

The second shot would have been of the Bogue€s searchlights coming on while it accelerated and turned to port. I assume that the impact of the dud €œalerted€ the ship. It€s probably just as well the shot failed. Nobody would have believed it.

I didn€t get these shots because I was set up to capture the hit and when the torpedo failed to detonate, I just stared dumbly at the screen.

Here is the complete list of episodes to date:

<UL TYPE=SQUARE>
<LI>Episode 1 (http://forums.ubi.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/857101043/m/2141067563)
<LI>Episode 2 (http://forums.ubi.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/857101043/m/9141086663)
<LI>Episode 3 (http://forums.ubi.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/857101043/m/7411026763)
<LI>Episode 4 (http://forums.ubi.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/857101043/m/6311026763)
<LI>Episode 5a (http://forums.ubi.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/857101043/m/2041009763)
<LI>Episode 5b (http://forums.ubi.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/857101043/m/9351068963)
<LI>Episode 6 (http://forums.ubi.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/857101043/m/7461079073)
<LI>Episode 7a (http://forums.ubi.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/857101043/m/3701021273)
<LI>Episode 7b (http://forums.ubi.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/857101043/m/8601021273)
<LI>Episode 8 (http://forums.ubi.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/857101043/m/6151017273)
[/list]

doug.d
11-03-2005, 11:55 PM
Gr8 stuff as usual. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">....when the torpedo failed to detonate, I just stared dumbly at the screen. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>
LOL Haven't we all done this... often http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/53.gif

paulhager
11-04-2005, 10:41 AM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by doug.d:
Gr8 stuff as usual. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">....when the torpedo failed to detonate, I just stared dumbly at the screen. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>
LOL Haven't we all done this... often http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/53.gif </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

I don't think I've had a dud since sometime in 1941. That covers a lot of missions. I suppose a pre-detonation, which I've had quite a few times, is a form of dud. Therefore, I should modify my statement to say that I don't recall a "good" hit failing to produce an explosion after late 1940 or early 1941.

It may simply be our good friend, the pseudo-random number generator, has been spewing out a long sequence of successes. Now it may be starting to produce failures.